County townSelkirk
 • Total267 sq mi (692 km2)
 Ranked 27th of 34
Chapman code

Selkirkshire or the County of Selkirk (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Shalcraig) is a historic county and registration county of Scotland. It borders Peeblesshire to the west, Midlothian to the north, Roxburghshire to the east, and Dumfriesshire to the south. It derives its name from its county town, the royal burgh of Selkirk. The county was historically also known as Ettrick Forest.

Unlike many historic counties, Selkirkshire does not have its own lieutenancy area, but forms part of the Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale lieutenancy area.


Statue of Sir Walter Scott, sheriff of the county, outside old courthouse in Selkirk.

In the 1st Century AD Selkirk formed part of the lands of the native people who hunted it rather than settled there. Neither the Romans, Angles, or the Saxons cleared much of the forestry there and for centuries Selkirk was known for its forest coverage. Indeed, an alternative name for the county was Ettrick Forest. Under the Scottish kings the forest was regarded as Royal. Despite this it was not until the reign of James V that sheriffs were appointed to administer the county on the Crown's behalf. During the military occupation of Scotland by Edward I of England, the forest was granted to the Earl of Gloucester.

Selkirk Market Place: the tall building on the right is the Bank of Scotland Buildings, the former offices of Selkirkshire County Council

In the Middle Ages the area that would become Selkirkshire formed part of the province of Tweeddale. The origins of the shire are obscure, but sometime around the twelfth century the area of Tweeddale was divided into two sheriffdoms: Peeblesshire to the north and Selkirkshire or Ettrick Forest to the south.[1] The first recorded sheriff of Selkirkshire was Andrew de Synton, who was appointed by William the Lion (d. 1214).[2] Synton in the parish of Ashkirk, just east of the village centre, was an enclave of Selkirkshire surrounded by Roxburghshire.[3]

Later, the Earl of Pembroke assumed the hereditary sheriffdom. Under and after King Robert the Bruce, the Earls of Douglas, and later Earls of Angus administered the county. In 1501 John Murray (d. 1510), laird of Falahill, was made sheriff of Selkirkshire and on 30 Nov. 1509 he obtained a grant of the hereditary sheriffdom of Selkirkshire.[4] His descendant Sir James Murray was deprived of office in 1681 for being remiss in punishing conventicles, but at the Glorious Revolution was raised to the session bench as Lord Philiphaugh and reinstated as sheriff. His son John Murray (died 1753) was the hereditary Sheriff of Selkirk from 1708 to 1734, when he was returned unopposed as MP for Selkirkshire, having resigned his hereditary sheriffdom to one of his sons.[5] When in 1747 the heritable jurisdictions were abolished, Murray of Philiphaugh received £4,000 in compensation. The Sheriff-Deputes, previously appointed by the hereditary sheriffs, were now appointed by the crown and acted in place of the hereditary sheriffs [6] One such sheriff of Selkirkshire was Sir Walter Scott who was appointed Sheriff-Depute in 1799, an office he held until his death in 1832.[7]

County Buildings, Ettrick Terrace, Selkirk
Coat of arms of Selkirkshire County Council.

Selkirkshire County Council was created in 1890 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1889, which established elected county councils across Scotland. The 1889 Act also instigated a review of boundaries, particularly where burghs straddled county boundaries. The boundary review for Selkirkshire concluded in 1891 and made a number of mostly minor changes. The most significant change was that the burgh of Galashiels was brought entirely within Selkirkshire, where it had previously been partly in Roxburghshire.[8] Selkirkshire County Council met at the County Buildings on Ettrick Terrace in Selkirk, which had been built in 1870 as a sheriff court and meeting place for the Commissioners of Supply, the main administrative body for the county prior to the creation of the county council.[9][10][11] The council's staff were based at the Bank of Scotland Buildings in the Market Place in Selkirk.[12][13]

The county council was abolished in 1975 under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, which reorganised local government in Scotland into upper-tier regions and lower-tier districts. Selkirkshire became part of the Borders region and part of the Ettrick and Lauderdale district.[14]

At the time of the local government reorganisation in 1975, the posts of lord-lieutenant of Selkirkshire and lord-lieutenant of Roxburghshire were both held by John Scott, 9th Duke of Buccleuch. The new district of Ettrick and Lauderdale and the neighbouring district of Roxburgh became nominally separate lieutenancy areas, although the Duke of Buccleuch was appointed to both positions, effectively continuing the pre-1975 arrangement.[15] When local government was reorganised again in 1996, the two lieutenancies were formally united into a single lieutenancy area called Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale.[16]

Folk ballads written of the county commemorate the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645, the 'Dowie Dens' at Yarrow and Tibbie Shiels at St Mary's Loch.


St Mary's Loch near Selkirk from the west bank

Selkirkshire is a rural county, with a handful of small settlements set within hill and forest country. It forms part of the Southern Uplands geographical region. The Ettrick Water and Yarrow Water, both tributaries of the river Tweed, flow through the county. The most prominent loch is St Mary's Loch (including the Loch of the Lowes), with smaller lochs being found east of this such as Akermoor Loch, Shaws Under Loch, Shaws Upper Loch, Halemoor Loch, Alemoor Reservoir, Clearburn Loch, Kingside Loch, Crooked Loch and Windylaw Loch. The traditional highest point (county top) of Selkirkshire prior to border changes in the 20th century was Dun Rig, with a height of 744 metres (2,441 ft) above sea level.

Ettrick Forest

Ettrick Forest, also known as Selkirk and Traquair Forests, is a former royal forest in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. It is a large area of moorland, south of Peebles, that once stretched from Ayr to Selkirk.

