We follow in the footsteps of the Border Reivers to Hermitage Castle and Liddesdale, "the bloodiest valley in Britain". Once echoing with the sound of hooves, the lowing of stolen cattle and the clash of steel, these beautiful and dramatic hillsides are now peaceful with just a scattering of sheep. We also visit Johnnie Armstrong's tower at Gilnockie and hear some stories of 'Truce Days' on the English Border.
Trail length is 45 miles, driving time is approximately 1.5 hrs and the trail will take you a full day.
Please explore the trail map and plan your day by taking advantage of your Reivers Pass, free when you buy this trail.
For the best audio experience please download our free App to your Mobile/Tablet device enabling GPS activation and allowing you to relax, and just Drive and Discover.
Musical excerpts from "A Reivers Moon" By kind permission of Ian Landles and Alan Brydon
Drone footage by Above the Borders and Borders Aerial Photography
Johnny Armstrong of Gilnockie was probably the most famous of all the Border Reivers, dreaded on the English side of the Border, but dearly loved by his people and a highly respected chief. King James V visiting the Borders for hunting asked to meet the local clan chiefs in order to stamp out the Reiving. Johnnie was one of them, and he and about 50 men wearing their very best attire headed out to Caerlenrig where the King was encamped. Ambushed enroute by the kings men they were brought before James who, angered by their attire, ordered that Johnnie and his companions be taken away and hanged. Johnnie said 'I am but a fool to seek grace in a graceless face, but if I had known, sir, that you would have taken my life this day, I would have lived upon the Border in spite of King Harry (Henry VIII) and you both and would have don my best horse with gold to know that I was condemned to die this day. And so they were led away outside and he and all his men were hanged.
Sir William de Soulis
Owner of Hermitage Castle during the reign of Robert the Bruce. Historically, Sir William was arrested and executed for plotting the assassination of Bruce so he himself be crowned King of Scotland. Tradition maintains that this evil man practiced the Black Arts and kidnapped the local children and used their blood in his sinister rituals, during which he would conjure up his demonic familiar, Robin Redcap. The local people petitioned King Robert, begging to be relieved of their wicked lord. ‘Boil him if you must,’ replied the king, ‘but let me hear no more of him.’ Taking his words literally, the locals stormed the castle, wrapped de Soulis in lead, and plunged him into a boiling cauldron.
Auld Wat Scott of Harden
b1550 - d1629
An infamous reiver, he led raids across the Border and against his fellow countrymen. In 1592 he was one of those charged with taking part in the attempt to capture King James VI at Falkland Palace, led by the Earl of Bothwell, and was declared rebel and outlaw. Scott also participated in the rescue of Kinmont Willie Armstrong, under his chief, Walter Scott of Buccleuch from Carlisle Castle in 1596. In 1567, he married Mary Scott, daughter of John Scott of Dryhope, and known as the "Flower of Yarrow".
b 1565 – d 15 Dec 1611
Walter Scott, 5th of Buccleuch, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch was a Scottish nobleman and famous border Reiver, known as the "Bold Buccleuch" and leader of Kinmont Willie’s Raid. He married Mary Kerr, daughter of Sir William Kerr of Cessford and Janet Douglas. They had four children, Walter, Margaret, Elizabeth and Jean. On the night of 13 April 1596 Buccleuch led a party of about eighty men to Carlisle Castle, located Armstrong’s cell and freed him, returning him back across the Scottish border.