Biggar could be called South Lanarkshire's
gateway to the Borders, as it lies on the A72 Clyde Valley Tourist
Route, nestling among rolling hills with spectacular views of Tinto
Hill, the highest hill in South Lanarkshire.
The village's wide main street gives away
its mediaeval past as a market town and it was the first village in
South Lanarkshire to benefit from investment in a high quality
streetscape, enhancing its picturesque and atmospheric atmosphere.
Biggar's shops include an award-winning grocer, a famous ice cream and
chocolate shop and a good mix of book, toy and craft shops, bakeries and
One of Biggar's best known traditions is its
Hogmanay bonfire. Preparations start in December and on New Year's Eve,
following a torch-lit procession through the town, the fire is lit
outside the Corn Exchange. It's thought the tradition dates back to the
mid-winter fires of the Druids. The Biggar Little Festival takes place
in October and is a celebration of arts from in and around the area. A
number of events take place in the town's show field, including the
agricultural show and the vintage car rally. The Biggar Gala Day takes
place in June.
The housing in Biggar ranges from beautiful
red sandstone cottages, rural cottages and council properties to family
villas and new builds. The village has a number of 'A' listed buildings
including St Mary's Church, Brownsbank Cottage and Biggar Gasworks.
There are 10 primary schools in the Biggar
area, although most of these are rural. Biggar High will be completely
refurbished as part of South Lanarkshire Council's multi-million pound
schools modernisation programme.
For days out of town, Biggar is hard to beat
with no fewer than five excellent museums to visit - all maintained by
the Biggar Museum Trust - and a puppet theatre set in a miniature
Victorian music hall. Indeed, Biggar probably has the highest number of
museums per head of population than any other Scottish village. If you
prefer outdoor pursuits Biggar Public Park and Golf Course are situated
on the edge of the village.
Biggar is served by the Lanark and Carluke
Advertiser, the Lanark Gazette and the Lanarkshire Extra.
Biggar began life as an Iron Age settlement
atop Bizzyberry Hill. Its position at the crossroads of the Clyde Valley
and the Tweed Valley made it an important trade centre. The name Biggar
is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon "bige" meaning bend and the
village lies close to a right angle bend in the River Clyde.
After the Norman Conquest in the 12th
century, King David gave Biggar and its surrounding land to Baldwin, a
Fleming leader, in return for military support. The remains of their
castle can still be seen overlooking the Burn Braes. The Flemings
continued to rule the town and supported Robert the Bruce in his fight
for the Scottish crown. When Bruce murdered his enemy Comyn at Dumfries,
Robert Fleming cut off his head and held it aloft, shouting "let the
deed shaw" which was taken for the motto on the family crest.
In 1451 Biggar was made a free Burgh of
Barony, allowing it to have a weekly market, fairs and the powers of
jurisdiction. By the 1700s Biggar was a town of handloom weavers,
shoemakers, tailors and blacksmiths and also a depot for lead from the
Leadhills mines on its way to Leith.
The worst parts of the Industrial Revolution
bypassed Biggar but unfortunately mass-produced goods forced many
handloom weavers to look for other work.
The arrival of the railway in 1874 brought
tourists and Biggar built on this, attracting day trippers from
Edinburgh and Glasgow. Many of the sandstone villas at either end of the
town were built as holiday homes for the jute and tobacco barons of the
In the 1950s the world famous Biggar
engineering firm Cuthbertson built the Albion Cuthbertson Water Buffalo,
a tractor designed to work in boggy ground and they later invented pipe
laying machinery and snow ploughs. The founder JA Cuthbertson is
commemorated in a plaque set in an ornamental snowplough.
The poet Hugh MacDiarmid moved to Brownsbank
Cottage in Biggar in 1951, where he lived with his wife Valda, until
their deaths in 1978 and 1989. Brownsbank Cottage is now a museum and a
base for a writer-in-residence.
In 1962 Biggar residents Robert Kerr (12)
and his father Robert (45) made medical history when Robert senior
donated one of his kidneys to his son, the first father to son donation
in the country.
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