Many a walk can utilise the green credentials of the Borders Railway (half-hourly six days a week, hourly on Sundays); in this instance starting from the Tweedbank terminus, midway between Galashiels and Melrose.
Having studied the booklet, Paths around Abbotsford (contact Scottish Borders Council, telephone 0300 100 1800) I devised a circular anti-clockwise route passing by Abbotsford, Cauldshiels Loch and Rhymer’s Glen. The walk follows part of the signposted 68-mile Borders Abbeys Way (BAW) that links the four ruined abbeys at Melrose, Kelso, Jedburgh and Dryburgh.
I explored the walk in late October, experiencing a truly Keats autumn day of mists and mellow fruitfulness, with the early morning low mist only hinting at distant views.
Indeed, on the minor road walk to Cauldshiels Loch, the sudden emergence of passing walkers made the stroll all the more atmospheric. The mist-enshrouded tranquil loch was hidden until but a few yards distant, yet within minutes the sun broke through and the cloudy curtain started to rise. Reputed to be bottomless, the loch is allegedly home to a water kelpie but, as the extent of the tranquil loch gradually became clear, it was a swan that serenely emerged from the mist. What a day to remember.
Map Ordnance Survey map 73, Peebles, Galashiels & Selkirk
Distance 7 miles
Terrain Waymarked paths and minor roads
Start point Tweedbank railway station
Time 3 hours
Nearest town Melrose
Refreshment spot Abbotsford visitor centre restaurant
From the station turn sharp right and follow the path that goes alongside the railway line, heading back for ¼ mile to the Redbrick Viaduct across the Tweed. Turn left, signposted “public path”, and by now on the BAW. At a path junction slant right to reach the lovely mixed-woodland banks of the river from where there are good views back to the viaduct.
An underpass avoids crossing the A6091, after which a broad track leads to the Abbotsford visitor centre – and restaurant. Cross the B6360, from where the minor Tarmac road rises southwards to Cauldshiels Loch; a twisting, though BAW-signed approach, albeit at a sharp turn right the BAW signed telegraph pole may not be immediately obvious. Nearing the loch, turn left, leaving the road for a forestry track which gently rises past a felled area. At a lorry turning area, slant left through a gate and down a lovely path to the loch.
Time to leave the BAW. Turn left by the Melrose Paths sign and traverse the glorious north bank path where I met mother and daughter, Julie and Kate, also with cameras to hand. At the east end of the loch turn left by a gate, signed Melrose Paths, and follow a drystane dyke. Now into open country, Bowden Moor, ahead lie the Eildon Hills. For seven years Thomas the Rhymer lived with the Queen of the Fairies deep within the hollow hills – but that is another story.
At a wooden sign, Melrose via Rhymer’s Glen, turn left to enter Mars Lee Wood. The top section is of tall conifers which give an immediate mysteriously dark, though signposted, entry to a broad track. With the Huntly Burn on the right, it is a secluded curving descent – but where is Thomas? Only one runner, John McGillivray, passed me by.
Reach a road and turn right – no signs – and descend past the long stay car park of Borders General Hospital and so to the A6091, the Melrose bypass. Use the subway to reach the north side; a point where the bridge of the old Melrose railway can be identified. Turn left up Ley Road and follow the line of the old track bed parallel to the A6091. Continue to a minor road, cross over and enter Darnick Community Woodland, with its lovely, grassy paths.
At the north end of the wood, cross the old Melrose road with care and follow the pavement by the road to Gattonside. Just before the bridge over the Tweed, turn left as signed, “Tweedbank station ½ mile” – and so by the Tarmac old trackbed to return to the terminus.