| Tu ne cede malis sed contra audenitor ito|
(Yield not to misfortunes
but advance boldly against them)
|Area:||666 square miles|
|County flower:||Maiden pink |
The County of Roxburgh is an inland shire; the middlemost of the Middle Shires it looks both west and east. Historically it was a lawless place between north and south, the victim of the mediæval border wars and the dark heart of reiver country. Today it is somewhat quieter and enjoyed for the scenery of its hills and dales.
To the west of Roxburghshire is Dumfriesshire and to the south-west Cumberland. To the north-east are Berwickshire and Selkirkshire and to the south and south-east is Northumberland. The shire was named after the Royal Burgh of Roxburgh on the Tweed, but the old town was destroyed repeatedly in the border wars of the Middle Ages and after the final fall of Berwick in 1460 it was abandoned.
The lie of the land
Roxburghshire is a mountainous county: the only low-lying ground in the shire is found in the north and in the valleys of the larger rivers, of which the Tweed is the greatest. The towns of the county are found in the valleys: Hawick in Teviotdale and Jedburgh above it in Jedvale, Newtown St Boswells and Kelso on the Tweed.
One of the main routes from Newcastle upon Tyne to Edinburgh runs across these fells, crossing from Northumberland to Roxburghshire at Carter Bar.
There are pastoral and arable farms in the county; the growing crops are largely in the dales and the hillsides are green and grazed eagerly by abundant flocks and herds.
The dales of the Tweed and Teviot are marked in places by beautiful woodland.
The Cheviots stretch through Roxburghshire and Northumberland and their highest ridges mark much of the border between the two counties, Roxburghshire's own county top being Auchope Cairn, a subsidiary summit of Cairn Hill, on the Northumberland border and on the flank of The Cheviot itself.
The Cheviot hills of Roxburghshire include:
- Catcleuch Shin (1,742 feet)
- Peel Fell (1,964 feet)
- Cauldcleuch Head (1,996 feet)
- Greatmoor (1,964 feet)
- Pennygant (1,805 feet)
- Din Fell (1,735 feet)
- Wyndburgh Hill (1,622 feet)
- Arnton Fell (1,464 feet).
Rivers and lakes
The largest river in the county is the Tweed, which enters Roxburghshire in the north, from Selkirkshire, and flows through the north of Roxburghshire for 26 miles; more than a third of the river's whole length, serving as a border river for some twelve miles at either end of this reach.
The Tweed is met by the Bowden and the Teviot, the Allan and the Eden.
The River Teviot carves Teviotdale and is entirely within Roxburghshire. It rises in near Causeway Grain Head on the Dumfriesshire border and runs in a north-easterly direction for 37 miles until it sheds its waters into the growing Tweed at Kelso. To the Teviot flow many lesser rivers and burns, including the Allan Water, the Slitrig, Dean Burn, the Rule, the Jed, the Oxnam and the Kale, and, on the left, Borthwick Water and the Ale.
In the south of Roburghshire is the River Liddel, which forms Liddesdale. The Liddle rises near Peel Fell in the Cheviots and flows south-west to the River Esk for 27 miles. With its tributary, the Kershope, the Liddel forms the border with Cumberland for some miles.
The lakes are few and small, the largest being Yetholm or Primside Loch and Horselaw, both in the parish of Linton among outlying hills of the Cheviots. Teviotdale, Liddesdale, Tweedside and Jedvale are the main valleys.
The lands which became Roxburghshire belonged to Northumbria until the tenth or early eleventh century, when the lands north of the Tweed were ceded to the King of Scots. It was made shire ground by King Alexander I during his short reign in the early part of the twelfth century.
Melrose Abbey had been established in the Anglo-Saxon period and was a noted seat of learning about which Bede wrote. In the twelfth century King David I founded the Abbeys at Jedburgh, Dryburgh and Kelso in his sweep of new monastic foundations, and Jedburgh in particular became a wealthy centre until the Reformation. The shire's main fortification, Roxburgh, was less fortunate; fought over repeatedly during the Middle Ages during which it was mainly held by the English, until the castle and town were finally captured for the Scots and destroyed by King James II.
In later centuries Roxburghshire became Reiver country. The border robbers on each side of the border were cruel and ruthless, none more so than the men of Liddesdale. However, after the accession of King James VI to the English throne, the forces of law could be applied without regard to borders and these lands were brought to peace.
Towns and villages
The county has four burghs:
A more recently developed town is:
†: Extends into Selkirkshire.
‡: The civil parish of Melrose extends into Berwickshire. The 1,302 acres in question additionally form a detached part of the ancient parish of Lauder.
Additionally parts of the parishes of Selkirk and Galashiels otherwise in Selkirkshire extend into Roxburghshire.
Things to see in Roxburghshire
|Accessible open space|
||Museum (free/not free)|
|National Trust for Scotland|
- Cheviot Hills
- Cessford Burn
- Floors Castle
- Harmony Garden
- Hermitage Castle
- Jedburgh Abbey
- Kelso Abbey
- Mellerstain House
- Melrose Abbey
- Monteviot House
- Priorwood Garden
- Scots' Dike
- Smailholm Tower
- Southern Upland Way
- Trimontium (Newstead) Roman fort
- Waterloo Monument, Ancrum
- Jeffrey, Alexander: The History and Antiquities of Roxburghshire (Edinburgh, 1857–64)
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