History along the Way

Although the walk is of sufficient beauty and variety to satisfy the walker we believe the experience can be enhanced by knowing more of the area's interest. This section aims to provide some of that knowledge.


This was a community with extensive movement of people travelling up and down on the main road to England. It was made a burgh in 1648 but it was not until the 18th century that it became more popular as a Spa Town. The Town Hall was the location of the sulphur spring baths and Moffat was regarded as the "Cheltenham of Scotland". Moffat has attracted many associated with the Scottish Enlightenment, such as David Hume, James Boswell and James MacPherson. The latter launched the Ossian Fragments while staying in the Moffat House Hotel.

Quin Stone - Scotland's Eden

The town's main street is reputed to be the broadest in Scotland and it is home to the famous Colvin's fountain surmounted by the Ram. Also of note is Moffat House designed by John Adam and built for the Earl of Hopetoun
The Black Bull Inn dating from 1568 was known to have been used by Claverhouse, James Hogg, Walter Scott, and Robert Burns. Clearly the literary community saw Moffat as a place to visit for discussion and inspiration.
John McAdam the famous road builder (1756 - 1836) was born in Ayrshire but he is buried in the Moffat Graveyard.

Loch of the Lowes

Tibbie Shiels & St Mary's Loch
Tibbie Shiel's Inn is named after a widow, Tibbie Shiel who lived in what was then known as St Mary's Cottage in the late eighteenth and nineteen centuries. Tibbie was initially the servant of James Hogg's parent.
When she was widowed she had to support 6 children and she achieved this by providing board and lodgings in the cottage. Through her personality and determination the Inn became a frequently used stopping point for the literati and famous of that time.

Although the present day Inn is larger it is built around the original cottage, and remains an inn of renown.

Also of interest is the ancient and ruined St Mary's Kirk - The Kirk of the Lowes, and its graveyard. This was located on the NW shore of St Mary's Loch and it has given its name to both the lochs. This location was known for the Blanket Preaching, and open-air service held every July and this tradition is still maintained.
St Mary's Kirk above St Mary's loch St Mary's Churchyard

Blackhouse Tower and Sir James Douglas
The Ettrick Forest or the 'Forest' as it was known has long connection with the earlier Scottish kings as a hunting area. The Douglas family were seen as the keepers of this area and it is after this family that the Douglas Burn is named. As far back as the 11th Century William, first Lord Douglas, had a Tower at Blackhouse, although the present day ruin is of a successor tower.

It was at the site of Blackhouse Tower that the Douglas Tragedy took place, the Douglas father and seven brothers being killed by Lady Margaret's lover. He himself was wounded and that night died close by St Mary's Loch. It is said that there are seven stones on the surrounding hillside to mark where the brothers were slain.

The second connection is through Sir James Douglas (1286 - 1330). In 1306 he joined Robert the Bruce and fought a campaign at Brodick. In 1308 he retook the family seat at Blackhouse then went on to fight at the Pass of Brander, Roxburgh and Bannockburn. He then was appointed Warden of of Scotland and led raids into England gaining the title 'Black Douglas'. He then fulfilled Robert the Bruce's final wish of having his embalmed heart carried on the crusades. From there it was brought back to Melrose Abbey.

Traquair House

Traquair and Innerleithen
Traquair House is said to be the oldest inhabited mansion in Scotland. Its royal origins go back to Alexander I in 1107 and it has had frequent royal visitors, perhaps most notable being Mary Queen of Scots who looked after her son James VI Scotland / James I England in the house when he was very young.

Another royal, King William the Lion granted the royal charter in 1175 that gave Glasgow its abbey land and resulted in the city's foundation.

The Earls of Traquair were catholic and strong Jacobites and this resulted in their persecution. It is said that following the 1745 failure of the Jacobites the Earl closed the gates to the drive and that they would never be re-opened until a Stewart was again crowned. This was the reason promoted by Sir Walter Scott but an alternative theory is that the gates were closed at the time of the death of the countess.

Innerleithen in the Tweed Valley Innerleithen was first noted as a spa, the waters coming from the Dow Well. This was said to be similar water to that found in Harrogate. The spa's popularity increased as a result of Sir Walter Scott's novel, St Ronan's Well and the pump house is now known by this name.
Innerleithen was also known for the Border games started in 1827 and the Cleikum ceremony was added in 1900, and remembered annually in the town's festival. The town also has the preserved printing works of Robert Smail.

Selkirk Square

The Square is dominated by the monument to Sir Walter Scott, who was the Sheriff of Selkirkshire from 1799 to 1832. Behind the statue is the courthouse.
It is also the birthplace of the doctor and explorer Mungo Park.
The wider knowledge of the town was perhaps first noted in 1513 following the Battle of Flodden. About 100 men, known as Souters from the shoemaking tradition, fought for the King but only one returned and this is the basis for a significant part of the annual commonriding.
The shoe-making was also important when the Souters produced 2000 pairs of shoes for Prince Charles Edward Stewart and his highlanders. This is commemorated in the song, "The Souters o' Selkirk"

Selkirk Abbey was reputed to be the first Border Abbey established by monks from Tiron under the encouragement of David - Earl of Cumbria (Son of Queen Margaret) in 1113. This location only lasted for about 15 years before the monks moved from this site to Kelso where they developed what was to be the largest of the Border Abbeys. It is suggested that this move was to bring the Abbey closer to Roxburghe Castle, an important location in the 12th century.

