The Scottish Borders region has a rich history dating back to prehistoric times, with evidence of settlements and fortifications from the Iron Age.
The region was later home to the Celtic tribe of the Gododdin, who fought against the invading Angles in the 7th century. During the Middle Ages, the Borders was a lawless area, with feuds between rival clans and raids by the English and Scots.
In the 16th century, the Borders became more stable with the establishment of larger estates and the growth of trade and industry, particularly wool production. During the Wars of Scottish Independence (1296–1357) and later the Rough Wooing (1544–1550), the Borders suffered greatly, with numerous conflicts and battles taking place in the area.
The Scottish Border Reivers were a distinct group of clans and families residing along the contentious border between Scotland and England from the late 13th to the 17th century. Their lives were intricately interwoven with the challenges and opportunities presented by the fluidity of the border itself. The term “reiver” stems from the Old English word “reafen,” signifying one who seizes or plunders. This encapsulates their reputation as skilled raiders, marked by their swift and audacious incursions across the border.
The turbulent environment of the Scottish Borders, characterized by territorial disputes and shifting allegiances, influenced the rise of the Border Reivers. The clans and families living in this region adapted to their circumstances by engaging in livestock theft, ransom-taking, and retaliatory strikes. The constant state of flux necessitated the formation of alliances and allegiances to ensure survival and protect their interests.
The castles and strongholds scattered throughout the Scottish Borders stand as enduring symbols of the Border Reiver era. These fortified structures provided protection against external threats while serving as bases for reiving operations. Notable castles such as Hermitage Castle and Jedburgh Castle Jail serve as windows into the past, offering insights into the lifestyle and challenges faced by the Border Reivers.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw significant social and economic changes, including the expansion of the textile industry and the growth of towns and cities. The Borders became a centre for the Scottish labour movement, with many strikes and uprisings taking place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The region saw significant depopulation during the 20th century, particularly during the two World Wars and the decline of traditional industries.
Today, the Scottish Borders is known for its beautiful landscapes, vibrant culture, and a strong sense of community, as well as its history of border raids, battles, and rebellion.
The Scottish Borders is home to a variety of historic sites, natural attractions, and cultural events that are worth visiting. Here are a few of the top things to see and do in the area:
- Abbotsford House – the former home of Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, this 19th-century mansion is set in beautiful gardens and is filled with historical artefacts and literary memorabilia.
- Dryburgh Abbey – a ruined 12th-century abbey set in a peaceful wooded valley, this is one of the most important historical sites in the Scottish Borders.
- Melrose Abbey – another well-preserved ruin, this former Cistercian abbey was founded in 1136 and has a rich history as one of Scotland’s most important religious sites.
- Scott’s View – a scenic viewpoint overlooking the River Tweed and the Eildon Hills, this is said to be one of Sir Walter Scott’s favourite spots.
- Hadrian’s Wall – a section of the Roman Empire’s northern frontier, this historic monument runs through the Scottish Borders and is a popular destination for history buffs and walkers.
- Floors Castle – a grand country house set in extensive parkland, this is one of Scotland’s largest inhabited castles and is open to the public for tours.
- Kelso – a charming market town with a well-preserved medieval square, Kelso is a popular destination for visitors to the Scottish Borders.
- Borders Textile Trail – showcasing the region’s rich heritage of wool production, this trail takes visitors to historic mills and workshops, as well as contemporary textile centres and shops.
- Peebles – a charming town set on the River Tweed, Peebles is known for its attractive old town and beautiful countryside, as well as its lively arts and culture scene.
- Glentress Forest – a popular destination for walkers, mountain bikers, and wildlife enthusiasts, this forest is set in the rolling hills of the Tweed Valley and is home to a variety of trails, picnic areas, and scenic viewpoints.