Earlston's impressive main street runs east from a junction with the A68. As a result the village is seen only fleetingly by travellers making their way north towards Edinburgh or south towards Jedburgh and the English border beyond. This arrangement keeps much of the through traffic away from the core of Earlston, which adds greatly to its charm.
Earlston has the layout and feel of a planned village of the 1700s. But while it did expand significantly around the time it acquired a new church in 1736, the village dates back to at least 500 years earlier.
There seems to have been a settlement here called Ercildoune already established by the 1200s. The local landowner at the time was Thomas Learmont of Ercildoune, and he built a small castle here. The ruins of the keep built on the site in the 1400s still remain, amid rather more recent commercial development to the west of the A68.
The ruined keep is known as "Rhymer's Tower". This is because Thomas Learmont is better known as Thomas the Rhymer. He achieved fame as a seer and prophet who correctly predicted the death of Alexander III in a fall from a horse in 1286. This prediction was made to the Earl of March in Dunbar Castle the day before the accident happened.
Thomas the Rhymer gained his powers, so the story goes, after meeting and kissing the Queen of Elfland while hunting on the estate of Melrose Abbey. He then spent seven years with her in the Land of the Elves before returning to Ercildoune for seven years, then disappearing for good: presumably back to the Land of the Elves.
The last part of the story is slightly at odds with the gravestone that can still be seen in the graveyard of the 1892 Parish Church at the east end of the village. This records that "Auld Rhymer's Race Lies in this Place".
The main focus of Earlston is its village square. This is overlooked by a number of attractive buildings, notably the White Swan and Red Lion Hotels. The square is also home to Earlston's war memorial, and it retains the rose garden planted in 1953 to mark the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.