Don’t Forget Your Dubarrys
After a winter of ceaseless rain and impenetrable, low slate grey skies the arrival of spring feels like a small miracle.
It might happen every year but spring never loses its power to impress us with its unstoppable agenda of fresh, green growth. Stepping out for a spring walk is a surefire spirit lifter and here in the Scottish Borders we’re incredibly fortunate to have some of the most beautiful day walks in the country.
Here’s a taste of seasonal walks to put a spring in your step:
The Borders Abbey Way (a small bite size bit!)
There are lovely walks that head directly out of Kelso, and we never tire of a constitutional turn to Roxburgh, out along the banks of the Tweed and back by way of the old railway. Generally followed by an equally constitutional visit to The Cobbles. Sometimes though this Passeggiata is not enough to justify the indulgence.
In spring when our enthusiasm for the outdoors is heightened after months of long, dark nights and enforced surrender to life indoors then the days call for a bit more of a challenge. Nothing too over the top. We’re not talking full-on hill walking, just a good longish hike lasting a handful of hours.
At such a time biting off a small chunk of the Borders Abbey Way is ideal, perfect for shaking off winter and gainfully filling an afternoon. This section starts and Smailholm, is 8½ miles long and will take about 4½ hours. Starting at. This walk is mapped and detailed in the online publication Paths Around Kelso – Walk 4, it passes the historic Smailholm Tower and incorporates several dramatic viewpoints.
The first comes just after Westland Farm, and again care should be taken to watch out for livestock and machinery as Westland is a working farm, and offers panoramic views south to Jedburgh, west to the Eildons and Blackhill, and north to the Lammermuir Hills.
It’s a good walk if conditions are muddy as it follows mainly established tracks and minor roads. Mellerstain House – we’re particularly thinking of the tearoom here, though that does mean waiting until Easter Weekend – makes a good mid-wayish stopping point for tea and cake. Though if you wait until Easter you will certainly miss the lovely site of the yolk yellow aconites carpeting the woodland as you head towards Smailholm House. There is also a lovely view here over the Eden Water and to the Hundy Mundy ruins.
As a final treat it’s worth popping into The Pottery at Smailholm to spy Linda Kinsman-Blakes gorgeous ceramics.
Vertish Hill, Whitlaw Wood and Williestruther Loch – Hawick
This is a perfect walk for spring that takes in Whitlaw Wood, winds up and out to Acreknowe Reservoir, then back in circuitous fashion over the crest of Vertish Hill, back to its source in the centre of Hawick.
The walk is mapped and detailed in the online publication Paths Around Hawick – Walk 1. It is roughly 5 miles in length and will take about 2½hrs depending on how vigorously you’re striding out.
The marked walk skirts the edge of Whitlaw Wood but if you have the time and the inclination to ascend the steep rise to the woods you’ll be well rewarded. Whitlaw Wood is one of the most diverse woodlands in the Scottish Borders it also has over 200 species of ground flora and in spring is home to wood anemones, wood sage, primrose, sorrel and wild garlic. It’s managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and there is a helpful guide to Whitlaw Wood on their website.
This walk does transect working farmland so it’s important to be mindful of farm machinery and livestock. The path also ambles past the St Leonard’s Farm, that some may know as the gathering place for riders during the Hawick Common Riding. The view from Vertish Hill on a clear day is the final highlight before winding back down past the 11th tee on the golf course and into town.
Woodhall Dean, nr Dunbar has been on our list of must visit places for a long time. Woodhall Dean is another protectorate of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, an ancient, semi-natural woodland dominated by sessile oak, a rare remnant of the oak forest that covered much of southern Scotland 5,000 years ago. It’s a haven for wildflowers and from April onwards the bluebells are said to be spectacular.
It was also – small piece of trivia – the inspiration for The Scariest Thing of All, a lovely picture book by local author Debi Gliori.
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