The Scottish Borders has history and beauty in abundance and we feel that, by far, the best way to experience them is to walk past and through them.
Here, we have compiled a few of our favourite walks in the Scottish Borders. If you like ‘off-the-beaten-track’ walking, which nonetheless takes in some of the very best features the area has to offer, you’re bound to love these as much as we do.
And don’t forget to look out for the abundance of wildlife that calls the Scottish Borders home. Buzzards, hares, deer, badgers, herons and pheasants are just some of the common sights – see how many you can spot.
Warnings/advice for walking in the Scottish countryside
Please use the countryside responsibly when walking in the Borders. Follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Stick to marked footpaths and please – take your litter home.
These Scottish Borders walks undulate, with some stiff uphill sections, but if you are generally fit enough to handle a few flights of stairs, there shouldn’t be anything to cause you too much trouble (although you will feel like you’ve had a bit of a workout).
These paths can be quite muddy and uneven in places.
Some sections require walking on roads, which have fast-moving traffic. Walk facing oncoming traffic, listen for vehicles and be ready to step on to the verge when one approaches. Keep children under close supervision and dogs on leads during these sections.
There is a lot of livestock around, so please keep your dog on a lead and leave gates opened or closed, as you find them.
What to take/wear
We recommend you take waterproof clothing in case the changeable Scottish weather turns against you, and carry a drink and a snack.
Good walking boots are recommended; wellingtons might be more suitable in the muddy winter months.
Walk 1. Jedburgh area
Dere Street/ St. Cuthbert’s Way/ Crailinghall loop
Walk in the footsteps of history with this route, following ancient Romans, the early Christians and even the English armies that took on the might of the Scots. And there is all the scenery and peace and quiet you could ever wish for. One of our all-time favourites.
Total distance: approx. 5 miles (8km)
Estimated Time: 2-3 hrs
OS map: OL16
Getting to the start
By car (public transport to the start is not available).
On the A68, on the southern edge of Jedburgh, you will see the Laidlaw Memorial Swimming Pool and a large sandstone church (these are on your right if you’re driving north, on your left if you’re heading south).
Turn onto the Oxnam Road, between the pool and the church, and drive up the hill for around 2 miles (3km).
About ½ mile (1km) past Oxnam Rd Industrial Estate, take the road, which goes off to the left towards Crailinghall and continue along this road for 2 miles (3km) until you reach a crossroads.
Turn right towards Oxnam and drive for around ½ mile (1km).
Just past a bungalow on your right is a small stone bridge and the start of the walk is just after the bridge, on your right.
There is space to park a couple of cars here, but please note: these tracks are used by the farmers to access fields, so please leave plenty of room for large tractors to pass. Block the tracks at your peril!
Part 1: Dere Street
The first footpath on our adventure is marked with a wooden post, stamped with the symbol of a Roman soldier’s helmet, since this is part of Dere Street, an ancient Roman road, which linked their garrison in York with the Antonine Wall, near Edinburgh, between AD78 and AD211.
This Roman thoroughfare has been swallowed up by major roads, such as the A1 and the A68 for most of its route, leaving only a few sections unmolested, so enjoy this rare opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the ancient Romans. It remained an important road through many centuries and was even used by King Edward I of England when he marched his army north to tackle the forces of William Wallace.
Follow Dere Street north-west (downhill), crossing the river via the footbridge. Just across the river is the site of what was once a Roman fort, although you probably wouldn’t know it nowadays. See if you can spot any signs of its existence.
Stay on Dere Street as it meanders pleasantly through farmland and forest for around 2 miles (3km). Then join St. Cuthbert’s Way, the junction for which is clearly marked by a wooden way-post, directing you to the right, through a magical, deciduous woodland.
But don’t be in too much of a rush – the bench at this junction just begs to be rested on and, from there, you can drink in panoramic views of the beautiful Teviot river valley, and the impressive 150 foot (50 metre) tall tower on Peniel Heugh hill opposite. Completed in 1824, it commemorates the Battle of Waterloo.
Part 2: St. Cuthbert’s Way
Nicely rested, proceed along St. Cuthbert’s Way, a 62-mile (100km)-long tourist walk following the old pilgrimage route around the Borders abbeys and on to Lindisfarne, we join it for just a few miles. Enjoy the woods and the history, following the many thousands of pilgrims who revered St. Cuthbert, a Scottish monk (b.635AD), who started his monastic life in nearby Melrose Abbey. He was renowned as a great holy man and retreated to Lindisfarne, living as a hermit, but such was his fame that many sought him out for advice and blessings.
