The Setting: Where is Teviotdale?

The Borders, on the road to Dryburgh Abbey
This photograph was taken on the road to Dryburgh Abbey, not far from Melrose, Scotland. The hills and river valley are typical of  the area.

If you look on a map of Scotland today, you won’t find a place called Teviotdale. The term was used in the Middle Ages to define an area in the south east of Scotland which was drained by the River Teviot, the River Tweed and their tributaries. Today, most these lands lie within the part of Scotland known as the Borders, but some parts of Teviotdale, such as Berwick, where the Tweed enters the North Sea, are now part of England. The border between England and Scotland moved many times before it finally settled at its present day location.   

pasture, Loch St. Mary
The land once called Teviotdale is part of the Southern Uplands of Scotland. It is distinguished by steep hills and deep river valleys in the north. Towards the south, the land becomes more gentle, and as it reaches the sea to the east, it’s flater. In the 12th century, Teviotdale was covered by forests of huge old oak and ash trees. The forest are gone now, replaced by pastures in a long process that began in the time this book is set, when the abbeys began to remove forests to pasture sheep. This is what the hills look like today.  Most of the trees that were planted in more recent centuries are different species, so even the forested hills are not the same.

 Teviotdale contained many towns that were already vital in the 12th century and still are today, such as Melrose, Selkirk, Jedburgh and Coldstream. One other place mentioned in An Earthly Knight , Lilliesleaf, was established as an Anglo-Norman settlement in the 12th century. Today, it’s a small hamlet.

 Teviot, outside Kelso One of the larger towns mentioned in An Earthly Knight, Roxburgh, no longer exists. The site of the old town of Roxburgh is now empty fields just outside present-day Kelso, near where the Teviot and the Tweed meet. The ruins of Marchmont castle lie just upstream, neglected and all but forgotten.  This photo showsthe banks of the Teviot, very close to the site where the town once stood. On the  higher bank are the ruins of the stone castle that replaced the 12th century wooden structure. Roxburgh was destroyed so many times during battles with the English that the town was finally abandoned. The stone castle that replaced the 12th century wooden motte and bailey persisted until 1550.  For a complete, brief history of Marchmont, visit the town of Kelso's History Page.

 Some of the places in An Earthly Knight exist only in my imagination. Lang Knowes (which means “long hills” in Scots), where Jenny and her family live, is not a real place. The two abbeys in the book, Rowanwald and Broomfield, are also inventions, although Rowanwald is very much like the Augustinian abbey established in Jedburgh in 1154. Broomfield resembles the abbeys at Melrose and Dryburgh to some degree, though neither had a healing shrine like St. Coninia’s well.

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