Archaeology Scotland Summer School in the Borders

20 May 2018

The Archaeology Scotland Summer School has been held annually since 1952 and is still as popular as ever. This year, the sites that we will visit are situated mainly in two areas; between St Mary’s Loch and Selkirk in The Yarrow Valley – the medieval Royal hunting reserve once known as Selkirk (later, Ettrick) Forest, and in Teviotdale between Ancrum and Hawick, with additional sites in the northern foothills of the Cheviots east of Jedburgh and in the Merse north of Kelso. All of the sites to be visited were in the Scottish Middle March division of the Anglo-Scottish Border in the sixteenth century.

The summer school will be based at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel where the evening lectures will be held, and coach transportation will leave for the all-day field excursions on the Saturday and Sunday. The hotel is located a few miles east of Newtown St Boswells, which is situated on the A68 trunk road. Registration will take place in the hotel during the latter part of the afternoon on Friday 18th May and departure will be during the morning of Monday 21st May after an optional walking tour of the church and village of Ancrum.

We will visit sites from the prehistoric to the 20th century including forts, settlements, Roman temporary camps, churches, churchyards, medieval farmsteads, towers, castles and a WW1 military training and prisoner of war camp.

The programme will commence on the Friday evening with dinner at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel (7pm) followed by the first of three evening lectures, when Dr Chris Bowles (Archaeological Officer, Scottish Borders Council) will present a talk ‘The Forgotten Borders: Working to Rekindle the Archaeological Light’. On Saturday evening, Dr Piers Dixon (Historic Environment Scotland) will speak about ‘Medieval forest-edge farmsteads in Southern Scotland’. The third lecture will be presented by Trevor Cowie (recently retired from National Museums Scotland) on the subject of ‘The Bronze Age in the Borders; the view from Dryburgh’. Our site guides will be Strat Halliday, Chris Bowles, Piers Dixon and Dr Susan Buckham (Kirkyard Consulting and University of Stirling).

There will be two full days of field visits on the Saturday and Sunday, for which participants will be transported by coach. Several of the sites are close to the road, but some of the walking will involve short uphill stretches and there is the possibility of a ½ mile (each way) moorland walk. On the Monday morning after breakfast there will be an optional event when Dr Chris Bowles will lead a walking tour around Ancrum church and village.

Note, that landowners and tenant farmers sometimes decide at short notice not to allow the summer school to visit – usually because of stock management issues. Likewise, despite our own reconnaissance visits and resulting information supplied to coach operators in advance, they inevitably check routes at the last minute and may decide that certain roads are unsuitable for their vehicles. Therefore the following list of sites to be visited is provisional:

Pennymuir Roman temporary camps; the group of three or four camps situated alongside Dere Street on the north bank of the Kale Water include two of the best preserved examples in Scotland.

Hume Castle: a dominant site in the Merse; 18th-century rebuild around the fragmentary remains of a medieval stronghold with deserted village, site of old church, hollow ways and ridge-and-furrow cultivation.

Crailing Old Churchyard; contains one of the best collections of late 17th and early 18th-century gravestones in the region, with many bearing carved detail. In 2014 Archaeology Scotland commissioned an assessment of the cultural significance of the churchyard. The local community was supervised in a vegetation site clearance, and the gravestones and monuments were photographed and a sketch plan produced. A summary research report was written by graveyard expert Dr Susan Buckham.

Dryhope: 16th-century tower; an almost complete survival. Once owned by Philip and Mary Scott, parents of Mary ‘The flower of Yarrow’ it was slighted in 1592 and probably rebuilt in 1613.

St Mary’s Chapel (St Mary of the Lowes) overlooking St Mary’s Loch; the site of the medieval parish church of Yarrow, recorded in 1292 as ‘The Forest Kirk’ – it lay in the royal hunting reserve.

The Yarrow Stone; important early 6th-century memorial to Christian brothers Nudus and Dumnogenus. One of only a handful of very early medieval stones from Southern Scotland.

Newark Castle; massive oblong tower house first recorded in 1423. It stands within a barmkin; numerous 16th-century gun-loops may be seen in its walling.

Old Tinnis forest-edge medieval farmstead. In the 15th century, the stead of Tinnis was allocated to the currour (a forest official) of the Yarrow Ward of Ettrick Forest.

Fort, enclosed settlements and linear earthworks in a relatively good state of preservation on Whitcastle Hill, Branxholme to the south-west of Hawick.

Stobs training and prisoner of war camp; an internationally important WW1 site near Hawick. Unique survival of army training camp with training ground, firing ranges and trenches. WW1 prisoners of war and internment camp. The Stobs project is a community based project led by Archaeology Scotland with the objectives of improving access for visitors and creating the necessary interpretation materials to ensure that the role of this site during WW1 is not forgotten.

Prices and information on booking can be found on the Archaeology Scotland website.

Archaeology for Communities in the Highlands (ARCH), The Goods Shed, The Old Station, Strathpeffer, Ross-Shire, Scotland IV14 9DH
Tel: +44 (0)77888 35466 Email: