Walk of the Week: Minch Moor, Traquair

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THERE it was, only a couple of hundred yards away, swooping in big arcs. Not the busy search of a buzzard but the graceful glide of an eagle.

For a full ten minutes I watched. It hovered, almost still, above the moor before peeling away to find another spot, repeating the routine time and again. But I wasn't to see any prey caught. Instead, the hunter was off, swift as a dart, towards Ettrick.

It was unusual to see this iconic bird in this part of Scotland. But a walk along the Southern Upland Way offers the chance to spot wildlife, whether it be curlew, crossbills or grouse.

The Minchmoor Road is an ancient route across Scotland and passes the Cheese Well, where an offering of cheese thrown in would allow travellers to pass unmolested thanks to the protection of the fairies.

Fairies or not, the view from the top of Minch Moor is astounding. The whole of the eastern part of the Southern Uplands is laid out before you, a jumble of never-ending hills, which includes the Eildons above Melrose to the east. With these also said to be home to fairies, it's a wonder there is any room left for the wildlife.

Distance

5 miles. Height climbed 1,350ft.

Time

3-4 hours.

Map

OS Landranger 73.

Parking

Drive 1 miles south of Innerleithen on the B709 to reach Traquair. Turn left for the village hall car park.

In summary

Continue up the road from the car park. When it bends right, go straight on along a stony track. Go uphill, passing two gates and a bothy on the right, then cross a forest track. Cross another track to follow a path on the right with a Southern Upland Way marker. This leads to the Cheese Well. A few hundred yards further on leave the Way and go right at a signpost to follow a path straight up, then left, to the trig point and summit cairn on Minch Moor.

Among several paths from the summit, take the due south one (directly across from the way you arrived). This drops through heather then follows a wall for 100 yards when you go right, along a smaller path into trees. After 20 yards you go left on a more defined path that leads back below Minch Moor. At a hairpin bend go straight on through trees to the path followed on the way up and retrace your steps to the start.

Refreshments

Traquair House (01896 8303230, www.traquair.co.uk) is the oldest continually inhabited house in the country and its 1745 Cottage Restaurant serves great lunches.

While you are in the area

Two miles east of Peebles, off the A72, is Glentress Forest – mountain bike central. The Hub in the Forest (01721 721736, www.thehubintheforest.co.uk) has a shop and caf as well as offering tuition and bike hire.

&#149 This article was first published in Scotland on Sunday on 23 May.

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