Only 10 miles north of the English border, Jedburgh nestles on the windswept fringes of the wild Cheviot Hills. During the interminable Anglo-Scottish wars this was the quintessential frontier town, a heavily garrisoned royal burgh (town) incorporating a mighty castle and abbey.
Built in the 12th century, Jedburgh Castle changed hands many times during the border battles, until finally the Scottish parliament had the castle destroyed in 1409, because the English appeared to be gaining greater advantage from it than did the Scots whose castle it was. The site is now occupied by Jedburgh Castle Gaol, an impressive castellated structure erected in 1823. As well as detailed information about the town's history the on-site museum provides a fascinating insight into conditions in gaol, deportations, crime and punishment.
Despite its ruinous state, Jedburgh Abbey still dominates the town and remains the most impressive of the ruined Border abbeys. Founded in 1138 by King David I, as an Augustinian priory, it was repeatedly burnt and damaged by English invaders. Nine times it was destroyed and each time, save for the last, the abbey was patiently rebuilt by the monks. By far the worst destruction was inflicted by the Earl of Hereford's forces in 1544-5, which left it roofless and ruined; the abbey was finally closed in 1560 with the monastic onslaught of the Reformation. The 86 ft high tower, now restored, rising above the roofless nave, the three tiers of arches forming the walls and the detailed tracery of the rose window in the west front, all contribute to the abbey being one of the foremost medieval buildings in Scotland. The Jedburgh Abbey Visitor Centre provides information on interpreting the ruins, and explains in vivid detail the human intrigues played-out behind the stones.
Close by the abbey is the small, square Market Place, surrounded by soft oatmeal-coloured houses and centred on the Jubilee Fountain, a red sandstone column erected in 1889 and topped by a unicorn. Here, too, is Mary, Queen of Scots House, where in 1566 Mary Stuart stayed when presiding at local Border courts. The house is a picturesque building of rough-hewn stone, containing a small bedroom occupied by Mary before embarking on her famous and perilous 20 mile horse ride to visit her wounded lover, the Earl of Bothwell, at Hermitage Castle. The house is now a museum in which is a copy of Mary's death mask and one of the few surviving portraits of the Earl of Bothwell. When held in captivity by Elizabeth I, Mary declared that she would have preferred to have died in Jedburgh.
Situated just north of town are Monteviot House Gardens, which slope down to the River Teviot, and include a pinetum and stunning winter gardens linked by bridges.