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What are the special qualities of the Scottish Borders?

Hermitage Castle

(A detailed response to this question is now available for appraisal and comment.)

These Borderlands have been shaped for at least 2000 years by the tribes and armies which have fought over them, settled here, retreated and advanced again and again. Their story has been central to the emerging story of Scotland, the Nation.The Romans marched over it and built roads and forts, then were driven back south of Hadrian's Wall. In the 5th century the Saxons were pushing the Celtic peoples into one of their final strongholds here in the Scottish Borders. It may be that a cavalry general called Arthur fought and died here - to live on in a legend that interweaved itself with the mystical tale of the Holy Grail (See "Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms" by Borders born-and-bred author Alastair Moffat; Pub. 2012 by Birlinn).

In the late mediaeval period English and Scottish armies fought back and forth across the Border. In between the wars there were also tranquil periods when the great abbeys of Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh were built. Prosperous towns grew up around them enjoying great wealth from the wool trade.

The subsequent history of much of the area as a lawless land inhabited by Reivers, who recognised no authority but their own, goes back 800 years. Mighty Reiver clans such as the Armstrongs, Scotts and Elliots rode out from their strongholds in the Scottish Borders with war parties of up to 50,000 men to mount raids on the prosperous farming lands of Northern England and Lowland Scotland. Royal authority was weak. Mary Queen of Scots risked everything to ride over the moors one stormy night to visit the wounded Bothwell at Hermitage Castle. It was her son James the VI of Scotland who, when he also became James 1st of England so uniting the two countries, finally solved the problem. In an act of genocide, he sent an army who swept through the area and killed all they found, toppling their fortified houses until not one stone stood upon another.

The legacy of being laid waste in the early 17th century is that even today, in the early 21st century, much of the area is comparatively sparsely populated and has a tranquil remoteness. So remote, in fact, that mobile phone companies do not think it worth giving the area mobile phone coverage, and the night skies are so dark that just over the Border in the Kielder Forest Park a new observatory was installed just a few years ago to view the stars. This belies the fact that Border country is only an hour's drive away from Newcastle, Carlisle and Edinburgh.

Being able to walk along babbling burns lined with ancient alder trees, watch sheep grazing contentedly in fields edged with mossy dry stone walls, then climb a high fell and see a succession of rolling hills on to where the indistinct horizon meets an ever-changing sky - the silence only broken by the song of the meadow lark in a world devoid of any sign of industrial modern-man... This is a rare treasure not to be found anywhere in England except (perhaps) in a designated National Park, nor in Scotland, now, until you reach the really remote Highland country to the North. This Border country has a special quality and a unique story, central to our cultural heritage.

The area of the Scottish Borders where the story summarised above is recognised as being part of its landscape and historic culture is tentatively outlined in this map. The boundary shown is meant as a starting point for discussion (you have to start somewhere) and is certainly not a stone wall, immovable and inviolate, defining where the National Park will be...

Please join this discussion. Put your comments/questions in below - but in particular we would like to know how you think a Borders National Park could benefit you, or might adversely affect you. All comments will be filtered for all the usual reasons and then published here within a few days with your name. We would like your comments by March 1st please if you want to influence the detailed proposal. After a more detailed proposal has been constructed, it will be published here and we will then ask for comments on this proposal.

The comments box below is meant for short comments. But if you have a longer story on how the Scottish Borders is a special place, please email us with your story and we might add it to our proposal!

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