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75. Black Middens Bastle

start: Kielder Dam
distance: 19 miles
OS map: 80

Black Middens Bastle route mapA reasonably short route but one that has a good deal of interest. Much of it is off-road and on forest tracks. There's a car park on the far side of Kielder Dam or, alternatively, you can start from a small (but free) parking area at the south end of the dam.

A track leads E from the main car park and drops steeply downhill. Look out for a R turn that takes you along the old rail route to Falstone village. If you want to go into the village then turn R under the rail bridge, but otherwise stay with the road as it contours the hillside for a way before starting to climb. The high point on the road is marked by a stand of pines and a track leads away and up to the L.

Take the track up the hillside. The gradient eases but the surface reverts to a grassy - and sometimes muddy - trail after a while as you head along towards Slaty Ford. Some way past here the track rejoins a surfaced road and, after a mile, heads steeply up to a junction.

Turn L and climb gently up to a gate. This is remote country and there are fine views in all directions. Roll downhill and go through another gate to pass St Aidan's church which, presumably, must have a fairly enthusiastic congregation for it to survive in such a place.

Turn L at the T junction and head along to Redheugh. Pass round to the L of the farm and continue until the road ends at a small parking and picnic area. A track leads NW but look for a path on the R after 500m that cuts back to cross a wooden bridge over the river. The path continues through a gate and into a field; cross it to join a surfaced road which soon brings you to another small parking area by Black Middens Bastle. To see the Bastle, a fortified farmhouse, you'll need to take the path a few hundred yards up the hill.

Continue along the road to a point where it swings to the right after 500m. A track crosses a bridge to head E into the forest. Pass Highfield to your L and make sure that you turn R at a fork at (751 908) to go down and cross the Highfield Burn.

The track climbs to a high point of about 340m at (717 912). Some pleasant cruising now before dropping downhill alongside the Belling Burn to join the main track along the N shore of Kielder Water and back to the dam.

jb, galashiels

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