Old Gala House, situated just off Scott Crescent in the Old Town area of Galashiels, is a beautiful and impressive building dating back to the 16th century. Frequently visited by Sir Walter Scott during his lifetime, it now boasts a museum and gallery, regularly exhibiting the work of local artists.
The original residence of the Lairds of Galashiels, Old Gala House brings to life vibrant tales of the town, from its historical roots to the present day. Enchanting yet unassuming, it sits within peaceful gardens, hidden from view and unexplored by many in spite of its fascinating past which, like the town itself, is full of intrigue.
Historically, the land had belonged to the Douglas family, but having been deemed too influential by King James II (reign 1437-1460), they were stripped of their power and the land was subsequently granted to the Pringle (Hoppringle) family who built a tower (a ‘peel house’) in 1457. Sections of the tower were later incorporated into the existing building which dates back to 1583.
In 1632, the residence passed into the ownership of the Scott family through the marriage of Jean, Sir James Pringle’s daughter, to Hugh Scott (1st of Gala).
Each room within Old Gala House tells its own story, from the painted, wooden-panelled ceiling dating back to 1635, to the ornate eighteenth-century plaster ceiling in the Christopher Boyd Galley, to the Clapperton Room which houses permanent displays dedicated to Galashiels’ outstanding and globally-renowned sculptor Thomas Clapperton.
The ceiling painting – which was only rediscovered in the middle of the 20th century – is particularly beautiful and commemorates the remodelling of the house by Pringle and Scott. It is one of around thirty Scottish-style Renaissance ceilings that remain intact.
The Scotts of Galashiels stayed at Old Gala House until 1876 when they moved to New Gala House within the grounds of Gala Policies, an impressive residence designed by eminent Scottish architect David Bryce on behalf of Hugh Scott (9th of Gala), the then-Laird of Gala.
New Gala House was demolished in 1987.
Today, in addition to a museum and exhibition space, Old Gala House – which was extended in the 18th and 19th century to its present form – hosts local graduation ceremonies, meetings and weddings and the archives of the Borders Family History Society.
It also plays a central role in the annual Braw Lads’ Gathering, where on Braw Lads’ Day, following the ceremony at the Old Town Cross, the principals are welcomed by the current Laird of Gala.