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.

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