Jedburgh Scottish Borders Travel and Tourism Information
Jedburgh is one of the prettiest of the Border towns – and for many visitors heading North their first port of call.
Just 10 miles from the border with England, the ancient town is dominated by the magnificent 12th century Augustinian abbey founded in 1138 by David I on the banks of the Jedwater.
One of four great religious houses built in the Middle Ages on the Scottish side of the border, Jedburgh Abbey was a regular target for invading English armies, and was pillaged and rebuilt numerous times over the centuries,
A frontier town in more ways than one, Jedburgh found itself in the midst of many national battles and cross-border raids.
It wasn’t just foreign royals who cast envious eyes on the town, however. Mary Queen of Scots actually lived there in 1566 at a house which now tells her tragic life story.
Moving forward three hundred years, the Castle Jail looks at Victorian prison reforms while the town trail follows in the footsteps of the many famous people who have walked Jedburgh’s ancient streets over the centuries from the unfortunate Mary Stuart to Bonnie Prince Charlie, Sir Walter Scott, Robbie Burns and even the great romantic poet William Wordsworth.
But perhaps Jedburgh’s most curious claim to fame is the Jethart HandBa’ game played annually between the Uppies (the residents who live in the upper part of the town) and the Doonies (those in the lower half) over who can ‘hail’ the first ball.
A medieval game played in the Border town for the past 250 years, it uses a leather ball stuffed with straw and decorated with ribbons. It is then thrown into a group of men who gather together in a scrum and manhandle the ball through the streets.
The ba’ can be hidden on someone’s person or thrown for someone to catch and run with. It can move up alleyways, into yards and up streets.
“A frontier town in more ways than one, Jedburgh found itself in the midst of many national battles and cross-border raids”
The aim of the game is to ‘hail’ the ball to the respective side of the town. For the Uppies it is the castle and for the Doonies it is the Jedwater.
Like many Border oddities, the origins of the game are said to have been spawned from a particularly bloody battle between the Scots and the English, the victorious Scots using the head of a fallen English general as a ball.
But for all its history and olde worlde charm, Jedburgh is no museum piece. It is also a vibrant, modern town with many high class cafes, bars and restaurants, and an impressive array of independent shops selling everything from antiques to artwork and fashion to farm produce.
Indeed, local producers are very much to the fore at the farmers’ market held on the first Friday of the month, and there is also a regular continental market.
But while Jedburgh is a large, modern town it is set in stunning countryside and is the perfect base for a holiday, short break or even a day out.
There are many way-marked paths, an 18-hole golf course, swimming pool, fishing, horse riding and cycling opportunities, and thanks to its location set in vast and varied countryside, Jedburgh also boasts some of the clearest skies for star gazing.
The award-winning Jedforest Deer and Farm Park is nearby with hills, streams and woods to explore as well as many animals from red, white, fallow and sika deer to rare breed sheep, pigs, cattle, goats and poultry to see.
The 16th century Ferniehirst Castle – seat of the Clan Kerr – a restored stronghold oozing charm and steeped in history lies two miles south of Jedburgh.
Open to the public in July to coincide with the Jethart Callants Festival (the highpoint of which is a 200-strong mounted cavalcade which makes its way from Jedburgh to Ferniehirst and commemorates the recapture of the castle from the English in 1549), it also plays host to house parties.
Where is Jedburgh?:
See the map on our Scottish Borders maps page.