The Cheviot Hills are a range of uplands, the Cheviot being the tallest of them, which straddle the Scottish-English border, some of the highest peaks marking the border itself, and having served for millennia as a natural barrier between peoples. They are the site of several battles and skirmishes of reiving fame, as well as larger fights connected to the many wars between the Scottish and English crowns. For example, the truly-bloody Battle of Otterburn occurred to the south of the Cheviots in 1388, after which English and Scottish forces in the area well-avoided each other, so decisive was Scotland’s victory, and then the Battle of Homildon Hill, fought amongst the Cheviots near Wooler in 1402, in which Scotland’s forces were demolished.
Lying to the southeast of Hawick, most of the hills of the Cheviots are located just over the border, in the county of Northumberland (and within the Northumberland National Park). One, Windy Gyle – site of a bloody political struggle and the resultant death of Lord Francis Russell in 1585 – has a foot either side of the border, with Russell’s Cairn an ancient, and many-times-repurposed marker of said border. The major Scottish streams which rise among the Cheviots are the Hermitage and Liddel, which drain to the Solway, and the Teviot and Beaumont, which run into the Tweed. For the Border reivers of 16th and 17th century fame, the Cheviots would have played a major role in their lives – knowledge of the lands south of the border, of the secret byways, the well-trodden drove roads, the valleys and rivers, would have been absolutely essential to the success of their moonlit raids on unsuspecting English settlements. Clennell Street, for example, is an ancient drove road over the Cheviots, linking Kelso with Morpeth and crossing the Border at Outer Cock Law. It was also once known as ‘Ermspeth’.