This blog is to introduce you to my town - Peebles, in the Scottish Borders - just one photo at a time, with perhaps a little description and maybe some history thrown in. I hope you will find it interesting. The title comes from a historical comment made by someone who preferred Peebles to the great and famous cities. I know how they felt. It's always a pleasure to return here however long you've been away.

If you want to make a comment, ask me a question, or merely just want to say "hello, I've dropped in", you can do that by using the comment section below each entry. (Just click on the word COMMENT and follow instructions. ) I'd love to know what you think of what you see of my town.

I don't have an expensive elaborate camera so the photo quality may not be brilliant, but I'd like to think my pics will please you. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Thanks to Mary H for the lovely designs I used for my background, and thanks too to all of you who have chosen to support my blog by becoming "followers".

Friday, 30 January 2009

High Street

You'll find various styles of architecture along the High Street. Here is just one section, about the middle of the north side of the street.

The plain grey building, third from the right, is probably the oldest, dating back to maybe the 17th century, while probably the white building is the most recent. I'd say it has a look of 1930s Art Deco to it. To the right of the grey house, the creamy coloured building has a carved stone plaque on the wall, indicating that this was once a bakery. In fact, the baker's ovens are still in existence to the rear of the building, in a present day tearoom, called the Oven Door, through the doorway and along the passage between the jewellers and the fish'n'chip shop. Click to enlarge and you'll see it better.

The narrow bow fronted building with the triangular top and red tiles is strange and doesn't strike me as being very Scottish in style. Further along the High Street and into Eastgate (off to the right of the photo) is a double version of the same style. Above the Medical Hall on the right, the upper floor window pediments have some pretty decoration, but what I am annoyed at myself for missing out is a large sundial on the wall just out of shot. Another day, another photo then!
The street is seldom empty of cars. During the evolution of the town to what it is today, cars only made an appearance in the late 19th century, so no provision was made for the then unforeseen horseless carriages of the future. Car parking space is now at a premium which is why there are always cars on the High Street.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Old Town House

Built in 1753 this is Peebles Town House, at the rear of which was the Corn Exchange. Look closely at the Peebles coat of arms on the triangular pediment above the upper middle window. Here there are two salmon swimming upstream and only one swimming down! Someone got it wrong!
This is referred to as the Poachers' arms. Two salmon going upriver, the poacher caught one (illegally) so only one swims down!

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Chambers house

Well things seem to be improving. I can once more upload photos!

This small white painted house looks down on the Cuddy Burn, just a little way along Biggiesknowe from Bridgehouse Terrace. The town at that time consisted of two parts, the old, outside the town walls on the north side of the burn, and that within the walls on the south side. Biggiesknowe was considered part of the old town. At the other side of the house, actually on Biggiesknowe, it looks quite different. Because of the slope, the road is level with the upstairs, and a "bridge" crosses the area of land dug out round the house, to the door. On the other side there is only one small window on the lower level, looking out onto the retaining wall!

This house was built by the father of one James Chambers, a cotton manufacturer in Peebles, as a wedding present to the said James at the end of the 18th century. There James' family were born, William in 1800, and Robert two years later, being the two best known. At a time when most of the buildings were thatch-roofed cottages, inhabited by weavers and labourers, this new slate roofed house must have been thought of as quite grand. The living accommodation was all on the level of the street, with workshops downstairs, and store rooms upstairs in the attics.

The Chambers family moved to Edinburgh after the collapse of James's businesses, where William and Robert were to become famous in the world of bookselling and publishing. Their dictionaries and encyclopedias are still in use today, and many of their works available in print.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I'm having problems uploading photos
just now
so will be back as soon as possible
with another photo of Peebles.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Meeting of the waters

A quick entry today, as I have been away to Dumfries for the start of Homecoming Scotland 2009. You can read about it tomorrow on my own blog!

