South east of Melrose what appears to be the old main road to Newton St Boswells skirts around the north east slopes of the Eildon Hills before coming to an abrupt end at a gate marking the closure of the road. The road itself continues beyond the gate, but anyone wishing to follow it needs to do so on foot. If you park your car near the gate and walk up a gentle hill for a couple of hundred yards beyond it you come to the Rhymer's Stone, a combination of a memorial stone and a viewpoint.
The Rhymer's Stone was erected in 1929 by the Melrose Literary Society and marks the spot on which the fabled Eildon Tree once grew. It was under this tree that Thomas the Rhymer took a fateful nap while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey. He was awakened by the Queen of Elfland, who he kissed. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to his home in Earlston for seven years, then disappearing for good: presumably back to the Land of the Elves.
Thomas the Rhymer was born Thomas Learmont (or Learmounth) of Ercildoune, in the village now called Earlston in the Scottish Borders, in 1220. He is also sometimes called "True Thomas". On the southern edge of Earlston there are the remains of an old keep dating back to the 1400s, called "Rhymer's Tower" because they are believed to stand on the site of the castle originally built by Thomas the Rhymer.
Thomas the Rhymer's reputation for making many accurate prophesies includes, it is said, a prediction of the death of Alexander III in a fall from a horse in 1286. This prediction was apparently made to the Earl of March in Dunbar Castle the day before the accident happened. According to some sources Thomas is also said to have had other supernatural powers that even rivalled those of Merlin. It is said that on visiting Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire, a freak gust of wind shut the gates in his face, and in response he placed the "curse of the weeping stones" on the castle, a curse which has led to problems of succession down through the centuries as an unusually large number of different families have occupied the castle.
Of more immediate relevance to the Rhymer's Stone was Thomas the Rhymer's prediction that a bridge over the River Tweed, which runs through the valley to the north, would one day be visible from the Eildon Tree. In 1865 the impressive Leaderfoot Viaduct opened, carrying the Berwickshire Railway over the River Tweed. The viaduct comprises 19 spans, and carried the railway at a height of 126ft above the river. Because of its height the viaduct can be seen from the viewpoint close to the Rhymer's Stone: apparently proving Thomas the Rhymer's prediction correct.
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Grid Ref: NT 569 338