Day 68 Thursday 24 June Kilsyth to Blanefield

Miles walked: today 16.3 miles cumulative 1047.5

Today, the path ran parallel to the Campsie Fells all day and there were good views toward them.

I started with a mile long walk back down the road to the canal. I was bored with the towpath and I did something I NEVER do on a walk- I plugged my earphones into the iPad and listened to an early Albion Band album: Rise Up Like the Sun. The miles passed quickly now. I did keep my attention on the walk and not far from Kirkintilloch I saw a family out for a swim

I left the canal at Kirkintilloch and joined a disused railway track that ran all the way to Strathblane. This was a pleasant walk alongside Glazert water through light woodland with intermittent views towards the Campsie fells and to the surrounding countryside. At Milton in Campsie I walked through the old railway station

It was cloudy all day, although there were a few glimpses of sunshine early on. As the morning went on the cloud got heavier. As I got to open ground a few miles short of Strathblane it started to rain and I had to get my waterproofs out for the first time the trip. Just outside Strathblane there was an interesting rock formation, the Dunglass.

This is the remains of a volcanic plug, consisting of basalt. It is popular with extreme rock climbers with mostly grade 7 routes.

As I walked though Blaneside to my B and B I got my first jocular comment from a passer-by. “The Himalayas are that way” he laughed. Maybe not the Himalaya but the Highlands are that way. I will join the West Highland Way tomorrow.

Day 67 Wednesday 23 June Linlithgow to Kilsyth

Miles walked: today 23.7 cumulative 1031.2

Most of today was a long, monotonous trudge along the Union and later the Forth and Clyde canals. I made some comments about walking along the Union canal yesterday and the same apples to the Forth and Clyde canal, except, at the end if the walk there were good views to the Campsie fells. There were four exceptions which are worthy of mention:

I was staying in west Linlithgow so I left the town by following the river Avon, like yesterday morning a nice woodland walk, up to the Avon viaduct. This is the second longest in the UK and the longest in Scotland

The machine passing along the viaduct is, I think, a dredging device to clear debris from the canal. I could just see the towers of Linlithgow Palace from the top of the viaduct.

The second point of interest came 8 miles later when I walked through the Falkirk tunnel. This is a 630 metre long tunnel built because the then owner of Callander House thought that the canal “would be an eyesore.” The tunnel has a grim history. Burke and Hare worked as navvies on the tunnel and it is believed the dumped some of their victims clothes in its waters.

The tunnel is lit with coloured lights giving it a psychadelic feel and it reminded me of a tunnel Tim and I skied down in La Plagne. Stalactites hang down from the roof in places.

Two miles later the Union and Forth and Clyde canals meet at the Falkirk Wheel. This magnificent piece of engineering was built to replace locks joining the two canals and claims to be the only rotary boat lift in the world.

The design relies on Archimedes Principle (you know, the Greek guy that jumped out of the bath shouting “the water’s too hot.”) There are two chambers that are water-filled and joined by a cam, you can see the bottom one open and the top one closed in the above picture.

A narrow boat sails in and displaces its weight in water out of the chamber. This is then closed with a watertight seal. The two chambers therefore still have the same weight.

The cam rotates lifting the chamber and boat

You can see the seal in front of the boat. When the chamber is in place the sealing panel is lowered

And the boat sails away. It is so well balanced that it is claimed the energy used is equivalent to boiling 8 kettles of water.

The fourth thing of interest was the Roman fort at Rough Castle , admittedly all that is left are mounds of earth, and part of the Antonine wall

Outline of Rough Castle
Antonine Wall

Antonio’s became emperor in 138, succeeding Hadrian and decided to re-invade Scotland. The Antonine wall was built about 142. Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, stone was not used and the defence was an earthwork and ditch, reinforced with forts at intervals. However within 20 years the Romans withdrew to the line of Hadrian’s wall.