This is where Cuddy meets Tweed. Cuddy, or Peebles Water, flows down under the bridge I showed you yesterday, along by the trees, under the footbridge here, and into the wider river Tweed in the foreground. This is a favourite spot to feed the ducks and gulls, and is often where you will find the swan family or maybe a heron. Once there was a cormorant sitting on the nearby cauld (weir), wings outstretched for all the world like a priest blessing the waters.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Cuddy Bridge

This bridge over the Cuddy Burn is the present day access to the High Street from the west. The Cuddy is a tributary of the river Tweed - just Tweed to its friends - and here it is (the Cuddy)running downstream, under the bridge and on for a short distance to meet the larger river. The name Cuddy comes from a pool further up where horses or cuddies were brought from one of the old coaching inns to drink.

On the right is a little row of "colony" houses, similar to those you will find in Edinburgh. The upper floor houses are reached by steps up to the landing on this side, while the downstairs houses have their front doors on the street behind. They have different addresses too. The upper houses are Bridgehouse Terrace and the downstairs ones are Biggiesknowe, which is an old corruption of Bridgehouse knowe, a knowe being what the English would call a knoll or hillock. I'd say the little narrow street was dug out of the slope or hillock behind it. Before the bridge was built entry to the town would be along Biggiesknowe and turn right across the Tree (Trie) bridge to meet the Northgate (road to - and from - the north) and thus into the town.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Close up

This is a close-up shot of the plaque above the arch that leads to the quadrangle in the Chambers Institution. It mentions the previous owners and commemorates the gift of the building by William Chambers to the town in 1857, There are two such lamps outside the arched entrance, each with the town crest of the three fish, along with a picture of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Riverside House, the white building reflected in the river, was built as a hotel, but has since been converted into sheltered accommodation for the elderly. There are a good number of little self contained apartments, where the residents can be as independent - or otherwise - as they want! A central dining room and lounge caters for those who wish to socialise.
How nice to be able to sit in the lounge and look at the river!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

hardware - nothing to do with computers!

An institution in Peebles - Scott Brothers hardware shop, a treasure trove of odds and ends!
Go to Edinburgh to try to find something, and come home without! Try Scott Brothers and there most likely you will find what you were looking for!

The shop has passed its centennial birthday and is still popular in the 21st century. An effort to modernise and make it "self service" has been made, but the old feel of the place is still there: you deal with the staff over the counter, and what is great is that the shop front has probably stayed the same for years, and in the back shop the floor is still cobbled. I suspect it would have been a stall for animals, a stable most likely.

Along with boxes and baskets, airers and ladders, etc.displayed out in front, in the spring and summer trays of plants are laid out to entice you down the close at the side of the shop to see more in the yard at the back.

Derek at Scott Brothers told me, after I wrote this entry, that the business started with his great great great grandfather, and that it was wholesale before it became retail. They were the first in the town to stock parts for cars and bicycles, and there was a blacksmith's forge out at the back, one of the brothers being a blacksmith. The part at the back of the shop with the cobbled floor was where the cart was parked and the close at the side was once wide enough for the horse and cart to come through.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

A dreich winter day

A view along the river over the Green after the snow yesterday morning. It was slushy wet snow and didn't last very long, thank goodness.

Monday, 19 January 2009

The County

This was once the Harrow Inn from where, in the days of coach and horses, the coach left for Edinburgh, quite a journey in those far off days.

It took about 9 hours, I believe. You could walk to Edinburgh in much less than that time along the present road, but the route was different then, keeping in part, to high ground above the valley that the road follows now.

The arch on the right would have led to stables, and the main door to the Inn would have been the door behind the pram in the photo.

In the last few years the pub's interior has undergone a major refurbishment and is vastly different to what it was like. Wooden floors, chunky wooden tables and high stools, a "snug" with its own bar and more wooden furniture, warmed by a log fire.... The main bar has a large TV screen to allow customers to watch football games, and next to it is the dining area with old tables, chairs and benches, old fashioned wallpaper on the walls, and various old historical prints and paintings on display.

