Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Easter Eildons

Whilst friends of mine whooped it up in the West Highlands on one of the best winter hillwalking weekends in living memory, I was equally happy visiting family. However a walk was on the cards: and on Easter Monday we devised a cunning circular route near Melrose of promising variety: riverside, hill, forest, a historic abbey, Roman ruins, and one of the best bookshops in the country.

Old and new Tweed road bridges:

We started at the car park for the Leader viaduct viewpoint just off the A68, the approach to this disused railway viaduct reachable, but crossing the viaduct itself not possible as it is padlocked. The rebel in me stirred. How tempting to climb the fence and cross the Tweed!

Leader viaduct:

After the viaduct comes the large Roman camp of Trimontium (named after the triple-peaked Eildon Hills, in whose shadow this camp lies). There are informative boards around the camp, though much imagination is needed to see in today's vestigial bumps a bustling camp and amphitheatre. A museum in Melrose Abbey is much more interesting, full of artefacts dug up from the site. Eildon Hill North rises above, stepped with gigantic Bronze Age ramparts, a likely site for Beltane celebrations for a wide surrounding area. A Roman signal station is built on top of the ramparts, which raises interesting questions as to what happened to the previous use of the site...

Newstead door:

At the edge of Trimontium nestles the picturesque village of Newstead. The whole Melrose area is surely one of the nicest in the Borders. I used to think that the reinstated Waverley Line (that incidentally has destroyed my local cycleway - not happy about that!) would improve the prospects of Galashiels, but on reflection what will probably happen is areas like Melrose and Eskbank that are already well-to-do will increase in affluence, and the benefit to places like Galashiels or Gorebridge wil be marginal.

Melrose Abbey:

Nice abbey, anyway. One of maybe only two pre-Reformation statues remaining sits high on its walls. Our route then joined St Cuthbert's Way on its first leg from Melrose to St Boswells over the Eildon Hills.

St Cuthbert's Way up Eildon Hills:

A great spot, climbing the Eildons, thinking about Bronze Age Beltaners, Age of Saints pilgrims, and Victorian industrialists. The view back the other direction towards Galashiels is reminsiscent of the urbanised dales of West Yorkshire, milltowns climbing the hills above steep river valleys separated by moorland.

Gala from Eildon path:

The high point of St Cuthbert's Way tempts you up Eildon Mid Hill.

Eildon Mid Hill:

We walked south, a glimpse of the distant snowgirt Cheviot, then plunged into forest reminiscent of that around Bennachie, passing the vast pile of Eildon Hall - traditional home of the eldest sons of the Duke of Buccleuch.

The Cheviot and Newton St Boswells:

Newton St Boswells, site of the HQ of Borders Council, was low key after all this posh countryside, but St Boswells itself more like Melrose. By the time we reached the Tweed it was getting late, nobody else about, red deer jumping into the undergrowth at our approach and a startled heron reluctantly spreading its wings and laboriously beating the air away from us. Ducks quacked on the river and the path disappeared. I can't recommend this last leg of our circuit upstream of Monksford, as progress was laborious and blocked by a landslide. It appears that the local landowner does not want to encourage walkers. A shame as this stretch of the Tweed below Scott's View is lovely, and neighbouring landowners do not have similar objections.

Tweedside near Old Melrose:

After struggling along the riverside for a while we beat up the steep bank to Old Melrose, site of the original abbey of Melrose but now a private house, and made for the A68 and the nearby Leader viaduct viewpoint, the traffic an unpleasant shock after a lovely day of varied country walking. A great day's walk though and, if it were not for the missing path from Monksford to Old Melrose, a Borders circuit I would heartily recommend.

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

Long walk. Great set of hills. Scotland's answer to the Malvern hills I've always thought as they have a similar landscape setting.