Discover the historical sights around Kelso town.

This tour is 2.34 miles long, please allow at least 47 minutes to complete it, excluding the time taken to enjoy the destinations along the way.

Kelso's history is closely linked with that of the Abbey which was founded here in the 12th century by King David I, who radically reorganised Scotland upon ascending to the throne. King David I grew up in England and was impressed by the Norman system of government. As a new king he stamped his mark upon the country by introducing a new system of ecclesiastical parishes and new government based on the Norman system. In addition to founding new abbeys he constructed Royal Centres of power based on new town (Burghs). The abbey at Kelso was sited close to his Royal Castle at Roxburgh and the important Royal Burgh of the same name, which stood in the fields across the Tweed at modern day Friar's Haugh.

During the Anglo-Scottish conflicts of the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Kelso and the nearby Royal Castle were under English control. In 1460, after more than a century of English occupation, the Scots besieged and razed Roxburgh Castle. It was during this siege that King James II, who was fascinated with artillery, died when a cannon exploded near where he was standing. His Queen urged the Scots to continue their siege and eventually the castle was taken. Afterwards, King James III was crowned at Kelso Abbey.

Kelso suffered greatly in the 16th century when Anglo-Scottish warfare raged, and in September 1545 the town, its mill and abbey were all destroyed by the Earl of Hertford. Bizarrely it was Spanish troops, not English, that sacked and plundered the abbey. These troops were part of a multi-national force commanded by the Earl of Hertford under King Henry VIII whose allies including King Charles V of Spain.

In the17th century, King James Vll strove for religious tolerance between the Roman Catholic and Protestant faiths. This led to the Bishop's Wars and the Civil War during which the king was deposed and executed.

In October 1715, during the unsuccessful attempted restoration of 1715-16 (led by James Vll's son) the population of Kelso was able to watch the Jacobites gather at the site Wester Kelso (by Floors Castle).

The late 18th and 19th centuries were peaceful years, allowing the town to develop without fear of attack. As a result, Kelso prospered and expanded. For example, the town's optician in the mid-I 8th century, John Gibson, invented the reflecting microscope and made several models of telescopes which were used by the astronomers of the time.

The present town is mainly Georgian and Victorian in appearance, although here and there we find individual buildings which have survived the ravages of time, fire and war. The basic structure of the town is that of the traditional Scottish Burgh, where there is a market place containing the main public building. with main roads on both sides of the Town Hall and with other routes radiating off the Square. The “island" on which Kelso Town Hall is built is bounded by Woodmarket, Horsemarket and Cross Street. Bridge Street and Roxburgh Street are the two other major roads leading to and from the Square.

Today, the town is the 4th largest in the Borders and the community is proud of its rich heritage. The Kelso Civic Week, which is held annually in the middle of July, celebrates the history of the town. As in many other Border towns, this tradition has become an established part of the social calendar.

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What you'll see

The Square - Kelso

History & Heritage

Learn about the The Square and its magnificent surrounding buildings

Bridge Street - Kelso

History & Heritage

This street is lined with many interesting buildings

Ednam House - Kelso

History & Heritage
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This is one of the finest Georgian buildings in the Borders and was at one time a temperance hotel

Abbey Court - Kelso

History & Heritage

Formerly the access to the bridge over the Tweed, this street was the primary entrance to the town from the south

Turret House - Kelso

History & Heritage

This is built on the site of a single storey house belonging to “John Palmer, boatman in Kelso"

Kelso Abbey - Kelso

History & Heritage

Wander among the remains of a spectacular example of Scottish monastic architecture.

Kelso Bridge - Kelso

History & Heritage

Historic Bridge across the River Tweed

Pill Box and Mayfield Riverside Walk - Kelso

History & Heritage

See the "Pill box" which dates from the Second World War and was built to defend the bridge

Abbey Row Community Centre - Kelso

History & Heritage

The Community Centre was built in 1876 on the site of an earlier Grammar School, attended by a young Sir Walter Scott

Waverley Lodge - Kelso

History & Heritage

This house once belonged to Sir Walter Scott's aunt. There is a bust of him to commemorate his stay in the house

Old Parish Church - Kelso

History & Heritage

After the Reformation, the west of the Abbey continued to be used as Kelso’s parish church until the late 18th century

Abbey Row - Kelso

History & Heritage

The buildings along the street vary from utilitarian to grand in character

Woodmarket - Kelso

History & Heritage

As the name implies, this area is where merchants in the town traded wood

Coalmarket - Kelso

History & Heritage

This is where the people of Kelso would buy coal which had been carted from Scremerston, Northumberland

Shedden Park - Kelso

Parks & Gardens

The entrance to the park is marked by a triumphal arch, erected and paid for by the people of Kelso

Horsemarket - Kelso

History & Heritage

The buildings along Horsemarket are good examples of early 19th century architecture

Former Trinity North Church of Scotland and Church Halls - Kelso

History & Heritage

Gothic style church designed and built between 1885-6 by the Edinburgh architect John Starforth

Bowmont Street - Kelso

History & Heritage

Walk along the street named after the Marquis of Bowmont, one of the Duke of Roxburghe's titles

Former Kelso High School - Kelso

History & Heritage

The former site of Kelso High School

Junction of Roxburgh Street - Kelso

History & Heritage

This was at one time the link between the historic burghs of Easter and Wester Kelso

Floors Castle Gate - Kelso

History & Heritage

The gates, which you see here, form the main entrance to Floors Castle

Roxburgh Street - Kelso

History & Heritage

Along Roxburgh Street there are several opportunities to take a short walk down to the Cobby Riverside Walk

Roxburgh House - Kelso

History & Heritage

Roxburgh House is a late Georgian mansion

Roxburgh Street to The Square - Kelso

History & Heritage

Continuing along Roxburgh Street with its mix of old and new buildings, most of which are shops at ground floor level