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Scottish Borders Common Ridings

common riding gala day gatherings hawick common riding lauder common riding peebles common riding scottish borders scottish tradition selkirk common riding

The Common Riding season in the Scottish Borders is a deeply rooted tradition that takes place annually from May to August. These celebrations are held in various towns throughout the region and are some of the oldest equestrian festivals in the world, dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. The purpose of these events historically was to protect the town’s boundaries from encroachment and to commemorate historical battles and events.

Key Features of Common Riding

  1. Historical Significance:

    • Origins: The tradition dates back to the time when local men rode around the town’s boundaries (or "marches") to protect their lands from encroachment and to ensure the safety of the community.
    • Historical Battles and Events: Each town's Common Riding often commemorates specific historical events, such as battles and the town's own historical narratives.
  2. Ceremonial Elements:

    • Rideouts: Central to the celebrations are the rideouts, where riders, led by a principal figure (such as the " The Standard Bearer in Selkirk or the "Cornet" in Hawick), parade on horseback through the town and surrounding countryside.
    • Banners and Standards: The riders carry traditional flags and standards that are significant to the town's history.
  3. Community Involvement:

    • Participation: The events are community-wide, with many townspeople, including both experienced riders and novices, taking part.
    • Spectators: Large crowds gather to watch the processions, partake in festivities, and support the riders.

Major Common Riding Events

  1. Hawick Common Riding:

    • Timing: Usually held at the end of May.
    • Highlights: Includes the riding of the marches, a ceremonial dipping of the flag at the Coble pool of the River Teviot, and various other traditional events.
    • Principal Figure: The Cornet leads the procession.
  2. Selkirk Common Riding:

    • Timing: Takes place in mid-June.
    • Highlights: Casting the Flag in the town square
    • Principal Figure: The Standard Bearer leads the ride.
  3. Galashiels Braw Lads' Gathering:

    • Timing: Held in late June.
    • Highlights: Features the Braw Lad and Braw Lass leading the rideout and other traditional events.
    • Unique Aspect: This gathering focuses on a mix of historical and cultural celebrations.
  4. Lauder Common Riding:

    • Timing: Occurs in early August.
    • Highlights: Includes the riding of the marches and other festivities that celebrate the town's history.
    • Principal Figure: The Standard Bearer leads the ride.
  5. Peebles Beltane Festival:

    • Timing: Takes place in mid-June.
    • Highlights: Includes a week of events culminating in the Beltane Saturday, with the crowning of the Beltane Queen and traditional rideouts.
    • Unique Aspect: Combines Common Riding traditions with Beltane festivities.

Celebratory Activities

  • Parades and Processions: Featuring pipers, drummers, and local dignitaries.
  • Civic Receptions and Dinners: Hosted to honor the principal figures and participants.
  • Sports and Games: Various competitions, often including traditional Scottish sports.
  • Concerts and Performances: Showcasing local talent and traditional Scottish music.
  • Children’s Events: Activities and smaller processions for younger participants.


The Common Riding season in the Scottish Borders is a vibrant celebration of history, community, and tradition. Each town's unique events and customs contribute to the rich cultural tapestry of the region, drawing locals and visitors alike to participate in and enjoy these historical festivities.

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