Coldstream and The Hirsel

12th July 2016


It’s been a while I know, but here’s another ramble…..I promise to try and pick up the pace a bit and walk more!!  That’s enough about that!

This morning we followed a walk from a little book called ‘The Scottish Borders – 40 favourite walks’ by Robbie Porteous.  Part of it we’ve done before and you can read about it here: The Hirsel Country Park.  This walk begins in the town of Coldstream and wends its way along the banks of the River Tweed and through Dundock Woods before reaching The Hirsel.

I hope you enjoy reading about it!


Coldstream and The Hirsel  (7.5 miles including getting a bit lost at the end…)

Coldstream lies on the north side of the River Tweed, very close to the English border and marks the lowest point at which the river can be crossed.  In the past, this meant that the village settlement was continually in the way when invading armies from both Scotland and England crossed the border!  In 1650 Monck’s Regiment of Foot – part of Cromwell’s New Model Army came into being – known as The Coldstream Guards – they are now the oldest regiment in continuous existence in the country.

We park next to the Castle Hotel and walk along the main road to the entrance to The Lees Estate following the footpath towards the river.  The Lees appears to be a private estate, a beautiful house with public footpaths traversing it’s stunning grounds.  We turn left at the river and, after admiring the views, walk along the bank to  visit the Lees Temple – an octagonal 18th century gazebo, now fenced off due to its perilous state.  It sits high on the river bank overlooking one of the Tweed’s most important fishing spots, the Temple Pool.

View across the Tweed from the Lees Estate
Lees Temple

Having admired the temple, we retrace our footsteps and follow the riverside path in the opposite direction.  The river itself seems very shallow here and we notice a flock of Canada Geese some of whom appear to be standing in the water.  As well as the geese, there are swans, ducks and oystercatchers.

Canada Geese
Oyster Catchers
Oystercatcher in shallow water.

The river bank is lined with gorse and reeds and, what might be Himalayan Balsam, a very invasive ‘naturalised’ foreigner which reproduces by exploding its seed capsules. DSCN3310.JPGWe think we catch sight of a Sedge Warbler in amongst the reeds but it’s too quick for me to get a picture, and then, to our right high up in the hedge we hear an unusual birdsong and eventually catch sight of a small, blackheaded bird we’ve never seen before.  We have to wait till we get home to look it up – it’s a male Reed Bunting, about the size of a sparrow but with a black head and distinctive white collar.

Male Reed Bunting

As we leave the Lees Estate and head for the riverside footpath we pass a ‘copse’ of fairly newly planted oak trees, very close together we think. They’re almost certainly English Oak trees and, if left alone will grow to around 115 feet high – maybe the gardener is going to thin them out soon!

Some interesting fungi as well:

I’ve no idea what these are – I only have a book of edible fungi and these don’t look like they’re in it….any ideas anyone?

Also some flat grey-blue lichen in the grass:

I believe that this is ‘dog lichen’,  a lichenised fungi often found in lawns.  Dog lichen thrives in nutrient-poor soil which is compacted and poorly drained and is, as you can see in the second picture here usually accompanied by moss.

A little further along the riverside and we pass by a field of winter wheat, bluey-green and shimmering in the wind.  This is a hard wheat with a high gluten content and is used to make flour for bread:

It’s a lovely day for strolling along the river and the views are stunning:


The fishermen are enjoying it too.  We pass several along the way, mostly on the opposite bank and when we hear shouts of glee we step nearer the edge and peer across to see what’s going on.  Two fishermen have caught an enormous salmon……even from our side of the river it looks huge and the men are ecstatic, fairly dancing around and shaking each other’s hands. Here they are – anonymised – with their catch…..I feel sad for the salmon which I shouldn’t do really as salmon is what we’re having for tea tonight!!

DSCN3335.JPGJust before this event we have passed a fishing hut called ‘Lower North Wark’, a quick look at the internet later tells us that this is a good fishing spot about 3 miles from Coldstream.

Wark is in fact a village or hamlet, with just a few house now, but in medieval times it was the location of one of the the most strategically important castles in the country and the site of frequent battles and skirmishes (more info about the castle at:

We carry on along the river until we reach Fireburnmill farm where we turn inland and uphill, heading towards the busy A698 which we cross to enter Dundock Wood, part of The Hirsel Estate.  We’re too late to see the rhododendrons in flower, but the wood is full of them – planted in the 1880s by the 12th Earl of Home, who ordered cartloads of peat brought from the Lammermuir Hills to provide appropriate soil conditions for them.

We walk along the very muddy woodland paths, alongside the lake until we reach the visitor centre which has a lovely cafe – the perfect place to stop for lunch.

Suitably refreshed we make our way along the Dunglass Walk which we’ve followed before, through the estate, past Hirsel House – still home to the Home family – and down over the steep wooded path to the Leet Water.

Once over the bridge we turn right and follow the river all the way along to the golf course which straddles it.  It’s here I see one of the few butterflies I’ve seen today:

The Woodland Brown – a comparatively lethargic species which enjoys basking in woodland clearings.

Our instructions tell us that we carry on following the river, through the golf course until we reach the car park in Coldstream.  So somewhere here we are meant to emerge from the tree lined greens and find our car…..we walk on and on around the course, keeping a wary eye out for stray golf balls – but can see no way out.  Eventually we find a footpath through the trees and follow it for half a mile or so until we see a signpost telling us that Coldstream is in the opposite direction!  We about turn and follow the muddy path back again but can see no exit point until suddenly we hear children playing and reach a housing estate.  Having lost the golf course and the river by now, we plod through the estate until at last we find ourselves on the main Coldstream Road and from there we manage to locate the car park.  A bit of a disappointing end to a lovely walk.

On Pilgrims Way
On Pilgrim’s Way – Andrew Major

Artwork for Ricketyrambler by Andrew Major –

2 thoughts on “Coldstream and The Hirsel

  1. Jean Francis July 26, 2016 / 2:50 pm

    I have just updated my laptop to windows 10 and thought I would check it had retained all my emails, so have had a relaxing half hour looking back through your lovely pictures and descriptions. Thank you so much for sending them.


    • ricketyrambler July 26, 2016 / 4:24 pm

      Glad you’re still enjoying them! Hope all is well with you.


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