Galashiels - Ceremony of Mixing of the Roses

Galashiels name is derived from the fact that it was a settlement of huts or shiels used by pilgrims on their way to Melrose Abbey , these settlements situated on the Gala water.
By 1337 there is record of English soldiers being killed by a group of local men close to wild plum trees as the soldiers stopped to eat the fruit. This is commemorated in the Burgh emblem, which shows a fox trying to reach the plums hanging on the tree and the motto "Sour Plums". Galashiels was granted a charter in 1599 and in 1695 the Mercat Cross was erected. All of these facts are recalled annually at the Braw Lads Gathering, this burgh's Common Riding Festival.

Also of note are the Border Reiver Mosstrooper statue and, behind, the imposing clock tower, designed by Sir Robert Lorimer.

By the mid 19th Century Galashiels was established as the premier manufacturing town for tweed and at the start of the 20th century it was home of the Scottish College of Textiles, now part of Heriot-Watt University.

Close by is Abbotsford, the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott.

Melrose Abbey

The current location of Melrose dates back principally to the establishment of the Abbey in 1136 when David I founded it for the Cistercian order. Prior to this, and established from the 7th century, there was a small monastic community at Old Melrose some 2 miles downstream on the Tweed. This is where St Aidan and Cuthbert were Priors before moving on to Lindisfarne (the end point of the St Cuthbert's Way). It is just above this bend on the Tweed that the well-know Scott's View is situated.

The present-day Ruined Abbey is much more complete than it might have been due to the work of Sir Walter Scott and the funding by the Duke of Buccleuch. Over the years the abbey was destroyed and rebuilt, first in 1322 in the War of Independence, 1385 under the orders of Richard II and in 1544 by the Earl of Hertford. Even the border natives, in the form of the Douglas family, destroyed parts of the Abbey to generate enough stone to build themselves a house at the end of the cloisters.
In 1822 Sir Walter acted as superintendent overseeing repairs to the building, its central portion being used as the parish church.

In the abbey grounds Alexander II is buried, as is Robert the Bruce's Heart.

Melrose area is however full of other history and in part from much earlier times. The Romans had the Fort of Trimontium just to the north of the Eildon Hills at Newstead. To the west of Melrose is Darnick Tower, a still inhabited border tower built in 1425. This was a property that Sir Walter Scott wanted to own, but which the Heiton family would not sell to him, consequently Sir Walter bought the land at Abbotsford and built Abbotsford House.

Lauder Town House and Church in background

In the 12th Century it is said that William the Lion made the area into a Burgh but it was not until 1502 that it was granted a Royal Burgh status. It did reach notoriety in 1482 as a result of the Lauder Bridge hangings undertaken by Archibald 'Bell-the-Cat' Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus against six of James III favourites.
In 1590 Thirlestane Castle was being built on the side of the Leader Water, this having been subsequently developed with ornate additions designed by Sir William Bruce. The castle is a valuable visitor attraction in the ownership of the descendents of the Maitlands of Thirlestane and the Earls of Lauderdale.
Also of interest is the 1673 church designed by Sir William Bruce in the shape of a Greek Cross and the 18th century Town Hall standing high above the main road from Edinburgh south to the Carter Bar.


Located on the river Dye in the midst of the Lammermuir Hills.
This is a very small community with the bridge over the Dye Water at its centre. There is a small church which traces its establishment back to 1234.
To the North West are the Mutiny stones which were thought to be the Scottish equivalent of chambered cairns.

Abbey St Bathams

Abbey St Bathans
This is a small community on the side of the Whiteadder River; deriving its name from St Baothen the successor to Columba on the Island of Iona. It is reputed that in the 7th century a chapel was erected here by St Baothen. What is more certain is that in the 12th century there was a Cistercian Priory founded by Ada, a daughter of William the Lion and that it survived till the English army destroyed it in 1543. The remains of the priory are incorporated in parts of the present church. What cannot be found is any record of an Abbey.
Also of interest is the wood along the banks of the river, this is designated a SSSI due to the age of the woodland and the fact that it is undisturbed by modern forestry methods. This has resulted in a wide range of woodland, plant and animal life.

Cockburnspath Church

This community is first mentioned in 1128 but it was in 1503 to commemorate the marriage of James IV to Margaret Tudor that the Mercat Cross was erected. The village was part of Margaret's dowry. Close by is Dunglass, the collegiate church now a ruin dating back to approx. 1423. The present parish church is entered directly opposite the Mercat Cross.

Just to the east is Cove and below the cliffs Cove harbour and the North Sea.

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