Wild Routes

The Wild North

The Wild North

And I sall venture deep into the hills
Whaur, scaddows on the skyline, can be seen…
The beasts in wha’s wild cries a’ Scotland’s destiny thrills.
(Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Gairmscoile’)


The countryside around Moffat, in the northeast of Dumfries and Galloway, contains a number of very different wildlife sites which can be visited individually during a short break in the area or linked as part of a spectacular, circular route through the local hills. 

The focus of the itinerary is on a handful of sites around the edge of Moffat and the National Trust for Scotland’s Grey Mare’s Tail reserve in Moffat Glen, to the northeast.  The optional circular drive continues up to beautiful St Mary’s Loch, just inside the Borders region, and then drops down into the valleys of the Megget and Talla reservoirs to Tweedsmuir, returning to Moffat on the A701.  The total journey length is about 47 miles – see map.

Each of the locations featured in this itinerary provides opportunities for walks of varying lengths and grades.

The Itinerary

Start at Moffat Community Nature Reserve, just off the A701 on the southern edge of the town.  These former gravel workings boast several good standard bird hides overlooking three separate flooded habitats with good access between them on level paths.  During the winter and early spring especially, this means that there will always be a good variety of wildlife to spot.

Continue through Moffat town centre on the A701 to a mini-roundabout on the northern outskirts and fork right onto Beechgrove.  This minor road soon becomes the single track, Old Edinburgh Road and runs for about 4 miles to the Borders Forest Trust reserve at Corehead.  The last mile or so is potholed and eventually unmade track and requires careful navigation. However, the journey is worth it for the sight of the beautiful valley head to which it brings you and the chance to appreciate the conservation efforts which are being undertaken to restore the plant and wildlife diversity in this remote spot.

From the aptly named Black Barn there are several walks of varying grades to be enjoyed: from a simple wander into the historic and dramatic ampitheatre of the Devil’s Beeftub to climbing the shoulder of Tweed Hope onto the ridge line above – passing the source of the River Annan on the way - to complete a circular walk of the estate.

Back in Moffat town centre, follow signs for the A708 / Selkirk road to head northeast into the beautiful, high-sided valley of the Moffat Water, or Moffat Glen.  The road is narrow for the first 2 to 3 miles and continues to twist and turn through spectacular scenery for nearly 10 miles to the National Trust for Scotland’s Grey Mare’s Tail reserve.

There is plenty of parking here and several interpretation boards which explain the diversity of plant and wildlife on the estate.  In the summer months a trailer is usually open for visitors to view CCTV pictures of peregrine falcons which nest locally and the site manager may be on hand to describe the management of the estate and the other wildlife to be seen.

Walks include a rocky, 10-15 minute path to a view of the Grey Mare’s Tail itself, the  60m high waterfall which is the main attraction.  A longer and more strenuous path climbs up the right-hand side of the gorge, above the waterfall to tranquil Loch Skeen, usually passing one or two wild goats along the way.

For those wishing to drive the circular route back to Moffat, continue north on the A708, over the watershed which divides Dumfries & Galloway from the Borders region.   As the hills reduce in height the landscape opens up to reveal extensive views over the Loch of the Lowes which feeds into the even larger St Mary’s Loch.   

After about 7 miles, where an old AA phone box stands on the corner, take the left turn, signposted for Tweedsmuir, and enter the valley of the Megget Water.   The road quickly narrows again but there are plenty of passing places and laybys from which to enjoy views of Megget Reservoir and appreciate the sheer remoteness of this area.

A further 6 miles on the road runs over another watershed and begins the descent down into the Valley of the Talla Water.  Hold your breath and keep a foot on the brakes as a dramatic view opens to the right over Talla Reservoir.  As the road drops to the shores of the reservoir there are once again plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the view.  

3 miles on from the dam and causeway at the end of Talla Reservoir is the picturesque village of Tweedsmuir and its historic church with Sir Walter Scott associations.   Just beyond the village the road rejoins the A701 which returns south to Moffat - along the way look out for a layby which affords magnificient views down into the vast bowl of the Devil’s Beeftub.


Look for local nature-based events and walks to enhance the enjoyment of your stay by clicking here

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