Biggar is a small town in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, with a population of about 2,000. The nearest larger towns are Lanark and Peebles, and the villages of Symington, Carstairs, Carnwath, and Douglas are also nearby. The town lies near two rivers, the Clyde and the Tweed, and the hills of Tinto and Coulter Fell.
Biggar's closeness to the two rivers seems to have made it a settlement of strategic importance since ancient times, near a hill fort and early earthworks. The town's main street aligns with that of a Roman road, and a bridge and Norman motte and bailey castle were built in the 12th century. Biggar seems to have had a church since perhaps the 6th century, and a stone one was also built in the 12th century. The 14th century saw the rise of the Fleming family, who had supported Robert the Bruce and been rewarded by a gift of land. The town was made a burgh of barony in 1451.
One of the highlight's of Biggar's cultural year is the annual bonfire in the middle of the town's main street, which is held on Hogmanay (New Year's Eve}. A huge fire is built in the middle of the street, so close to shops and houses that they all have their windows boarded up, and the town parades up the street carrying lit torches not unlike some medieval attack on a vampire's castle. Everyone gathers round the fire as the bells ring in the new year.
The town has several museums including a gasworks, and a museum to the Covenanters. Biggar Puppet Theatre puts on several shows each year for young children, and this father can testify to its success in keeping his son and nieces entertained!
Several authors have associations with the town: John Buchan, author of The Thirty-Nine Steps spent many holidays in the nearby village of Broughton. The Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid also lived in the area. A certain John Brown (many Scots bear this name), born in Biggar in 1810, was a physician and essayist in the 19th century.
The Making of Scotland
, Robin Smith, 2001, Canongate Books Ltd, Edinburgh