The claim on its local website as the ‘home of recreation and leisure’ is no idle boast.
Innerleithen is an international magnet for mountain bikers, having some of the finest trails on offer in the UK right on its doorstep. The surrounding hills and forests also form part of the popular Southern Upland Way and Innerleithen is a handy stopping off point for walkers.
Popular folklore suggests that the town may have been founded by a pilgrim monk called St Ronan in AD 737.
True or not he was destined to become an eternal ambassador for the town, especially after St Walter Scott’s novel ‘St Ronan’s Well,’ set in and around Innerleithen, gave it celebrity status.
The waters were well known for their healing properties and Robert Burns sampled them during his tour of the Scottish Borders in 1787.
In 1827 James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, instituted St Ronan’s Border Games held every July and recognised as the oldest organised sports meeting in Scotland.
Another annual event that has put Innerleithen on the map is its music festival, a three-day celebration of Celtic music that attracts top artists and enthusiastic crowds.
Take a walk around the town and you’ll find curio shops (recently featured on the BBC’s popular Antiques Roadtrip show), galleries and an antiquarian book shop – not to mention an award winning ice cream shop.
And if you fancy taking a step back in time pop into Robert Smail’s Printing Works on the High Street. The business first opened its doors in 1866 as a jobbing printers and has changed little since then. The enterprise has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland for over a quarter of a century.
And there’s a feast of history to be enjoyed a couple of miles down the road at Traquair House – the oldest inhabited house in Scotland – and one of the Scottish Borders A-list attractions.
During the industrial revolution Innerleithen once had five significant wool mills (or hosieries) and established an enviable reputation for producing high quality fashion knitwear and cashmere for international markets.
The largest mill, Ballantyne’s, closed in January 2010, however new owners continue trading as Caerlee Mills and the mill shop is still open to visitors.
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