Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Herring Road, Whiteadder Reservoir to Watch Water

Before a globalised economy and fast food, there were the Silver Darlings - Herring. Scotland was famous for its Herring fishery, exporting across Europe. By the 19th Century Scotland had the largest fishery in the world.

There was also a domestic trade, involving transporting the preserved fish long distances to local markets. A welcome change to a diet consisting of kale and potatoes.  The Herring Road in the Lammermuirs was one such trade route, with Dunbar fishwives carrying the fish to Lauder, and market.

The Herring Road stretches from Dunbar to Lauder, crossing the Lammermuirs, a number of roads and the Southern Upland Way, allowing walkers to mix and match routes. This excellent leaflet gives some other options. We took a route from the Whiteadder Reservoir to the Watch Water Reservoir, approximately 12 kms, and taking about 3 hours over mixed paths. We left a car at the Watch Water Reservoir, easily reached from Longformacus. Medium difficulty, with a fair bit of rise and descent.

Take the A6112 out of Duns towards Preston. After 2km turn left onto the B6365 to Cranshaws. This joins the B6355 - follow for 10 minutes through Ellemford and Cranshaws to the Whiteadder Reservoir. Follow the road along the north side of the loch. At the north west end of the loch there is a cattle grid with room to park. On the left are signs for the Herring Road. Follow to Pensheil farm and the route marked for Lauder.

The road to Pensheil passes near the reservoir where many birds can be seen; ducks, geese and other waterfowl. Beyond Pensheil the valley pastures opens up, and two heavily set ruins, part of a grange, stand on either side of the path like sentinels. A round stone sheep fold sits beyond on the right. Follow the path up the valley, skirting Pensheil Hill. Some of the deep ruts on the path are said to have been left by carts loaded with herring creel.

The terrain changes to grouse moor, and more and more game can be seen. To the left at the valley floor is Faseny Water, running down the valley to the Reservoir. It forms a number of waterfalls and pools. Soon you cross the headwaters and cross the Gifford-Longformacus road. Follow the marked path up the left side of the valley ahead, to Lambhill. On the opposite side of the valley you see Kilpallett farm. At the summit you get super views across the rolling Lammermuirs.

The terrain softens again to hilly grassland. Descend to the settlement of Trottingshaw, in a lovely wooded glade on the Dye Water with a smart manor house. Once you reach the paved road along the valley floor cross the stone bridge and head to the southern path, rising again to pass between Dunside Hill and Scar Law. This lovely stretch soon joins the Southern Upland Way on the farside of the pass, and you are just to the west of the Watch. Turn east as you reach the Southern Upland Way and walk along the reservoir, past the Watch Fisheries fishing lodge, to the waiting car.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Allanton Inn to Blackadder House

Berwickshire was known as the Home of the Country House. There were many of them, including the magnificent Manderston and Marchmont Houses. But the agricultural depression that followed the First World War sealed the fate a great number. They include Blackadder House, a magnificent  Robert Adam house on a spectacular bluff over the Blackadder Water. Only ruins and a series of curious estate buildings remain. The charming countryside and the shadows of that once beautiful estate make for a lovely walk through history.

This walk has the benefit of starting and ending at the excellent Allanton Inn (Allanton near Chirnside ), and has several options for the length of the walk, between 45 minutes and an hour and a half. Find your way there and park near the pub. Head south from the pub, turn right onto Blackadder Drive and join a muddy woodland track. This was the old estate entrance. At the start of Blackadder Drive are twin cottages, the old gatehouses of the estate.

Follow the muddy track through the woods. There's a sign diverting you over a haw-haw into an arable field. Either follow this, or ignore it into the wood - both paths join further ahead. 

If in the wood eventually you'll reach a stone bridge over a burn. Sadly the bridge, in a Georgian ballustraded style, has been damaged and is fenced off. Head to the left and rejoin the main path around the field. This will take you round a wooded gully - a diversion to avoid the bridge. 

Once past follow the field edge. Another sign diverts you to your left. Ignore and continue west along the edge of the field - the Blackadder Water to your right.

After a few hundred meters cross a gate into a pasture. On your right the Blackadder water and a plantation, which contained the quarry for the estate. Walk west towards another plantation directly ahead - trees planted upon the ruins of Blackadder House. As you approach you will see a gothic arch among the trees. As you reach this plantation you have a choice. Turn right and follow a track to the river and a bridge (shorter route) or skirt the plantation to the left to join another path through the estate.

Short Route - turn right at the ruins of Blackadder House and descend for about 100 meters to a cattle grid and the bridge. As you walk down to the bridge on your left you will see further remains of the house which appear to be medieval and castellated. On the bridge look upstream to the left bank - you will see a building on the bottom of the cliff below the ruined house - this was the hydroelectric powerhouse for the estate or house - Blackadder House was allegedly the first house in Berwicksire to have electric lights.

Otters and Kingfisher can bee seen here. I've even seen a migrating Osprey.

Cross the bridge and follow the track up past Tofthill (a modern bungalow with a superb view) to the road (turn right to return to Allanton). On the right a 100 meters behind Tofthill, on a slope high above the Blackadder Water, you can see the ruins of Allanbank House, the Dower House of Blackadder House. Just as you reach the road on the left is Allanbank Courtyard, once the stables of the estate, now holiday lets.

