WITH its rolling hills, picture postcard towns and gushing rivers, the Borders has always had a romantic, soft-focus feel befitting of its most famous resident, Sir Walter Scott.

The trail of ruined medieval abbeys points to a more tumultuous history, however, one that acknowledges the longstanding political, ecclesiastic and royal importance of this corner of the country.

Just 10 miles from the English border, nestling on the Jed Water, sits the pretty town of Jedburgh, the county seat of old Roxburghshire and the perfect place from which to explore the unique history and culture of the area.

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Historic highlights

Originally known as Jethart – a name still used locally – Jedburgh gained prominence after the founding of the abbey in 1147. King Malcolm IV died there in 1165.

The town’s frontier location has made it vulnerable to skirmishes, raids and battles over the centuries, not least the Border Wars with England and unrest during the Reformation that combined to leave the abbey in partial ruins in the 16th century.

In 1745, the Jacobite army led by Bonnie Prince Charlie passed through Jedburgh on the way to invade England.

Over the years the main industries have included textiles, tanning and glove-making.

In common with other towns in the Borders, every summer Jedburgh hosts common ridings, a custom dating back to the 13th century commemorating the historic protectors of the border lands, which attracts hundreds of horses and riders.The National:

What to do

Few places in Scotland provide a more evocative taste of medieval life than the magnificent semi-ruin that is Jedburgh Abbey (historicenvironment.scot/visit-a-place/places/jedburgh-abbey), and a visit to the town simply wouldn’t be complete without it. The domestic buildings and cloisters give a particularly fascinating insight into the everyday existence of the inhabitants, and in the cloister garden you can smell the same herbs that would have grown there nearly a millennium ago. The scale of the place and the unusual architecture – a striking mix of Romanesque and early Gothic - are truly awe-inspiring.

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With a major film starring Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan about Mary Queen of Scots due for release early next year, interest in Scotland’s most famous royal is about to go from huge to stellar. Hopefully Queen Mary’s House, the excellent museum in the centre of Jedburgh that celebrates her, will benefit. Mary stayed in the town in 1566 after she took ill on her way to see her then lover, the Earl of Bothwell, though the she actually lodged in nearby Hermitage Castle rather than this 16th century tower house. Mary’s endlessly intriguing life and loves are explored through plethora of objects displayed in a lively way, while the period detail of the house really brings the story to life.

Situated on the southern outskirts of the town, the Capon Oak Tree - one of the last trees of the ancient Jedforest - is reputed to be 2000 years old. Although held together with bricks and beams to support its trunk, the tree, which is believed to have been used as gallows, is still growing and makes for a fascinating visit. Most of the oaks in the forest were felled during the Napoleonic Wars to build Britain’s warships.

Elsewhere, a walk through the original cell blocks of Jedburgh Castle and Jail Museum, which harks back to the 1820s, is an enjoyably dark experience. Crime and punishment aren’t the only focus of this child-friendly visitor attraction, however, which also recounts the wider social and industrial history of this Royal Burgh. The free entry is a boon, too. Just don’t get locked in.

Where to eat

The award-winning Capon Tree Town House (thecapontree.com) showcases local and seasonal produce in a cosy, intimate setting. Expect a menu of game and seafood cooked simply to the highest of standards. The Thursday evening Steak Night menu (£20 for two courses, £25 for three, with a free glass of wine or pint of ale) is a midweek treat worth travelling for.

Jane Somers, who lives in the Borders, recommends another award-winning eatery in the town, The Caddyman (caddymann.com). She says: “I once had a salmon risotto there that was so good I still think it now.” With a strong focus on local ingredients - the Borders slow-baked lamb is to die for – the talented chefs know when and where to add an unexpected twist.

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Just outside the town sits Born in the Borders, a smart visitor centre attached to the Scottish Borders Brewery. The café is a revelation, serving a mouth-watering selection of soups, sandwiches and home baking in fantastic surroundings. The tiffin is a must.

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Where to stay

Luxury: As well as being a great place to eat, the aforementioned Capon Tree Town House, which sits in the heart of the town, is also a stylish boutique hotel. The beautifully appointed rooms start at £109 for bed and breakfast.

Comfortable: Hundalee House, a beautiful manor house set in 15 acres of countryside, has been welcoming bed and breakfast guests for 30 years. Offering a range of comfortable rooms, prices start at £32.50 per person per night, sharing. Go to accommodation-scotland.org for more information.

Quirky: Auld Rusty. Situated on a farm campsite three miles outside Jedburgh on the way to Denholm, this converted horse lorry makes for a fun and more comfortable alternative to camping. The truck sleeps four, is well-equipped and even has a wood burning stove. The campsite also has a woodfired hot-tub, from which you can admire the bonny Borders countryside all around. From £75 per night. Go to Airbnb.co.uk.

Famous faces

Among the notable people to have come from Jedburgh are scientist and writer Mary Somerville, after whom Oxford’s Somerville College is named. Rugby has long been a way of life in this part of Scotland; Roy Laidlaw, Greig Laidlaw and Gary Armstrong are among the town’s famous sporting sons.

What’s nearby?

In the heart of the Teviot Valley just a 10-minute drive from Jedburgh sits Harestanes Countryside Visitors Centre (liveborders.org.uk/harestanes). Whether you’re after a walk through the countryside, great play facilities for kids, retail therapy or a great cuppa and scone, this is the place for you. The arts space hosts exhibitions all year round, and there's a packed calendar of family-friendly events. Look out for Apple Day on Sunday 06 October.

If Jedburgh gives you a taste for abbeys, why not walk or cycle your way around the other three 12th century wonders that comprise the Borders Abbeys Way. The circular route takes in 64.5 miles of glorious countryside (www.bordersabbeysway.com), and visits Kelso, Hawick, Selkirk and Melrose.

Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, is just what you’d expect: magnificently over the top. But as well as the country pile itself, which is located just outside Melrose, there are also beautiful gardens to peruse and a great café. Scott aficionados can even stay there. (scottsabbotsford.com)

In the next few weeks I'll be visiting Dunblane, Linlithgow, Nairn and Stonehaven. Send your hints and tips for things to do and places to eat, drink and stay, with a few lines about what makes them so memorable, to marianne.taylor@heraldandtimes.co.uk