In case the Romans return, signage is bi-lingual

On the way up to the Wall I saw a small group out for a walk. “Where are you going?” One asked. “To Kilsyth, today” I said. “ That’s a big pack, are you walking to John O’Groats?” I admitted I was and one of the group took my photo, fame at last. Excitement over, I returned to the canal and my trudge to Kilsyth.

Day 66 Tuesday 22 June Calder to Linlithgow

Miles walked: today 19 cumulative 1007.5

I quickly found my way to the riverside path, if I had continued for another few hundred yards last night I would have saved myself a walk around the housing estate. The path ran through the woods around the housing estate before passing under the A71 to enter Calderwood. This is an area of ancient woodland that has been saved from development because of the local geology. It consists of a delightful deciduous wood alongside Murieston water.

Murieston water joined the river Almond and I entered the Almondvale Country Park. The path ran gently downhill though attractive woodland by the side of the river.

Drama occurred at a playground near the visitor centre. A child from (I think) a playschool group escaped and ran down to the river. He was chased by an adult. Fortunately, the river was not deep here so he had a little paddle and no harm was done.

Along the river I started seeing signs for the Shale Trail. These were either icons on the footpath signs or wooden posts with aphorisms on them

From the mid 18th Century the area of West Lothian was extensively mined for shale to extract oil. The industry started to decline in the 1920s. The trail is effectively an open air walking museum. At intervals there are QR links to their website explaining the trail. I thought this was a brilliant idea. I dipped in and out of the trail through the day.

Before I did Lejog I had never considered how the water level in canals is controlled. I now know that water can be released into rivers (day 38) and that reservoirs were dug in the South Pennines to supply water (day 60). I now walked along a culvert that is fed from a weir on the river Almond to feed the Union Canal

I could see the canal aqueduct crossing the Almond from the culvert. I climbed up to the towpath and was surprised to see how close I was to the Forth bridge.

The Union canal was opened in 1822. It runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh and was built to carry coal and minerals to Edinburgh. It will me my companion until I arrive at the Falkirk Wheel tomorrow where it links with the Forth and Clyde canal and hence with Glasgow. It was designed to run along the 73 metre contour and was known locally as the “mathematical river.” Locks, of course, were unnecessary.

The first part of the towpath was Ok. I had views towards the Pentland Hills. There were quite a few cyclists and walkers so there was a chance to chat. One man approved of my idea to do Lejog as a retirement challenge. He and his wife decided to go on Pilgrimage to the Santiago de Compostela, doing a month at a time. They walked through Scotland, crossed over to Holland and then continued the walk. Impressive!

As I approached Broxburn an enormous spoil tip came into view and I would see several more on the walk today. The Shale Trail app informs me these are called Bings. There is a story that a Victorian house is buried intact under one of the bings. At the moment they are a red eyesore but the earth is fertile and slowly plants are beginning to colonise the bings. Eventually it is hoped as the soil is improved by primitive plants and grasses trees will take root and the Bings will turn green.

I turned off the towpath to take a short cut through Broxburn. When I rejoined the canal the walk became tedious. Over much of its length the canal is surrounded by banks with trees growing on the top so there were only occasional views. Towards the end the canal ran on an embankment so the view opened out but I was pleased to get to Linlithgow. I could have shortened the walk considerably by leaving the Almond at the visitor centre and following lanes to Linlithgow and on balance this would have been a better option.

Linlithgow Palace, in its current form, was built by James I and became his royal residence. Mary Queen of Scots was born here.

It had been a lovely sunny day although after leaving the river Almond the walk was rather dull. I was happy to sit by the loch and have an ice cream

Linlithgow Loch

Day 65 Monday 21 June West Linton to Calder

Miles walked: Today 14.3 cumulative 988.5

I left West Linton via the Loan Road, still following the historic drove route. The road is now lined by large houses and I wonder whether the village has become a base for wealthy commuters to Edinburgh. The road soon left the houses behind and, lined by trees, passed between fields up alongside Lyne water.

