Scottish fact of the week: The Devil’s Beef Tub

The Devil’s Beef Tub is one of the south of Scotland’s most striking landmarks.
The Devil's Beef Tub. Picture: ContributedThe Devil's Beef Tub. Picture: Contributed
The Devil's Beef Tub. Picture: Contributed

Situated five miles north of the border town of Moffat, this cavernous landscape hollow is nestled between the peaks of Annanhead Hill, Peat Hill, Great Knowe and Ercistane Hill - while the waters of the Annan River flow through its valleys.

Sir Walter Scott captured the location and appearance of the Beef Tub in his novel ‘The Red Gauntlet’ as he wrote: “It looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A damned deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is.”

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Known today as a site of tranquillity and stunning scenery frequented by walkers, runner and paragliders, the Devil’s Beeftub is equally renowned as a place drenched in intriguing history.

The landmark’s unusual name is derived from its use as the hiding place for cattle stolen by the notorious Border Reivers, otherwise known as the Johnstone clan, who were commonly referred to by their enemies as ‘devils’.

William Wallace is reputed to have used the concealed hollows of the Devil’s Beef Tub for covert gatherings with men from the Border Clans and the Ettrick Forest ahead of his first attack against the English in 1297, and the bottom of the hollow is also known to be the grave of martyred covenanter John Hunter who was shot and killed at the site by Colonel Douglas in 1685 for his ‘adherence to the word of God’.

Today, the Devil’s Beef Tub lies within the 1,580 acre scope of Corehead Farm, owned by the Borders Forest Trust. The vast environment of native woodlands and heather moors are continually nurtured by ecological restoration and agricultural development projects with one key aim being for the site to provide a habitat for returning Scottish wildlife such as the golden eagle, mountain hare and black grouse.