However the most interesting part of the old inn is behind the window to the extreme left of the building, on the ground floor, next to the red telephone kiosk. Behind the very ordinary facade is a thick-walled barrel-vaulted room, completely built from stone, as a place of refuge and defence, probably in the 16th century. It was called a bastle house, which was a corruption of the word bastille in French.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

The Arms of Peebles

Basically, "Against the tide, we flourish", the coat of arms can demonstrate the determination of one salmon swimming upstream against the current to spawn in the upper waters of Tweed. One fish swims up, two (or more) swim down. Equally it can be interpreted as succeeding over adversity, something Peebleans have been used to doing for centuries.

This hangs outside The County Inn.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

The War Memorial

On the plaques behind the cross are the names of the Peebles folk who gave their lives in the two World Wars.
At 11a.m on 11th day of the 11th month i.e. 11 November, there is a service of remembrance when wreaths of poppies, representing the poppies of Flanders, are laid at the memorial in memory of all who died.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Around the Quadrangle

The buildings that now make up the Chambers Institution are built round an inner courtyard, the Quadrangle. Access is through the arch from the High Street through the old house on its north side. At the far side, to the south is the Burgh Hall, where many different events take place, from concerts and plays to craft fairs and coffee mornings. The west wing houses the museum, while opposite on the east side of the Quadrangle is the beautiful Peebles War Memorial. I will leave the War Memorial for description another day, and concentrate this picture on the view to the south west.

Obviously this wasn't a photo I took today! In the corner is the Registrar's, with the Burgh Hall to its left and the west wing to its right. The War memorial is on the left. More of it anon.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Chambers Institution

Back to the High Street today to look at possibly the oldest building in Peebles, known today as the Chambers Institution!

It dates back in part to the 16th century, when it belonged to the church and was the Dean's house. Later it passed into the hands of the Queensberry family, when it became known as Queensberry Lodging. A descendant of this family was the 8th Duke of Queensberry who created The Queensberry Rules of Boxing.

Later it was bought by William Chambers, who had been born in the town, and was then a successful Edinburgh publisher, along with his brother Robert. W&R Chambers Dictionaries and Encyclopedias are well known even today. William had a lot of work carried out to improve the building and finally handed it over to the ownership of the town. In 1911 millionaire Andrew Carnegie provided Peebles with a library which was housed in a new extension to the main building. It is on the right of the photo, above the Tourist Information Office. Over time the building was further extended and became a civic centre, with a hall for assemblies, concerts, etc, a galleried museum, offices, including the Registrar's, and meeting rooms where the town council met till 1975 when the system of local government was reformed.

Today it still houses the Burgh Hall, the Registrar's, the Library, an Art Gallery, the Museum - mostly used for exhibitions - and some council offices. What is now known as the Secret Room was discovered in the 1990s and restored for public viewing. Along the walls of this room that had been a humble store room for years, are plaster frescoes of sections of the Elgin Marbles, and a copy of The Triumph of Alexander by a Swedish sculptor Bertil Thorvaldsen. The room was cleared out and cleaned up and is now on show along with a small permanent exhibition on the history of Peebles.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

After frost

It's not the best of days for photos today so heading along the riverside towards Haylodge this is a picture taken one morning after a hard frost.
I love this tree weeping over the water and have photographed it many times. No doubt you'll come across it again in the future.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The old Courthouse

The old courthouse, standing next door to the Parish Church, is said to have been built in 1848, and indeed the elegant building seen today most likely was, but an even older building can be seen at the rear possibly dating back a further 200 years, as the old jail. (See the smaller picture)

Indeed this part of the building housed the cells which must have held many a miscreant in its long history. Use of the cells, and the prison yard behind, ceased in about 1878.

The more recent courthouse was created in the newer part of the building which was in use till 2001, when considerable dry rot was discovered that rendered the building unsafe. It was deemed to be too big a project for the council to handle and after several suggestions as to its continued use as a public building the decision was taken to sell it.

