Community spirit is strong in the Scottish Borders, and the annual calendar is littered with festivals, races, gatherings, and the popular Common Riding.
The tradition of Common Riding dates back to medieval times - it's one of the oldest equestrian festivals in the world. The festival commemorates the time when nominated townspeople would ride the boundaries of the common lands, patrolling on horseback to protect the village against bandits and raiders. These days, the 11 towns of Hawick, Melrose, Selkirk, Peebles, West Linton, Galashiels, Duns, Jedburgh, Kelso, Lauder and Coldstream take part. The associated festivals celebrate Borders history and culture through music, song, food and drink - it's basically a series of massive parties, and the whole town is invited! Whilst these 11 towns are the only ones celebrating on horseback, other towns in the Borders get in on the act as well, holding their own festivals and games throughout the summer.
Another Borders event in which horses play a central role is the Braw Lads' Gathering, held annually in Galashiels. The gathering celebrates the history of the town through a series of special ceremonies and follow a route passed down over generations to visit Abbotsford House and then return to the town to complete proceedings by visiting several notable sites around Galashiels, including Old Gala House.
Another hotly-anticipated event in the Borders calendar is the Traquair Medieval Fayre, which takes place in May each year in the grounds of Traquair House, near Innerleithen. Scotland’s only authentic Medieval Fayre includes a series of events and entertainment lasting for two whole days, including food, drink, markets with traders selling goods and demonstrating traditional products and processes, entertainment (jousting, jesters and archery), role play and re-enactment. This is a great fun event for all ages - educational and entertaining - and takes place in the apt setting of Scotland's oldest inhabited house.
The Borders Book Festival is a jewel in the crown of the Borders community calendar, attracting both locals and visitors to a series of literary-themed events. This takes place at different venues across the Borders each year, and now comprises of four days of programming which draws over 30,000 visitors. The themed events have blossomed beyond literature to include sport and art as well, so there's truly something for everyone.
From September until May, the Kelso Races takes place at the course in the town.