I can’t speak for Charles, who was oddly obsessed with Bathgate, but I’d really been looking forward to Galashiels, which I’d assumed to be the jewel of the Borders (a bit like you might assume that Wrexham is the jewel of the Marches). It’s possible I was influenced by the knowledge that “Kayleigh” was inspired here.
We’d had plenty of time to walk along the Tweed, saying “Good Afternoon” in that pointless manner that polite society demands, even when you’re abroad. In sharp contrast with the rest of the Borders, the Ladhope opened at 4pm. No, it’s no micro.
Galashiels really does impress on the OS map with all those contours, and the new Transport Interchange is on a par with Doncaster Bus Station, which I trust is where the similarities end.
Apart from that, the Ladhope is the highlight, particularly for fans of robust brickwork and Borders banter.
It was the closest place we saw to a local boozer where folk drift in after 4.15, stand at the bar, and chat thrillingly to each other about minor domestic issues. The seating is plain and functional, but gave us a good view of the proceedings.
A sole handpump (Born in the Borders again) dispensed a workmanlike half (NBSS 2.5) with a proper Northern head, enjoyed while contemplating the pub wisdom about chess with pigeons (top), and pondering the potential to enter a Jägermeister quiz that closed in 2013. I have never tried Jägermeister. Another for the bucket list.
The town centre hid its charms from us. That’s all I’ll say. With 30 minutes to kill before the train to Gorebridge, we really should have ticked the Spoons, in case it pops back into the Guide next year. The fact we didn’t, even with Spoons vouchers to spare, tells you how foreboding it seemed. And I’ve been to Leigh and Bootle. Too many times.
The Job Centre (Plus) looked more inviting. Next to that, Charles observed a pleasing juxtaposition of Criminal Defence Lawyers and Victim Support Scotland, staring meaningfully at each other across the road.
Depressingly, all of the usual chain stores were there; even an 02 shop staffed by a cheerful lad who found me a charger for my phone. That was possibly my personal highlight, though the architecture round Gala Park is stately enough.
You could have a good night here. In sharp contrast with Melrose’s teashops and hotel bars, Galashiels has that very Scottish breed of plain boozers (see also: Tyldesley).
We almost nipped in for a Tennents in the Auld Mill, a cacophony of middle-aged female laughter at 4.45 on a Monday, before a glance at Facebook revealed the warning;
“Could be messy”
Charles is brave, but not that brave.
So we headed into the miniscule Old Town in search of independent business and craft beer.