Blackadder Water, Blackcastle Rings and the Mountain Sheep of Deil’s Neuk

Blackadder Water

22nd January 2017

Here we are again!

A shortish riverside walk from Greenlaw through a beautiful glacial valley, a climb up to an iron age fort and a cup of tea at the Deil’s Neuk. There was mist and drizzle, sleet and snow.  We saw deer and dippers and lots and lots of sheep.

Who knew there was such excitement – just along the road!


Julie x

Greenlaw Dean and the Blackcastle Rings (3.5 miles)

(adapted from Robbie Porteous’s little book – The Scottish Borders: 40 favourite walks)

We start at Greenlaw which is a small town just 10 minutes in the car from us. It was once the county town of Berwickshire until that job went to Duns in 1904.  Following the road through a holiday caravan park and alongside the Blackadder Water we soon enter a small wood, taking the muddy track through it until we emerge onto a farm track. From here we can see the river course as it flows through the valley and we pause on the bridge to take in the view.

Greenlaw Dean

A tree apparently sprouting from an old concrete slab catches our attention – looking around, its obvious that there used to be a stream flowing beneath here.


Continuing along the narrow, muddy path we follow the river along the valley floor until we reach a wide track heading uphill alongside a wide ravine.  From here we walk along a narrow path high above the river and can look down on this glacial valley, which was formed around 12,000 years ago.

Blackadder Water as it flows through Greenlaw Dean

As we ramble on, a large flock of geese fly down the valley.  They probably come from Greenlaw Moor, where a natural loch named Hule Moss is known to support an overwintering roost of pink footed geese. The Moor is classified as a site of special scientific interest. DSCN4481.JPG

We also spot three deer down below us in the valley crossing the river and disappearing into the trees:

Eventually we reach the steep sided ravine known as Deil’s Neuk (Devil’s Nook) at the top of which are the Blackcastle Rings – earthwork ramparts of an Iron Age Promontory Fort and home to many mountaineering sheep.



Blackcastle Rings: Here you can clearly see the earthworks which form the ramparts of the fort

In 1857, the Reverend Mr Walker took the members of the Berwickshire Naturalists Club along the valley to the fort and gives a very nice description of it:

“An encampment, called the “Black Castle Ring,” very perfect, situated on the high                    grounds, was the next object of interest. On three sides there is an outer ditch, then a high dyke of earth, then a wide fosse, and then again an inner dyke – a large flat piece of rich-grass ground forming the centre. On the other side is a broken bank, very precipitous, 100 feet and more above the river, from which the camp was quite inaccessible”.                           ( )

As we explore, a drizzly rain begins and quickly turns to sleet and then snow starts to fall.  We decide to take shelter amongst the pine trees along with the sheep and have a cup of tea.

Down below we can see the meeting point of Blackadder Water and Fangrist Burn:


Our way now takes us down through the narrow steep sided Deil’s Neuk and back to the riverbank.  The sheep find climbing about on these valley sides much easier than I do!

Deil’s Neuk – looking down
Deil’s Neuk – looking up




Finally we reach the bottom and start to make our way along the riverbank, which is steep sided and squelchy and slippy with red sandstone mud. We spot a pair of dippers darting up and down the river and follow them downstream for a while before finally managing to catch one of them on camera:

Dipper – likes upland streams and rivers and picks small invertebrates, flies and mayflies from the river beds.
Dipper – a plump little bird which is frequently found bobbing about on rocks in the water.

As we walk on back along the river path to Greenlaw we decide we like this walk, despite the drizzly cold rain that continues to fall, and will definitely come back in the Spring.


(59.5 miles completed – 939.5 to go!)

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