Helen Rose: Outdoor Diary – Langholm.

Buccleuch Park

December, 2023

The Glasgow Health Culture Rambling Club ran a bus from Glasgow to Langholm for a day walk. The contact for the club is Roshni at [email protected] Langholm is also known colloquially as the Muckle Toon. It’s a burgh in Dumfries and Galloway, southern Scotland near the border with England. Langholm lies between four hills in the valley of the River Esk in the Southern Uplands.

After leaving the bus, we walked through Buccleuch Park named after the Duke of Buccleuch, who for a variety of reasons is not always well liked in this area. The Dukedom was created in 1663, first for James Scott and then for his wife Anne Scott, 4th Countess of Buccleuch. Monmouth, the eldest illegitimate son of King Charles II, was attained after rebelling against his uncle King James II, but his wife’s title was unaffected and passed on to their descendants, who have successively borne the surnames Scott, Montagu-Scott, Montagu Douglas Scott and Scott again.

Langholm Initiative

We had Gavin Graham as our excellent guide, a representative from the Langholm Initiative.

Langholm has successfully undertaken one of the South of Scotland’s largest community land buyout, following one of the most ambitious community fundraising campaigns ever seen. The Tarras Valley Nature Reserve is 10,000 acres and was purchased for £6M in two lots of 5000 acres between 2021 and 2022.  The Community now legally owns land bought from Buccleuch Estates which includes upland moor, ancient woodland, meadows, peatlands and river valley which is being developed into the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve. The Reserve will help tackle climate change, restore nature at a huge scale and support community regeneration. This is an amazing project where non-native trees are presently being removed to plant the native deciduous trees.

Gill Glen

After a very pleasant walk along by the River Esk, we came to Skippers Bridge where a ferry used to cross the river before the bridge was built. After the bridge, we crossed a B 6318 road which leads to Newcastle over the border and is the longest B graded road in Britain!

We walked up Gill Glen where Jenny Noble’s is the small valley said to be named after an old lady who is reputed to have committed suicide by hanging herself.

We had a convenient lunch stop on some logs and looked out over to England where we could see Scafell Pike in the Lake District. This is the only peak I have never climbed in the Lake District.

Langholm Rivers

After lunch, we walked back to Langholm. The town has three rivers, River Esk, Wauchope and Ewes Water. The River Esk flows over the border to England in Cumbria. It is a cross border river like the River Tweed in the east of the border. The Tarras Water is named after a fossil of an extinct, prehistoric ray-finned fish Tarrasius problematicus. Tarras Water joins the River Esk two miles south of Langholm. The Ewes Water is a tributary of the River Esk.

Lowland Pipes

On returning to the bus in Langholm where some people finished walking, the driver, David from Silver Fox Coaches was practicing on his Lowland Pipes. I had a wee jig outside the bus to the music! Bellows-blown Lowland Pipes in are played in the North of England and the Lowlands of Scotland from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, Border Pipes are currently undergoing a renaissance. Quiet enough to play alongside other acoustic instruments but maintaining the characteristic skirl of the Great Highland Bagpipe.


We continued our walk beyond Langholm on a circular route to explore more of Langholm and the environs. We first came to the race course.  Flapping (horse racing which is not run under Jockey Club rules) is very popular in the Scottish Borders, and has been for many years, which allows the owners to train their own horses without a licence. Racing goes on during the summer months with the Common Riding days at Langholm, Hawick and Selkirk, all having increased prize money for their respective big races. Race meetings now try to have things for all the family to make it a real day out for all ages. The tradition of common riding dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries, during the continual land border wars both with England and against other clans. It was a Border Country custom to plunder and thieve cattle, known as reiving, a historical name for robbing and commonplace amongst the major Borders families.

Thanks to Gavin Graham for the photo.


Langholm Castle was a tower built for the Armstrong family during the early 16th century. A large part of the south gable of the castle survives. It is situated on the meeting of the River Esk and Ewes Water. Built to house a captain and small garrison of men and last inhabited in 1726, this ruin is all that remains of a once imposing fortress. Constructed using sandstone from nearby Whita Hill, it took shape under the stewardship of Christopher Armstrong around 1526, only to fall into English hands in 1544. Just three years later a Scottish force retook the castle. It was attacked for the last time by James VI of Scotland (and James I of England) on his way south to claim the English throne.

Telford Bridge

Langholm Bridge was constructed between 1775 and 1778, having been commissioned and financed by the third Duke of Buccleuch, Henry Scott. It has a typical Georgian style, featuring three segmental arches, each spanning 12.5 metres. The bridge is notable for being one of the first masonry projects worked on by the young Thomas Telford, born in 1757 at Glendinning Farm in nearby Westerkirk, who would go on to become one of the world’s foremost civil engineers. Telford was either an apprentice or a junior mason at the time of its construction, and his hallmarks are evident to this day.

High Tea

With the walk completed, we had time for a coffee and a walk around the town before going to the Eskdale Hotel for a traditional Scottish High Tea.  Scottish High Tea is the carbohydrate Olympics. First a big plate of meat pie, fish or chicken then knock out, irresistible home baked fancies. All served late afternoon to early evening. It is all quaint and old fashioned but just the thing after a day’s walk and we love it.

The area is steeped in history and very picturesque for walking on good paths. Many thanks to Roshni for arranging the trip and Gavin Graham as a very informative local guide.


Coming attraction: Hampshire







Helen Rose's Outdoor Diary, Hampshire
Helen Rose's Outdoor Diary: West Island Way Completed

This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary

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