As a fan of hill walking, I was delighted to hear of the staging of the inaugral Hawick Walking Festival. With such a wealth of beautiful countryside right on the doorstep, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to enjoy the Borders and meet some interesting people in the process.
Held in conjunction with Hawick Summer Festival, the weekend was launched following the success of the Scottish Borders Walking Festival, with the aim of highlighting the fantastic walking routes available around Hawick.
I’d chosen the 9.5-mile Peniel Heugh route as it was an area I’d yet to explore. So after registering at the St Mary’s and Old Parish Church hall we boarded the bus, and a group of about 20 of us were dropped off at Harestanes, while the other half headed for Jedburgh to walk to Denholm via Ruberslaw.
With a shared passion for the great outdoors, walkers always have lots to talk about, and it didn’t take long for a sense of camaraderie to set in. Our leader for the day, Margaret Smith, is an active member of the Hawick 50+ Walking Group, so as we made our way from Harestanes up through the woods to begin the gradual climb to Peniel Heugh, I knew I was in safe hands.
Built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo between 1817 and 1824, Teries will be familiar with the 150 foot tower that provides a landmark for many striking views around the Borders skyline. Even with rain clouds looming overhead, the 360-degree vista from the top was breathtaking.
We descended the hill via Barons Folly and trekked to St Cuthberts Way, visiting Lady Lilliard’s grave along the way. According to folklore, during the Battle of Ancrum in 1545, Lady Lilliard slayed dozens of English soldiers to avenge her lover’s death, and the plaque on her grave states: ‘When her legs were cut off, she fought upon her stumps.’
After dodging a herd of curious cows, next we headed for the Douglas Mausoleum. The dome was built in 1830 on Lilliards Edge to house the remains of Sir William Douglas, and legend has it he commissioned the building before he passed away. If you’re feeling brave, the dark tomb can now be entered via the back door. It’s worth a peek, if only to see the amazing star-studded ceiling from the inside.
We then took the old Coffin Road to Ancrum to get the bus home, but not before nipping into the Cross Keyes to share walking stories and refreshments after a fantastic day in the hills. I have no doubt that the Hawick Walking Festival will become a permanent fixture on the events calendar, and hope that many more visitors get to enjoy the beautiful countryside around the town for years to come.