Travel: Touring the Scottish Borders in a gypsy caravan

Graham and I have eloped. Up and left the kids, to sneak off for a romantic night in the Scottish Borders. We are heading first for a leisurely mooch around Abbotsford House, something much easier to do without the children. I can't help but imagine I hear the lackadaisical tones of Loyd Grossman in my head as we walk hand in hand down the path to have a sneak peak at Sir Walter Scott's gaff, near Melrose.

Knowing only a little about one of Scotland's finest writers, it's a revelation to see his house and the experiment leaves me wanting to find out and read more. I can picture him writing, diligently, in his study before nipping through to consult one of the volumes in the next door library. He clearly loved the people, the buildings and the countryside where he lived. The house must have absolutely rung out with colourful dinners and gaiety. The wizard of the North was a collecting freak and the house is stuffed full of curios. He saw the worth in the nation's history, that people failed to see at the time. He was a curator, and created in the process a series of international historical blockbusters and a tourist industry we are still benefiting from today. A moral man, choosing to write his way out of debt following financial disaster, the legend 'waste not want not' is carved in the caf fireplace in gothic script, a fitting message in these straitened times. With the love of my life pulled close, and a more romantic age, fresh in the memory, we headed off to find our gypsy caravans.

Hidden away in a quiet corner of the Scottish Borders we find two bow roofed, wooden roulottes. These are bespoke traditional French nomadic homes which have been made by artisan carpenters. These quirky homes on wheels seem to have their own unique character. We stayed in Devanna, a peacock blue green jewel, complete with ornate wood panelled carvings. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is meticulous; the fabrics are sumptuous, rich and flamboyant, all sourced by the owners, Avril and Allan on their travels to India. The other roulotte, Karlotta, is more of a flamed-haired Celtic vixen, this time engraved with Celtic knot work and kelpies.

The accommodation in these traditional mobile homes comprises of; a stepped wooden porch area, a kitchen/living area, soon to be complete with a toasty wood burning stove. A separate doorway leads to a boudoir with raised king-sized bed, and they've squeezed in a metal-lined shower room and petite toilet.

Nestling underneath the Eildon hills, the setting is enchanting. A small lochan and mini pier makes a lovely place to return to from a day away. If you tire of the delights on offer in the area, you might be tempted to restore your spiritual batteries. Avril, who is also a yoga teacher, can arrange a bewildering assortment of alternative therapies to send you off recharged.

Although the bijou kitchen has everything you might need, we treated ourselves to dinner in Melrose. There is a range of local restaurants to suit most tastes. In the summer you might like to stay home and use the open-air communal fire pit to create a culinary masterpiece. The owners are great, relaxed, hosts and love to socialise with their travellers. A warm welcome is always guaranteed, no matter the time of year.

Traditionalist gypsy caravan buffs will appreciate Ruby, the old maid. She is a veritbale painted lady, a genuine 1930s horseshoe bowtop caravan, parked up next to the self catering cottage. Not content with their present collection Avril and Allan are in the process of importing more roulottes, this time from the Netherlands. These larger wooden vans, Coco and Rosa, will soon join the merry throng. Sleeping four, they offer suitable accommodation for families, so perhaps a return visit may be on the cards. The girls are avid fans of Enid Blyton and would love to re-live Five Go Off In A Caravan.

This place is a real travel oddity, so book early to avoid the rush for these quirky gems.


From 90 a night,

Abbotsford House and grounds will reopen on 14 March, adults 7, children 3.50, family ticket 18,

• This article was first published in The Scotsman on January 15, 2011

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