Minor Drove Roads to Skirling Fair
Start location: Candy Mill, SW of Dolphinton (NT 075 416)
End location: B7016, 50yds W of A701 junction, Broughton (NT 112 367)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Drove Road
Path distance: 7.3km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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This route consists of two minor drove roads converging on Skirling.
The start of the first drove road is from a tight bend on the A702(T) road on the boundary of Scottish Borders and South Lanarkshire at the track and bridge leading over the Candy Burn to Candyburn Farm. The track inclines a short distance to the farm, passing between terraced houses on left and old farm buildings on right. Continue up the slope ignoring first gate and track ahead, and bear right (SW) on track past old sheep pen to new metal field gate. Pass through gate into field and bear left (S) to follow line of the field fence as it gently inclines, keeping fence on left passing through a gate and remnants of another gateway. The line of the track is quite obvious by its slightly raised level, the different grass and some old cart ruts. As the track breasts the rise at the highest point it reaches the March boundary fence, which runs generally SW to NE, intersecting with the north-south fence along route. An old metal field gate at this point is easily opened. The route remains very obvious on the ground, running generally SSE on the west side of the field fence, with a gentle decline. The old drove road width varies but averages 6-7 metres, and its western boundary can clearly be seen as a slightly raised line of land for most of the length of the route, with occasional old stones showing through the grass of the old turf dyke. The grassed track passes through some large gorse bushes, but remains passable down to the Wedding Burn which is crossed by an old bridge over a piped culvert. The road gently inclines again and at the top of this rise there is an old iron field gate. Over to the east is Gallow Law. The track, more rutted now, continues on a gentle decline passing along the lower slopes of Gallow Law, with field fence on left (east) side, to reach a wooden fence and wooden field gate across the wider drove road at this point. From here, the old drystone dyke is on the western boundary down to the outskirts of Galalaw Farm. The old drove road goes through Galalaw Farm (confirmed by farmer), between the old farm buildings (former Poor House) and a farm cottage to reach the A72 road. An alternative exit/access route to avoid the farm is available along an obvious tarred road with street lighting in front of a short row of houses to the south-east, reaching the A72 road opposite an entrance to Howes Brae. Skirling lies to the SE a short distance along the A72.
The route can be continued along the second drove road: from the A72 cross to NE corner of Skirling Village Green. Follow rough road between houses and turn to right (E) and follow stone-surfaced tree-lined track SE uphill. The wide fenced track levels out passing cottage at Whinnybrae, where it changes to grass track, about 2m wide along full width drove road between fences. Pass between gateposts (no gate) and track gently declines, curving to left between fence and NE boundary of woodland, to reach a gate set in wooden fence at start of another woodland strip. There is an old stile and gate there and signs ‘Dogs on leads please’. Pass through gate and follow pleasant track on incline through woodland strip, which then descends. Pass over short mud/boggy patch (4-5 yds) and continue on to a wooden gate; pass through gate and track is straight ahead through trees, noting no longer stone dyke on right. Track rises again, still through trees between boundary fences, and reaching straight brashed avenue downhill to end of woodland, at clearing above the Kirklawhill Burn. Ahead is an iron gate, pass through and cross burn. Route is straight ahead up slope (ENE), keeping fence on left (N) side, and passing through new twin metal field gates. Continue up slope and at top pass through wooden gate where track levels off. Stay on right of fence passing old woodland triangle to metal gate. Continue straight ahead towards power supply poles and shortly path ahead becomes obvious. In 200 yards beyond a boggy patch the grass path becomes very clear, pass gorse bushes, and path is straight along lower slope of Burnetland Hill, in line with poles, where the line of old turf dykes can be seen. At north end of woodland strip (NT 103 371) the full width of old drove road has a wooden fence across with several gates. Pass through and continue SE through gorse bushes for 200 yds with fence on left, then bear left (E) on obvious drove road, fence on left, stone dyke on right. The level route then descends, very wide and tree-lined at this point, passing through two short fences and gates, before passing house on left and reaching old Kirkyard. Follow metalled service road through series of short bends past new houses and downhill to join the B7016 Broughton to Biggar road, 50 yds west of A701 and Village Hall car park.
OS Landranger 72 (Upper Clyde Valley)
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland 1967, Peeblesshire Volume 2, Page 347, Ref. 638 ‘Drove Roads to Skirling’ states: “Following Armstrong’s map of 1775, the 6-inch O.S. map marks two minor drove roads leading to Skirling, one from the farm of Candyburn (074416) on the Edinburgh-Biggar road, and the other from Broughton. For the first half-mile from Candyburn there is now no sign of the former road, but thereafter it survives as a strip of uncultivated ground, 12-15 yds. in width, which is bounded in some places by turf dykes and in others by stone walls or fences. A hollow traffic lane can be seen at one point on the N. side of the Wedding Burn, but from the Wedding Burn to Skirling a lightly-metalled farm road has obliterated any original features. The second drove road leaves Broughton village at the Old Manse (110368) and is clearly marked by turf dykes or walls, up to 15 yds apart, as far as the parish boundary. For much of this distance the centre of the road appears to have been deliberately improved by terracing in order to take wheeled vehicles. To the W. of the parish boundary practically all traces of the road have been destroyed by former rig cultivation as far as the Kirklawhill Burn, where several hollow tracks can be seen zigzagging down the steep slope to the crossing. Beyond the burn the road is again enclosed, and for the last quarter of a mile from Loanhead it is used as a farm track and is lightly metalled. Both these roads were no doubt used for driving sheep and cattle to and from Skirling Fair which was held four times a year in the 18th century.