Travel Report: Sweethope, The Scottish Borders.
The tiny hamlet of Sweethope lies deep in the heart of The Scottish Borders, about a twelve minute drive from the market town of Kelso. I moved here in 2003 with my mum, dad, brother Cory and Inde the dog. I remember being less than excited about the prospect of life in this isolated outpost. After all, I figured this was just another temporary location in the Thomas Family Scotland Roadshow.
Furthermore, Sweethope was nothing more than half a dozen cottages, a large farm, loads of fields and a steep hill. I mean seriously, it was hardly New York City. Twenty five year old Leighton was not impressed.
The Thomas family lived at 4 Sweethope Farm Cottages in a spacious and homely four bedroom property. A small garden at the back held sweeping views over the Borders countryside. A log fire in the living room kept us all toasty during the harsh Scottish winters. Little did I know it, but this place would go on to provide some of the best memories of my young adulthood.
This is where I researched and planned my first ever spell of solo travel in India. And it was here that I used to read Harry Potter to my then seven year old brother. Moreover, Sweethope was the setting for an intense summer romance, documented in my short story Car Crash Girl Part II.
Sweethope also served as the Thomas family’s Wedding Prep HQ in March 2008. My sister was getting married in the nearby town of Galashiels. Here she is as cool as a cucumber in the living room getting her hair done while sipping from a glass of rosé.
I’d flown over from Brussels where I was living at the time to join the festivities. My dad and Cory had very bravely rented kilts, a look I felt I couldn’t quite pull off.
I’m sure the neighbours had never seen anything like it when the bride’s wheels rolled up that day. If you find yourself in The Scottish Borders and quite like the sound of being driven around in style, get in touch with Barry’s Bridal Classic Cars.
Despite my initial apathy, I soon grew to love Sweethope’s rural setting. Especially the walking trail at the end of the road that leads to Sweethope Hill. Inde and I must have come out here a thousand times for walks over the years.
It was always a great place for solitude and gathering one’s thoughts. Even if I had to be on constant alert for Inde trying to roll in cow shit. “Nooooo! Bad doggy!!!” She used to drive us crazy, but of course we were all devastated when she passed away in December 2006.
The walk up to Sweethope Hill takes about half an hour and at times the going can get pretty steep. Bumping into anybody else along the way was extremely rare. I loved how everything always looked so still, almost like a painting.
There were so many wonderful Christmases here over the years. Actually, when I think of the Thomas’ Xmas golden years, I think of Sweethope and The Scottish Borders.
Sure, I was kind of grown up at this point. But there were still stockings hanging over the fire, viewings of The Snowman and crazy piles of presents on Christmas morning.
During those later Yuletide years I was living in The Netherlands. However, I still made it back to Sweethope most Decembers. I just had to get my fix of The Muppet Christmas Carol, mince pies, Christmas Eve curry, Christmas Day Yorkshire pudding and Boxing Day football.
A particularly memorable Christmas Day came in 2013 when the weather was just gorgeous. I think it was the first time in years that it wasn’t snowing or pouring down with rain. Even better, the perfect blue sky literally demanded that we go out for a hike up Sweethope Hill.
At this time my parents had welcomed a second Brittany into the fold. It was great to have a family dog again and Solo was just as crazy about Sweethope Hill as Inde had been.
The process was just the same. Follow the trail through the fields, open the gate, squeeze under the electric wire and launch into the breathless ten minute scramble up to the top.
At Sweethope Hill’s 220 meter summit you’ll see the modest remains of a prehistoric fort. But actually the hill’s main draw is its amazing views. On a good day like this you can see for miles.
You certainly have to be careful descending Sweethope Hill. Especially if the grass is slippy from recent rainfall. Over the years we all learned the best ways to get back down.
My last visit to Sweethope was in July 2015. ’d just got back from a three and a half month trip around Asia and it was great to be back in the fresh Scottish countryside. With twelve years of memories built up here, it’s no wonder I miss those Sweethope days.
Amid the ever changing environments of my vagabond lifestyle, Sweethope was a reassuringly familiar place I could always return to for some much needed perspective.
Like this? Check out more reports from around The Scottish Borders.
To delve further afield, you can also take a look at my travel articles from all around Scotland.
I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.