The Border Reivers are associated with a timewhere relations were strained between the neighbouring countries of Scotland and England over a period of approximately 300 years, from the late thirteenth to the early seventeenth century. Reiving refers to the Border raids of this period which took place on both sides of the Borders.

Much of Reiving history centres around the Marches, the three areas (east, middle and west) on either side of the border between Scotland and England, with wardens assigned to each to administer justice and uphold the law. Local landowners, known to the monarch, his advisors and politicians normally gained the position of warden. The nature of relations between the two countries meant Border clashes happened frequently and the wardens presided over arbitration of boundaries of estates of land and the perambulation of the marches. The area known as the debatable lands was particularly known for its lawlessness.

One of the well-known Reiving stories is the rescue of Kinmont Willie now commemorated on the Great Scottish Tapestry. Kinmont Willie Armstrong was arrested by order of Queen Elizabeth I in 1596. Imprisoned at Carlisle Castle by her warden, Lord Scrope he was then rescued by Walter Scott of Buccleuch. Such romantic tales of the fight for freedom are often commemorated in border ballads and other literature such as the novels of Sir Walter Scott.

Many Reiver stories also speak of the execution of these individuals. A notable local story is the drowning of the Reivers at Hawick in July 1562, commemorated during the Reivers Festival. Official record is available of this in a document held at the National Archives in London. It records the arrival of the Earl of Mar at Hawick who proclaimed that nobody should take a thief into their home. Fifty-three men were arrested, of the thirty-three subsequently condemned; twenty-two were drowned at Hawick because there was a lack of trees and halters for hanging them.

Many of the key Border family names can be found in Reiving tradition particularly Armstrongs, Elliots and Scotts.