Why St Boswells is my favourite village - #StBoswellswins
Roxburghshire, the Scottish Borders
[Editor’s warning: overuse of exclamation marks and capitalization in this too-excited post.]
If you broke in to my brain and extracted a list of ALL my favourite things and then used them to create a place to lure me into leaving all that I know/own and join a sect, that village would look exactly like St Boswells in the Scottish Borders.
St Boswells has everything in it I could ever want. Spookily EVEYTHING. I mean, just look at this list from Wikipedia: “It has a hotel, post office, award-winning butcher, garage, fish and chip shop, bookshop and café and several convenience stores. There is also a golf course next to the River Tweed, a cricket club, football club, rugby club and tennis club.” All that and a population of just 1500? Miraculous, no?!
Then there’s the stunning village green, reputedly the largest in Scotland and home - in the olden days - to gypsy horse sales but now the site of a summer fair and carboot sales. There’s the pretty streets, beautifully maintained properties and a lovely tree-lined walk behind it all to the glorious River Tweed.
Gah! St Boswells - you have my heart and soul!
(Enlarge images by clicking on them but be warned, dissatisfaction with ones current location may ensue...)
The best thing about all this is that I had no idea before I went to St Boswells. I’d never even heard of it before I booked a two-night stay at the Buchanan Arms for me and Sara. We’d planned a girls’ weekend in Melrose but it was just after the Book Fair and accommodation was scarce in Melrose or just not as nice as the Buccleuch Arms, which is only 3 miles away from Melrose in St Boswells, and was offering a special deal for that last weekend in June that we needed. An auspicious start.
The first thrill was how pretty the village looked when we arrived by Big Red Tour bus (soon to be our exclusive transport but that’s another story for another day) on a gorgeous sunny day. The next thrill - for me, at least - was discovering that there was a cricket club right next door. If you know anything about me, you know that I love cricket. LOVE cricket!
I checked the fixtures list outside the clubhouse but it was disappointingly blank for that weekend. When we checked in to the Buccleuch Arms, however, we were told there was to be a charity match the next day - possibly featuring some West Indian players. More on that later…
After checking in, Sara and I headed back into the village to rendezvous with our personal driver and exclusive-use tour bus (that ‘other story for another day’ again) and, seeing we had 20 minutes before he was due, had a quick look around.
The village centre is picture-postcard perfect with houses that look like this…
And public buildings (church and town hall) that look like this:
And there’s a good selection of shops, too, including just about the best bookshop, cafe, deli and homewares store EVER. These are all one concern - in a courtyard cluster under the plainly named but beautifully branded ‘The Mainstreet Trading Company’. It totally needs it’s own post, it’s that good.
As befits a sporting village, country sports enthusiasts are catered for too, so Steve has no reason not to retire to St Boswells with me.
He can then perfect his fly-fishing on the River Tweed whilst I work on my golf handicap at St Boswells Golf Club. And we can do this together because they are right next-door to each other!
More St Boswells honey-trapping in evidence.
Even the walk to the River Tweed through the back of the village is stunning and, once you reach the bank, its waters are clear and calm and very tempting for a wild swim… Another of my favourite things, natch.
And, divine as all this is, I have not yet touched on the best bit! Just a mile out of St Boswells there is a Donkey Sanctuary. Wikipedia doesn’t even mention this star attraction but, if you know me, you know I heart donks. (Slightly coding that statement to avoid attracting some of internet’s less savoury characters and commentators.)
The Sanctuary is closed at the time of writing (due to a skin infection - eww) but normally open on weekends and home to dozens of donkeys and some, frankly pointless, llamas and other sundry field-filling farm-yarders. As with The Mainstreet Trading Company, the donkeys deserve nothing less than a blog post of their own.
To return to the cricket story, but staying with the theme of donkeys, Saturday’s cricket match was very much a friendly fixture - a charity match amongst friends that featured Americans, Scots, some Englishmen and a couple of West Indians (plus corresponding supporters). Sara and I sat and watched the entertainment - for it was mostly that - for an hour or so and got chatting at one point to St Boswells’ regular Scorer, a Melrose lass. Oh, the nostalgia! I also used to be a Scorer; I told you this place was spookily all about me and my favourite things!
The Scorer told us that, as it was the teams’ first meeting, the visitors had brought with them a thoughtful and very sweet gift: a pottery trophy. She fetched it over to show us. It featured two very charmingly-carved brown donkeys, standing about 12 cm tall and facing each other on a wooden plinth. One donkey had a cricket ball in his teeth, the other was playfully brandishing a bat. And the trophy’s name, in brass on the plinth? Why, The Asses, of course!
I cannot believe I failed to get a photo of The Asses trophy - which I understand the home team won - but what I did get was another miraculous St Boswells bonus. A catch-up with a longtime cricketing buddy from my old club in Glasgow - Donald - there with his family because his son Callum, at one time in high school in St Andrews with my son Mackenzie, was playing in the game! I hadn’t seen him for years and neither of us is normally anywhere near St Boswells, so the coincidence was amazing.
I mean, you couldn’t make stuff this up, could you?! In one small place on one short weekend - ALL THE THINGS! See what I mean? St Boswell’s is me town-planned! In fact, I’m away to pack, ready for the move to my spiritual home and one of the loveliest places in all the land.
Where in the world is your spiritual home? For Daz and Angie, I’d guess Morvern or somewhere else on the west coast of Scotland, for Derek and Sheena - the Drakensburg? Carse for Steve and the area around Loch Fyne for Sara. For some of you, it may be exactly where you live right now. In which case, lucky you and do share - where is it?! Please let me know in the comments below.
[I should add that living near Crail and working in St Andrews is not at all a bad gig. And I do KNOW THAT. There is cricket, at the University. And golf, of course! Everywhere. And the houses are nice and the scenery is pretty. And there are good bookshops and artisan butchers and bakers and even a luxury candle-maker, all nearby. BUT? No donkeys. And The Asses trophy. So, on that weekend - and ever after - St Boswells wins! #StBoswellswins.]
The Tripographer’s notes
Unslumping level? 10/10 It’s basically Tron - for me, anyway.
Would I go again? *plans retirement there*
Best time to go? Anytime but summer is optimum for ALL THE THINGS
Best for? ALL THE THINGS. You just have to read the post, man! And Main Street Trading Company.
Top tip? Go! I highly recommend the Buccleuch Arms when you do.