Berwickshire, one of the four old shire counties that make up the Borders, is unusual in that the town which gave it its name has been a part of England since 1492. In 1853, tiny Duns was chosen as the county town and so it remained until Berwickshire ceased to be, in the new county changes of the 20th century. A quiet, restful place with a wide and gracious market square, ancient Duns is at ease with itself and its history.
It was in old Duns that John Duns Scotus, known as the 'subtle dealer', was born in 1266. He was a medieval Franciscan monk, renowned theologian and philosopher, who vehemently opposed all modern notions of theology. His influence is still felt in the Catholic Church today and his followers were known as 'Scotists'. However, he had opponents too and they used the less-flattering epithet for his followers of 'Dunses' - now our modern word 'dunce' applied to a slow learner. Scotus eventually died at Cologne in 1308, and in 1991 the Pope made him 'Venerable', the first step on the ladder to sainthood. In Duns Public Park there is a bronze statue of him, and in the grounds of ruined Duns Castle lies a cairn to his memory erected in 1966 by the modern Franciscan Order.
Within the town is another memorial to a famous man who lived in more recent times - Jim Clark, a local farmer turned famous racing driver. Twice world champion in 1963 & 65, his brilliant career ended in death on the track at Hockenheim, Germany in 1968. Motor racing enthusiasts from around the world make the pilgrimage to the Jim Clark Memorial Trophy Room in Newton Street, where mementoes are displayed, including his two world championship trophies. Clarke is buried in Chirnside Parish Church cemetery, 5 miles east of Duns.
On the west side of Market Square is the Tollbooth House, once the town house of Sir James Cockburn, who owned most of the land surrounding Duns in the 17th century. This would have included the ground on which Manderston House now stands. Lying on the eastern flank of the town and open to the public, it is the very embodiment of Edwardian Britain.. Constructed between 1871-1905, it is a staggering sight, from the intricate plasterwork ceilings to the inlaid marble floor and extravagant silver staircase, it is claimed to be the last great stately home built in Britain. Manderston House is currently the home of Lord and Lady Palmer, of Huntley and Palmers biscuit fame - there is a Biscuit Tin Museum in the house to prove it. The grounds are some 50 acres or so of Gardens, noted for their courtyard stables.
Duns Law is a high point on the edge of town giving magnificent views of the surrounding Cheviot Hills to the south and the Lammermuir Hills looking northward. In 1639, a Covenenting army, opposed to the imposition of bishops on the Scottish church, set up camp here under General Leslie - a Covenenters Stone commemorates this. On the west side of Duns Law is a cairn marking the original site of the town.