Walks Peebles, Selkirk & Lanark

Author: Richard Hallewell

This book marks our first venture (in this series) into the Scottish Borders – a beautiful part of the country with many miles of excellent walking.  The area covered is made up of the old counties of Peebles and Selkirk plus the southern part of Lanarkshire.  For those who don’t know the area, this is a landscape of low to moderate hills – mostly grass-covered, but with some moorland on the higher peaks – intersected by long, fertile valleys.  The major rivers are the Tweed and the upper waters of the Clyde; the main settlements Peebles, Selkirk, Biggar and Lanark – of which the latter, with a population of around 9,000, is the largest.  This is a distinctly rural area, with a small population clustered in old county towns and small villages.  There is a small amount of commercial woodland, but the landscape is mostly open.  The farming is largely livestock, with more arable land as you move west and south-east, out of the hills.
It is a deceptively peaceful landscape, but historically, this was the land of the Border Reivers – the families of cattle rustlers and blackmailers who inhabited the territory between Scotland and England – and the numerous castles passed along these routes bear witness to this lawless past.  Beyond this, the main cultural contribution of the area has been to literature, and you will pass many references and monuments to the great Border writers: Sir Walter Scott, John Buchan and James Hogg.
The walking is terrific.  There are fine hill climbs, up Broad Law, Lee Pen, the Broughton Heights and the isolated (and highly popular) Tinto Hill, south-west of Biggar.  The hills are not particularly high (at 2,760ft/840m, Broad Law is the highest peak in this area), and there is no scrambling required on the rounded peaks, but the views are splendid – though note that great care needs to be taken with navigation amongst this mass of low, rounded hills.  There are also excellent river walks, notably by the Falls of Clyde (starting from the planned industrial town of New Lanark) and along the Tweed from Peebles, passing Neidpath Castle.  Elsewhere, there is a circuit of St Mary’s Loch, a walk through the grounds at Bowhill House and a cluster of forest walks in the Tweed Valley.
There are two long-distance walks in the area.  The Southern Upland Way passes through, on its route coast-to-coast, and forms part of some of the walks in the guide – notably the paths along the ridge north of the Yarrow Water.  If you want something shorter, the John Buchan Way is a 13 mile/21km route linking Peebles and Broughton.
This is a beautiful, peaceful area, and any visitor could easily spend a week exploring its attractions without exhausting the varied walking.
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Photograph: The Falls of Lanark