Selkirk's heavy reliance on its woollen industry from the early 1800s to the late 1900s can be seen in the fine stone mill buildings that line the valley of the Ettrick Water as it flows through the town. Since the decline of the industry, some of these magnificent old buildings have found alternative uses, while others are still looking for them. But don't let anyone tell you that the industry has left Selkirk.
A good way of proving this for yourself is to pay a visit to Andrew Elliot Ltd's Factory and Mill Shop. This is located in Forest Mill, a listed building on Dunsdale Road that has been involved in the production of fine fabrics as far back as 1838.
Andrew Elliot Ltd has been operating from Forest Mill since 1973. While parts of the industry declined, Elliot's thrived through a reliance on shuttle operated looms and traditional skills, coupled with an international outlook and a high degree of flexibility: and by diversification into the design and manufacture of tartan.
These include a wide range of the traditional tweeds for which Selkirk is famous, and the more contemporary throws and rugs produced by Elliots. But it is a less traditional activity which will probably attract your attention.
In recent years Elliots has become an important producer of tartan. The goods on show are largely of three tartans. The Elliot Clan Tartan is a traditional design woven here, while the Selkirk and Hawick Tartans have been designed by Andrew Elliot and are produced on the premises at Forest Mill.
Both tartans are very unusual, each having seven colours, one more than the maximum it is normally possible to produce on traditional looms. The Selkirk Tartan incorporates the town colours of true blue and scarlet, the black and white of Sir Walter Scott's shepherds' plaid, plus navy, forest green and heather associated with Selkirk Rugby Club, Selkirk Golf Club, and the Selkirk Merchant Company.
And how do Elliot's achieve the weaving of a seven colour tartan? You'll have to ask them yourself.
If Forest Mill itself seems to come from the 1800s, the production floor of the mill is a return to a world of the mid 1900s in which the electricity only powered the lights and the machinery. A world in which the superb quality of what emerges depends entirely on the skill and the care and the professionalism of the relatively few people who make it all happen.
We came across Andrew Elliot Ltd and its Director Robin Elliot during the process of turning the Undiscovered Scotland Tartan from an image on a computer screen into a material fit for the production of kilts, scarves, ties and other items. The results can be seen emerging from the loom in the images above left.
Just as no visit to Islay or Speyside is complete without a visit to a distillery, no visit to the Scottish Borders can be complete without a visit to a textile mill. Andrew Elliot Ltd is at the smaller end of the range of companies still operating in the area, which allows a real feel for the skills involved and makes for an excellent visit.