The romantic castle ruins and skeletons of Gothic abbeys in the Borders region stand as reminders of the battles that once raged between England and Scotland. For a long time, the "Border Country" was a no-man's land of plunder and destruction, lying south of the line of the Moorfoot, Pentland, and Lammermuir hill ranges, and east of the Annandale Valley and the upper valley of the River Tweed.

The Borders is the land of Sir Walter Scott, master of romantic adventure, who topped the bestseller list in the early 19th century. The remains of four great mid-12th-century abbeys are here: Dryburgh (where Scott is buried), Melrose, Jedburgh, and Kelso. And because of its abundant sheep-grazing land, the Borders is the home of the cashmere sweater and the tweed suit. Ask at the tourist office for a Borders Woollen Trail brochure, detailing where you can visit woolen mills, shops, and museums and follow the weaving process from start to finish.

Southwest of the Borders is the often-overlooked Galloway region (also known as Dumfries and Galloway), a land of unspoiled countryside, fishing harbors, and romantic ruins. Major centers to visit are the ancient city of Dumfries, perhaps the best base for touring Galloway, and the artists' colony of Kirkcudbright, an ancient burgh filled with color-washed houses. In the far west, Stranraer is a major terminal for those making the 56km (35-mile) ferry crossing into Northern Ireland. Among the major sights are Sweetheart Abbey, outside Dumfries, and the Burns Mausoleum at Dumfries. If you have time, explore Threave Garden, outside Castle Douglas.

Edinburgh Airport is about 64km (40 miles) northwest of Selkirk in the Borders, and Glasgow Airport is about 121km (75 miles) north of Dumfries in the Galloway region. Trains from Glasgow run south along the coast, toward Stranraer, stopping along the way at Ayr and Girvan. Another rail line from Glasgow extends south to Dumfries, depositing and picking up passengers before crossing the border en route to the English city of Carlisle. In contrast, southbound trains from Edinburgh almost always bypass most of the Borders towns, making direct transits to Berwick, England. Consequently, to reach most of the Borders towns covered here, you'll probably rely on a rental car or on bus service from Edinburgh or Berwick to reach Peebles, Selkirk, Melrose, and Kelso.

Trains from London's King's Cross Station to Edinburgh's Waverley Station make their first stop in Scotland at Berwick-upon-Tweed; travel time is 6 hours. From Berwick, a network of buses runs among the villages and towns. Three rail lines pass through the region from London's Euston Station en route to Glasgow. Dumfries or Stranraer is the best center if you're traveling by rail in the Uplands. Bus travel isn't recommended for reaching this region, but once you get here, you'll find buses to be a reliable means of public transportation.