For a short distance, the drove road runs along an old Roman road, which used to link garrisons at Biggar and Edinburgh. It is easy to forget that the Romans did not stop at Hadrian’s wall but tried to subdue Scotland as well. I have already passed a Roman fort at Melrose. More of this in a couple of days.

I followed a stony access track to a reservoir further up the valley. Once again I was surrounded by rounded, grassy hills. I passed an isolated farmhouse:

If I turned round I had a good view back towards yesterday’s walk

Above Baddinsgill reservoir the Drove Road is known as the “thieves road.” Raiders would attack the cattle trains. Both drovers and raiders were well armed and deaths were not uncommon. The pass was also used by the reivers riding south to attack northern England. A notice by the path informed me that this was not just a medieval problem. Sheep theft is an ongoing threat to hill farmers livelihood.

Above the reservoir I entered moorland but there has been little rain in the last few weeks so I passed through dry footed. I climbed gradually to reach the Cauldstane Slap.

A Slap is a pass, although I was unable to find the derivation of the term. Cauldstane Slap is a pass through the Pentland Hills that stretch south west from near Edinburgh. They look like they would make fine walking but would entail a long detour to the East (Moxon did this in 2003 and returned along the canal). Cauldstane Slap is actually a wide saddle, very flat at the top. A marker post informed me that this was a popular excursion for the Victorians who would get the new train to Calder and then walk over to West Linton.

I admired the view, back into the Southern Uplands and forwards deeper into Scotland. I then left the Southern Uplands and began my descent into central Scotland. I have really enjoyed the last few days walking. It was not difficult, the scenery was magnificent and, although I could always reach a village or town each day, there was a real feeling of remoteness. This joins Cornwall, the Quantocks and the Malvern hills as being one of Lejog’s highlights.

I reached the end of the Cross Borders Drove Road at the A70. This is marked on the map as “Little Vantage.” There used to be a coaching inn and a toll booth here but nothing remains except a small car park.

I then had the treat of the day. In his Cicerone guide route guide, Andy Robinson recommends climbing Corston Hill, just to the south of the A70. The view from the top was tremendous. I could see along the length of the Pentland Hills to the South. To the east there was Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh, I could clearly see the Forth rail bridge and the white suspension towers of the Queensferry crossing, which looked like sails from this distance. To the north were the foothills of the Highlands.

Looking back to Cauldstane Slap

I now descended the ridge and followed the road to my hotel for the night in Bankton. I had trouble finding accommodation tonight, fit walkers continue to Linlithgow, too far for me. Bankton is a new development on the north side of Livingston. I had a short walk alongside a busy A road but was then able to follow a riverside path into a new housing development. I couldn’t work out where the hotel was on my OS map. After wandering around for a bit, Google maps took me to the rear (locked) entrance but someone took pity on me and let me in.

Day 64 Sunday 20th June. Peebles to West Linton

Miles walked today 13.4 miles cumulative 974.2 miles

I haven’t done any multi day walks since lockdown so although I have only been walking 3 days I planned a rest day because I was unsure how I would feel after two 20 mile days. In fact, I think I would have been fine to carry on. The weather was a bit drizzly so it worked out rather well.

On Saturday I started my day off by walking upriver through a waterside park and through a wood to Neidpath castle

There was been a fortified tower house here since about 1190 but the first one was burnt down by the English. The current castle dates from the late 14th century although it needed partial rebuilding after it was attacked by Oliver Cromwell. You may have seen the castle if you watched the BBC series “Merlin” you may recognise the castle.

I returned to the town and visited Cross Kirk. A cross and a stone urn were found on the site in 1241. It was believed the urn contained the remains of St Nicholas (who died in Turkey) and Alexander III arranged for a friary to built on the site. It is now ruined and there was no access today.

Peebles is a pleasant town. There is a park in front of the river. The wide high street has a lot of independent shops and some attractive Victorian buildings. It was good to see people using a “real” butcher and baker and I took the opportunity to get lunch for tomorrow’s walk. I then popped into a cafe for lunch and after an afternoon’s sleep and the entertaining Portugal v Germany match I was ready to resume the walk.

