Gifford is a picture postcard village about three miles south of Haddington, the county town of East Lothian. The story of the village actually begins a little over a mile south east of its current location, at Yester Castle.
Yester Castle was built in 1267 for Sir Hugo Gifford, locally thought to be a wizard. The design incorporated a dungeon know as the Goblin Hall, or Goblin Ha', and allegedly built with the aid of magic. The castle was sporadically fought over by the English and Scots during the wars of independence, and a village called Yester grew up around it. It was here that John Knox was born in 1505.
By the beginnings of the 1700s the Gifford family was taking its privacy more seriously. In 1708 they began the systematic removal of the village of Yester to a new location to the north west, and built a settlement to which they gave the family name. The village of Gifford was born. Yester Castle castle was later abandoned by the family when they moved into Yester House, built between the castle and the new village in about 1750.
The focus of the new village was Yester Parish Church. This white harled church was built to a T-plan and has a tower topped off by a spire. The church was completed in 1710, incorporating the bell from the old church serving the parish, which had been built in 1492.
If John Knox had been Yester's most famous son, then Gifford's was John Witherspoon, commemorated by a plaque on a wall near the church. Witherspoon was one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, and he went on to become the first president of Princeton University. Another nearby plaque commemorates the Labour Party politician John Pitcairn Mackintosh, who is buried in the nearby churchyard.
One of the joys of stumbling across Gifford is simply wandering its streets and exploring what must be one of Scotland's prettiest settlements. Overlooking the main square from the north is Gifford Town Hall, with the mercat cross offset in front of it. The wide Main Street links together the mercat cross and the church, while High Street head off at a right angle along one side of a broad green area which helps give Gifford such a spacious feel.
But for those seeking sustenance, perhaps before the long haul south across the Lammermuir Hills, Gifford offers other attractions. The Tweedale Arms Hotel overlooks the village green, while on the main street, and reflecting the origins of the village at Yester Castle, is the outstanding Goblin Ha' Hotel which combines excellent food and service with good value. Other services include a supermarket and a newsagent, at opposite ends of the Main Street, and a bowling and sports club.