An Eskdale wander

Date walked: 11/05/2019

The second weekend in May, and I still seemed to be doomed not to head north, or at least not inclined to get cold and wet and walk about in fresh snow in my leaky shoes.

Fortunately I had a southern plan in hand - when I first was looking at this area, it was on the track of Thomas Telford's early days, but checking the buses around Langholm and Bentpath led to the very surprising discovery that (although there are no buses along the fairly major road east of Moffat) buses run far enough up the very minor road north of Eskdalemuir to allow a way onto Ettrick Pen and its neighbours from the 'back'.

So that was what I set out to do, getting an early train through a misty morning to Lockerbie, where I got on a very clattery bus and surprised the driver by wanting to go further than the monastery - only to find my way blocked before Over Cassock by 'no access' signs warning of forestry operations. Not that any forestry operations actually appeared to be going on - there was a strong feel of our old friend the permanent 'shooting in progress' sign about it, and no details of places or times, but after some dithering I decided to be good, or just didn't actually feel very enthusiastic about hurrying round Donald Tops.

Looking up to Over Cassock

So it was back to plan A, only without much of a plan. If I'd been expecting to go off in search of Telford I would have looked up more carefully where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see, but I knew I had to start off by getting the bus down to Bentpath where his memorial was, and then probably head on to Langholm.

I had nothing particular to do until the next Langholm bus came along, so wandered back down the road as far as the monastery where the bus passed me heading up the way - it does all look a bit out of place in a Scottish landscape

Samye Ling monastery

The bus driver was pleased with me, because he said that people who stopped his bus there were always really trying to get to Lockerbie - the bus wanders off on an even more minor road past Castle O'er, but it was a lovely journey along the curves of the hills and the river.

The monument at Bentpath is in front of the little Westerkirk library, founded in 1793 for a local mine, and now the oldest lending library in Scotland.

Telford memorial and Westerkirk library

The information board at the library reminded me that Telford's actual birthplace was a few miles away up a side valley - I wasn't all that keen on the idea of walking right up the valley and down again, and the bus times didn't fit very well., but on the other hand I could easily go to Langholm directly another time, and I wasn't likely to be back wandering here.

My instructions from the bus driver on how to go for a walk were to head over the bridge to the church and then turn either right for Langholm or left for Eskdalemuir, so I was starting off that way regardless - a lovely setting where the river bends.

Bentpath church

A lovely old bridge, too, predating Telford, and the river running away very attractively through different kinds of trees.

River Esk

Another look at more of the map established that it should be possible to go from Glendinning over the little hills lining the valley and onto forestry tracks to come out near Eskdalemuir, which appealed more and solved the transport difficulties, so I turned north from the church, up a road with flower filled edges.

Spring flowers

A bit further on the road bends and a track goes straight on, so I took that for a change - but it turned out a bit adventurous, leading me accidentally up above a little wood and into a field of cows, so that I had a go at slithering back down the bank of trees to the better path below and got stuck halfway before clambering up again. I managed to find a way down further along, but then seemed to be stuck behind someone's garden, and had to go along a place which wasn't even really a path and through the branches of a fallen tree before reaching a farm track and returning to the road.


At the junction with the little Megdale road a wooden signpost advertised a 'Telford cairn', although it didn't say anything about it still being three and a half miles away. But it was a lovely valley for a gentle walk, smooth hills with occasional bands of trees, and just enough curves to keep you from seeing right to the end straight away.

Looking up the valley

Further up I was walking more by the Meggat Water, a nice clear burn.


Beyond Glendinning the valley splits and little hills rise up, so when I could see hills ahead I knew I was coming towards the end.

Looking to Glendinning

There's a tiny collection of buildings at the head of the valley, along with a little carpark for the Greensykes bothy - which I had no idea was there - and information boards about Telford on the one side of the burn, and the Louisa mine (original home of the library) on the other.

Telford information

After all the cold weather over the previous weeks it had suddenly turned into a glorious warm day, which hadn't really been forecast until Monday, and I had a very pleasant lazy lunchbreak sitting on a little wooden bridge.

Glendinning itself is back on the other side of the burn, across the road bridge - this tree caught my attention by looking bizarrely as if it had a tree rock musician posing on top of it...

Peculiar tree

The monument marking Telford's birthplace is a little bit up the hillside above the modern farm buildings - it's fairly new, built in 2007 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth.

Telford birthplace cairn

I didn't seem to be the first person with the idea of heading up and over - there was a clear line heading upwards, and it looked more like a walkers' path than the wheel ruts of a usual farmer's hill track.

There was a lovely view back down into the valley, and across to more tiny hills on the other side - I'd been trying to work out if there was a main hill somewhere, but kept having to look further across the map, until I realised that everything on both sides of the valley eventually ran up to Pikethaw Hill by the A7, where I'd been at the end of March.

Looking down on Glendinning

I knew I must have further to go than it looked at first, and I did come out into a lot of flatter and wetter ground before the trees, but it still wasn't far at all.


At the top of the hill is a fence corner, and the start of the trees, which I was glad to see were quite scattered - the short stretch between the open ground and the track was the doubtful part of the route, although there's usually a way through somehow.

Top of the hill

At first it was quite open but rough with old felled rubbish, and then I was into the trees and heading down one of the straight lines between them - not at all a break, but enough of a gap to let me through easily enough, and still show a tiny glimpse of light from the other end.

Heading into the trees

The far side was much more open than I expected, because everything below the track had been cleared, giving a view back towards the hills where I wasn't.

Forestry track

It would have been quick walking, except that I kept getting distracted trying to take pictures of photos of butterflies with a camera that wasn't really meant for it - orange tips aren't nearly as generous about posing as tortoiseshells.


I got distracted again by more pink cones, some kind of spruce this time rather than larch. (Sitka? Very solid needles.)

Pink cones

The tracks ran on down until I was looking over the valley to houses on the other side of the Esk - at one point I found myself walking past the blank side of one of the no access beyond this point signs, but there didn't seem to be any reason why I shouldn't have been there, and anyway no one had told me before.

Reaching the valley

At the road I had about a mile to go back up to Eskdalemuir, past an old milestone which at my best guess said that it was 13 miles to Langholm, although it was on the left hand side of the road heading north, which confused me a bit.

Old milestone

There's another nice bridge just before Eskdalemuir, although not nearly so old.

Eskdalemuir Bridge

There are actually two River Esks here, or three if you count the combined one - the Black Esk to the west, and the White Esk coming down past Eskdalemuir, which does actually look white here, although that's probably not how it got its name.

White Esk

I wandered up to the cafe at the little community centre, expecting it to shut at 4 but hoping it didn't - it turned out to shut at 4.30, but all the tables out in the sunshine were taken, and all the scones were cheese, so you can't have everything. But it was a nice rest, and they had dozens of leaflets to read!

I was quite glad to be on the earlier bus back to Lockerbie, because all the trains from there had turned into buses - it was still a very scenic journey home, but a slow one.

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Location: Edinburgh
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Place: Tarbert Loch Fyne

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