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So fastidious were the engineers that they gently scooped precious, rare lampreys out of the local river and transported them carefully to a new home so the trains would not disturb them.But this has been more than just a feat of civil engineering.The landscape is scored with the centuries-long history of conflict between two nations.
It's a fantasy more exotic than anything dreamt up by Sir Walter Scott – Scotland's most famous novelist, whose "Waverley" tales once gripped the imagination of the world with their ghosts, goblins, romantic abbeys, ruinous castles, and other things that go bump in the night.
Here I am, waking amid expanses of crisp, starched sheets in a four-poster bed in Scott's exotic, baronial home at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders. An antiquated lever operated by air pressure is there to summon a lavish Victorian breakfast from below stairs, as the sensuous autumn morning fragrance from the phlox and the hebes in the walled gardens drifts into the room.
When I drop by, I am told that His Grace – Sir Guy David Innes Ker, 10th Duke and Earl of Roxburghe – is out with a shooting party, and the staff are busy clearing the table from the grand breakfast that preceded it.
Still, I am presented with a jar of the estate's homemade marmalade to take home as a souvenir.
Roger Mc Kie, who cooks and runs it with his wife Bea, enthuses that the long slumber of the Borders means it is capturing a new generation of tourists, more interested in regional identity then identikit Scottishness.
(Though there's plenty of the traditional Scotland here for those with a taste for it.(Though for the next few weeks, steam trains, hauled by one of the world speed record-breaking "Mallard" class, will add a touch of glamour to the line.) Meanwhile the old station at Melrose – where the guard would once shout: "Alight for Abbotsford" – still stands intact but in sad isolation, shaken by the heavy lorries that run alongside on the A7 trunk road, built through the platforms after the old railway closed.Sadly it was deemed too costly to bring back into use.Like the lost worlds depicted in the Waverley novels, the new railway opens a door into a land that time forgot.The new terminus at Tweedbank becomes a gateway to a more authentic Scotland that has remained so, paradoxically, because it has been deprived of transport links for so long.But who could diminish the bravura of rebuilding this, the most mourned of Britain's great railways?