History in the Scottish Borders

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The tranquil natural beauty of the Scottish Borders belies a turbulent past. Romantic heroes, literary giants and marauding outlaws grace the pages of the Scottish Borders history, and this dramatic heritage is kept alive by many proud and passionate people.

It’s hard to believe that the rolling hillsides and picturesque towns of the Scottish Borders have witnessed centuries of fierce conflict and anarchy. For a long time after the erection of Hadrian’s Wall by the Romans in AD 122, the history of this serene region was plagued with violence.

At the forefront of the Scottish Wars of Independence, there were battles along the Scotland/England border as the Border Reivers fiercely tried to defend their land. The importance of this history lives on today with annual Common Riding events held in towns.

The region boasts a treasure trove of historical attractions, museums and exhibitions which bring the colourful history to life. The Scottish Borders is home to four remarkable abbeys which are stepped in history.

The region is home to plenty of castles and stately homes that played a pivotal role during some of the most tumultuous periods of Scottish history. Traquair House is said to be the oldest inhabited residence in Scotland and was visited by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 before his infamous defeat at the Battle of Culloden the following year. To this day, a legend persists that its imposing gates will remain shut until there is a Stuart on the throne.

  • Looking towards the House and gardens of Abbotsford, Melrose
    Abbotsford House, Melrose
  • People working in the Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick
    The Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick
  • Looking across moorland to Hermitage Castle, north of Newcastleton
    Hermitage Castle, north of Newcastleton
  • The Braw Lad crossing the water at the Galashiels Braw Lad’s Gathering
    The Braw Lad crossing the water at the Galashiels Braw Lad’s Gathering
  • A couple walk through the graveyard of Kelso Abbey
    Kelso Abbey
Looking towards the House and gardens of Abbotsford, Melrose

Literary connections

The landscape and history of the Scottish Borders have strong literary connections to many writers including Sir Walter Scott.

People working in the Heritage Hub - the Scottish Borders Archive and Local History Centre, Hawick

Ancestry

Find out if your ancestors lived in this region and were involved in the history of the Scottish Borders.

Looking across moorland to Hermitage Castle, north of Newcastleton

Borders Reivers

From the 13th century through to the 17th century, the lands between England and Scotland were home to the Reivers.

Riders returning from the Selkirk marches galloping at the Toll

Return to the Ridings

The Scottish Borders boasts an ancient equestrian heritage that is celebrated every year during the Return to the Ridings.

Melrose Abbey floodlit at night

Borders Abbeys

Follow this themed itinerary on the Scottish Borders four abbeys to plan a trip to these historic buildings.

Jedburgh Abbey

Historic attractions

The calm countryside of the Scottish Borders belies a turbulent past that can still be seen at ancient ruins and grand estates.