Coldstream lies on the north side of the River Tweed at the lowest point it can be forded, some 15 miles inland from Berwick-upon-Tweed. This stretch of the Tweed has formed the border between England and Scotland for almost a thousand years, and for the first half of that period the two nations were often at war.
During the Border Wars the village of Coldstream was totally destroyed at least twice and attacked on many other occasions. Edward I passed this way with his army in 1296, leaving little but ruins in his wake and damaging the priory founded here by Earl Gospatrick in 1165.
Just under 250 years later, in 1545, the Earl of Hertford led Henry VIII's army across the Tweed here during the Rough Wooing (see our Historical Timeline). Like Edward I before him he destroyed the village of Coldstream, but he also did a more thorough job than Edward on the Priory, no trace of which now remains.
The period between these invasions had been far from peaceful, with many Scottish and English armies fording the River Tweed at Coldstream en route to or from assorted skirmishes, battles and full-blown invasions. The most significant was when James IV stayed in Coldstream in August 1513, en route to invade northern England.
James met his destiny a few miles south-east of Coldstream at Flodden Field on 9 September 1513. Today a poignant memorial marks the place where James and most of the Scottish nobility were among up to 10,000 Scots killed in the biggest (and most unnecessary) military catastrophe to overtake the Scots during the centuries of war against England.
After the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, residents of Coldstream might have been forgiven for thinking they could look forward to a period of relative peace and prosperity. But for the following 150 years the wars between nations were simply replaced by wars of ideology, religion and succession.
Coldstream's most notable claim to fame came in late 1659, when General Monck, who had been Cromwell's military governor of Scotland, used Coldstream as the Headquarters of troops including Monck's Regiment of Foot. On 1 January 1660 Monck led the his forces across the Tweed en route to London, forcing the restoration of Charles II to the crown.
Monck's Regiment of Foot later became known as the Coldstream Guards, and it remains one of the senior regiments of the British Army. A stone in Henderson Park marks the event: and there is more information in the Coldstream Museum, housed in the building once used as the headquarters of the Coldstream Guards on Market Place.
The need to get your feet wet when crossing the River Tweed ended in 1766 when James Smeaton built the seven-arched Coldstream Bridge a short distance downstream from the village. This was sympathetically widened in 1961.
At the east end of the village nearest the bridge, and close to both main road and riverbank, is the imposing monument to Charles Marjoribanks, who became MP for Berwickshire after the 1832 Reform Act. According to the inscription he was a man of "high talents, amiable qualities and political principles" though not, to judge from the monument itself, excessive modesty. The statue on top of the column was replaced in 1873 after the original had been struck by lightning.
Coldstream's High Street has a fairly closed in and built-up feel, with some very nice buildings. Less well known is the more open Market Place to the south east of the High Street. And many visitors completely miss the beauty of the River Tweed beyond. Henderson Park, accessible directly from the High Street, provides magnificent views over a loop in the river, which extend to Coldstream Bridge to the east. From here it is possible to descend to the Nun's Walk, a path along the bank of the Tweed itself. Be aware that parts of this path have steep drops to the river on one side, and no handrails.
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