Prehistoric from Dolphinton

Time – 2 hours
Distance – 7.5 km/4.5 miles (one way)

A walk back to West Linton from Dolphinton via Garvald through a prehistoric landscape. This walk includes notes on landmarks of historic interest along the way originally prepared by the West Linton Tourist Group. The route can form the return leg of a circular walk in conjunction with walk B7 – ‘Historic Walk to Dolphinton’. Mostly good and well marked paths with gentle undulations and no major ascents or descents.

Route: Start/finish: Dolphinton/ West Linton

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Start from Dolphinton at the turn off the A702 to Garvald [1]. Opposite the turning is a conical mound on the summit of which stands a First World War monument. Digging the foundations of this revealed an early Iron Age stone cist containing bones and fragments of iron. Tradition has it that the mound was created by the Border Wizard, Michael Scott, working with the Devil himself. A stream at the base bears the name the “De’ils Tears”. 

Walk 300m up the minor road towards Garvald as far as the entrance to the Karecole Stables [2]. From the stable gates, head NW through the gate way-marked to ‘Garvald’, passing alongside the stables then bearing slightly right to head diagonally across a field and along an avenue of trees to reach the Garvald road by a sharp left hand bend by a lodge house. Turn right here [3] to follow the public road towards Garvald, after 1.5 km passing the Garvald accommodation and workshops and continuing along to Garvald Home Farm.

At the far end of the farm buildings [4], turn right, signposted ‘West Linton’, and continue up to Medwynbank, keeping straight ahead where the road splits, passing through the low stone gateposts and onwards with the house to your left and a pond to your right. Just past the end of the pond, turn right onto a waymarked track [5] and head up a gentle slope with woods to your right.

This track passes through an ancient landscape occupied from the earliest times as evidenced by the number of prehistoric burial cairns to be found along the way. Unfortunately two of the cairns no longer exist, having been destroyed in the last century. In one of them was found a short sword and a stone urn containing ashes, both of prehistoric date.

The site of a cairn just north of the farm buildings can still be seen as a level circular patch of fine grass which contrasts with the neighbouring rough pasture. Other cairns along the route are still visible and the number of them in close proximity makes this walk unique in the Borders. Half a mile further on and 100m from the track lies the Nether Cairn, a massive structure 40m in diameter and 10m in height . This Cairn is the best preserved of its kind in the county and appears to be untouched.

After passing several smaller and overgrown cairns, 700m further on lies the Upper Cairn, which has been robbed for stones but still measures an impressive 60m diameter and 12m in height. A further smaller cairn lies a short way on, together with the Rumbling Well. Visible around the Cairn is a cairn field consisting of 50 or so small cairns, probably prehistoric, while to the right of Little Mendick Hill is situated a ring enclosure 30m in diameter, thought to have been constructed to serve some ritual or funerary purpose.

This ancient routeway traverses a pass between the North Muir and Mendick Hill known as “The Garral” at an average height of about 300m. In the 18th Century the Garral was the venue for Conventicles, outlawed gatherings of Covenanters who met secretly in remote locations in order to worship according to their beliefs. The upland landscape is enlivened by a variety of moorland and other birds, and by the number of species of flora to be found, notably groupings of mountain pansies and other protected alpine species.

The name of the hill ‘Mendick’ is unusual and may originate in two words – “menyie” – a group of followers or troops – and “dicht” – a blow or defeat, redolent perhaps of some long forgotten skirmish between native clans and Roman troops from the nearby marching camps and the roman road.

The track eventually joins the road from the West Water reservoir to North Slipperfield and the golf course [6]. Turn right here and head downhill and across the golf course. On the final stretch near the golf club house, on a small knoll to the left, is the reconstruction of a Bronze Age Cist Cemetery. The original burial site was exposed at low water in 1993 at the edge of the West Water reservoir. Excavation revealed nine stone cists containing a number of artefacts [7]. These included some early decorated pots, and two necklaces buried with a child, one of which, made of lead, was found to be the earliest example of worked lead to have been discovered in Britain. The cemetery has been relocated in its original layout form accompanied by an explanatory story-board.

Turn right once past the golf course [8] onto the tarmac road and walk downhill. Passing sites of the famous Linton Market and the Old Brighouse Inn, the route reaches the A702 and West Linton

Prehistoric from Dolphinton