Once through the woods, turn right and follow the road uphill for around 200 yards (200 metres) where you will see a post directing you to the left, along a track.
Follow this path downhill and cross the river via the footbridge.
IMPORTANT WARNING – cattle – once across the bridge, be aware that this next section takes you into a field which often contains livestock – usually cattle. If cattle are around, be careful, especially if they have calves, as they can perceive you and/or your dog as a threat. Keep dogs on leads, but let them go if cattle attack – dogs are usually capable of looking after themselves.
Head for the top of the hill to your left. If there are cattle around, you can stick close to the fence, allowing you to duck through the fence to safety if trouble is afoot, although this way can be a bit of a scramble. If the coast is clear however, the better route is the zig-zag path up the hill, following the marker posts, which then direct you to the right of the cottages, through the gate. Take the farm track up the hill to your left, but don’t forget to take time out around here to appreciate the magnificent views (and congratulate yourself on your accomplishments so far).
At the top of the hill, this is where we leave St. Cuthbert’s Way, which goes off to the left. We carry on, along the farm track, to where it meets the road.
Part 3: Crailinghall
Warning – watch for traffic!Turn right and follow the road (mostly downhill, thankfully) for around 1½ miles back to your car. Your elevated position provides some nice views of the Cheviot Hills, just over the border, so don’t forget to soak up the sights.
The small, but picturesque hamlet of Crailinghall lets you know you are nearly finished, as your car is only around ½ mile (1km) further on.
Sources and further information:
Walk 2. Melrose area
Melrose Abbey/ River Tweed/ Gattonside loop
This walk is, with the exception of one uphill section, not too taxing, yet takes in the beautiful ruins of Melrose Abbey, the mighty River Tweed, some truly lovely views and a very interesting old footbridge. Don’t say we’re not good to you.
Distance: approx. 5 miles (8km)
Estimated time: 2-3 hrs.
OS Map: 338
Getting to the start
The walk starts in the centre of Melrose, which is very well served by public transport, with regular buses.
The new Borders Railway terminates at Tweedbank, which is only about a 20-minute walk from Melrose.
Park in Melrose town centre.
Part 1: Melrose
In the centre of Melrose, you will undoubtedly see the magnificent abbey, which was founded in 1136 by King David I and makes for a stunning starting point for our jaunt.
Standing at the junction of Buccleuch St and Abbey St, facing the abbey, go left (north) along the B6361, Abbey Street, for around ½ mile (1km).
Turn left along Chain Bridge Road (the B6361 takes a sharp bend to the right here). Continue along Chain Bridge Road, until you reach the delightful Chain Bridge itself.
Cross the River Tweed using the bridge, which dates from 1826. Make sure you take time to read the very interesting original signage, packed with old rules and regulations.
Part 2: River Tweed
Once over the bridge, take a sharp left and follow the footpath west along the riverbank, enjoying the mighty Tweed in all its glory. 97 miles (156km) long, it is one of the most famous fishing rivers in the country, with anything up to 20,000 salmon caught per year and, for a section of its length further east, forms the Scotland/England border.
Autumn is the best time to spot salmon, when they journey up-river to spawn.
Enjoy the riverside walk, which continues for around 1½ miles (2½ km) and then joins the road, the B6360, which thankfully has a narrow pavement (but take care – fast-moving traffic!).
Part 3: To Gattonside
Turn left and follow the road for around 100 yards (100m), then cross the road where it meets the Southern Upland Way, which is marked with a wooden signpost.
Follow the Southern Upland Way up the hill for just under a mile (1.5km) until you hit a crossroads. Turn right and follow the elevated back-road for just over 1 mile (1.5km), making sure you take in the vista of Melrose, the Eildon Hills (or Trimontium as the Romans called them) and the Tweed valley, to where the road bends to the right. Follow the road downhill, through Gattonside, a thoroughly charming little settlement, which occupies the slope where, in days of old, the abbey had its orchards.
Keep going downhill until you hit the B6360 again. Cross the road and take the side road, diagonally opposite, which continues downhill, making for the Chain Bridge, which you should soon be able to see in the distance. Re-cross the bridge and retrace your steps back to Melrose town centre, where the local pubs and cafes will be only too happy to supply your well-deserved refreshment of choice.
Walk 3. Kelso area
Hoselaw – Yetholm – Hoselaw
This route takes us from the absolutely charming Hoselaw Chapel through the Scottish Borders’ agricultural heart to a welcome break at the picturesque twin villages of Town Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm. Returning via a (mostly) different route adds interest, with some spectacular views thrown in for good measure.
