Manor Hills & St Mary’s Loch

Take a walk through the myths, le­gends, his­tory and high places of the South­ern Up­lands – with Jen and Sim Ben­son.

Trail (UK) - - Southern Uplands -

Leg­end has it that St Mary's Loch de­scends for­ever into the un­der­world of the Scot­tish Borders. In 1807 poet James Hogg sug­gested it con­tained a ter­ri­fy­ing wa­ter-cow, a crea­ture ca­pa­ble of as­sum­ing mul­ti­ple forms that would en­tice peo­ple to the wa­ter’s edge be­fore drag­ging them un­der. Hogg him­self was a lo­cal man, who fre­quented the nearby 18th-cen­tury coach­ing inn, the Tib­bie Shiels. Wa­ter-cows aside, this is a very pleas­ant place to walk, and the South­ern Up­land Way and Sir Wal­ter Scott Way both tra­verse its shores. Tak­ing its name from the church of St Mary, which once stood on the north­ern shore, it's the largest nat­u­ral loch in the Scot­tish Borders, and sup­pos­edly the cold­est, stretch­ing 3 miles along the glacial Yar­row Val­ley.

Our walk be­gins on the South­ern Up­land Way, tak­ing in part of the 212 mile coast-to­coast route be­tween Port­patrick in the west, and Cock­burnspath in the east. Af­ter sev­eral miles we leave the Way and wind through dense for­est at Black­house – named af­ter a tra­di­tional Scot­tish dwelling with dry­s­tone walls and a thatched roof – be­fore emerg­ing onto open moun­tain ter­rain. Look out for the ru­ins of Black­house Tower, on the banks of Dou­glas Burn; Black­house was a strong­hold of Sir James ‘The Good’ Cap­tain, friend and loyal sup­porter of Robert the Bruce. In good weather there are glo­ri­ous views from the long ridge be­tween Stake Law and Broomy Law, a rolling suc­ces­sion of won­der­ful tops in­clud­ing Dun Rig – the high­est point on the walk at 744 me­tres.

The Tib­bie Shiels Inn on St Mary's Loch.

A South­ern Up­land Way marker post on the track. head­ing north-east

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