As you follow the road back to Allanton you pass a large new house on the right. Next to it is a series of farm and steading buildings that are now the studios of artists  Charlie Poulson and Pauline Burbridge - some sculpture is visible. 

The next building was the sawmill - the watercourse powering the mill can still be seen as you approach the bridge, down to the right. Cross the bridge over the Blackadder Water (1851). You can see to the left where the Whiteadder Water meets the Blackadder beneath the larger bridge to Chirnside (1841, by Robert Stevenson and Sons). Upriver obscured by ivy you can just see a cottage - this was the ferryman's cottage. Before the bridge was built the only across was by ferry. 

Walk round to the right, below a wall with a steep wooded slope above, back into Allanton and to the Inn. This should take about  45 minutes.

Longer Route - turn left at the ruins of Blackadder House and follow the fenceline through the pasture. You will then emerge at the top of a steep wooded slope and the river to your right. Press on west and join a landrover track with descends to a cattle grid and a bridge.

Just before the bridge is a track to the left - this leads to the Walled Garden and Garderner's Cottage (occupied). The walled garden is mostly intact (one wall has been removed and its now an arable field). The Glass House is in poor state, but figs and feral plants can be seen among the broken panes. A tower sits above the Glass House, and on the north side of the wall can be seen the older gardeners sheds.

From the bridge look back towards the ruins of the House - below the treeline you can see a folly walkway with stone balustrade which was at the back of the house below ground level, cut into the rock of a cliff face overlooking the river Blackadder below.

Cross the bridge and follow the track. After a hundred meters on the left is the Butler's Cottage, with stone lions on the pediment. 

Keep walking through the merse countryside to the road back to Allanton. You emerge at North Lodge (see the Estate's unique fishscale slating on its roof - this can be seen on a number of other estate buildings in Allanton and elsewhere). Turn right and in 500 meters you join the Short Route at Allanbank Courtyard, and return to the Allanton Inn.

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Scotland's best kept secret? Possibly.

This isn't much of a walk I'm afraid... 5 or 10 minutes from Cove village down a coastal path takes you to the harbour, but it is an amazing sight. The harbour is cut into the incredible geology of this stretch of Scottish Coastline. Two empty fisherman's cottages line the harbour wall, and the landward side of the cove has two holiday homes. The lack of people lends a magical air to the place.
At low tide there is some great rockpooling and wandering among the rock formations. You can walk across the harbour itself to a lovely wee beach enclosed by the harbour.
Access to the beach at higher tides is via an unusual tunnel on the coastal path, which was excavated using gunpowder.

Cove is just off the A1, turn off at the Cockburnspath roundabout. Drive into the village where there is parking at the end of the road in. Take a picnic!

See Undiscovered Scotland for more info.

Berwickshire Coastal Path, Eyemouth to St Abbs

Brrr! Extremely cold walking last week, but beautiful conditions for a walk along the Coastal Path. It takes about 2 hours to gently stroll from the suburbs of Eyemouth along to St Abbs, via Coldingham Bay and back. There a number of descents from the farmland plateau to the beaches, but it is not a taxing walk, and the signs and paths have been well maintained.

Start in Eyemouth - from the A1107 turn off at Northburn Road (B6355) towards Eyemouth itself, then left onto Pocklaw Slap (crazy name, crazy place!). Follow for about 300m until it takes a sharp left - you can park here, and you should clearly see the Coastal Path heading North.

After half an hour or so you reach Coldingham Bay, with its well protected sands, cafe and painted beach huts. Despite the cold we saw some surfers among the ducks. Madmen... You can break your trip here with a bit of rockpooling in warmer times, or stop for a coffee. There are toilets here too. If the cafe is shut there's also the St Vedas Hotel and Surf Shop above the beach.

At the North End of the beach steps take you back up to the path and St Abbs - about 5 minutes further on. St Abbs is a charming harbour with a clifftop village looking out over the rocky Berwickshire coast and North Sea. Dive boats can be seen coming and going  in the summer.
St Abbs also has an amazing, National Trust for Scotland protected, series of sea cliffs to the north. There's a decent walk from the NTS centre there along the cliffs to a beautiful lighthouse. Worth a look for birders and those wanting to extend the walk by another hour or two. There's a cafe in the centre during the season.

Coldingham and St Abbs are historically significant sites and worth a bit of a tour. Coldingham had a Benedictine Priory and is important in the history of the Christian Church in Britain.

Eyemouth itself is an interesting spot, with its rejuvenated harbour, Fish Market and a number of other attractions like the dive centre (this stretch of coast is one of Scotland's best dive sites - and we have a lot) and Gunsgreen House. When you finish your walk head down to the harbour for some fish and chips. It's recommended.

Useful Links

The walks that are outlined here should have decent instructions about where to start, park etc. Where I've added aerial views I've outlined the path in white, with a star at the starting point. Always take a decent map with you; even on simple walks you'll get more out of it being able to reference the detail on your map. If you need any more advice please contact me.

These links are useful to give you some ideas, but as ever Google is your friend! There are lots more sites available out there, and ever changing.

General guide to Walking in the Borders

Borders Core Paths, a simple resource but uses OS Maps to outline available walks

Some suggested walks south of the Tweed, Walking in Northumberland