History

This beautiful area is steeped in rich history and culture.

Welcome to the heart of the ‘Debatable Lands’ and the mighty ‘Border Reiver Clans.’

This area was once regarded as the bloodiest valley in Europe. Hermitage Castle still stands but the entire length of the valley was once dominated by over 90 Peel Towers belonging mainly to the Elliott and Armstrong Clans. Mary, Queen of Scots, made a famous marathon journey on horseback from Jedburgh to visit the wounded Bothwell there, only a few weeks after the birth of her son.
Between the 13th and 17th centuries blood-feud, conflict between families of the same name and of the same nation, was common: the outcome an animosity and loathing that admitted no reconciliation. Feud and blood-feud would encompass many generations, often to the point where the original quarrel was lost in mist and time.
The Border Reivers stole where they could, be it from across the Border in the lands of what were seen as the enemy, and also from people of their own nation. All was grist to the mill in an environment where the next meal was hard to come by. By the 14th century stealing or reiving (from the old English word- to rob) became a way of life that many were unwilling to give up.
Although Scotland had officially achieved full independence from its southern neighbour, England, an amicable relationship would not be achieved until the dawn of the 17th century.
In the early 17th century James 1st renamed the borders the Midshires and declared a purge of all the Reiver Clans. Many were hanged and the Armstrongs were singled out as a prime target! Many Elliotts and Armstongs were also banished to Ireland. A lot of the remaining Reivers sold their services as mercenaries to armys across Europe.
John Armstrong of Whithaugh resided in a Peel Tower just over the river at the bottom of the garden at Houghton Park.
The towers of the Elliots were mainly clustered in upper Liddesdale above Newcastleton or Copshaw Holm as it is also known. Here stood the famous Prickenhaugh tower, stronghold of the Elliot chiefs.
There were the towers of Little Jock Elliot of the Park, of Robin of Redheugh, Will of Lariston, Martin of Braidley and Archie of Thirlshope, but nothing of these remains now to remind us of the days of the Reivers.
The strongholds and towers of the Reivers, that once abounded in the valley, have disappeared now almost without trace. It is possible to trace the sites and in some cases fragmentary remains of some of the lost towers that are mentioned in the Border Ballads and so often in documentary sources.
Newcastleton or Copshaw Holm was built as a result of the land clearances in the e 1790s when people were forced to move from Old Castleton village.
The Village was founded in 1793 by the Duke of Buccluech following a request by the people of the valley to create a centre which would be similar to nearby settlements already established for the weaving trade.
In 2015 The Newcastleton and District Community Trust was formed and they have been a real force for the vitality and sustainability of the village and community.
In 2020 they agreed the historic purchase of 750 acres of land bordering the village from Buccleuch Estates. The land will be used for recreation and tourism projects to add to the villages other attractions.
Follow the Reiver Trail and visit the Heritage Centre in the village to explore this fascinating history in more depth.

Places to Visit, Things to do,

in and around the Liddelsdale Valley, Newcastleton.