Historic walk to Dolphinton

Time – 2 hours
Distance – 6.5 km/4 miles (one way)

A walk on level ground from West Linton along to Dolphinton and back with fine views. This walk includes notes on landmarks of historic interest along the way originally prepared by the West Linton Tourist Group. See route B6 for an alternative return leg. Good, level and well marked paths all the way.

Route: Start/finish: West Linton/Dolphinton

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Leaving the village, turn left onto the A702 heading south and take the first turning right signposted to Baddinsgill [1]. Proceed up the road for 1 km then turn left (footpaths signposted to ‘Dolphinton, Dunsyre and Garvald’, and ‘Boston Cottage’), pass the Golf Club [2] and walk straight on along the tarmac road.

You are now on the former coach road that was the main route from Edinburgh to Biggar for many centuries before the A702 was opened in 1834. This largely follows the course of a roman road that ran along the foot of the Pentland Hills linking the Border forts to Inveresk and the Forth estuary. Aerial photography has revealed the site of a large marching camp lying to the left across the land now occupied by the golf course.

Where the tarmac road turns sharp right [3] 400m from the clubhouse, leave the road and head along a track (signposted ‘Dolphinton and Mendick Hill’). At this point, look for the remains of an old Inn that stood near the road to Linton and the route south via Moffat. After crossing the West Water by the old bridge [4, pictured below] the track winds its way to Slipperfield.

Cross the farm road and continue forward, skirting Mendick Hill, a local landmark which traditionally is climbed on New Year’s morning. 1km further on, the cottage of Hardgatehead [5] is passed on the left. It was here in 1585 that a group of noblemen – the Rebel Lords – met in order to plan the recapture of the young James VI. The plan failed and the leader, the Earl of Gowrie, was later executed.

From this stretch of the track the beauty and interest of the surrounding landscape becomes apparent. In the immediate foreground can be seen undulating land indicative of sand and gravel deposits, the geological legacy of the last Ice Age in Scotland. Here several archaeological remains and interesting examples of wetland flora may be found. Beyond it stretches the unspoilt view of the scenic Tweeddale uplands towards the Border Hills and Broughton Heights.

It is not difficult to imagine some of the more notable characters of the past travelling along this stretch – Edward I of England, bent on subjugation, with his army marching along to Ayr in 1298, or Mary Queen of Scots on her journey to Biggar in 1567 to meet 18,000 of her loyal subjects as part of her marriage celebrations. The exiled Charles X of France, the last Bourbon King, came to shoot over the moors here, while both Burns and Scott visited the area.

The next farm en route is that of Ingraston [6], a name of Norse origin as is that of Dolphinton. In the 18th Century the land here was farmed by the Alexander brothers who were both killed simultaneously, so the story goes, by adder bites. Inseparable in life they are shown together in death with intertwined arms on a remarkable tombstone in West Linton Old Kirkyard.

The track reaches a junction 500m after Ingraston. Keep ahead/left here to pass the Nick Quarry. A short distance further on is the Old Toll House [7], the 18th Century facade of which has been retained. All vehicles, drovers and travellers passing into Peeblesshire from Lanarkshire by this route would be liable to pay a toll and receive a docket that would exempt them from further tolls within the county. Failure to pay the proper dues would result in a heavy penalty.

On approaching the eastern fringes of Dolphinton, you reach the Garvald minor road – turn left here towards the A702 noting the old Caledonian Railway station on the left. There is a bus service (Stagecoach 100/101/102) along the A702 back West Linton and timetables are obtainable at West Linton Post Office or online. 

Alternatively, to walk back to West Linton, return the way you came, or turn right on reaching the Garvald road and walk 150m as far as the entrance to the Karecole Stables. 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 and follow the public road, after 1.5 km passing Garvald accommodation and workshops, continuing along to Garvald Home Farm.

At the far end of the farm buildings, turn right, signposted ‘West Linton 4 miles’, 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 and head up a gentle slop with woods to your right. This route takes you back to West Linton via the Golf Course and is described in full in walk B6 – ‘Prehistoric Walk to West Linton’

Historic walk to Dolphinton