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54. Merse

start: Greenlaw
distance: 31 miles
OS map: 74

Merse route mapThe Merse is the name given to the area between Coldstream and Duns - be careful how you pronounce it in these parts! In truth, the route is a good one for a wet day, and that's exactly how it was when we did it...

Take the A6105 out of Greenlaw towards Earlston then turn L onto the B6364 towards Hume. It's worth a small diversion up to the site of the 13th century Hume Castle. The castle was the seat of the Humes (aka Homes) but the original was destroyed in 1651. The present structure was built by the Earl of Marchmont in 1794. The site has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside.

Returning to the route, go straight on at Legars, past Belmont and on to Eccles where you can find the remains of St Mary's Convent and curiously a white - not red - post box. Take the minor road past Fernyrig Cottage and Birgham Wood to reach the main A698 Kelso to Coldstream road. Turn L and after a few yards L again.

At the sharp L bend by Haigsfield, go straight on along a track to the main A697. Turn R for a few yards then L into the Hirsel, home of the late and ex-prime minister Alec Douglas-Home. Take a R fork and pass round the far side of the lake. Go past a craft centre, tea rooms and on into Coldstream.

Look for a L turn along the main street called Guards Road. It leads out of town heading north in a pretty straight line across the undulating landscape. Turn L at (820 448) for Marlfield. This track crosses Leet Water at a ford and, incidentaly, is known locally as the 'coal road'. There is a footbridge but actually getting to it is a bit problematical if the water is up; prepare for wet feet...

On, then, to Leitholm where there's a pub that does bar meals. Go SW down the main street then turn R heading NW past Kaimes West Mains. Just after a sharp R bend turn L and pass Whinkerstones to reach the B6460. Go straight across for Sisterpath. The road swings round then down to cross the river. Turn L at the T junction to head uphill towards Marchmont House.

Go R at the top of the hill then L to join the main drive drive leading to the House; this is impressive stuff! Turn to your R as you scrunch gravel to pass in front of the building and pick up the road leading round to the L. Follow it through the grounds until it joins the public road for a fine run back down into Greenlaw.

jb, galashiels

Download GPS data in GPX format.

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