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Of Peblis To The Play; the Tour of Britain in Peebles


Peebles for Pleasure” (Of Peblis To The Play) says the sign, and the good folk of this part of the world, one of the oldest Royal Burghs in Scotland, certainly do know how to enjoy themselves – today they warmly embraced the first ever visit to these parts by the Professional Tour of Britain, now in it’s sixth year of running in it’s current form.

I’ve recently married Gillian, a lass from the town, and over the last few years I’ve taken part in the many annual festivals, gala celebrations and sporting events — there seems to be something happening all the time and today was yet another example of the fun-loving and family-oriented nature of these great Borders people.

Of Peblis To The Play
Loads of leaders’ jerseys in Tiger Lilly gifts. Photo©Martin Williamson

This morning, the third stage of the race set out on it’s only Celtic leg, heading for the finish at Gretna — still in Scotland, but only just – and was sent off by a townsfolk who threw themselves fully behind the event.

Of Peblis To The Play
There’s some current and future champions amongst this lot. Photo©Martin Williamson

Most of the shops, hotels, and cafe entered the spirit of the occasion; taking part in a “pre-race Big Breakfast”, and dressing their windows with cycling-related displays celebrating the excitement of Britain’s biggest race starting from the small market town.

Forsyths the Bakers know their cycling history. Photo©Martin Williamson

Peebles (or, “the auld burgh toon” as it’s known) nestles in the beautiful Scottish Borders, and was a favourite visiting place for successive Kings and Queens of Scotland.

King James I of Scotland had a particular fondness for the place, and his famous humorous poem “Peblis to the Play“, written in the 15th century after witnessing the “Beltane” festival for himself, provides a wonderful picture of the joyous festival and fair that took place annually in the town – and still does by the way – on “Beltane-day”.

Of Peblis To The Play
This shopkeeper must have read Brad’s book. Photo©Martin Williamson
Of Peblis To The Play
The art shop even changed their display pictures to cycling ones. Photo©Martin Williamson

The prevailing note of the poem is undoubtedly one of happiness and the laughter of children, and the summertime festival’s influence is still as potent nowadays in binding more closely the hearts of all lovers of Peebles to the place of their birth or adoption. It certainly has worked for me.

Despite the town being used to things “going on”, the High Street was clearly buzzing this morning, particularly when the team buses and cars started to appear, at around eight-thirty.

Of Peblis To The Play
Peebles High Street, transformed into a UCI Race HQ. Photo©Martin Williamson

Cycling is hugely popular in the Scottish Borders, and in Peebles in particular – with the Glentress and Innerleithen mountain-biking trails just outside the town.

The Peebles cycling club boasts no fewer than five current children’s British Champions, who enjoyed getting their picture taken with British Road Champion, Kristian House of the Rapha Condor team.