The ruins of this 12th-century abbey church stand quietly now amid lawns and trees beside the River Tweed. It was not always so: three times in the 14th century and again in the 16th the abbey was plundered and burned, victim of the constant border raids and skirmishes between England and Scotland. The Cloisters have survived well, but except for the transept, little remains of the church itself. Sir Walter Scott is buried here. The abbey also contains the tomb of Field Marshal Haig, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in World War I.
Some of the fascinating exhibits in the local museum and art gallery reflect the importance of the wool trade in the history of this large Border town, world-famous for knitwear, and situated in Teviotdale. The Horse Monument in the High Street commemorates the defeat of the English by local youths in 1514, evoked annually in an event known as the Common Riding.
During the Middle Ages Jedburgh was at the centre of the Border Wars between the Scots and the English, changing hands many times. Today it is a quiet town producing tweeds and woollens and set amongst the Border hills. The former county prison, known as ‘the Castle’, was built in 1823 on the former site of Jedburgh Castle destroyed by order of the Scottish Parliament in 1409. Jedburgh Abbey was founded in 1118 by Prince David and constantly suffered at the hands of English invaders until 1523 when the Earl of Surrey finally ordered it to be burnt down. The fine Norman tower has been reconstructed and the tracery of the rose window makes this one of Scotland’s finest medieval buildings. Mary Queen of Scots House is a museum displaying artefacts associated with the Queen’s stay in the town in 1566.
Kelso, a little market town on the Tweed built round a cobbled square, was described by Scott as ‘the most beautiful, if not the most romantic Village in Scotland’. The 12th-century abbey was the greatest of the Border abbeys until its destruction in the 16th century, and the little that remains gives evidence of fine Norman and early Gothic workmanship. Floors Castle is an imposing 18th century building, the home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe; it contains superb English and French furniture, tapestries and paintings.
The best description of Melrose Abbey is by Sir Walter Scott in The Lay of the Last Minstrel. Founded in 1136 by David I for Cistercian monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire, it is undoubtedly the finest ruined abbey in Scotland. The heart of Robert the Bruce is said to be buried beneath the east window of the chancel. He was to have been laid to rest in the Holy Land, but Sir James Douglas, who was carrying his heart there, was killed fighting the Moors in Spain. According to tradition, Sir James hurled the casket at the enemy shouting ‘Go first, brave heart.’ Bruce’s heart was later returned to Scotland and buried here. Sir Walter Scott made his home at Abbotsford House, 2 miles west of Melrose. A fine example of the Scottish Baronial style, the house contains many mementoes of the man who wrote so vividly of the Borders and Scotland’s history, including his 9000 volume library. The house is occupied by a descendant. The writer himself, is buried 7 miles away at Dryburgh Abbey.