Sunday dawned a bit brighter and I set off early. It was another day following the old drove route and my last full day in the Southern Uplands. The path quickly climbed up the side of Hamilton Hill with good views back to Peebles and the hills that I had crossed the day before.

In general, the walk was at a lower altitude than yesterday. There were still great views of the surrounding grassy hills but for most of the morning I was walking between fields with grazing sheep and cows. For the first time since the first day, I noticed some traffic noise as the A703 ran through the valley below.

I descended to the remote farms at Stewarton. There was then a short boring climb through a thick pine forest, the trees planted in close rows so there was no undergrowth, before I emerged at the abandoned farmhouse at Courhope.

The path descended through open forest to emerge at the Flemington burn. It then wound round the hillside to the Fingland burn which the Cross Borders Drove Road web site describes (justly) as a highlight of the route.

The path ascended gently towards the trees on the left in the distance. I passed the only other person that I saw today a fell runner. There was one family about a quarter of a mile ahead but they turned off my route before I caught them up.

I took one last look back at the valley before entering the wood, crossing a col and descending through farmland at Rommanobridge. I passed a group of bullocks who expressed an interest in chasing me. For once I felt in control as they were on one side of the fence and I was on the other.I don’t think they would deliberately hurt me but they are big and stupid.

I then had a short walk into West Linton. I could see my next target, the Cauldstane Slap in the distance

I could see West Linton on the map but where was East Linton? Up until the mid 18th century there were two Linton villages, the other lies about 35 miles to the east. This caused confusion to the new postal service so the villages were re-named west and east. West Linton is one of the oldest Burghs in Scotland and was an important stopping point for the drovers.

Day 63 Friday 18 June Innerleithen to Peebles

Miles walked: Today 11.9 miles Cumulative 970.8 miles

A short day today. The weather was mainly cloudy but dry. For the next few days I will be following the Cross Borders Drove Road. This path runs from the foot of the Pentland hills, above Livingston to Hawick. It was the route drovers used to take cattle from the markets around Falkirk south for sale in North England.

My ear worm for the day had to be “Queensland Overlander” (Australian for drover). I discovered this song on a field trip to my next door neighbour’s record collection in Hall of Residence. It was on an album by the Bushwackers Band, amazingly still available on ITunes. The band was formed when its members wanted to go to a folk festival and realised if they played they would get free entry. Their claim to fame was the invention of the “lagerphone,” essentially beer bottle tops nailed to a piece of wood that would be tapped up and down to the beat.

I left Innerleithen by the road to Traquair. I detoured through the grounds of Traquair House. This is a Manor House that claims to be oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland .

The owners were originally Catholics and staunch Jacobite supporters. After the failed 1745 uprising they swore that the Bear Gates would never reopen until a Stuart once again sat on the throne. They are indeed still shut and access is by a drive to the right. There is little chance of the gates re-opening as there are no known living direct descendants of the Stuart line.

I turned on to a lane that followed the Traquair Water up to the moor. The cross borders drove road has an interesting logo, best described as an artists impression of a bull

I left the lane after the gates to the Glen Estate and climbed steeply up the flank of Birks hill. I was passed by a couple of mountain bikers but there were no other walkers out this morning. As I gained height the views of the surrounding hills opened up. From the top of Kirkhope Law I thought I could see the Pentland Hills to the north. These form the barrier between the Southern Uplands and the Central Lowlands.

My descent was along the ridge in the middle ground. On the way I passed a couple out for a day hike. We agreed that the Southern Uplands are remarkably fine walking country. They said the walk up from Peebles kept them sane during lockdown. I was lucky too, (and I am not being ironic) I had the Mersey Valley and the Trans Pennine trail to keep me amused. I felt sorry for people stuck in the middle of towns or cities with minimal green space. I wasn’t even tempted to drive to the Lake District to test my eyesight. By the way, if you suspect your vision is impaired why would you drive 25 miles to test it? And why put your family at risk by having them in the car?? One rule for those in power and one for everyone else….

