Page last updated at 23:28 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 00:28 UK

From Buenos Aires to the Borders

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Standard Bearer - Picture by Rob Gray

It sounds a bit like the Borders equivalent of Mission Impossible.

Take the traditional celebrations of 11 fiercely independent towns and bring them together under one banner.

However, starting next week the Return to the Ridings event aims to do exactly that as part of Scotland's Year of Homecoming festivities.

The word has been put out on social networking website Facebook and it appears to have drawn interest from right across the globe.

Lorena Pla, who lives in the city centre of Buenos Aires, now plans to visit Selkirk to be part of its common riding.

"I'm a horse lover and when I found out about the Ridings I felt that was the thing for me," she explained.

"I imagine it would be a great experience and I will feel very proud to be part of a group of riders re-enacting the history of the land.

14-20 June: Peebles Beltane
14-20 June: Melrose Festival
27 June-10 July: Jed Callants Festival
13-18 July: Kelso Civic Week
26 July-1 August: Lauder Common Riding

"I look forward to doing a lot of hiking, horse riding and meeting lots of people to learn about their traditions and history."

No such introductions will be required for Susan Young from Melbourne in Australia.

She emigrated seven years ago but prior to that took part in about 20 ride-outs in her hometown of Melrose.

"Before moving to Australia in 2002 I rode in almost every Melrose ride-out from 1980 until around 2001, I'm very keen to come back and relive the experience," she said.

"I'm really looking forward to being part of the famous Scottish Borders riding tradition again."

The wonderfully-named Boiling Springs, South Carolina, will also have an envoy at the common ridings.

Ken Swinton left Hawick nearly 40 years ago but is planning to return with his wife to sample the special celebrations.

He will be joined by Sally Aston, of Phoenix, Arizona who moved to the US in 1995.

She intends to bring her two young sons along to enjoy Hawick's big day and freely admits there is "nothing like the common ridings in our area".

Ridings logo
Return to the Ridings is part of Homecoming celebrations

This worldwide guest-list should bring an international feel to proceedings in the Borders this summer.

It has already had a positive effect on business in the area.

RideBorders, a website for equestrian resources in the region, has seen a 20% increase in its traffic.

Spokeswoman Carol Carr said the Return to the Ridings had helped to raise the profile of the region as a horse riding destination.

"Although Homecoming Scotland is concentrating on attracting visitors to the Border common ridings and festivals this should have a much larger impact on the equestrian economy in the region," she said.

"Linking to has resulted in a marked increase for our website both from home and abroad."

The celebrations start on Monday when the week of Hawick Common Riding gallops into action.

And don't be surprised to hear a South American, Australian or American accent among the crowd.

Print Sponsor

In pictures: Common riding cards
02 Dec 08 |  In Pictures
Record profits for common riding
31 Oct 08 |  South of Scotland
Historic festival funds unveiled
28 Oct 08 |  South of Scotland
In pictures: Selkirk Common Riding
16 Jun 08 |  In Pictures
In pictures: Hawick Common Riding
08 Jun 07 |  In Pictures
Guide book praises common riding
13 Mar 07 |  South of Scotland

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