Sunny au­tumn ram­bles bor­der­ing on sub­lime

East Kilbride News - - CLUB NEWS - James McGowan

Dun­can­rig Ram­blers trav­elled to­wards Mel­rose for two walks on a lovely au­tum­nal day.

The high walk was a tra­verse of the Eil­don Hills from Bow­den­foot in the south west to Tweed­bank in the north.

Since it was a lovely clear day the group had won­der­ful views of the ever-chang­ing panorama of the Borders land­scape.

Af­ter the north­ern of the sum­mits, the group tracked down­hill and had a re­lax­ing ram­ble along the River Tweed via New­stead.

The triple peaks of the Eil­don Hills are the most dis­tinc­tive sin­gle land­mark in the Scot­tish Borders.

In the 1st cen­tury, the Ro­man army built the mas­sive fort of Tri­mon­tium, named af­ter the three peaks, at the foot of the hill on the bank of the River Tweed.

There is some ev­i­dence that prehistoric peo­ples re­garded the Eil­don Hills as a holy place and schol­ars be­lieve they may have been a place of cer­e­mo­nial gath­er­ings.

There are sev­eral holy springs around the base of the hills, now ded­i­cated to Chris­tian saints, but prob­a­bly orig­i­nally sa­cred to Celtic deities.

New­stead is re­put­edly the old­est con­tin­u­ally-in­hab­ited set­tle­ment in Scot­land. Build­ings were in­hab­ited by the lo­cals who pro­vided for the needs of the sol­diers when the Ro­mans were there, and the peo­ple who re­mained when the Ro­mans went back south con­tin­ued to live there.

The al­ter­nate walk started at Mel­rose and fol­lowed a sec­tion of St Cuth­bert’s Way from the town to Mer­toun Bridge.

The group had a steady rise out of Mel­rose and passed be­tween the Eil­don Hills be­fore head­ing down­hill into the his­toric vil­lage of Bow­den and fol­low­ing the path to St Boswells and then a nice stroll be­side the River Tweed to the Mer­toun Bridge.

In the 7th cen­tury, Northum­bria was ruled by the pa­gan leader Oswald who, upon con­vert­ing to Chris­tian­ity, es­tab­lished, with the help of St Ai­dan, a monastery at Lind­is­farne.

Un­der his lead­er­ship a monastery was built at Old Mel­rose.

One of the monks from this new re­li­gious cen­tre was Boisil and it was he who gave his name to the vil­lage and par­ish of Saint Boswells.

It is sug­gested that some of the dwellings were on the flat haugh be­low Ben­rig – a good site but prone to flood­ing – which may ex­plain why they even­tu­ally moved to the higher ground at Les­sud­den (the place of Ai­dan) and the present site of St Boswells.

Mer­toun Bridge was built af­ter an Act of Par­lia­ment au­tho­rised the build­ing of a bridge was passed in 1837. It was de­signed by James Slight of Ed­in­burgh.

Although the orig­i­nal de­sign was for a bridge built en­tirely of stone, it was even­tu­ally built with stone piers and wooden arches but with suf­fi­ciently strong piers and abut­ments to al­low stone arches to be used in the fu­ture.

A flood in Septem­ber 1839 washed away all the wooden parts. It was re­built be­tween 1839 and 1841 by Wil­liam Smith of Mon­trose, with the piers raised by two feet com­pared with the orig­i­nal de­sign.

The stone arches were added in 1887 and the bridge is a Cat­e­gory B listed build­ing.

Both groups then en­joyed their so­cial hour in Mel­rose.

The next walk is to Glen Ogle this Sun­day. Check out www. dun­can­ for de­tails on all club ac­tiv­i­ties, vis­i­tors wel­come.

Scenic treks Dun­can­rig Ram­blers by the River Tweed, top, and the high group at Eil­don Hill sum­mit, above

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