Total distance:approx. 6 miles (10km)
Estimated Time: 4-6 hrs (including 1hr break at Yetholm)
OS map: 339
Getting to the start
By car (public transport to the start is not available).
From Kelso town centre, take the A698 towards Jedburgh, but just outside town, at the roundabout at Sainsbury’s, take the 2nd exit – the B6352 towards Wooler and Yetholm.
Continue for around 4 miles (6.5km) to a signposted crossroads. Turn left towards Graden and continue along this road for around 4 miles (6km), where, at a bend in the road, the tiny Hoselaw Chapel sits on your left. About 200 yards (200 metres) past the chapel, our walk begins at a path which goes off to the right, indicated by a wooden signpost directing you to Yetholm, beside some modernised cottages.
There are suitable places to park in the immediate vicinity, as there are wide verges etc., but please park sensibly: do not block the road, any driveways or farm tracks and please respect the private property of the local residents.
Aside from the wooden signpost at the start of the walk, the footpath is not well signposted, but if you have a compass, our route is mostly southwards, along the most obvious paths/tracks in that direction.
Part 1: Hoselaw
From the road, head south along the footpath, which takes you past Hoselaw Loch, a haven for wild fowl and otters, owned and maintained by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. See if you can spot any interesting creatures (binoculars will be very handy here).
A little past the loch, you will come to a barn/farmyard. Take the path to the right, along the front of the barn, then turn left (S.E.) once past the edge of the woods, then go through a couple of farm gates, carrying on straight ahead, keeping the stone wall to your left.
Continue uphill, then follow the obvious farm track that angles to the right, keeping the stone wall on your right. (See if you can spot the horseshoe stuck into the top of the stone wall.)
Go through the farmyard at the top of the hill and follow the concreted farm track as far as it goes. This takes you over the top of Venchen Hill, which provides some outstandingly beautiful views across the Borders countryside in several directions, including your first glimpse of your destination – Town Yetholm, nestling in the valley below.
Continue downhill on the concrete track, through a farmyard, then take a left onto a tarmac road, which takes you onto the B6352 – careful – fast-moving traffic!
Part 2: Yetholm
Turn right onto the B6352and walk along the road for around 1 mile (1.6km), taking the sharp bend to the left and into the exceedingly pretty village of Town Yetholm, where a café, shop and pub will be able to supply a well-deserved reward for your exertions and/or sustenance for the journey back.
The twin villages of Town Yetholm and Kirk Yetholm sit either side of the Bowmont River and provide a picturesque backdrop to our mid-walk break. There is archaeological evidence all around the area, showing that it has been settled since at least the Bronze Age (two well-preserved bronze shields were unearthed very near here), however its known history dates back to the 7th Century, when it was part of the kingdom of Northumbria. Its proximity to the border often put it in the line of fire – such as when Henry VIII had it razed to the ground in the 16th Century.
Part 3: Returning
Head back out of Town Yetholm the way you came in and, around 100 yards (100m) after the road takes its sharp bend to the right, a farm track goes uphill to your left. Just a few yards up the track, go through the farm gate on your right, where a wooden signpost directs you back to Hoselaw Loch.
Walk uphill, keeping the stone wall on your left. Another signpost, further up the hill, directs you through a small field and out into a large, open field. Again, keep the stone wall on your left and take in the impressive views over Yetholm and far beyond.
The views to your left eventually give way to woodland and a little further on we re-join the concrete farm track.
Turn left along the track and retrace your steps down to Hoselaw Loch and back to your car.
If you are not too tired after your exertions, we strongly recommend a visit to Hoselaw Chapel. The current building, which dates from 1906, occupies the site of a much older church, which was completely destroyed by 1560. Although lacking electrical power and running water, it remains a working church, still used by the Church of Scotland for occasional worship.
Visitors are welcome to look inside, but are requested to please respect the sanctity of the building and surroundings.
A haven of picturesque serenity, it is well worth a few minutes’ quiet contemplation.
We hope you enjoy strolling through the peaceful and beautiful Scottish Borders as much as we do. And we trust you will have fun, engaging with the many remnants of the Borders’ prominent and often violent role in times past, reminding us that life here wasn’t always so tranquil. Through bronze-age and ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxon, mediaeval periods and beyond, the Scottish Borders has been central to these islands’ illustrious history.
Oh, and good luck with the weather.
Please let us know how you got on, by sharing your thoughts, photos and memories with us and our readers.
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