While many backpackers still prefer to trek to the Highlands, the southern borderlands between England and Scotland make for an interesting alternative destination that offers a rich variety of unique experiences and destinations. Since the time of Roman Emperor Hadrian, best known in Britain for the wall that bears his name, this region has been a frontier, and sparsely settled as a result. It is among the most naturally unspoilt parts of Britain and offers much of interest to hikers drawn by history and wildlife alike.
The first advantage of hiking in the Scottish borderlands is the less severe weather. While the highlands have a place among the wettest locations in all of Europe, the borderlands are comparatively sunny during the summer time. The borderlands are much less likely than the highlands to receive significant snowfall during the winter months as well. That said, this is still Britain, so trekkers are well advised to pack along outdoor rain gear and be prepared for unpredictable, though not overly extreme, weather changes.
The borderlands are host to a rich variety of wildlife. Along the coasts there is ample opportunity to spot marine mammals including seals, dolphins, and even whales. Inland, foxes and badgers are the largest land mammals one has a chance to spot. Bird lovers will especially enjoy the trails of the borderlands. Kestrels and buzzards are a constant presence throughout the region. Lucky trekkers keeping a keen eye around dusk or dawn may have a chance to spot the ghostly spectre of a barn owl stealthily seeking prey. Along the numerous rivers and lakes of the borderlands there is a rich variety of herons, swans, and kingfishers, although the last are spotted more rarely. Keen observers may even spot an otter if they are lucky.
The primary destination for any nature lover in the borderlands must be Northumberland national park. Encompassing nearly the entire length of the border between Scotland and England, the largest yet least visited of Britain’s natural parks encompasses almost the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall. Built by the Romans to save manpower along the frontier of their province of Britannia, the wall was dotted with strong forts and was responsible for the rise of several large settlements that catered to the needs of the large Imperial garrison. Since 2003, the Hadrian’s Wall national trial has made all sections of this piece of history open to the public. The trails takes 7 days to complete, and runs from Segedenum Roman Fort at Wallsend on Tyne to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast of Cumbria. The trail passes through some of the most rugged terrain in Britain, a reminder to the modern visitor of Roman defensive surveying skill indeed. In fact, the border they laid closely follows that which has persisted between England and Scotland to this day. The borderlands remained a veritable no-mans land and scene of constant raid and counter-raid long after the Romans had departed. Many small castles and other forts of the medieval period can be observed throughout the region even today.
Hikers seeking a more medieval flavour may consider St. Cutheberts trail. Stopping along various points that had bearing on that Saint’s life, the trail is 62 miles long, and ends at the stunning seaside monastery at Lindesfarne island. Along the way, there are many rustic pubs and cosy inns, making this hiking trail ideal for trekkers seeking some occasional modern amenities.
With thousands of years of history, and a landscape unspoiled due to no particular side’s ability to claim it, this region will give the hiker a unique set of challenges, rewards, and unforgettable memories.
Feel like a holiday to Scotland? View our excellent selection of self catering holiday cottages in Scotland.
Author: This post was supplied on behalf of Simply Hike, the UK online camping supplies and Hiking equipment store.