Common Ridings of the Scottish Borders

ridingsThe Common Ridings of the Scottish Borders are described as one of Britain’s best kept secrets in the Rough Guide to 500 great British experiences.

It could well be right. This is, after all, the region known as Scotland’s ‘horse country.’

Unsuspecting visitors would certainly wonder what they had stumbled across if they found themselves caught up in a Common Ridings celebration by chance.

Unravelling the rituals behind each local tradition takes time but the importance of the ridings is immediately apparent and the spectacle compelling.

The Common Ridings have formed an integral part of the Borders tradition since the 1500’s and maybe earlier.

The annual celebrations involve townsfolk making a grand ‘ride-out’ on horse-back around historic town boundaries – harking back to a time when constant surveillance was needed against incursion and encroachment.

These, after all, were the border badlands, home to the infamous Border Reivers, whose way of life leaves little to the imagination when you consider they bequeathed blackmail and bereavement to the English language.

And then there was always the neighbours south of the border to contend with – this being the most fought over region to be found in the UK.

There are 12 border towns who share the Common Ridings tradition and hundreds of people saddle up to take part. There’s plenty of debate as to whose is the oldest but we can be certain that Hawick and Selkirk are the biggest.

From June to August hundreds of riders saddle up for their respective territorial trots led by a an elected standard bearer. Depending on where you are in the border region the standard bearer is known as the Laddie, Cornet, Bari Gadgi and Callant among other colourful descriptions.

The events are friendly, heart-stirring and steeped in local history. Visitors are always made welcome and will soon find themselves joining in – whether it’s linking arms as the procession moves through the town or cheering the stunning displays of horsemanship as the riders gallop back into the town.

The Scottish Border town’s who stage common ridings include Coldstream, Duns, Galashiels, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Lauder, Langholm, Melrose, Peebles, Selkirk, West Linton. And just across the border Berwick-on-Tweed also has its Comon Riding festival.…/commonridings

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