Just before a Peebles I crossed a burn in Gypsy Glen. This was a popular stopping point for the drovers. The drove would consist of up to 1000 cattle, one man would herd up to 60 cattle helped by dogs. The would use places like this to rest and feed and water the beasts. They would sleep around the herd with just their plaids for shelter from the elements.

Day 62 Thursday 17 June Melrose to Innerleithen

Miles walked: Today 21.9 miles Cumulative 958.9

Today was perfect walking weather: Temperature in the high teens, a bit of cloud so I didn’t get too hot and a mild cooling breeze on the moors. Visibility was excellent.

Today and tomorrow I am working my way up the Tweed valley. Today I followed the Tweed at the beginning of the walk, then took to the moors on the south side of the valley. I was following part of the Southern Upland Way which runs coast to coast from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath.

I can recommend Burts hotel in Melrose. Last night’s dinner was excellent, my bed was comfortable and everyone’s cooked breakfast looked nice, I had my customary porridge. I started off walking down to the river past the abbey.

The Abbey was founded by David I as a Cistercian abbey. It didn’t open until 10:00 so I could only look at it from outside the fence. It looks larger than Jedburgh but was sacked several times by the English so was rebuilt in the late 1300s, only to be laid waste again by Henry VIII in the 9 years war.

Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried here. His body is buried in Dunfirmline. He wanted to go on crusade but was too infirm so, after his death, his heart was removed and mummified. It was taken on a (failed) crusade to expel the Moors from Spain and on return it was buried in Melrose. The location of both the body and heart were lost but 1921 archaeologists found the heart. Earlier, the royal tomb was discovered in Dunfirmline Abbey. When the tomb was opened the skeleton inside had a split sternum….

I then joined the riverside path. The Tweed was flowing slowly and reminded me of the Severn. I got into a lethargic mood and was happy to stroll along or sit in the sun and watch the river go by. Not a good idea on a long walking day. Eventually I girded my loins and sped up and followed the river to Tweedbank

The Tweed near Melrose

In Tweedbank the path left the river to go through the town. As I walked alongside the railway a Geordie voice called to me from behind. He was doing Lejog, and started this year in Cornwall, there are at least two other people doing the trail who are in the Borders at the moment.

He left me as we rejoined the Tweed, the path passing through a wood between the river and the A7. I took a short cut across the southern slopes of Bala Hill, the official route detours into Galashiels. There were good views back to the Eildon Hills

The path then crossed a ridge to rejoin the Tweed several miles upstream. I passed two women out for a day hike. One of them eyed my rucksack. “I suppose you are walking to John O’Groats as well?” “Er, yes As a matter of fact I am.” Now I am about two thirds of the way I am more prepared to admit to my daft scheme. However, almost apologetically I always explain that I am doing it in stages.

Now the hard work of the day began. I crossed the river at Yair bridge and entered a coniferous forest. The path climbed relentlessly. There were no views because of the trees and so I just got my head down and climbed. On emerging from the forest the views were spectacular. The hills of the Southern Uplands are grassy and rolling, rather than mountainous. Imagine the Howgill fells or the Yorkshire Dales but on a much grander scale. You will have seen them if you travel up to Scotland on the M74. I am usually on my way to the Highlands but what a treat I have missed. Yet another unmissable treat of Lejog.

At the top of the hill are three large cairns, the three brethren

These were built in the 16th century to mark the boundary of three estates. The views from the top are fantastic,

Panorama from Hareshaw Hill

While I was admiring the view and eating some food a runner paused for breath. He is planning to do Lejog pushing a wheelbarrow

The next eight miles were amazing. The path, sometimes grassy sometimes stony, followed the ridge with great views. I crossed the top of Brown Knowe which, at 523 metres, will be the highest point on my Scottish route. I could see back past the Eildon hills as far as the Cheviots. (The forest in the mid ground is the route up to the ridge, the three brethren are just off camera to the right.)

