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37. Craik

start: Tushielaw Inn
distance: 36 miles
OS map: 79

Craik route mapA fairly long and reasonably strenuous route on minor roads and forest tracks. Part of the route follows an old Roman road which goes through Craik Forest and over Craik Cross Hill. There's a section requiring a downhill push and you'll also need to wade a river but there's an optional tea stop at a Tibetan monastery - honest!

Start at the Tushielaw Inn. This can be reached from Selkirk by going up the Ettrick valley, from Hawick by going through Roberton or from Langholm by going through Eskdalemuir (in the latter case, though, you'd be going over the same ground twice and so might be better to start from Eskdalemuir). The grid reference for the Tushielaw Inn is (303 177). Head for Hawick on the B711 following the Rankle Burn. After five miles or so you'll come to an entrance to Craik forest on the R at (366 157). There's a cairn here at the place where the old Redfordgreen School used to be - a fairly bleak spot in winter, I'd think.

Anyway, head into the forest here. You'll see a small loch through the trees on your L before coming to Kingside Loch. There's been a lot of clearcutting around here. Another couple of miles or so will bring you to a junction at (330 105). Turn L heading for Craik. There are quite a few marked trails in Craik for cyclists, walkers and horse riders. Forestry Enterprise produces a free map which shows them - address on the info page. You're looking for a trail on the R just before the car park at Craik. There are two close together - you want the second one which is marked for red, purple and green cycle routes. The purple and red routes diverge after a while and it's the green one that takes you SW and upwards to what was a Roman signal station on the top of Craik Cross Hill. In wet weather the last couple of hundred or so metres can be soft going. Fine views from the top in all directions - this is the high point of the route.

Now for the downhill push. This is the boundary of Craik Forest but the course of the old Roman road continues ahead and downhill. The Scottish Rights of Way Society publishes a book called 'Scottish Hill Tracks'. It suggests that this particular route may have gone from Eskdalemuir to Hawick, and possibly linking the Annandale Roman road with Dere Street. Maybe it was in better nick then because it's pretty well overgrown now. I found it easier to push down here - on your L is a clearcut area and you're aiming for where it finishes and forest starts again after about 400 metres. The course of the Roman road goes straight on but when you get to the edge of the trees, go over the fence and there's another downhill push of about 400 metres following what was a firebreak downhill to join a forest track at (304 042). Turn R.

Ignore a track on the L after 100m and continue for a couple of miles to a T junction. Turn L and downhill to some disused buildings at Raeburnhead. From here, head SW to Raeburnside and on to Raeburnfoot and the site of a Roman fort. My map shows a bridge over the Esk but it doesn't exist so you're just going to get wet feet crossing at the ford. A couple of hundred metres brings you to the Eskdalemuir road. Turn R.

A short way along along here you'll come to the Samye Ling Tibetan Centre on the R. It's unique in the UK being a Buddhist retreat and monastery. Visitors are welcome and refreshments are available. Take a look around.

From here it's all on road, past the Eskdalemuir observatory and, later, the seismological station up to the watershed at the edge of the forest at (253 072). It's 8 or 9 miles now following the Tima Water, then the Ettrick, back to Tushielaw.

jb, galashiels

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