Scottish walks: Currie Wood and Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle. Picture: Robin Howie
Borthwick Castle. Picture: Robin Howie
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It was Margaret, a member of the Woodland Trust, who drew my attention to their autumn edition of Broadleaf which featured a “romantic ramble”, complete with cut-out map, to the ancient Currie Wood.

Extending the walk with a circuit by Borthwick Castle and the Borders railway line transforms the ramble into an ideal winter stroll. The pock-marked wall of the castle is easily seen from the train; damage caused by cannon when Cromwell’s troops attacked it in 1650, bringing about its swift surrender. The castle was abandoned not long after.

The castle, with exceptionally thick walls at 14ft, was built by Sir William Borthwick in 1430. Mary, Queen of Scots visited the castle in 1567 soon after her unpopular marriage to the Earl of Boswell. The couple were besieged and although Mary escaped, dressed as a page boy, she was captured within days.

The castle was fully restored between 1890 and 1914 and in 1973 converted to a hotel. At the time of writing, a magnificent refurbishment has transformed this stunning medieval castle, known as the finest keep in Scotland, into an historic and exclusive hotel and a venue for weddings and corporate and private events. Purely by chance, Margaret and I were kindly given a short tour; a glorious step back in time.

Gorebridge railway station is too distant though there is the 95 or X95 A7 bus service passing North Middleton, 1½ miles from Borthwick. Ordnance Survey map 66, Edinburgh, is of insufficient scale. I took with me an enlarged self-print map as well as the Woodland Trust map.

Map Ordnance Survey map 66, Edinburgh

Distance 3 miles

Height A gentle 100m

Terrain Woodland path and minor road

Start point Borthwick Parish Church by North Middleton

Time 2 hours

Nearest town Gorebridge

Refreshment spot The Sun Inn, Lothianbridge, Dalkeith

Turn off the A7 at North Middleton and so to the picturesque mid 1800s Borthwick Parish Church and the entrance drive to Borthwick Castle. Do walk round the historic graveyard before setting off.

Head towards the Manse and on the left, not immediately apparent, is a wooden gate signed “right of way” and the path which circuits the Manse garden. Descend into Chirmat Wood and cross the Middleton North Burn by the planked bridge. The partially wood-covered path curves left (east) to exit the wood at a minor Tarmac road.

Continue downhill to the entrance to Currie Wood (signposted Woodland Trust Scotland) just before the confluence of the Middleton North and Middleton South Burns. Turn right into the wooded sandstone ravine of the Middleton South Burn. Keep uphill at a signpost. The partially stepped duckboard path gently climbs to a wooden footbridge across the burn, at the far side of which the route is clearly waymarked.

The path heads up the north bank then levels off. Look out for a post with a Scotsway Arrow from where there is a there-and-back minor path detour to higher ground. Clear the forest by a log across a barbed wire fence. Cross over and continue NE on a grassy path/track to reach a grassy knoll which offers superb views of both castle and railway and with the distant Pentlands as a backdrop. Return to the main path, ignore a confusing post, and continue to the edge of the woodland and then turn sharp left. Pass through two close-by gates and so by the side of the burn to exit the wood.

Turn right then left, for a stroll on the minor road heading to a Y-junction by the former railway cottages. On this far point close by the railway, the enormous bank and ramparts of the castle are truly impressive. A visit to the bridge over the railway may be of interest.

Head south across the Gore Water to reach the primary school, then turn left back to the church. n