Gypsy Glen Drove Road
Start location: Springhill Road, Peebles (NT 260 392)
End location: A708, Dryhope, St Mary's Loch (NT 269 242)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Drove Road
Path distance: 17.1km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes, Suitable for horses
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Newsflash: the Scottish Borders Walking Festival 2017 includes at least two routes incorporating part of the Gypsy Glen Drove Road. Running from 3-9 September, the base for the 23rd year of this popuar festival is Peebles and Tweeddale. Other historic routes featured are the Minchmoor Track, the Stobo Old Drove Road, Clovenfords Turnpike, the Cauldstane Slap and Cross Borders Drove Road, the Post Road through the Meldons and the Old Biggar Road.
Go south-east from Peebles by Springhill Road and Glen Road and their continuation by path, crossing the Haystoun Burn; this spot is known as Gypsy Glen. The wide old drove road steeply ascends the hill and runs for some distance along the ridge over Kailzie Hill, Kirkhope Law and Birkscairn Hill. At the ScotWays sign to Yarrow (NT271326), cross the fence, go SSE before bearing SSW and keeping to a height of about 500m, continue towards the forest west of Whiteknowe Head. Cross the boundary fence at an iron gate (NT264303) and go SSE, skirting a forest plantation on the right-hand side to reach a waymarker at NT268293. Then in 100m enter the forest by a fire-break and follow the waymarked route down southeast to a T-junction, turning south to join a forest road, exiting at Douglas Burn west of Blackhouse. From there, the drove road strikes southwest over the hill to Dryhope at the foot of St Mary's Loch.
Part of the Gypsy Glen Drove Road is used by the South Of Scotland Countryside Trails (SoSCT) network - their variant is reportedly more easily accessible than the route described here; it leaves the old route between Kirkhope Law and Birkscairn Hill in order to descend towards Traquair and ultimately pick up the Minchmoor Track. To the northwest of Peebles, this old drove road links up with the Cauldstane Slap and Cross Borders Drove Road.
OS Landranger 73 (Peebles, Galashiels & surrounding area)
This was an old drove road that was noted down as such by the Ordnance Survey in the 19th century, presumably when it was still in use. For the first couple of miles out of Peebles the road is bounded by dry stane dykes. These were called raiks and were used to keep the cattle together, particularly useful if a drover was approaching a settlement. Gypsy Glen, which lies near the start of the route, was a traditional camping site used by Travelling people. This suggests that the route may also have been used by travellers who formed an integral part of the local economy having invaluable skills that the settled population needed.
Peebles was an important stopping place on the drove routes south. It is reported by Haldane's Drove Roads of Scotland that although the drovers had to pay customs duty, they "had in return the right of grazing their beasts on a stretch of common land beside the Tweed on a site known as the Kingsmuir, rights of common pasture dating back to a charter of James IV in 1506". Kingsmuir survives in at least a couple of street names either side of Springhill Road, but old maps mark the Kingsmuir as far more extensive. Interestingly, in John Thomson's Atlas of Scotland (1832), the town plan of Peebles has an area just south of the river marked as Cow Lone.
The route passes by Blackhouse; James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, was herdsman there from 1790 to 1800. Blackhouse Tower, now in ruins, was the site of the Douglas slaughter, re-told in the famous ballad The Douglas Tragedy. A daughter of the Douglas clan fell in love with a man disliked by the rest of her family. The lovers fled to the tower to escape, however they were pursued by her father and her seven brothers. When her family caught up with her, a brief, but violent battle ensued, leaving all 10 people dead or dying.
Another ruined tower is later passed at Dryhope. This was the birthplace of Mary Scott, the Flower of Yarrow, an ancestor of Sir Walter Scott.