Most of the descent to Traquair is through forest. At the edge of the trees I saw a backpacking tent, I presume this was the walker I saw earlier. I entered the forest and was pleasantly surprised. Many of the mature trees had been harvested and the new plantation was only a few feet high so my views over the hills continued. Innerleithen came into view, nestled in the valley

Many of the paths in this area are old drove roads and the path I will follow tomorrow, the Cross Borders Drove Road, joined the Southern Upland Way. I passed a spring called the Cheese Well. This is said to be inhabited by fairies and travellers would leave offerings of food hoping the fairies would ensure a safe passage across the moor. It is said the fairies were partial to cheese.

The Cheese Well, Minch Moor

Further down the hill there is an art installation called “Point of Resolution ” by Charles Paulson.

From this viewpoint the circles cut in the heather look circular but as you walk down past the piece they are actually large ovals.

Rather tired, I arrived at the road in the hamlet of Traquair. The oldest inhabited house in Scotland is here, but hidden from the road by trees. I crossed the Tweed to enter Traquair. The river was placid again here and I saw my first salmon fisherman

I knew this would be a tiring walk so I booked into the first pub I would come to when reaching the village. The Traquair Arms was a good stop.

Day 61 Wednesday 16 June Jedburgh to Melrose

Miles walked: Today 20 cumulative 937

I thought 20 miles was too far for my first day so about 2 months ago I drew some short cuts on the map. Unfortunately today I thought they were wet weather alternatives so I walked the full distance. I wasn’t even put off by the couple who said to me : “That’s a long way, it’s over 20 miles.” Anyway, I made it.

The day was dull with occasional drizzle but it was warm. I stopped at Queen Mary’s house, where she stayed when she visited Jedburgh in 1566. It is closed because of COVID but the outside is impressive.

There are some pear trees in the garden. Pears were introduced by the Augustinian canons when they arrived from France and they thrived in the climate of the Scottish Borders. They were highly sought after in the 19th Century, but their popularity waned after the Victorian era.

I decided to leave Jedburgh by joining St Cuthbert’s Way (see day 69 for an explanation) and retraced my steps to Dere Street which I first met on the Pennine Way. Bad move! That added an extra mile, I should have walked down the road. At this point Dere Street is a farm track that descends to the Jed water. I followed the stream through woodland to the river Teviot. I walked along the river, past a swan sitting on her nest, to a relatively new, but wobbly, suspension bridge. I then passed through the mixed woodland and rhododendrons of the Monteviot estate and crossed a road to rejoin Dere Street.

Monteviot House

Almost immediately there was a cafe that had been recommended to me by one of the guides at the Abbey yesterday. The cake was indeed perfect and, as it was stuffed with raisins and had a sugar icing, I claim I ate it for medicinal reasons, to boost my carbs.

Suitably refreshed, I continued in a dead straight line along the Roman Dere Street. This was now a very pleasant grassy path passing between fields and woodland over gentle hills. To the left, on top of a hill about a mile away, I could see an old Victorian mausoleum which is meant to be well worth a visit. After a couple of miles the path passed Lady Lilliard’s Stone. The inscription is worn but is reproduced on a metal plate:

Fair maiden Lilliard

Lies under this stane

Little was her stature

But Muckle was her fame

Upon the English loons

She laid monie thumps

And when her legs were cutted off

She fought them on her stumps

Legend tells of a woman who fought in the Battle of Ancrum in 1544 (in the Nine Years war, see yesterday’s post). She fought the English, some say by the side of her lover, and was grievously wounded but continued to fight on. However, in the Ballad of Chevy Chase there is a verse describing a squire who suffered a similar fate at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 (recounted in the ballad of Chevy Chase) so it may not be true. An information board near the memorial suggests that even if there was no Lady Lilliard it is an appropriate memorial to all the women who were brutally raped, killed or both in the border wars.

