The Romans passed this way 1800 years ago when they built Dere Street through Lauderdale to link central Scotland with northern England. Since then Lauder has seen the passage of many armies moving both north and south. Today it is also a significant waypoint for those heading from south-west to north-east along the line of the Southern Upland Way.
Lauder is most easily described as a small elongated town built along the line of the main A68 from Edinburgh to Darlington. Much of the medieval street plan remains. The broad central Market Place is divided by a line of buildings called Mid Row, at the north end of which is Lauder Town Hall, variously used over the years the tolbooth, the town jail and the council meeting place.
The original settlement was contained by encircling lanes that defined the edges and came complete with stout semi-defensible walls. These are now called Castle Wynd and Manse Road: at some point their residents thought these better names than the original Upper Backside and Lower Backside.
While the Town Hall dominates the southern end of the Market Place, its eastern side is most notable for the three storey Black Bull Hotel. This coaching inn was built in the 1700s and extended in the 1800s. This offers some of the best bar meals you are likely to find anywhere: and is understandably popular as a result.
Near the Town Hall and just to the east of the Market Place is Lauder Old Church. Designed to a very unusual Greek Cross plan with an octagonal tower, this was built in 1673 to replace a church cleared from the grounds of Thirlestane Castle to the east of the village by the 2nd Earl of Lauderdale.
The east side of Lauder remains defined by the estate wall of Thirlestane Castle. This has been the family home of the Maitland family since originally built here in 1590: the family had previously occupied Old Thirlestane Tower, two miles to the east, since 1250. Thirlestane was converted from a defensive keep to a palace befitting the home of the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1670, and significantly extended once more in 1840 into the fairytale country house you see today.
Today's Thirlestane Castle is open to the pubic and offers visitors an extremely comprehensive tour of the public, private and domestic areas of the castle, plus exhibitions of Borders country life.