Greenlaw is a small town situated in the foothills of the Lammermuir Hills on Blackadder Water at the junction of the A697 and the A6105 in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland. Greenlaw was first made the county town of Berwickshire in 1596, and was the first town to take on this role since the English took Berwick in 1482. At that time, Greenlaw was situated about a mile south of the present village, atop a hill - the 'Green Law'. This area is now known as Old Greenlaw.
In 1661 County Town status was lost to Duns by an Act of Parliament. But when Patrick, Earl of Marchmont attained the barony of Greenlaw in the 1670s, he made it his business to restore what he saw as the rights and privileges that came with the barony. In 1696 he succeeded: an Act of Parliament was passed, laying down in statute that the town of Greenlaw should be the Head Burgh of Berwickshire. It was around this time that the Greenlaw of the present day was founded.
However, attempts were made in 1739, 1790 and 1810 to take the rights and privileges from Greenlaw and make Duns County Town once more. Though unsuccessful in their primary aim, the grounds were laid for an 1853 Act authorising Sheriff and Commissary Courts to be held at Duns. This was the beginning of the end for Greenlaw as a County Town. Though little came of a renewed attempt in 1889, office buildings and police cells were built in Duns to prepare for the desired take-over. Finally, in 1903, a bill first introduced by the Secretary for Scotland in 1900 was passed, causing Greenlaw to lose its status the following year as County Town of Berwickshire once and for all.
Greenlaw's impressive town hall, completed in 1831, is a listed building from its county town era and was one of the buildings shortlisted in the 2006 BBC television series Restoration Village. Though it did not win in its particular category, the interest created led to the gift of private money and the building was restored in 2010.
There is also a fine church, built in 1675, on earlier foundations. The corbie step gables preserve a feature of the architecture of that period. The church was expanded during the eighteenth century and completed in its present form around 1855.
After Greenlaw became County Town in 1696 the Church Tower was planned as a Tolbooth or Prison and was completed by 1712. Its style was adapted to present the appearance of a Church Tower. It is unique in structure – square rising to a height of 60 ft and ending in a corballed parapet from which an 18 ft steeple rises. The old iron gate or yett is the original one of 1712. A Court House also completed in 1712 stood on the west side of the tower, therefore by 1712 there stood by the side of the Church, a Tolbooth and Court House, hence the rhyme:
" Here stands the Gospel and the Law Wi Hells Hole atween the twa"
A few years later (1828–31) the Town Hall was erected and the Court House was demolished.
A new Jail was built in the town in 1824. This was used throughout the Victorian period but was taken out of use in the 20th century and demolished in the 1960s. The Jail Keepers house survives having been used for a number of years as the local police station. It is now a private house. The land where the prison stood has been converted into an organic smallholding.
Greenlaw has two small pubs, The Cross Keys and The Blackadder hotel.
Shops include the Village Stores, Blackadder Mini-market, Romanes pharmacy and Waldie's butchers. The Post Office closed in 2010 and Greenlaw is now served by a mobile post office. There is also a branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, though this only opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Other businesses include a motor repair garage, builders, organic vegetable growers, a candle makers and a small embroidery factory.
Greenlaw has a primary school. Older children attend the High School in Duns.
Greenlaw Castle was a manor house located to the east of the town. It was owned by a branch of the Home family, including the surgeon Robert Boyne Home (1713–1786), father of Sir Everard Home and Anne Hunter. It ceased to be used as a laird's house in 1729, and was demolished around 1820.
- "Greenlaw Castle". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- RCAHMS: Burgh: Greenlaw
- Scottish Borders Council: Greenlaw Settlement Profile
- Scottish Borders Council: Greenlaw Athletics Club
- Scottish Borders Council: Local Plan Amendment 2008
- Greenlaw Primary School
- Greenlaw Village and Town Hall
- Gazetteer for Scotland: Greenlaw
- Greenlaw Parish Church, Prison tower and Old Market Cross
- Borders Family History Society: Greenlaw
- GEOGRAPH image: Greenlaw Town Hall
- GEOGRAPH image: Renovation work at Greenlaw Town Hall