The Borders

Twelve years ago, I spent a very enjoyable four days on St Cuthbert’s Way, a long-distance walk crossing the border between England and Scotland.

The walk officially goes from Melrose (where Cuthbert was prior of the abbey) to Holy Island (where he was bishop of Northumbria). In fact the causeway to Holy Island is only passable at low tide, which dictated that we had to do the walk in the reverse direction, leaving Holy Island not by the causeway but by the Pilgrims’ Way across the sand (marked by tall poles). The border is crossed near Kirk Yetholm, about the halfway point of the route, which is also the northern terminus of the Pennine Way.

St Cuthbert lived in the 7th century, but most of the architectural remains date from half a millennium or more later. But Melrose is even older; it was the Roman town of Trimontium, and if you see the three peaks of the Eildon Hills lined up above the town, you understand where the name came from. (The name Melrose is British, as are many Scottish placenames, especially in the Borders.) The hills form a barrier which the path has to cross, but it uses a pass between the eastern and middle summit and so avoids quite a climb.

Incidentally, Trimontium is one of a very few Roman place-names which are known for Britain. It was such a remote outpost of empire that not much detail was recorded.

The town of Melrose is on the river Tweed, just east of Galashiels and Tweedbank. In September, it is planned that Scotland’s newest railway, the Borders Railway (actually a rebuild of 30 miles of the 100 mile Waverley Line from Edinburgh to Carlisle, closed in 1969) will open, from Edinburgh to Tweedbank. This will make this lovely walking country more accessible.

The line will pass through Newcraighall, which currently is the terminus of the Fife Circle(!). Presumably turning the trains there saves the need to park them in the rather cramped Edinburgh Waverley station. I have no idea whether they plan that Fife Circle trains will continue to Tweedbank. But the Fife Circle doesn’t come very far north, so either way will involve a change.

I was looking up the Waverley Line on Wikipedia yesterday. Their account of the modern rebuilding is a must-read. The things that went wrong are not on the scale of the infamous Edinburgh Tram, but the list of delays and cost increases suggests that once the original decision had been taken (by 114 votes to 1 in the Scottish parliament), nobody bothered to keep a watch on what was going on.

Politics alert: If the SNP can screw up a simple job like this so badly, can they really be trusted to run a country?

About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
This entry was posted in geography, history, maybe politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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