First we follow the river Esk up a remote valley filled with extraordinary people and places - one of Britain's best-known engineers, an ancient kings' grave, neolithic stone circles, and a most amazing monastery. We hear of covenanters and pedlars before dropping down to Ettrick to hear about Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd. As we return to Selkirk there are stories of poets, reivers, covenanters, a wizard and two fairy queens.
The trail starts at Langholm's principal car park beside the river. The trail length is 40 miles, driving time is approximately 1 ¼ hrs and the trail, with recommended stops, will probably take you a full day.
This trail will be available soon.
Please explore the trail map and plan your day by taking advantage of your Reivers Pass, free when you buy this trail.
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Narrator: Alastair Cunningham Historic Guide (Will o' Phaup): John Nichol Sung Ballads: Joyce Tinlin Border Pipes played by Matt Seattle.
Musical excerpts from "A Reivers Moon" by kind permission of Ian Landles and Alan Brydon. Thanks to Dr Valentina Bold for her words on James Hogg.
Drone footage by Above the Borders and Borders Aerial Photography
James Hogg, the 'Ettrick Shepherd'
1730 - 1813
James Hogg was born at Ettrickhall, into a family of tenant farmers. An outstanding song collector, best-selling poet and essayist, he is best remembered for his experimental novel, 'The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner' which tells of the friendship between a religious fanatic and the Devil - or, possibly, his divided self! As a small boy, he worked on the family farm, spending only six months at school. From an early age he wanted to write, and what he lacked in formal education, he made up by reading anything he could find and by learning both from his grandfather, Will o' Phaup. His mother Margaret Laidlaw had a great repertoire of Border tales and ballads which she passed on to Sir Walter Scott, Hogg's friend and contemporary. Hogg is one of Scotland’s greatest nineteenth century figures, and a significant writer of international standing.
Michael Scott - Wizard
1175 - 1232
Michael Scott studied at Oxford and Paris Universities, becoming the greatest public intellectual of his days and court astrologer to the Emperor Frederick II. His writings and translations were valued around Europe but his involvement in alchemy, astrology and astronomy gave him a reputation as a "wizard". He is said to have lived at Aikwood Tower in Ettrick. Scott foresaw that a stone would kill him and so always wore an iron skullcap. However, he removed the cap whilst at church in Melrose, only to be struck by a stone from the crumbling roof which killed him. He is credited with teaching magic to the evil sorcerer William de Soulis of Hermitage Castle and with conquering an indefatigable demon, after it had succeeded in splitting Eildon Hill into its three distinctive cones. He is buried in Melrose Abbey.
Will O' Phaup
1691 – 1755
William Laidlaw, grandfather of James Hogg, was shepherd at Phaup, (between Ettrick and Moffat) for fifty-five years. Generally known as Will o' Phaup, he was reportedly the last man in the Borders to see the fairies. Aged sixteen, his master bet the price of a herd of hogs that Will could beat an Englishman in a straight race - which he did and thereby launched an informal running career. He was also a great storyteller and singer; one of the local gentry wrote, “In the hall of the laird, at the farmer’s ingle and in the shepherd’s cot, Will was alike a welcome guest and he kept the whole in one roar of merriment...”. His gravestone states, ‘For feats of frolic, strength, and agility, he had no equal in his day’.
1757 - 1834
Thomas Telford, the great engineer, was born in a shepherd’s cottage in Eskdale and left school at 15 to do his apprenticeship as a stonemason. At 25 he went to London with a saddlebag containing mallet, chisels, leather apron and some letters of introduction. He studied hard and rose from stonemason to architect, then to designer and engineer. In Scotland he is remembered principally for the Tay Bridge at Dunkeld, and for the Caledonian Canal. Thomas Telford became the first President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and is buried in Westminster Abbey.