When it comes to hiking in Scotland most people will naturally think of the Highlands, writing off the rest of the country due to the lack of Munro sized mountains or craggy splendour. While it’s true the Scottish Highlands are a hillwalking nirvana, I believe our wee corner of the South of Scotland offers enough variety and challenge to interest any hill walker from those looking for a pre pub lunch stroll, to the more extreme multi day trekkers. In this blog I will try to persuade you that the Scottish Borders can tick all the boxes!
We have no Munros in the South, that much is true, but for those looking for epic days in the hills these can be found in the Manor Hills (the Dun Rig range south of Peebles is a classic full day walk) or, for a true Border experience, visit the remote and at times foreboding Cheviot Hills. Much of this range can only be accessed from South of the Border but the Windy Gyle circuit begins and ends in Scotland and gives you a taste of the Pennine Way, as well as the slightly less liberal English access laws...
More gentle walking can be found in The Borders, with a visit to our stunning Berwickshire coast a must. Cove Harbour is an atmospheric natural harbour and an exploration of this stunning spot is the perfect warm up for fish and chips in Eyemouth! Further south on the coast is St Abb’s Head and there is a great circular walk around this world famous nature reserve and coastline. The Berwickshire Coast is truly one of Scotland’s hidden gems.
For the more adventurous there is nothing more challenging than a multi-day hike, preferably with a bit of wild camping thrown in. We are so fortunate to be able to camp responsibly almost anywhere in Scotland, and this is a perfect way to get to know this historic area. Six of Scotland’s 29 ‘Great Trails’ make their way through The Borders and all have much to recommend them.
The granddaddy of them all is the Southern Upland Way, the UK’s only official coast to coast footpath. Anyone walking the whole thing better have midge nets, blister plasters and lots of spare socks at the ready for a two-week hike, but the sections in The Borders can be broken into more manageable chunks. My personal favourite is Traquair to Yair Bridge over the Minch Moor road, a route that combines stunning Borderland views with history, walking in the footsteps of William Wallace, The Covenanters and invading English armies.
The iconic walk in The Borders is, of course, Eildon Hill (AKA The Eildons). Its distinctive three peaks give it both its Roman name (the invading Romans named Eildon ‘Trimontium’ and built a massive fort of the same name in the shadow of the hill at Newstead) and its distinct and recognisable silhouette which can be seen from seemingly every bit of high ground in The Borders!
It’s isolation from the main hill ranges mean the views are extensive and they are, by Borders standards, popular hills for a really enjoyable half day walk. Shrouded in mystery and legend, it is variously claimed that King Arthur’s army lies dormant inside the hill, or that Michael Scot the Wizard cleaved the hill into its famous shape or even that Thomas the Rhymer went away with the fairies from the slopes of the hill. You can believe what you want about all that, but what is fact is that the walk from Melrose is a Borders classic and should be on anyone’s itinerary, and recent work to improve the paths on the hill have made it more accessible than ever.
The Tweed Valley is home to both me and, of course, FINDRA and we have no shortage of options for great walking in this part of The Borders. The forests that run for 20km from Cademuir to Yair famously offer outstanding options for Mountain Biking and Trail Running but are also home to some fantastic hikes. Cardrona Forest is a personal favourite with purpose built walking trails through huge pines giving an atmospheric and enjoyable circuit with a sense of isolation, despite being so close to Peebles and Innerleithen. From Innerleithen itself a steep pull up Pirn Craig (or ‘Rocky’ for extra local points) leads to the curious, concrete remains of the Kirnie Law Reservoir in Caberston Forest.
Book of the Week
Ancient native tribes and Roman legions left their mark on this landscape, as did years of fierce warfare with our southern neighbours and raiding by ruthless Border Reivers. These 40 walks will introduce you to some of the fascinating history which shaped this most intriguing, as well as beautiful region.
Quote of the week
Music of the week
Norma Tanega "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog