Visitor guide to Biggar in the Scottish Borders. Includes info on the ins and outs, what to see and do and even self catering cottages in Biggar.
Phone code: +44 (0)1899
Eighteen miles west of Peebles, via the A72, A701 and A702, is the old market town of Biggar, just across the regional border, in South Lanarkshire. Biggar stands on the A702, the main route from the M74 toEdinburgh, and makes a pleasant and convenient stopping-point for those driving to the capital from the south. The town centre has had a recent makeover and there are enough places of interest to warrant a few hours here.
Five miles east of Biggar, at the junction of the B7016 and A701, is the village of Broughton, childhood home of novelist John Buchan, who wrote the classic best-seller The Thirty Nine Steps. Just to the south of the village is the John Buchan Centre, a small museum dedicated to the life and work of the man who went on to become Governor General of Canada. Info: Easter Weekend and May to mid-Oct daily 1400-1700. £1.50. Tel 01899-221050.
About 10 miles south of Broughton, on the A701 to Moffat, is the historic Crook Inn, just to the north of tiny Tweedsmuir, Tel 01899-880272. The old country inn has strong literary associations. Robert Burns wrote his poem 'Willie Wastle's Wife' in what is now the bar, and Sir Walter Scott used to pay the occasional visit. From the inn you can climb Broad Law (2,756 ft), the second highest hill in southern Scotland. A steep and winding single-track road climbs east from Tweedsmuir, past the Talla Reservoir, to meet the A708 from Moffat to Selkirk by the shores of St Mary's Loch.
Local Sights & Activities for Biggar
The Moat Park Heritage Centre, Tel 221050, is housed in a renovated church near the foot of Kirkstyle, off the High Street. It includes displays on local history, archaeology and geology as well as some very interesting tapestries. Info: Easter-Oct Mon-Sat 1030-1700, Sun 1400-1700. £2/£1.50. Ask here about details of Hugh McDiarmid's Cottage, which is three miles north of town. It was the home of the poet until his death and can be viewed by appointment only.
There are four other museums in Biggar. Close by, on North Back Road, is Gladstone Court Museum, which features a Victorian street with shops, a bank and schoolroom preserved just as they were 150 years ago. Info: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 1030-1700, Sun 1400-1700. £2/£1.50. The Gladstone family, ancestors of the 19th-century Liberal Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone, are buried in the churchyard of St Mary's Church.
The Greenhill Covenanters' Museum, on Burnbrae, traces the development of the Covenanting movement. Info: May-Sep daily 1400-1700. £1, £0.70 concession.
Nearby is the Gasworks Museum, the only surviving coal-fired gasworks in Scotland. Info: Jun-Sep daily 1400-1700. £1, £0.50 concession.
On Broughton Street is the Puppet Theatre, set up by Purves Puppets, a touring theatre company. The museum features puppets from all over the world, including some very strange ones indeed. There are also regular workshops, backstage tours and shows are held all year round in the Victorian theatre. Info: Museum open Easter-end Aug Mon-Sat 1000-1630, Sun 1400-1630. May also be open outwith these hours - call first to check. All seats £5. Tel 220631.
Biggar is overlooked by Tinto Hill (2,333 ft), near the village of Symington, four miles southwest of town at the junction of the A72 and A73. It's a fairly easy walk from the village to the summit, from where the views are fantastic. There's also a Druidic Circle and Bronze-Age burial cairn. A good track starts from near theTinto Hill farm shop (also known now as Carmichael Farm Shop) on the A73. Allow about three hours. Regular Biggar-Lanark buses pass through Symington.
Biggar Hotels & Accommodation
A recommended place to stay is Skirling House , at Skirling, about 3 miles northeast of Biggar, Tel 860274, Skirling House open Mar-Dec, a wonderful B&B with superb home cooking. Another excellent B&B is Lindsaylands House, 1 mile west of Biggar, Tel 220033.
The Elphinstone and Cornhill House hotels both serve good bar meals, and there's the usual selection of cafés and takeaways along the High Street. Don't miss the wonderful ice cream at The Chocolate Box on the High St (open daily 0900-1700, Sun from 1300); or try that of its neighbour, and rival, Taylors of Biggar.
Other Biggar Hotels: about 3 miles out of Biggar is the 3 star Tinto Country Hotel. (You can check late rooms deal as well) Also see Shieldhill Castle Hotel in Biggar