Eventually Dere Street joined the A68. Here I could have taken a short cut along the road but decided to continue along St Cuthbert’s Way. I passed a small church at Maxton that had a stained glass window that was impressive and then had a very pleasant walk along the River Tweed. I had hoped to see Dryburgh Abbey which is on the other side of the river but the ruins were obscured by trees.

I walked through St Boswell that had an interesting monument to commemorate the establishment of a freshwater supply in the mid 19th century

My final barrier of the day drew closer. These are the Eildon hills. My path passed over the col between the middle and right hand hill. There is a Roman fort on the right hand hill, Trimontium. Important finds are displayed in the National Museum of Scotland and there is also a small museum in Melrose.

Just before the Eildon Hills I walked through the village of Bowden. Here there is a Pant Well, one of only 2 remaining. Pant wells were constructed in the early and mid 1800s, water was diverted from a spring or well through a pipe to avoid contamination. Interestingly, this well was built before Snow’s report linking the cholera outbreak in Soho to a contaminated pump in Broad Street; so it appears that the importance of isolating a clean water supply was becoming appreciated at several sites, at least, in the North East and Borders.

I climbed up to the col in the Eildons but I was too tired to go to the top. The cloud cover was heavy and it started to drizzle. Even so, I could see back to the Cheviots and forwards towards the moors that will take me to Peebles.

View back towards the Cheviot Hills

I continued down a steep path into Melrose. This was a very enjoyable day’s walk through varied countryside. I am staying in Burts Hotel After a long soak in the bath I went down to the bar for some lamb rump and a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor. Recommended.

15 June 2021

So, with lockdown partially lifted, I am off to try to complete Lejog. I am currently on the train back to Jedburgh, where I ended my walk last year, the mountains of the Lake District just coming into view. I decided not to camp this year and my route will follow the “classic” route adopted by many Lejogers.

The Firth of Forth provides a major obstacle to a direct trek north. There are only two crossing points, the Forth Bridge, which entails walking through Edinburgh. Nice as the city is, urban walking doesn’t tick the right box for me. The second alternative is to cross at Stirling but this involves a lot of road walking, again not my cup of tea. The preferred route by most is to head west, turning north between Falkirk and Glasgow.

So, tomorrow I will continue my walk through the Scottish Borders, using what promises to be an excellent walk on a variety of long distance paths in the Southern Uplands. I will drop down to the central lowlands to reach Linlithgow and then follow the Forth and Clyde canal and John Muir trail to the West Highland Way at Drymen. The West Highland Way will take me to Fort William and, if fitness allows, I will bag a few Munros on the way. I then will walk through the Great Glen to Inverness. Finally, if I am not devoured by the Loch Ness monster, I will follow the nascent John O’Groats Trail and finish the walk as I started with coastal and cliff walking.

This route will mean that I can always find a B & B or a pub to sleep in. On the way I hope to learn some Scottish history, from a Scottish point of view, by reading Magnus Magnusson’s book “Scotland: The Story of a Nation.” and I am sure some of what I learn will find its way into the blog.

After arriving in Edinburgh I took the local train to Galashiels, one of the few lines to re-open after the Beeching cuts in the early 1960’s. The line runs along the Gala valley which was very pretty. I then caught the bus to Jedburgh. This gave me a preview of tomorrow’s walk, which looks good. I was tempted to get off the bus in Melrose when we passed the pub I am saying in tomorrow.

I spent the rest of the afternoon walking round Jedburgh Abbey

This was one of four Abbeys built by David I in the 12th Century, the others being at Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh. Jedburgh was built for the Augustinian order. It must have been a magnificent building, it was attacked many times by the English before being reduced to a ruin by Henry VIII during a series of wars in the 16th century. Walter Scott called them the “Rough Wooing” as Henry’s army carried out a bloody campaign to try to force the young Mary Queen of Scots to marry his son Edward (later Edward VI). The conflict is probably more appropriately named the Nine Years War as it was particularly brutal and was really about an attempt to force Protestantism on the Catholic Scots as well as trying to impose English rule.

