22nd May 2016
Lovely day today…..’spiffing’ – the middle son said and he was right.
We ventured out on the second of the paths around Abbotsford from the Scottish Borders Council booklet (which you can download for free from their website, or pick up for £2 at Abbotsford House). This, just over 4 mile circular route, included a linear detour to Cauldshiels Loch, a path alongside Faldonside Loch and some truly stunning views.
There are lots of woods on this route, which goes through Sir Walter Scott’s former estate lands – he was a great one for designing and planting woodland. There are also lots of hills – 90% of them going upwards!
I hope you enjoy reading about it!
Abbotsford House circular including Cauldshiels Loch (4.8 miles)
We start at the Abbotsford House visitor centre, to which we will return for tea and yummy scones later! Uphill straight away along the Borders Abbeys Way – up and up and up – which of course means two things, lots of stops for photos, and stunning views at the top.
Everything seems to be happening to the trees and flowers in the Scottish Borders at the moment, the trees have suddenly turned green and wild flowers, mostly blues and mauves at the moment, are scattered all about the verges and woodland.
We debate this little shrubby plant with the pink buds (see below), but couldn’t come up with any likely answers – I think it’s a bilberry which apparently grows abundantly in mountain forests and moors and in Scotland has been used for generations to dye paper, linen and wool purple. The berries are black with a blue grey bloom and provide food for birds, especially grouse. Next to the bilberry here, is the wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) with its delicate lilac veined petals and clover like leaf. The name ‘oxalis’ refers to the sharp acid taste of the leaves which contain calcium oxalate and were used as early as the 14th century to flavour salads and green sauces.
We linger at the viewpoint a while and then head downhill at last passing Abbotsmoss, a cottage with a very large and stunning lake covered with lily pads in the garden:
We continue along the road and around the corner following the Borders Abbeys Way until we come to a gated track. Our directions tell us to turn left through woodland to find Cauldshields Loch and we are dithering for a while trying to decide if this is the right place, especially as its uphill again! Eventually we have to give in and try it out and so up we go! The woodland here has been demolished for logs and we pass piles of them as we go, discussing whether the area will be replanted with conifers or allowed to regrow naturally.
The views are good though:
Finally we are walking downhill towards the loch which we can see ahead. Cauldshiels Loch is said to be bottomless and the home of a water kelpie – a Scottish mythical figure that can change its form, sometimes a horse which is known to drown it’s riders, and at other times human. I have a good look but it’s true, I can’t see the bottom – just the reflection of the clouds in the water – and luckily no kelpies appear while we’re there. There’s not much life at all on the Loch today apart from of the insect variety, although there is a coot swimming around by the reeds on the far side, and a little grebe is diving across the way.
We have to head back the way we came to the road which we follow – uphill for a while – and then down over a tree lined track with Faldonside Loch to our left. This loch is secluded and sheltered amongst the trees and because of this is of local importance to winter wildfowl and has been categorised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
We soon turn onto a woodland path and head (uphill!) for some time until we reach a field on the side of a steep hillside. Thankfully it’s time to go downhill, very steeply, until we reach a main road, which we cross to enter more woods. We continue walking downhill until we find ourselves on the banks of the River Tweed which we follow back towards Abbotsford just as the rain starts, a gentle shower which doesn’t make us hurry any. We take our time rambling alongside the river watching dozens of black headed gulls swooping and gliding along the river, presumably after insects as none of them is catching fish. On the way we catch sight of a heron hiding behind a sheet of corrugated iron – very strange!
A final uphill stretch and we’re back at the visitor centre and head inside for tea and scones.
Hope you enjoyed this walk – where are you walking?