The Scottish Borders are renowned for their tranquility, space, exceptional beauty and friendly inhabitants. They boast a stunning and varied landscape with rolling hills and moorland to the west, and gentler valleys and agricultural plains in the east. It is a region famous for its excellent crops of barley making it ideal for producing fine Scotch Whisky. However it hasn’t always been such a welcoming, peaceful part of the British Isles.
The Borderlands were first established by the Romans in 122 AD when they built Hadrian’s Wall from the Solway Firth in the West to the Tyne River in the East. Long before there were Scotsmen and Englishmen this great rampart established a dividing line, but it was over a thousand years later, in 1237, that the political boundary that defines the Borders was created.
From the 14th to the 17th century the Borders were dominated by lawless clans. Their allegiance was seldom to the Scottish or English crowns, but only to ‘The Clan’. This vicious and destructive period raged for centuries, heightened by the ongoing hostility between the Kings of England and Scotland as they vied for control of the Border country.
The English and the Scots, previously close and friendly neighbours, stole cattle, sheep and horses from each other in increasingly violent raiding parties known as ‘Reivers’. It was during these wilderness years, in around 1530, that the term ‘blackmail’ was coined. It described the protection purchased by families to avoid losing their livelihood. Local commerce and international trade withered as the image of the Border region became synonymous with lawlessness and danger.
The ancient divisions between sections of the Borders were known as Marches and in each year riders would mark their frontiers with a Common Riding. One such event in Hawick celebrated its 500th anniversary in 2014 and was described by the Rough Guide as ‘one of the best parties in the world’. It is apt that a tradition borne out of conflict has become a celebration of the Borders heritage and history.
Today the people of the Borders are far more welcoming, known for their ready wit and hospitality, they are justly proud of their heritage and the natural beauty of the region. The Borders people retain a distinctive character borne out of those turbulent times with a culture of ballad and poem that inspired one of Scotland’s greatest sons – Sir Walter Scott.