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.

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