Melrose. June 2019
Helen Rose Outdoors Diary
The last time I was in Melrose was many years ago to do St Cuthbert’s Way walking from Melrose to Lindisfarne. Recently, I went with the Glasgow HF Outdoor Club www.meetup.com/Glasgow-HF-Outdoor-Club/ for a walking weekend based in Melrose. We were staying at the very comfortable Waverley Castle Hotel just outside Melrose. Melrose is in the Scottish Borders area in the eastern part of the Southern Uplands. The region is hilly and largely rural, with the River Tweed flowing west to east through it. In the east of the region, the area that borders the River Tweed is flat and is known as ‘The Merse’. The Tweed and its tributaries drain the entire region with the river flowing into the North Sea and forming the border with England for the last twenty miles or so of its length. We took the train from Edinburgh following the route of the old Waverley Line, which once linked Edinburgh to Carlisle through the Scottish Borders, but was decommissioned in 1969 as a result of the 1963 Beeching Report. Now, for the first time in almost 50 years, we could explore this bucolic corner of southern Scotland by train on 30 miles of new track running from Edinburgh Waverley to a new station, Tweedbank, just outside Melrose. This is the longest new rail track laid in a hundred years.
The walk on the first day after our big hearty Scottish Breakfast was around 12 miles. We had all day to do it and so rambled at an easy pace. We walked in to Melrose and looked at the ruined abbey. David I founded Scotland’s first Cistercian monastery in 1136. Being so close to the border, Melrose Abbey suffered at English hands during the Middle Ages. Rebuilt in the 1380s, it was used as an abbey until the Protestant Reformation of 1560. Afterwards, the existing monks were allowed to stay on and the last died in 1590. It was a place so beloved by Robert the Bruce, he chose it as the final resting place for his heart. Melrose Abbey is a magnificent ruin on a grand scale, and it was a highly desirable place to be buried. Robert I, known as Robert the Bruce, was the king of the Scots who secured Scotland’s independence from England in 1314.
We walked up hill to look over Melrose along paths bordered by yellow gorse bushes in full bloom. We could see over to the Eildon Hills. The walk was circular and we passed though forest where the bluebells were in full vibrant blues. There was a beautiful smell of wild garlic along by the river.
The area is steeped in history and we came to Leaderfoot with the three bridges over the River Tweed known as the Bridges Across Time. There is an impressive viaduct formerly used by trains and now a Category A listed structure in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. It is known as the Leaderfoot Viaduct and was built in 1865. It is an impressive piece of engineering and has 19 arches, 126 feet above the river.
One of the bridges no longer there is the Roman Bridge in the Trimontium Fort Complex, built under Agricola around 80AD. Trimontium means The Place of the Three Hills. The Complex would have an estimated 1,000 troops and 2-3,000 civilians. There is a Roman Heritage Museum in Melrose.
The walk on the second day was very different. We walked from the hotel on a road leading to Rhymer’s Glen and passed through an area of newly planted trees. We followed a grassy track to the top of the glen where the path crossed a small hillfort and reached a gate. We followed the wall to reach a gate leading to Cauldshiels Loch. Folklore states the Loch is home to a water kelpie, a spirit in the form of a water horse which would lure maidens to a watery grave. The loch was tranquil with swans and a lovely place for our lunch picnic. The walk continued to the Borders Abbey Way. Which is about 65 miles long and passes four 12th century abbeys but that walk will be for another time. Today’s walk led us to Abbotsford House, the home of Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) who was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English and Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy. The Lady of the Lake, Waverley and the Bride of Lammermoor.
Abbotsford House was built over two hundred years ago and the land extended to the Eildon Hills. Sir Walter Scott promoted open access for all across his land and wrote in his diary how nature, exercise and companionship could refresh the mind and the body. As walkers, we all truly believe in this ethos.
At the hotel we had excellent entertainment every night with lots of dancing included. One memorable finale was Maisie, myself and the singer high kicking to the song, New York, New York across the dance floor. Stephen and Donald were good sports and ‘volunteered’ to assist the ventriloquist while wearing Donald Duck face masks. Enough said!
Thanks to Stephen for leading the walks on a great weekend which everyone enjoyed immensely.
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This section: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
Filed under: Helen Rose Hillwalking Diary
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