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Selkirk Scottish Borders Travel and Tourism Information

Selkirk, Scottish Borders

Selkirk sits high above the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys © Walter Baxter

Selkirk has a proud and ancient history. Prehistoric settlements dot the area along with Bronze and Iron Age remains, and even the Romans set up a camp to watch over the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys, high above which Selkirk now stands.

The settlement we know today was actually founded in the 6th century and named Seleschirche, meaning Kirk in the Forest.

The first of the Border Abbeys was founded here and it can boast some famous connections: William ‘Braveheart’ Wallace was declared Guardian of Scotland in the town’s ancient Kirk St Mary’s o’ the Wynd, while Sir Walter Scott served as sheriff for 33 years.

Being close to the border, Selkirk suffered greatly over the centuries as bitter warfare raged between England and Scotland, and it was razed on a number of occasions.
Selkirk men fought alongside Wallace and Robert the Bruce, but it was at the Battle of Flodden in 1513 that the town suffered its worst blow.

Selkirk Common Riding © Rob Gray/

Legend says that of the 80 Selkirk men who fought on that fateful September day which saw the slaughter of most of the Scottish nobility as well as their king, James IV, only one returned bearing a blood-stained English flag. The English then sacked Selkirk.

The events of 1513 are remembered to this day in the Selkirk Common Riding, with over 400 riders regularly taking part.

The locals are nothing is not stoical and resourceful, and Selkirk has prospered over the years. Once a famous shoemaking centre, it was in 1767 that the first woollen mill was set-up. This new industry rapidly expanded along the Ettrick Water valley and by 1869 an astonishing 1,000 people were employed in seven mills.

The textile industry is now a mere shadow of its former self, but signs of it are everywhere in Selkirk still.

Today Selkirk is a town of braes and wynds and sudden unexpected views. The heart of the town is the Market Place. Overlooking it is the courtroom where Sir Walter Scott acted as sheriff. It’s now a museum. In front of it stands a statue of Sir Walter.

Further along the High Street is a statue to Mungo Parks which celebrates the African explorer who was born nearby in 1771.

But perhaps the thing the town is most famous for nowadays is the Selkirk Bannock, a sort of round flat fruit cake that is traditionally cooked on a griddle. First made by a baker called Robbie Douglas in the mid-19th century it was initially only eaten on feast days, such as Christmas, but was quickly deemed too good to save for such rare occasions.

Selkirk is surrounded by spectacular countryside. The twin valleys of Ettrick and Yarrow contain some of the most glorious scenery in the Borders, along with St Mary’s Loch, southern Scotland’s largest stretch of water.

Bowhill House, a Georgian mansion, three miles to the west of Selkirk has extensive grounds with woodland walks and an adventure playground. Its Little Theatre hosts drama and music performances.


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Where is Selkirk?:

See the map on our Scottish Borders maps page.

St Mary’s Loch © RGB Photography/