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The Heart of Hawick: A Visit to Borders Textile Towerhouse

Whenever we have free time, one of our favourite places to travel in Scotland is the Scottish Borders. There is such inspiration to be found in the rolling hills and lush landscape- it restores the soul. Afterall, there’s a reason that this picturesque place captured the heart and mind of Sir Walter Scott. We recently took a day trip to the Borders to the lovely town of Hawick (pronounced ‘hoyk’). There is so much to see and do, but, for this post, we would like to share a bit about our visit to the Borders Textile Towerhouse- Hawick’s oldest surviving building. So, join us, including our Golden Retriever tour guide in-training, Walter, as we explore and discover a bit about the history of Hawick including a fascinating look at the role of the textile industry.



Our love of the Scottish Borders isn’t a surprise to long time readers of the blog as we have written about numerous locations throughout the area. And our Golden, Walter, is named after Sir Walter Scott- one of the most famous residents of the Borders. There is so much history and so many places to explore in the Borders, and Hawick is no exception.


Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated with the sun shining most of the day when we visited. As you can see in the opening photo for this article, Walter was also enjoying the beautiful weather. He is really starting to come into his own on our ‘explore and discover’ adventures and has come a long way since visiting Aberdour Castle and Mellerstain House as a wee pup. It is so sweet to see him model the lessons he learned from his big brother, Sawyer. Of course, only assistance dogs are allowed in the Towerhouse, but Walter still had a grand time posing outside the historic building. In fact, there is a famous sculpture, ‘Return from Honshole 1514’, he posed by just in front of the Towerhouse (more on this shortly).



Brief History of the Towerhouse

 

The original tower house was L-shaped and dates to the 16th century but changed quite a bit over the centuries (in fact, archaeologists and historians think that there was another tower house on the site that predates the 16th century one). It was originally known as ‘Drumlanrig Tower’ (it’s still called this sometimes) of the Douglas family but was eventually renovated and became a residence for the Scotts of Buccleuch. Eventually the tower house became a coaching inn. Famously, Sir Walter Scott visited along with Emily and William Wordsworth for a night on the 22nd of September 1803. In the mid-1800s, the building became a hotel- Tower Hotel.



In the 1990s, the Tower Hotel was renovated into a tourist attraction- ‘Drumlanrig’s Tower Tourist and Information Centre.’ Since 2009, it has been known as the ‘Borders Textile Towerhouse’ and run by the Live Borders charity, an organisation that is the leisure, sport and cultural trust for the Scottish Borders. They do amazing work for both residents and visitors to the area. Be sure to check out their website for more information. However, let’s get back to the Towerhouse as it is today.


Borders Textile Towerhouse



The original barrel-vaulted ‘Tower Story’ room (dating to the 1550s) tells the history of the tower through artefacts and an informational video.



As their name implies, a large part of the Towerhouse focuses on Hawick’s connection to the textile industry. Specifically, Hawick and the Borders have an amazing history producing tweeds and knitwear (especially cashmere)- and they created brands which are known around the world. Fortunately, the Towerhouse has recorded this important history for future generations.


In the ‘Textiles Past’ gallery, you can learn about key historical aspects related to the textile industry in Hawick.



The ‘Textiles Future’ gallery displays more contemporary examples of Hawick’s role in textiles.



What I found particularly delightful about the Borders Textile Towerhouse is that this is an interactive museum that is fun for all ages. The hands-on opportunities are a great way for visitors to better understand what it was like for Hawick residents in the past.



Hawick is proud of its history, and this is on display in the ‘Commercial Room’. This lovely room is often used for functions and is dominated by beautiful paintings related to Hawick history alongside one wall of the room.



It also has the maquette for the ‘Return from Hornshole 1514’ sculpture that is located in front of the Towerhouse (where Walter was posing next to earlier in this article). The Towerhouse display explains the significance of the sculpture by saying that it depicts “a callant (young lad) dismounted from his horse, being welcomed back to the town by an elderly couple and a young boy and girl after the defeat of an English raiding party. The lad holds the captured English banner. It symbolises the awe and pride felt by the townspeople at this small but significant victory.” The sculpture was commissioned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of this historic event.



The Borders Textiles Towerhouse also showcases some stunning paintings by the Borders artist, Tom Scott. While I enjoyed the entire museum, the ‘Tom Scott Gallery’ was one of my favourites. Scott’s work embodies the history and legends that have inspired artists and writers in the Scottish Borders for centuries. His watercolours include exquisite landscapes of the Borders as well as depictions of famous historical events from the region.



There are also visiting exhibitions at the Towerhouse, including the current one, ‘Graphic Paper’ by artist, Alison Kurke.



Visiting the Borders Textile Towerhouse

 

Obviously, there is so much more to see and learn in this lovely museum as we have only skimmed the surface with this article. Therefore, if you are in the Scottish Borders, we highly recommend a visit to Hawick and the Borders Textile Towerhouse. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable (shout out to Diane who was extremely helpful to us during our visit). This is one of the reasons why we love to go to some of the smaller museums- they are ‘hidden’ gems that we love to explore and share with our readers. Be sure to head over to the Borders Textile Towerhouse website for more information on how to best plan your visit. Entry is free, but we always encourage you to donate if you can as the smaller museums really need our support.


We hope you enjoyed this wee visit to the heart of Hawick and the Scottish Borders! We would love for you to subscribe to our blog so that you get more of our articles on our adventures around Scotland delivered to your inbox as soon as they’re published.

 

Until next time- Explore & Discover!





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