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Eildon Hills

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Eildon Hills, The, are situated in the parishes of Melrose and Bowden, Roxburghshire, the town of Melrose lying in the Tweed valley on the N, and the village of Bowden, which overlooks Teviotdale being on the S. They rise from one base of N and S extension into three coneshaped summits, their length being 1½ mile, and their breadth ½ mile. The middle summit is the highest (1385 feet), that to the NE attaining 1327, and that to the S 1216, feet. These summits stand apart, the northern 5 furlongs, and the southern 4, from the middle one. The appearance they present from all sides is very striking, especially from the wide rich country to the N, E, and S swept by the Tweed and the Teviot, and bounded in the latter direction by the blue Border Cheviots. Their weird aspect from this quarter, where these three summits stand out in bold relief, is enough to justify the popular tradition which represents them as originally one mass cleft into three by the demon familiar of Michael Scott. The view from these summits is of vast scope and great variety of interest. On the E the eye ranges over the curves of the silver Tweed as far as the rising-ground overlooking Berwick at its mouth, on the SE and S as far as the Cheviots and the long ridge of Carter Fell, on the SW to the hills of Liddesdale and Eskdale, on the W to the heights of Ettrick and Yarrow, while, as it sweeps by N, it takes in beyond Galashiels the pastoral uplands of the Gala and the darkening range of the lonely Lammermuirs. The panorama thus swept is rich in scenes of romantic and historic as well as physical interest. On the hills themselves are the remains of a strong Roman encampment as well as a tumulus which is supposed to be of Druidical origin, and the whole country to E and S swarms with legends of old Border valour, Border ballad, and Border foray. ' I can stand on the Eildon Hill,' said Sir Walter Scott, ' and point out forty-three places famous in war and verse.' There at our feet and to the E lie the rich lands of the Abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso, and Jedburgh, and on the horizon the classic battlefields of Chevy Chase and Flodden, while, over all breathes the magic genius of Sir Walter, whose honoured ashes rest down there among those of the Dryburgh monks. On these hills the imagination may still trace the figure of Thomas the Rhymer; and a spot is pointed out on the slope of the north-eastern hill, marked by a stone where stood the Eildon tree, under which he conceived and delivered to superstitious ears the fortune he darkly foresaw in store for his native country. One of his prophecies that refers to this spot, forecasting what might seem miraculous at the time, though it has been often since fulfilled -

' At Eildon Tree, if yon shall be,
A brig over Tweed yon there may see;'-

shows him to have been a man of patriotic fervour as well as natural shrewdness. The Roman encampment here already referred to, appears to have been of considerable extent. It occupied chiefly the north - eastern hill, where it was 1½ mile in circuit, and where the remains of it, inclusive of two fosses, an earthen dyke, four gates, and the general's quarter, can still, it is said, be traced. To place, however, Tremontium on the Eildon Hills is to do great violence to Ptolemy's text, according to Dr Skene, by whom Tremontium is identified with Brunswark. The supposed Druidical relic in the W is a mound, called the Bourjo, of evidently artificial construction, and here the Baal priests of the ancient Caledonians, it has been thought, were wout to offer sacrifices to the sun-god. It is an oak bower, surrounded by a deep trench, and is approached by a plain way made to it from E to W, called the Haxalgate. The hills are composed of porphyritic trap or whinstone, with a large proportion of felspar, which reflects a silvery gleam in the sunshine that has wrought itself into poetic description; while the soil is hard and mostly covered with grass. On the southern hill the opening of a quarry some years ago laid bare a perpendicular cliff of regular basaltic columns, about 20 feet elevation of which stands exposed, looking over Bowdenmoor to the W. On the sides of these hills, like the 'Parallel Roads of Glenroy,' sixteen terraces are traceable, which rise one above another like the steps of a stair. The Eildons lately became, by purchase, the property of the Duke of Buccleuch; and on their eastern slope, which is finely wooded, stands Eildon Hall, the residence of the Earl of Dalkeith, the eldest son of the Duke. Except on the Bowdenmoor side, and where, as on its E, there are woods and enclosed grounds, cultivation extends a good way up from their base, though not so far as it once did, it wonld seem, under the monks, on the side of Melrose particularly.—Ord. Sur., sh. 25, 1865. See chap. xxxiv. Of James Hunnewell's Lands of Scott (Edinb. 1871).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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