The Debatable Land by Graham Robb review – the lost world between Scotland and England

The historian and biographer traverses perhaps the oldest national land boundary in Europe as he explores a once independent, and very bloody, territory

In 2010, the historian and biographer Graham Robb decided to leave his Oxford home for what he describes as “a lonely house on the very edge of England”, so close to the brink that Scotland begins where his land ends. This border, Robb suggests, is probably the oldest national land boundary in Europe, little changed in its course since William Rufus, son of the Conqueror, made Cumbria an English colony in 1092. It marches along the watershed of the Cheviot hills and the valley of the Tweed, a diagonal that strikes north-east from the Solway Firth until it reaches the North Sea just above Berwick: a political boundary that looks as though nature intended it, for most of the way.

Only at its western end is the ...