Kelso in Scotland is nestled in the heart of the Scottish Borders. Although the countryside surrounds it, the town of Kelso is stocked full of attractions and activities. Read on for the top things to do in Kelso.
Kelso is a market town that is most well-known for its history of shoemaking and leatherwork, and would often be popular with the Scottish gentry as they came to the Kelso-area burgh for a few days of fishing and racing. Famed poet Sir Walter Scott even called it “the most beautiful if not the most romantic village in Scotland” when attending Kelso Grammar School in 1783.
Discover more about the activities and events that make a holiday in Kelso one of the best choices when visiting Scotland.
In This Post
Things to do in Kelso
If you enjoy the finer things in life, then a weekend break in Kelso is just perfect for you. From farmers’ markets, art galleries, and folk music nights, you can experience so much during a short time here.
The town is also host to a wide variety of incredible sights, such as the Floors Castle & Gardens, the heart-pounding Kelso racecourse, and a chance to explore the Scottish Borders to name a few. Kelso also holds a fair few events, and the town celebrates many border traditions that you absolutely can’t miss out on.
There are so many choices that it’s often challenging to pick the attractions that should be at the top of your to-do list. See our guide for the top things to do in Kelso, Scottish Borders.
On the south edge of Kelso, near the River Tweed, lies the old Abbey. This ruined structure is a fantastic example of Scottish monastic architecture.
The Abbey was built in 1128, and you can explore its ruins and enjoy the detailed and preserved structures that call to mind a Romanesque design. In its prime, Kelso Abbey controlled some of Scotland’s most prominent and wealthiest religious houses in the region.
Best of all, you can explore one of Scotland’s most prominent religious sites for free!
Floors Castle and Gardens
Floors Castle & Gardens, built-in 1721, is Scotland’s largest inhabited Castle and an absolute stunner. It’s undoubtedly a contender for one of the gorgeous castles in Scotland and a must-see attraction while on the west side of Kelso.
The Castle is currently inhabited by the 10th Duke of Roxburghe and his family. However, you can still visit the Castle at times throughout the year! Get a taste of the royal life as you gaze at the Castle’s picturesque architecture and gardens.
Check out the Farmers’ Market
Who doesn’t love wandering around the stalls of a farmer’s market, persuing fresh produce? There’s no better way to try the local flavours and get to the heart of Scottish cuisine than the Farmers’ Market.
Kelso locals and vibrant tourists attend the market at Kelso Square on the fourth Saturday from 9.30 am till 1.30 pm, so definitely plan your holiday to include at least one of these market days.
The Farmers’ Market has a great selection of foods at the event, from cheeses, jams, fresh bread, flowers, and more – a little something for everyone.
Known as Britain’s Friendliest Racecourse, you can enjoy a great day at Klothos National Hunt Racecourse, which hosts horse racing from September until May.
You can pick up a ‘Track 2 Track’ pack that ensures you have a stress free day of travelling to and from the course, perfect for anyone who just wants to enjoy the hospitality offered by the Kelso Racecourse to its fullest.
There’s no bet that you’ll have lots of fun at the Kelso races, so stop by and enjoy the thrills of horse racing.
Outside of Kelso lies the mysterious Smailholm Tower in the middle of the spectacular Scottish Borders landscape.
The Smailhom is a peel tower atop a rocky outcrop of Lady Hill with expansive views over the immediate countryside. You can tour the inside of the building and learn about how it inspired Sir Walter Scott when he stayed on the estate.
Smailholm Tower unites history and hiking, the perfect pairing for a morning adventure!
Kelso Folk & Live Music Club
The beauty of visiting a small Scottish town is that you will get a chance to see something a little bit unique.
The town’s Folk & Live Music Club perform on a Friday at The Oak Room, Cross Keys Hotel. The club will jam to both traditional and contemporary music during the night while guests can watch and enjoy in comfortable lounge settings. Check out their website for more information!
New performers are always welcome and entrance is free!
What’s more chilled out than hanging around with Alpacas in the foothills of the Cheviot Hills?
This family-run smallholding invites guests to come along and enjoy the stunning scenery around Kelso in the company of their furry friends.
The Bierhope Alpacas “love to be fussed over” – when can we book our next trip to the Scottish Borders?!
Kelso Cycling Routes
Kelso is a beautiful place to explore by bike, and its country landscapes make it so that certain attractions are best visited by cycling rather than a car.
The routes that run through the town centre are gorgeous, filled with rich natural landscapes and exciting sights to see along the way.
Why not change up the formula and take yourself biking this holiday? You won’t regret it!
Mellarstain House is one of the cornerstone castles of Scotland and has been intertwined with Scottish Borders history since it was built in 1778. This, coupled with the outstanding estate gardens, makes it one of the best places to visit in Kelso.
With guided tours through the property, you can walk in the very same corridors and rooms of Robert Adam and the Baillie Family. Check out their website for more information and other sources!
Mellarstain House is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those visiting Kelso, Scottish Borders.
Boasting ceramics, paintings, jewellery, and woodwork made by the local talent of the Scottish Borders, Kins-Blake Gallery is undoubtedly one of the finest art galleries in the Scottish Borders that you should be making time for.
You’ll have an opportunity to speak with some artists who created the pieces and may even be treated to a live demonstration!
The Kins-Blake Gallery is one of many art galleries you won’t want to miss. You may even find yourself taking a piece home with you.
Kelso War Memorial
On the south side of Kelso, a stone’s throw away from Kelso Abbey lies the grand Kelso War memorial dedicated to commemorating those lost during World War I.
The location also offers excellent views of the River Tweed as it curves around the town before continuing its journey onto Tweedmouth.
It’s certainly not your average memorial, as Kelso has ensured that this monument will catch your eye. Flowers elevate the atmosphere and make this one attraction you should stop by after exploring Kelso Abbey.
St Andrews Episcopal Church
The beautiful stained glass windows and bell tower of the St Andrews Episcopal Church are one of the churches you have to include while exploring the town of Kelso.
This famous church is situated in the heart of town and holds some of the most generous and helpful community locals who would be more than happy to aid you in your travels. It will also allow you to see the church’s gorgeous interior and enjoy this religious location.
Keep in mind that the Episcopal is not a Parish church like others in Scotland, making it even more unique!
Catch a Kelso RFC Game
Interested in watching Kelso locals in action, why not catch a rugby game and join in on the thrills of watching this intense Scottish sport?!
Kelso RFC is an excellent team known for its high standards and quality of play, the perfect introduction to rugby for those unfamiliar. Watch them face off against other villages and towns!
Tournaments occur in early May, so if you’re interested in catching this team play, book for then!
Enjoy Kelso Civic Week
Once a year, the Kelso population come together to celebrate Kelso Civic Week, a Scottish Border tradition.
With a programme filled with common riding, marathon running, fairground games, and even more, this celebration of tradition and heritage is one week you won’t want to miss out on. It’s an excellent place to take your families and kids too!
The celebrations occur in the middle of July, perfect for a summer holiday in the Scottish Borders!
Visit Kelso Bridge
Sometimes referred to as John Rennie, after its builder who also built London Bridge, this Bridge still spans over the mighty River Tweed and was first opened in 1754!
The Bridge was repaired over the many years it existed and has been a part of Scottish history, such as when the Kelso population objected with local rioting to paying tolls to cross it.
Today, Kelso Bridge’s architecture and history make it a great place to enjoy views of the River Tweed after a morning of sightseeing attractions.