The village of Newcastleton was designed by Mr. Keir of Whitehaugh, in a layout of criss-crossed streets set around three main squares. It was founded in 1793 by the 3rd Duke of Buccleuch, in order to rehome the residents of nearby Castleton, evicted during a series of late-18th century land clearances. Situated on the Liddel Water in Liddesdale (known as the bloodiest valley in Britain), Newcastleton marks a central point between three ancient seats of power: Mangerton Tower to the south, Liddel Castle to the northeast, and the formidable Hermitage Castle to the northwest (the latter two being built in the 12th and 13th centuries, respectively, by the de Soulis family). Newcastleton was built on the former site of the Copshaw farms, famed for horse races frequented by folks from either side of the Scottish-English border. To this day, the village retains another name: ‘Copshawholm’ or ‘Copshie’, in reference to the farmland on which it was built.
Originally intended as centre of handloom weaving, Newcastleton also became renowned for its manufacture of clogs – wooden clogs being worn by the residents of the village for markedly longer than they were elsewhere in the country. Having had a subscription library from as early as 1839, and four churches (serving different denominations) from 1850, the village has also always boasted a school; though secondary school pupils have been bussed to Hawick since 1962. Since 1893, an annual fair and agricultural event called the ‘Holm Show’ has taken place in August. In 1970, locals started a traditional music festival, which has taken place annually ever since. One of the more curious traditions of Newcastleton, however, is to be found in its unique version of a common riding: an event locals call ‘the Copshie’. The Copshie participants parody the over-formality of other Border pageants by proceeding on bicycles, giving four cheers instead of three, toasting with tequila instead of whisky, and generally not taking themselves too seriously.
‘Armstrongs and Elliots! You know where they were bred -
Above the dancing mountain burns, among the misty scaurs
And through their veins, these Border lads, the raiding blood runs red
The blood that’s out before the dawn and home behind the stars!’
- A Border Toast, by Will H. Ogilvie regarding Liddesdale, historic home to the Armstrongs and Elliots