Border Break 5: monumental walks

Waterloo Monument on Peniel Heugh

Peniel Heugh

After the riverside walks in my last Border’s post, this time I am taking you on some short walks all of which feature something monumental. The first is the small hill of Peniel Heugh, near Ancrum, which is topped by a monument to the Battle of Waterloo (1815) in which many Borders men fought as part of the Scots Greys. It was commissioned by William Kerr, 6th Marquess of Lothian, and completed in 1824. On the way up, there were good views of Monteviot House and the surrounding countryside.

The walk started and finished at the Harestanes Visitor Centre. On our return we were delighted to see this old Ford (with attendant old man and old dog).

Leaderfoot Viaduct and Trimontium

Leaderfoot is the site of a Roman Fort, Trimontium (Three Hills, i.e. the Eildon Hills), and it is believed that the Roman Road heading north from York crossed the Tweed at this spot. There is no sign of the Roman bridge today, but you can see three bridges from different eras, one rail and two road. The 9000 foot long Leaderfoot Viaduct was built between 1862 and 1865 for the Berwickshire railway, and carried passenger trains until 1948 and freight until 1965. It’s a thing of beauty and by far my favourite of the three. There is no public access, unfortunately – I’d love to see the view from up there.

The two road bridges are Drygrange Old Bridge, built 1779-80 and its ugly modern replacement, built in 1971-73 to carry the A68. You can walk on the old bridge, and I was intrigued to find it still had a dilapidated post box set into its parapet. In some of the shots below you can see all three bridges at once.

From the viaduct, we went on a circular walk skirting the edges of the Roman fort, now agricultural land, finishing by re-approaching the bridges from above.

Monteith Douglas Mausoleum

It’s a short walk up a farm track from the A68 near St Boswells to the Monteath Douglas Mausoleum, a grand Victorian monument recently restored by a group of local volunteers. It is possible to see inside by prior arrangement, but our visit was a last minute decision so we contented ourselves with walking round the outside.

The monument was constructed for General Sir Thomas Monteath Douglas (1788 – 1868) and, unusually, was intended for himself alone. He wanted it to be “locked for all time” but despite being guarded by two life-sized stone lions, one awake and one asleep, by the early 20th century it had been broken into. The tomb is empty and the whereabouts of Monteath Douglas’s remains is not known. Blame the sleeping lion!

The views from the mausoleum take in the sites of the previous two walks with Peniel Heugh visible to the south (you can just about make out the monument on the horizon), while to the north are the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills, after which Trimontium was named.

Smailholm Tower

The 15th century Smailholm Tower is a peel tower, a type of fortified house common on both sides of the Scottish/English border at a time when attacks by cross-border raiders were common. It was built by the Pringles, a leading Border family, and at one time there would have been a flourishing settlement around it, but only the tower remains today. In the 17th century it was sold to the Scotts and Sir Walter Scott spent time here as a boy. Today it is cared for by Historic Scotland.

We followed a circular route from the village of Smailholm to the Tower and back. My walking book notes that there are wonderful views, but it was a wet and miserable afternoon so I assume we didn’t see them because the only photographs I have are of the church in the village and the Tower itself.

This is the last in my series of posts about our week in the Scottish Borders in June 2021. It’s certainly an area we would like to explore more in the future.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

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