Thomas Scott Reflects On His Twitter Takeover

Thomas Scott aka the @Penicuik_Cuckoo took over the Borders Railway twitter account (@BordersRailway) for the day on Friday 18 September to get under the skin of what the railway means for local people in Midlothian and to explore the region's attractions. Here's what he found.

For decades Midlothian and the Scottish Borders have awaited the return of their once loved railway lines, no more so than the Edinburgh Waverley to Tweedbank.

As I took over the Borders Railway Twitter account for one Friday, one week after services recommenced, it was evident that the love affair was very much back in full swing. People of all ages were flocking to utilise the line, be it for commuting or exploring. For nine hours my aim was to explore as much of Midlothian as you can, within the reach of the new railway line, talking to the public and businesses along the way.

My day started in the picturesque and historical village of Roslin, one short number 40 bus ride from Eskbank station. The Rosslyn Chapel was the first tourist attraction on my list. The imposing gothic chapel, made famous by its role in the Da Vinci Code film, will directly benefit from its new connections with the railway line, so much so, they have even arranged a taxi service to get you there.

Whilst in Roslin, I took the opportunity to visit a member of the Roslin and Bilston Community Council, to learn more about the village and it’s future. Mirabelle kindly informed me of how the increased tourism could eventually lead to the village developing a more succinct plan to study the town’s archaeological past, preserving history and creating new tourism opportunities.

I was then welcomed to Edinburgh College’s Eskbank Campus where the student union sat down with me to discuss the benefits to students. They explained how the new route will open up connections to the city and the borders, influencing would-be students to study there whilst aiding those who already do. The line will also provide a new safe transportation route, especially during adverse winter conditions when students can find it difficult to get the campus. Overall they were delighted with the project.

Naturally, being an architecture student, my flying visit to Dalkeith called for a visit to Newbattle Abbey. A short walk from Eskbank station, the elaborate estate is now home to a college, though more importantly, leafy woodland walks surround the 16th century stately home, a true delight during the autumn.

The National Mining Museum at Newtongrange was my next stop, and with a direct connection to the station in the village, it would have been rude not to visit. I was glad to hear at reception that they were asking visitors whether they had arrived by train, a sure sign there was quite a buzz about it. A dash around the museum revealed the fascinating history of coal mining in the country, I even managed to pinpoint the Mauricewood Pit in my home town.

My interest peaked and I finally hopped on the train to Gorebridge. Albeit only five minutes or so from Newtongrange, I still got the impression of the shear popularity the service was experiencing, and as I looked out the window over the Pentlands, I could understand why. Upon arrival to Gorebridge I spoke to some passengers awaiting the next train. They too were looking forward to their speedy journey into Edinburgh.

As my day neared its end, two final architectural points of interest where visited. First was Crichton Castle near Pathead, a jump on the number 51/52 Perrymans’ Bus from Dalkeith. The Historic Scotland ruin is open to the public to explore. Then it was back to my home town of Penicuik to talk to the ranger service at Penicuik House. The magnificent designed estate is now home to a stable ruin of a Palladian masterpiece, which was gutted by fire. Here ranger Cathy welcomed the line saying they’ll actively encourage any interventions which make it easier to get to the house.

As the sun lowered over the Pentland Hills, my journey came to its end. I had explored a great deal of Midlothian in such a small space of time, all within reach of the Borders Railway line, but there was still so much I could have seen. That’s what is truly great about this rebirth, it will open up new opportunities for commuters, tourists and ultimately the region. Whether it is used for exploration, transportation or even just a bit of relaxation, it doesn’t matter. This is the south east of Scotland’s railway line; let’s get out there and enjoy it!