For those of you who may have read about my trip to the Northumberland National Park, you will be aware that from there I travelled into the Scottish Borders for a few days. My original intention was to stay in the more central location of Melrose but due to the lack of availability of space on my favoured campsite I had to stay in Jedburgh – not that there is anything wrong with Jedburgh, it just meant I had slightly more travelling each day to my intended photo spots.
Lying just south of Melrose and found within the Tweed Valley are the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills, a prominent feature in the Scottish Borders and my first walk and photo location. Formed around 350 million years ago, the hills are made of volcanic rock and surrounded by softer sedimentary rocks that have eroded to leave the hills we see now. One of the most photographed locations in the Scottish Borders is Scotts View of the Eildon Hills. Named after the poet, playwright and novelist Sir Walter Scott this was his favourite view when he lived at Abbotsford House.
Having taken in the famous view of the hills I wanted to get close up and hit the summits. During my research of the area, I came across Bowdenmoor reservoir which lies a couple of miles south-west of Melrose where access to the hills can be gained without following everyone else up the traditional walking routes from Melrose. On arrival, I was greeted by a raft of waterlilies covering the water, an attractive fringe of woodland and a lovely view of the Eildon Hills which all combine to great effect.
Although many of the lilies were still not open a combination of the open and partly open ones set against the smooth and sometimes breeze affected water gave me an opportunity to add to my Intimate Landscapes Collection.
All of the walking routes I had with me started from Melrose so starting at Bowdenmoor and not knowing the area I was immediately at a disadvantage as to the best route to take up to the hill summits. When I arrived at the base of one of the hills, which one I wasn’t sure, I saw what appeared to be a path up although it seemed very steep. With no one else around to ask I decided to set off up the path and eventually made it to the top although at times it was like being on a ski slope because of all the loose shale on the footpath and probably not one of the safest routes. On reaching the top I came across a trig point and realised then that I was on the summit of Eildon Mid Hill the highest of the three at just under 1400 feet which includes a toposcope to help walkers identify the sights. So I had walked up the middle of the three hills and the scene from the top as seen below looks back at the one I missed Eildon Wester Hill. Never mind I can summit that on the way back.
Having now got my bearings I set off across the top to find a route down to then climb up Eildon Hill North. Halfway down another rather slippery slope, I realised that my route up and now down was not one of the more accepted routes. Anyway onwards and upwards to Eildon Hill North, the second of the three hills or Trimontium as the Romans knew them as they built a camp here with a perfect vantage point over the surrounding country.
Having completed the three summits I walked back to Bowdenmoor and headed back for my second night at Jedburgh. Although fortunate with the weather during the day you can see from the photos that it was quite changeable and during the drive back I spotted a distant rainbow close to the Waterloo Monument with the monument itself also illuminated by the sun rays. A few miles away so out with my telephoto lens which I believe just managed the distance. The monument is a 150-foot tower on Peniel Heugh a hill between Ancrum and Nisbet, built between 1817 and 1824 to commemorate the battle of Waterloo. It was designed by the architect Archibald Elliot after the original monument designed by William Burn collapsed.
The next day before moving onto to my final campsite at Moffat I visited Smailholm Tower. There are many remains of Pele Towers surviving in the Scottish Borders but Smailholm is one of the finest examples and is a dominant feature in the landscape. Smailholm sits in a prominent position on a rocky outcrop on the north side of the Tweed Valley. It was built in the 15th century by the Pringle family but by 1645 it was owned by the Scott family, ancestors of Sir Walter Scott. Today it is owned by Historic Scotland.
Driving to Moffat I entered Dumfries and Galloway another area of the Scottish Borders whose Galloway Coast and Hills I enjoyed visiting a few years back. Situated between Selkirk and Moffat is St.Mary’s Loch, the largest natural loch in the Scottish Borders. It is 3miles long and almost a mile wide and was created by glacial action during the last ice age. The loch takes its name from a church dedicated to St Mary which once stood on its northern shore, although only the burial ground is now visible. The loch is fed by the Megget Water, which flows in from the Megget Reservoir, and is the source of the Yarrow Water, which flows east from the loch to merge with Ettrick Water above Selkirk.
Grey Mares Tail waterfall was next on my list of locations but before photographing the fall I took the steep path up the side of the valley to reach Loch Skeen. This path climbs fast offering great views of the Grey Mare’s Tail as you gain height eventually exiting into the hanging valley above and then following the Tail Burn as it meanders through the moraines. In a short time, the “wee jewel” of Loch Skeen appears as if by magic. Loch Skeen’s clear, unpolluted water laps on desolate but tranquil shores. It is the highest large, natural upland loch in the Southern Uplands, sitting at over 1650 feet above sea level. The stark crags rise over 1000 feet higher.
The leg aching climb was certainly worth the effort and it would have been a wonderful place to spend more time if it wasn’t for the midges which were out in abundance as soon as you got close to the water’s edge. Still in the best interests of photographing the landscape I suffered and managed another Intimate Landscape for my Collection.
Descending the path back to the car park took me considerably less time than the walk up but only then to have to walk back up the valley on the other side although thankfully not as far to reach the main viewpoint for the waterfall. The Grey Mare’s Tail is one of the most spectacular landmarks in the Moffat hills and is a superb example of a hanging valley. The Tail Burn plunges 200ft into a gorge, forming the fifth highest cascade in Britain. Its name is thought to be descriptive and was celebrated in verse by Sir Walter Scott:
“Where deep deep down, and far within
Where deep deep down, and far within
Toils with the rocks the raring linn;
Then issuing forth one foamy wave,
And wheeling round the giant’s grave
White as the snowy charger’s tail
Drives down the pass of Moffatdale.”
Unfortunately, on my final day the weather caught up with me and with it raining and low cloud all day I had to abandon my final location of the Devil’s Beef Tub, a little-explored wilderness area and the largest natural depression north of Moffat and at the head of Annandale. This hidden valley was where the border revivers hid the cattle they stole when they raided over the border into England. Maybe it was fate that I didn’t find it.
So that was the end of my photo trip to the Scottish Borders which I hope that you have enjoyed following.