Historical description of Selkirkshire, Scotland

SELKIRKSHIRE, an inland county, in the south of Scotland, bounded on the north by the counties of Peebles and Edinburgh, on the south by Dumfries-shire, on the east by Roxburghshire, and on the west by Peebles-shire. It lies between 55° 22' and 55° 43' (N. Lat.) and 2° 50' and 3°; 20' (W. Long.), and is twenty-seven miles in length from south-west to north-east, and sixteen miles in breadth; comprising an area of 263 square miles, or 168,320 acres; and containing 1522 houses, of which 1446 are inhabited; and a population of 7990, of whom 3972 are males and 4018 females. The county was anciently inhabited by the Gadeni and Ottadini, and, like that of Roxburgh, with which in its early history it is identified, formed part of the forest of Ettrick, the favourite resort of the Scottish sovereigns for the purpose of hunting. In many of the royal charters the county is styled "the Forest"; and on the bank of the Yarrow are the remains of an ancient castle, which was the hunting-seat of the kings, and the residence of the keeper of the forest, who was also constable of the royal castle of Selkirk. The lands were included among the possessions of the abbey of Melrose, and are now held by charter from the crown; about two-thirds are the property of the Duke of Buccleuch, and the remainder is divided among numerous freeholders. The county is within the synod of Merse and Teviotdale, and comprises the whole of the parishes of Yarrow and Ettrick, about eleven-twelfths of the parish of Selkirk, and smaller portions of six other parishes. It contains the royal burgh of Selkirk, which is the county-town; part of the market-town of Galashiels; and numerous small hamlets, of which none can be considered as villages. Under the act of the 2nd of William IV., the county returns one member to the imperial parliament; the number of persons qualified to vote is 420.

The SURFACE is mountainous, and even the lowest portions of the land have an elevation of 300 feet above the level of the sea. The chief mountains are, Blackhouse, Windlestrae-law, Minchmoor, and Ettrick-pen, which range from 2200 to 2400 feet in height; and Lawkneis, Wardlaw, Hangingshaw-law, the Three Brethren, Black-Andrew, and Peat-law, which have an elevation varying from 1964 to 1990 feet. Several hills from 1000 to 1800 feet in height afford good pasturage for sheep. The principal valleys are those of Ettrick and Yarrow, with portions of the vales of Tweed and Gala; and the chief rivers are those from which the four vales take their names. Of the rivers, the Tweed, in its course from Peebles-shire, intersects the northern portion of the county for nearly ten miles, and, previously to its entering Roxburghshire, receives the Ettrick and the Gala. The Ettrick has its source in Ettrickpen, divides the county nearly into two equal parts, and, after a course of thirty miles from south-west to northeast, falls into the Tweed. The Yarrow, issuing from St. Mary's loch, flows in a north-east direction into the Ettrick near Selkirk; and the Gala, after forming the north-east boundary of the county for about four miles, falls into the Tweed near Galashiels. St. Mary's loch and Loch Lowes are separated from each other by a narrow strip of land about one hundred yards in length. The former is about three miles long and half a mile broad, and the latter little more than three-quarters of a mile in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth. Their banks are richly wooded, and the scenery derives a beautifully romantic character from the mountains by which they are encompassed. Of the lands, about 10,000 acres are arable, 2300 woodland and plantations, 1250 acres garden and pleasure grounds, and the remainder mountain pasture, principally for sheep. The soil of the arable land is rich, producing abundant crops of excellent wheat, even on the slopes of the hills, at an elevation of 700 feet above the level of the sea. There are no minerals; the substratum is principally whinstone, alternated with considerable portions of granite. The principal manufactures are those of woollen cloth and stockings: the first of these is chiefly carried on at Galashiels, and has been greatly improved and extended; the stockings are mostly for the home trade. There are two tanneries, and several establishments for making agricultural implements. Facility of communication is afforded by turnpike and other roads that intersect the county in various directions. The annual value of real property in Selkirkshire, as assessed to the income-tax, is £49,766, of which £38,714 are returned for lands, and the remainder for houses. There are some remains of forts erected by the original inhabitants on the heights; and about a mile west of Galashiels, are vestiges of the great ditch called the Catrail, twenty-three feet wide, with ramparts on each side from nine to ten feet in height. It passes through the county, over the south part of Minchmoor, and crosses the Tweed at Sunderland.

Transcribed from Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851