We embarked on another epic road trip into Scotland, and this time it was around the Scottish Borders county. Our first stop was the ancient town of Jedburgh, the closest town to the English/Scottish border in this section of the county…
Status: Scottish Borders, Town, Scotland
Eating & Sleeping: Tourist Information Office
Attractions: Jedburgh Castle, Jedburgh Old Gaol, Jedburgh Abbey, Tourist Information Office, Mary Queen of Scots House
We parked up at Jedburgh Castle, one of the two most popular locations in the town. It is now a museum, with all the buildings open to the public, and from the top of the jail you get a view down into the main town. The original castle is long since gone, having been destroyed in 1409. In 1823 a new building, the surviving jail, was built on the site, and in the 1960’s it was restored to look like it did when it first opened, and was converted into a museum. Many prisoners were held here, for various different crimes. We spent nearly two hours looking around the whole building, and audio guides are available from the reception area. There are a few floors, moving around the whole building, with a history of Jedburgh as well as the local area.
We got to have a look around the old cells in the jail itself, and inside the different cells were mannequins of criminals guilty of various crimes including theft and owing money. I managed to get Gemma into one of the cells and shut the door, it made for a good picture through the observation hole! She wasn’t amused… don’t worry I let her out! The cells were quite interesting and they really are cramped and cold, so the prisoners of the day didn’t quite get a 5 star room.
The main square in the town is centrally located, and if you head down towards the river, the Jed Water, you will find the Town Hall and Tourist Information Office.
On the left in the square is the Mercat Cross, which was installed in the 12th century (in the middle of what is now the road, where a panel marks it’s original position) to show that Jedburgh had been granted the right to hold a market.
This is Jedburgh Town Hall, just up from the Tourist Information Office across from the abbey. It’s a lovely old stone building, that looks brand new even though it was built in 1900. It hosts local functions as well as dinners, dances and other social functions.
Jedburgh Abbey is arguably the most recognisable building in the whole town. It’s a magnificent ruined building standing directly across from the Tourist Information Office and Town Hall, and just up from the river, which is called the Jed Water.
It dates from around 1118, and was originally set up as a priory by the then Prince David, who went on to become King. The priory was upgraded to a monastery, then an abbey by 1147. In the 13th century the nave and the choir were added, and it became such an important building that the abbot was actually asked to attend the Scottish Parliament. After a major defeat of the Earl of Surrey by William Wallace at the battle of Stirling in 1297, the abbey was attacked and had many treasures stolen by the English as revenge.
Unfortunately at least three Earl’s, from Surrey, Hertford and Warwick then plundered the abbey between 1410 and 1544, and Scottish Reformation ended the life of the abbey in 1560, and in the intervening years it became a ruin. It is looked after by Historic Scotland now, and it is in remarkably good condition. Inside the abbey there is still a lot of detail on show, and you can climb a spiral staircase to reach a gallery further up giving a great view back down into the abbey.
The last place in the town we visited was the above building, Mary Queen of Scots House. The Queen stayed here in 1566, and the building has now been turned into a museum about her life, and includes her clothing as well as important dates in her life. It’s free to enter, and is a fascinating look back in time. There are various exhibits on show, including a fun game to see how many stuffed Moles you can find around the house.
Mary Queen of Scots (1542 – 1587) was crowned in 1542, and reigned until 1567. She later married Francis II of France and became his consort, until his eventual death in 1560. In 1561 Mary returned to Scotland, and after being abducted and married by Lord Bothwell, and subsequently forced to abdicate in favour of her son James, she asked for help from her cousin, Elizabeth I of England, who Mary had stood against originally with a claim to being Queen of England after the death of Queen Mary I of England. Mary had recently married her cousin, Lord Darnley, in 1567, but he was found murdered not long after. Lord Bothwell was widely regarded as being the assassin. Elizabeth however believed Mary had committed the murder and had her locked up, and after many more years and letters incriminating Mary in an attempted assassination of Elizabeth, she was executed in 1587.
There is no train station in Jedburgh, so if you want to visit you will need to travel by car or bus. The nearest train stations are in Hexham and Carlisle over in England and there are bus connections from there you can get. There are various main roads that connect Jedburgh to the rest of the county and further.
Jedburgh is a pleasant town with some of the most significant historic buildings in the area, and there is plenty to look at. The Castle and the Abbey are worth paying for to look around, we went in both and had a great time.
From Jedburgh we kept going, on to Kelso, to visit our 2nd historic abbey of the day…