I wouldn’t have fancied being a monk. A display at the Abbey describes the canon’s day: up for prayer at 3:30am and one meal a day, usually vegetable stew is not my idea of the good life. They were allowed fish or fowl once a week but red meat was forbidden as it is conducive to sin. Talk was forbidden at mealtimes, the only sound was a canon reading from a religious text. If you wanted more potato you used sign language.

Jedburgh was also the birthplace of James Thompson who wrote the words of Rule Britannia in 1740.

Jedburgh was originally built at a crossroads with narrow alleys, called Closes, leading to courtyards. Some of these had very low entrances. They reminded me of the Wynds in Shrewsbury

The town was really quiet. I ate in Belters Bar (recommended, extensive burger menu including meat, fish, and veggie) and the landlord said that tourism hasn’t picked up yet in the Borders. Indeed, many of the bars appeared to be closed on a Tuesday, only opening from Thursday to Saturday, maybe this will change as we get into summer. There were only 4 small groups (including me) in Belters this evening.

I returned to my B and B to sort out my maps for tomorrow. I edited the blog during lockdown and noticed I often grumbled about pain in my left hamstrings. I decided to do something about this after the Pennine Way. I joined a gym and a personal trainer, Conor O’Hanlon , has been working on me. Previously I thought all I needed to do was a few walks to build up the relevant muscles and a bit of stamina. He impressed on me the importance of balanced training and a strong core. During lockdown he set me a routine I could do at home, although the weights were limited to a couple of kilo bags of rice and I have trained hard since the gyms were allowed to reopen. I feel much fitter and I felt much more comfortable on the walks that I did this spring.

Day 59 Monday August 31 Kirk Yetholm to Jedburgh

Miles walked: today 17.8 cumulative 896.1

Now I have left the Pennine Way the sun has come out! There was a slight delay at the start as someone had gone home with the kitchen keys. While waiting for breakfast, I had a wander round the village, which is mainly centred on the village green and I visited the Kirk

Today’s route followed the St Cuthbert Way. Following a vision, St Cuthbert trained as a monk at Melrose Abbey. At the age of 30 he made a pilgrimage to Lindisfarne and the Way is meant to recreate his route. As is the norm on this walk, I am travelling the opposite way, ie towards Melrose

As I have already said, some Lejogers leave the PW at Dere Street and go straight to Jedburgh. The route it takes from Jedburgh through the Southern Uplands appealed to me so today I headed south-west to Jedburgh. I walked alongside Bowmont Water which passes between Kirk Yetholm and Town Yetholm. I crossed a field containing rather belligerent looking cows. Their eyes said: “don’t mess with me Jimmy.” They left me alone and I was soon climbing up Wideopen Hill with fine views back down the valley and across to the Cheviots.

On the way down the hill I met a retired vet by a field gate. The path crossed the next field but there was a rather fierce looking bovine the other side of the gate. “That’s a bull” the vet said. Indeed, inspection of the animal’s undercarriage confirmed a male member of the species. There were two bullocks with him. He looked like he wanted to teach his sons how to terrorise the English like the good old days, we avoided the field.

The hard work of the day done early, I descended to Morebattle. The name probably has nothing to do with fighting but derives from the Anglo-Saxon mere-bodl which means “the house by the lake”. It did have a rather nice pub, so I had a leisurely lunch sitting in the sun in the pub garden.

The afternoon was an easy, slightly undulating walk through farmland and along quiet lanes. After a couple of miles I came to the ruin of Cessford castle.

The castle was built by the Ker family in the late 15th Century. They were a powerful reiver family who also had a bitter blood feud with another reiver family, the Scotts. It sounds like the Borders were a lawless area at this time. A placard at the castle quotes the Bishop of Ross as saying “They do not concern themselves whether it be from the Scots or the English that they rob and plunder.”

The path the went through some pleasant, light woodland and joined Dere Street. I will follow this again when I return, but for now I turned off towards Jedburgh after 200 yards. Jedburgh looks a pretty town and has an old abbey. I plan to look round it when I return to the walk next year.