Today The Courthouse Bar and Restaurant occupies the whole of the first floor - the first floor above the front door - with smaller businesses renting premises on the other floors, while the new courthouse has been moved to the former County Buildings on the north side of the town.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Old Bank House

Up to the end of the 18th century the Bank House site was the site of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin, where, upon its demolition, the Peebles Silver Arrow was found bricked up in a wall. Several Scottish burghs offered a silver arrow as a prize for archery in the days when firearms were coming more and more into use. It is assumed that the Peebles arrow had been hidden before religious troubles in Scotland in 1675, so had been "lost" for over a century. The arrow was a trophy competed for particularly by members of the Royal Archers, and once again is competed for at Peebles.

So, here is how Bank House looked before 1975, with that beautiful Italianate tower and its "red door" surrounded by ivy. The four windows to the right of the tower are what remains today, with the old bank just out of the picture, so just over half the house has been demolished to allow the bridge around the corner to be widened. It had to be widened to accommodate the traffic using it, but what a shame the most attractive part of the house had to be sacrificed.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Bank House and Buchans

We cross the road to Bank House, and the old bank to its right.

The reason I show you the photo like this with a big gap at the left is because part of the building that used to be there was demolished in 1975 to allow Cuddy Bridge to be widened. Tomorrow I will show you a photo of how it used to look and I'm sure, like me, you will be saddened at the loss of such a beautiful building. Apparently the red door on the side of the present building, that leads to an apartment upstairs, was once the front door of Bank House, opening on to the High Street.
On the two plaques between the windows on the white facade is the information that Anna Buchan and her brother J. Walter (Buchan), sister and brother of John (39 Steps) Buchan, lived and worked here. In fact their grandfather had lived there before them, working as banker and lawyer, and the Buchan children would visit in school holidays with their parents. James Walter later continued in the business, coming to live in his grandfather's house, while Anna wrote novels under the pseudonym of O. Douglas, and presumably kept house for her unmarried brother. In some of her books she writes about a place called Priorsford, which is in reality Peebles. They are said to be delightful books, though I cannot say personally as I have yet to read them (and read them I will, one of these days).
In the cellar under the current shop, the old stone bank vault still exists, a huge thick metal door in place to keep the customers' money safe! The Buchan name continued in a Peebles legal firm till quite recently though there were no further little Buchans to grow up and join the business. John Buchan of course became Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor General to Canada and spent the last years of his life over there. His books are still widely read today and The Thirtynine Steps, probably his most well-known, has been made into a film at least three times, the most recent being closest to the narrative of the book.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

The Bookroom

Before leaving Whitie's for Bank House across the road, I thought I would put in a photo of Douglas in his Bookroom, down the passage to the side of the front shop, so here he is, behind the counter, with portraits of his grandparents on the wall behind him, surrounded by just a few of the of the books he keeps in stock, while in the corner is his computer with which he looks up any book you might want, and, if available, orders it for you. The Bookroom really is a wonderful place if you like books!Add Image

Friday, 9 January 2009

Reflections in Whitie's window

One of the three display windows at Whitie's bookshop. Reflected is the old Bank , associated with the family of John Buchan (author of The Thirtynine Steps, etc.). More of that next time!

Thursday, 8 January 2009


Further along the High Street, towards the church end, is another of Peebles' landmarks, Whitie's bookshop, newsagents and stationers. It was originally two shops with owners' accommodation upstairs but in 1886 it was refurbished as a show house for a builder, a Mr. Turnbull, another storey being added on and the present frontage added.
Sometime after this the upper storeys became the Caledonian Railway Hotel for some time, above what became a most successful bookshop. Today a room at the back of the building, once one of the original two shops and accessed from the passageway at the side of the building has been converted into a comfortable well stocked bookshop where a chaise longue sits in front of the old fireplace for browsers to relax on with their choice of reading, and shelves full of books, all of which I am sure that Douglas has read personally, line the walls!!!

The two upstairs storeys are again offering rest for the weary traveller in the form of a guest house run by Douglas's wife, with help from the family.

