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Scottish Borders

Built around the Gala Water (a tributary of the Tweed) the town of Galashiels lies in a shallow valley. Until the late 18th century Galashiels was little more than a village. Unlike other Border towns, it was not subject to the ravages of warfare on a regular basis, did not have an abbey and was not a frequent haunt of royalty. This is not to say that the town is devoid of history.

The nearby Abbey and village of Melrose were granted charters by King David I (1124-53) in which land near Gala Water is mentioned, possibly where the Old Town was built. In 1622, a new church was constructed at Galashiels and the parish name was changed to Galashiels.

Chronicled in the history document Scalacronica is an event which is important to the history of the town. The valley of the Gala Water was a route used by English armies heading north and in 1337 an English force made their way towards Edinburgh to relieve the besieged garrison in the castle. According to local tradition they camped near Galashiels. A party of English soldiers had become separated from the main force and was gathering wild plums. They were discovered by the local who surprised and slew them.

During 1544 the villages of Bucjholm and Gala were burned by the English, as were many other Border Towns. The following year the Scots rallied around the Earl of Arran (acting as Regent) prior to their victory over the English at Ancrum Moor near Jedburgh. This let to further violent reprisals.

The Industrial Revolution and the coming of the railway transformed Galashiels from a village into a thriving town. From 1771, land within the town was feued and factories built. Gradually houses were built on each bank of the Gala Water. In 1884 the North British Railway (NBR) company began work on a railway from Edinburgh and this was completed in 1849. The line was initially called the "Border Union" but was renamed the "Waverley Route" in honour of Sir Walter Scott. More than 100 years later, Galashiels was a victim of the Beeching Review of the rail network and the Waverley Route was eventually closed in 1969.

Today Galashiels is the second largest town in the Borders with a population of approximately 14,000. It may not, at first glance, be as historic as other neighbouring towns but this is a living and developing community which has more to offer and surprise the visitor than may be expected.



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