Depending on which way you are travelling, north or south, the busy market town of Peebles is the first or last of the big Border towns you will arrive at.
Whatever the case its well worth pulling over and taking a leisurely look around. Like all Border towns it has more than its fair share of history, significantly shaped by centuries of warfare and bloody cross border aggression with England.
The town, strategically important, standing at the confluence of the River Tweed and Eddleston Water, was burnt down by the English in 1403 and for a second time in 1548 – Henry the VIII’s temper tantrums once again.
It’s likely that Peebles Castle also suffered as a result of English incursions but a nearby substitute, the magnificent and imposing 14-century Neidpath Castle, more than makes up for any loss.
The four-storey stone L-plan tower, with 11 feet thick stone walls, is renowned as one of the grandest Tweed Valley Tower Houses. It contains a pit prison, a hand-cut draw well and the Great Hall has stunningly beautiful batiks depicting the “Life of Mary Queen of Scots”.
In 1810 the castle was bought by the Earl of Wemyss, whose family still occupy it. Today Peebles is an attractive town with plenty of speciality shopping options, pleasant river walks.
Just off the High Street is the Tweedale Museum and Gallery and the shared courtyard houses one of the most impressive war memorials you will find anywhere.
Nearby the Chambers Institution, known locally as the Queensberry Lodging, was the birthplace of ‘Old Q’, the 4th Duke of Queensberry, the infamous Rake of Piccadilly and ancestor of the 8th Duke who drew up the “Queensberry Rules of Boxing”.
The building was a gift to the town in 1857 by Dr William Chambers who, alongside his brother Robert, founded the Edinburgh publishing firm, W&R Chambers, which is internationally recognized for its dictionaries and encyclopaedia.
A later extension, opened in 1911 was funded by Andrew Carnegie who, after making his fortune in steel production in the USA, funded public libraries around the world, including in the one in Peebles.