History and Heritage
With a strong sense of pride in place and highly developed local identity, Galashiels is unique.
Its Braw Lads’ Gathering, similar to other ‘Common Ridings’ across the Scottish Borders, can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries when the townspeople would ride their boundaries to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords.
Today, the ‘Braw Lads’ Gathering’ brings the people of Galashiels together in celebration every June, commemorating local legend, history and tradition.
The Common Riding is well known, as are many of the ancient and wonderful landmarks it passes such as Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott, the Mercat Cross and the famous Burgh Buildings.
Look more closely, however, and the area around the Mercat Cross – the old town of Galashiels – is full of history. The former Cloth Hall is now flats, but appears, from the outside at least, much as it did when it opened for business in 1792. The houses in Tea Street date back to the late 17th century, while close by, within Galashiels’ Old Burial Ground, is the family tomb of Mungo Park, the Borders-born explorer of Africa, as well as the simple but beautiful Gala Aisle, built in 1636.
The town’s history is vast and full of intrigue, its past and present interwoven.
The Heriot-Watt School of Textiles and Design is one of the oldest textiles teaching schools in the world, and with a wonderfully renovated mill building at the heart of its Scottish Borders campus, it beautifully represents Galashiels’ proud textile heritage.
When Robert Coltart penned Coulter’s Candy in the 19th century it became a lullaby for generations of young families. Today, his words remain equally meaningful and his memory lives on with a statue in the town’s Market Square.
The Industrial Revolution and the first coming of the railway transformed Galashiels from a village to a thriving town; today, the return of the railway, which has enhanced Galashiels’ connectivity and accessibility at the heart of the Borders, has once again provided a catalyst for change.