• Graham

The weather enjoyed during the summer of 2018 had many advantages but there was one particular boon was soon apparent to this bagger of minor Marilyns. Whereas any description of little visited and consequently pathless hills often contains a warning along the lines of “an area of wet and boggy ground must be crossed.” (I refer to Bagmag 13 for full detail of the potential horror that awaits the unwary), the summer of ’18 reduced the most recalcitrant bog to a gentle elasticity and produced a surface that resembled walking on air. One such group to be beneficially affected in this way were the triple peaks of the Eildon Hills. Not that it normally resembled the boggy morass that abounds on the Pennine Moors. On the contrary, when subjected to a deluge the combination of red sandstone and marl turns the ground into a clinging clart that stains both your clothing and memory. The extent of the potential damage is witnessed by an erection of boot-scraper and scrubbing brush secured at the start of the climb, accompanied by a heart-rendering notice from the local residents asking walkers to leave the worst excesses of the hill where they found it.

The most probable start of the walk is the car park opposite Melrose Abbey which edifice, among its other attributes, is said to contain the heart of Robert the Bruce. It was also the monastic Alma Mater of St Cuthbert who, in around 665 A.D. set out to Lindisfarne to persuade the Northumbrians to embrace the version of Christianity then espoused by the Church at Rome. Therefore it is not at all surprising that the route starts by following the St Cuthbert’s Way. It crosses the town’s market square, passing, what is fast becoming an endangered species, a second-hand bookshop before diving between two houses to the foot of an extremely long set of stairs. These and a couple of field paths allow you to follow the steep path to the col between North and Mid-Eildon Hills.

The latter, being 60 feet higher than its neighbour, is the Marilyn and therefore the primary object of our attention. The path continues to spiral steeply around the hill until the top is suddenly reached and you are rewarded for your efforts with an extensive all-round view of the Southern Uplands. If you return to the col the “ruin bibbers” (to borrow Larkin’s phrase) amongst us can, while climbing North Hill, undertake an inspection of the Bronze Age and Roman remnants that abound. Once this inspection and possibly you have been exhausted, it is possible to take a variety of paths back to Melrose and if not in peak fitness, it is worth recalling the words of master mason John Morrow carved into the stonework of Melrose Abbey - Keep in mind the End, the Salvation, which, of course, refers to the pub of your choice.

It is unlikely that you will fail to distinguish the various tops of the Eildon Hills, but, when it comes to accommodation, confusion is possible. My intention was to stay at the Gordon Arms in the Yarrow Valley, an excellent hotel which I had previously visited. After fighting my way through the likes of Trivago and its ilk I discovered a contact number and made the necessary booking. Night and rain were beginning to fall in equal proportion when we arrived only to be informed that I had booked, not with them, but in all likelihood at the Gordon Arms in West Linton, some hour’s drive away. Not a good start. But there were compensations. The other Gordon Arms is also an excellent pub with a good range of cask ales and extremely friendly staff.

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