The Tontine Hotel

Wikipedia says about 'a tontine' that "The basic concept is simple. Each investor pays a sum into the tontine. The funds are invested and each investor receives dividends. As each investor dies, his or her share is divided amongst the surviving investors. This process continues until only one investor survives. Originally, the last surviving subscriber received only the dividends: the capital reverted to the state upon his or her death and was used to fund public works projects, which often contained the word "tontine" in their name. In a later variation, the capital would devolve upon the last survivor, effectively dissolving the trust and usually making the survivor very wealthy....."
The Tontine Hotel, on the High Street, was originally built by Napoeonic prisoners of war in 1807/8, as a private club for a group of hunters who sold shares in the ownership of the building. Additions to the building were made as time went by. I don't know who became the outright owner, but it has been serving its guests for 200 years now. Its famous Adam Room at the rear of the hotel overlooks Tweed and the surrounding countryside. You can see its huge bow window in yesterday's picture. It is set back from the High Street behind a cobbled forecourt.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Facing south

The High Street, or main street, of Peebles is built along a ridge. In medieval times there was a castle at the west end that spread out along the ridge a short way. Nothing remains now of the castle itself, but some very old buildings on this side of the ridge are said to have been outbuildings. Instead, the parish church 1887 now stands in its place commanding a view along the High Street. At the other end is what used to be the Eastgate Church, but is now the theatre and arts centre, and the kirk of St Andrew's Leckie, whose steeple you can see on the right. The buildings in the foreground stand along the foot of the ridge facing south to Tweed Green and the river, and behind those are the backs of the buildings that line the High Street. Small, often enclosed, passageways between the buildings on the High Street give access to houses built down the northern and southern slope of the ridge. It's a lot like Edinburgh!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Tweed Green

The picture I showed you yesterday was taken looking in the opposite direction. I have turned around now to look along Tweed Green towards the old hospital.

If you were born in Peebles, at home or in the hospital here, you are a Gutterbluid, a native, but if like me you chose to come and live here you are known as a Stooriefit, an incomer (with dusty - stoorie - feet from travelling here). The gutter blood takes more explaining but let's just say that today the name is earned by anyone whose parents were resident in the town at the time of their birth! That's because most Peebles babies are born in Edinburgh hospitals since the closure of this one at Tweed Green.

The pavilion at the left side of my photo was where for a small fee you could hire a putter and ball for a game of putting on the Green, or your deck chair to sit relaxing out in the sun. Under the domed roof was another area where you could sit shaded and sheltered from the heat, watching the putting games going on outside. Local people still know this area of the Green as the Putting Green, even though no-one has putted here for years.

The path takes you along the row of pollarded lime trees, past the old washing poles on the left, to the river and Priorsford foot-bridge. Old by-laws permitted people who lived facing the Green to hang their laundry on ropes fastened between the poles, and as far as I am aware it is still perfectly legal to do that still - though of course no-one does! I mean, what would the neighbours say?

the church tower again

Here's another view of the parish church, built in 1887 to replace an older building that just wasn't big enough at the time. The half timbered building is an Italian restaurant with the Bridge Inn pub (AKA The Trust) below.
The building with the gable visible used to house the police station till very recently.
Tweed Bridge goes off to the left of the picture - you can see the first of the four arches - and Port Brae (or Police Brae to some) descends to Tweed Green alongside the river.
At the foot of the hill is the Rotary Club's fundraising Wishing Well, for kids to throw coins into.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


Welcome to Peebles for Pleasure! That's the motto of my hometown, and apart from enjoyable things to do, there is much to be seen that gives pleasure to the eye too. I hope to give you a photo a day from now on in the hope that they will give you pleasure and help you to get to know about where I live.

Here then is my first photo of the landmark that is undeniably Peebles, the parish kirk, with its crowned bell tower, taken yesterday afternoon, from the southern bank of the River Tweed, beside the bridge.

I only have a small Casio Exilim 10.1 camera so don't expect professional pics! I'll do the best I can, so hope you'll call in again for more views of Peebles in the days to come!