What it's like
The Borders are Britain's largest patch of hill ground outside the Highlands. The Southern Uplands extend right across Scotland, from the heart of Dumfries and Galloway across virtually the whole of Borders Region to the Cheviots and northern Northumberland. Of the Southern Uplands' 80 summits of 2000ft (600m), roughly half are within Borders Region.
These are bleak, unpeopled hills. Their shaly sides only occasionally break into crag; instead their grass slopes plunge steeply to winding river valleys. The rounded ridge tops are mainly of sheep-nibbled grass, offering comfortable walking in a setting of real remoteness. Borders walking is a world of its own, with the skylarks flying, the bog-cotton shaking under the chilly wind, and a view northwards across the whole of the Scottish Lowlands.
The hill valleys shelter only a few sheep farms, and every few miles the tall grey ruin of a defensive pele tower. For 200 years, to the union of the English and Scotland in 1707, this was a lawless land of cattle thieving and incessant raiding from glen to glen and across the border into England. Today's hill paths are the routes of the rievers, the raiding warlords of old. And that fierce history is reflected in the many ruined abbeys, in the march-riding ceremonies of the border towns, and even in those same towns' tradition of Rugby football.
For the exhilarating bleakness of Borders hillwalking, try the ranges of Manor, Moffat and Ettrick: and also the Scottish side of the Cheviots, where the hills are small but steep and dotted with innumberable hill forts including a notable Roman one at Pennymuir. The Southern Upland Way gives a well-marked route through this hill country. Then in the east, it crosses the richer lowlands, where the border towns with their abbeys (all ruined in the reiving times) lie alongside the great River Tweed and its tributaries. St Cuthbert's Way from Melrose explores the Tweed paths, and the Cheviot foothills.
The region's north sea coast offers walking of a different sort. Here are intricate rock formations, sandstones and lavas, including the 'birthplace of geology' where lowland Old Red Sandstone meets the Southern Upland's greywacke at Siccar Point.
- St Mary's Loch From the historic Tibbie Shiels Inn, green paths lead around two lochs and onto the surrounding hills.
- Eildon Hills and Tweed Fairy-haunted and loved by Sir Walter Scott, the three Eildon Hills are reached on good paths from Melrose. Return alongside the wide River Tweed
- St Abbs Head A short coastal walk, with striking volcanic rock formations, from charming St Abbs village
Must see and do
- Mountain biking at Innerleithen & Glentress, considered by many as the UK's finest and most challenging. www.7stanes.gov.uk
- Traquair House oldest continuously inhabited, lies below hill paths and SU Way www.traquair.co.uk
- Ruined abbeys at Melrose, Kelso, Dryburgh, and Jedburgh
Destination County : Scottish Borders