Keepers of the Forest


The Borders Railway connects Galashiels and Tweedbank with Edinburgh. Closed for many years, this line re-opened in 2015.[18] There are also buses to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and Carlisle operated by Borders Buses.

Civil parishes and population

Selkirkshire was historically divided into civil parishes. There were originally nine parishes; Ashkirk, Bowside, Buccleuch (or Rankilburn), Duchoire, Ettrick, Kirkhope, Lindean, St Mary's (or St Mary of the Lowes) and Selkirk. There have been a number of changes since the medieval period:

Population of the county by Civil Parish, according to the latest census (2011):[21][22]

Civil parishes of Selkirkshire
Civil Parish Area
Ashkirk 13,159 246
Caddonfoot 19,252 912
Ettrick 42,456 83
Galashiels 6,487 10,081
Kirkhope 22,734 263
Selkirk 17,854 6,401
Yarrow 48,851 281
COUNTY 170,793 18,267

The population of the towns in the county (in 2011):[23]

Historical population of the county as returned by the census was as follows:[25]


Typical Selkirkshire scenery, near Yarrowford

See also


  1. ^ Chalmers, George (1810). "Of Selkirkshire". Caledonia. London: Cadell and Davies. p. 963. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica 1911 edition, article on Selkirkshire.
  3. ^ Ordnance Survey One-inch to the mile maps of Scotland, 1st Edition, Jedburgh, pul. 1864
  4. ^ Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 39, by Thomas Finlayson Henderson
  5. ^ Web site of History of Parliament Online retrieved Feb 2016
  6. ^ Peebles and Selkirk. Cambridge County Geographies. By George Pringle, Cambridge, 1914. p. 119
  7. ^ See retrieved Feb 2016
  8. ^ "Selkirkshire Scottish County". A Vision of Britain through Time. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  9. ^ "First Meeting of County Council". Southern Reporter. Selkirk. 20 February 1890. p. 3. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  10. ^ "The budget rise in Selkirkshire". Southern Reporter. Selkirk. 14 September 1944. p. 6. Retrieved 17 December 2022. a meeting of Selkirk County Council in the County Buildings, Selkirk, on Thursday evening...
  11. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Selkirk Sheriff Court and Justice of the Peace Court, including gatepiers, railings and boundary walls (Category B Listed Building) (LB43747)". Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  12. ^ "No. 19011". The Edinburgh Gazette. 23 July 1971. p. 576.
  13. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Bank Of Scotland, 6 Market Place, Selkirk (LB43793)". Retrieved 18 July 2021.
  14. ^ "Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973",, The National Archives, 1973 c. 65, retrieved 22 November 2022
  15. ^ "The Lord-Lieutenants Order 1975",, The National Archives, SI 1975/428, retrieved 27 November 2022
  16. ^ "The Lord-Lieutenants (Scotland) Order 1996",, The National Archives, SI 1996/731, retrieved 16 December 2022
  17. ^ Veitch, John (1893), History and Poetry of the Scottish Border, Volume 1, William Blackwood and Sons, p. 310
  18. ^ Clinnick, Richard (16–29 September 2015). "The long wait is finally over as £296m Borders Railway opens". Rail. No. 783. pp. 6–7.
  19. ^ "Saints in Scottish Place-Names - Rankilburn, former parish, Ettrick". Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  20. ^ GENUKI. "Genuki: Yarrow, Selkirkshire". Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  21. ^ a b Census of Scotland 2011, Table KS101SC – Usually Resident Population, publ. by National Records of Scotland. Web site retrieved Feb 2016. See "Standard Outputs", Table KS101SC, Area type: Civil Parish 1930
  22. ^ Acreage from Gazetteer of Scotland, publ, by W & AK Johnston, Edinburgh, 1937. Figures for each parish, which are presented alphabetically with other places
  23. ^ Census of Scotland 2011, Table KS101SC – Usually Resident Population, publ. by National Records of Scotland. Web site retrieved Oct 2016. See "Standard Outputs", Table KS101SC, Area type: Settlement
  24. ^ Excluding Tweedbank, which is in the Galashiels Settlement (according to the Census map with Settlement population) but is in the civil parish of Melrose. Census of Scotland 2011, Table KS101SC – Usually Resident Population, publ. by National Records of Scotland, for Tweedbank. Web site - retrieved Oct 2016. See "Standard Outputs", Table KS101SC, Area type: Output Area. (See Tweedbank Wikipedia article).
  25. ^ Selkirkshire: Census Tables (Vision of Britain)
  26. ^ Third Statistical Account of Scotland, volume Peeblesshire & Selkirkshire, publ.1964, by J.P.B. Bulloch and J.M. Urquhart; chapter on Selkirkshire: Population
  27. ^ Census of Scotland, 1971
  28. ^ Census of Scotland, 1981 - SAS Table 6 Present Population (aggregate of the 7 civil parishes)
  29. ^ Scotland's Census 1991 - National Records of Scotland - Table KS101SC - Usual resident population (aggregate of the 7 civil parishes)
  30. ^ Census of Scotland 2001, Table CAS002 – Population by Age by Sex and Marital Status, publ. by National Records of Scotland. Web site retrieved Feb 2016. See "Standard Outputs", Table CAS002, Area type: Civil Parish 1930; total for all Selkirkshire parishes

Further reading

The archeology and historic buildings of the county were documented in 1957 by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments in Scotland. There is also a History of Selkirkshire by T. Craig Brown, published in 1886.

55°30′N 3°00′W / 55.500°N 3.000°W / 55.500; -3.000