Dere Street North
Start location: B6368, just south of Soutra Aisle (NT 453 582)
End location: Unclassified road at Kirktonhill (NT 482 545)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Pilgrimage Route, Medieval Road, Roman Road
Path distance: 5.4km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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From the B6368, just south of Soutra Aisle, Dere Street is signposted from the south end of Soutra Mains Woods. Follow the field edge to reach an old grassy road visible as it goes south to cross the Armet Water. Continuing southeast, the Dun Law wind farm is passed through. From its access road at c.NT463566 southwards towards the remains of the Roman Camp at Kirktonhill is rough walking beside the forestry fence, on tussocky long grass, wet underfoot in places, with no trace of a track until c.NT469557. About here is a Historic Scotland plaque on a pole, describing Dere Street, and the route onwards to the end of the public road at Channelkirk is easier, on tractor tracks and field edges. It is well defined for 5km to the Roman camp at Kirktonhill, by Channelkirk.
OS Landranger 66 (Edinburgh & Midlothian area) or 73 (Peebles, Galashiels & surrounding area)
Dere Street was the main Roman road into Scotland, running from Durham to the Forth, used AD78-185. Its line north of Soutra is harder to find and is in places open to debate. South of Kirktonhill, the valley crossing is said to be now not practicable. Shallow pits can be seen in places beside this ancient route, which were created by quarrying to build the road surface.
The section of Dere Street between Jedburgh and Edinburgh was later known as the Via Regia or the Royal Way. Throughout the Middle Ages, Dere Street remained an important byway connecting greater Scotland with the important abbeys of the Borders region. As such, Dere Street became a pilgrimage route. Near the half way point between Edinburgh and Jedburgh, King Malcolm IV created the Church and Hospital of the Holy Trinity as a place of rest and healing for pilgrims and travellers. Run by Augustinian monks, the only visible remains of this once massive religious hospital complex is Soutra Aisle. After the border abbeys were destroyed during the Reformation, Dere Street fell into disuse and disrepair, serving primarily as an occasional drove road.
Although this section of Dere Street between Soutra Aisle and Channelkirk also formed part of the medieval Girthgate, their lines diverged south of Oxton where Dere Street kept more to the east in the valley of the Leader Water. Another, longer stretch of Dere Street lies further south, running towards the English border from Forest Lodge.
Newsflash (October 2017): Channel 4's programme Britain's Ancient Tracks includes an episode where Tony Robinson follows Dere Street, discovering both Roman history and how the road was used after they left. Alistair Moffat's new book The Hidden Ways explores this old Roman Road too, along with other historic routes such as the Herring Road and Crachoctrestrete.