Muir Road from Lauder to Dunbar (Herring Road)
Start location: A697, Newbigging Walls (NT 531 503)
End location: Faseny Cottage roadend, Gifford to Longformacus Road (NT 612 636)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Trade Route
Path distance: 15km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Newsflash (August 2016): ScotWays has completed the first stage of its ongoing Lammermuirs project with the publication of a new map of the Lammermuirs which includes the Old Muir Road and other historic routes. Associated signposting work is ongoing, but although signage surveys have already been undertaken by ScotWays volunteers, additional feedback on routes in the Lammermuirs generally and on signage in particular continues to be very welcome.
Starting at Newbigging Walls, take the road northeast to the farm at Burncastle from where a good track heads north towards Lylestone Hill. To the east of the hill, the track is ploughed out for a stretch, but follow the field edge and pass through a field gate at c.NT538531. Head northwest for 100-200m before bearing generally northeast to pick up an intermittent track which countours above the steep cleughs running from the western sides of Peat Law and Hogs Law above. The chequered burned moorland patterns can add to the confusion here. An old gate in the boundary northwest of Hogs Law may mark the alignment of the right of way. Continuing north-northeast, an estate track is met which appears to have adopted the old line and this can be followed easily to a turning circle on North Hart Law (NT567587).
The boundary fence here has a recently installed (2015) stile and fingerpost indicating the Herring Road. Heading northeast the pylon road is met at NT572591. Here another signpost indicates not the onward historic right of way through the Fallago Rig windfarm, but instead a diverted route following the pylon road and windfarm tracks. Construction of the windfarm uncovered unexploded ordnance, but the diverted route is said to have been swept. The Muir Road exits the site on the Scottish Borders / East Lothian boundary at Little Says Law (NT595613).
After c.1km of rough ground, an estate track is reached at NT599622. Follow this north-east around Little Collar Law past a series of grouse butts to drop down to the footbridge at Faseny Cottage. The track passing to the west of the cottage heads uphill to the public road.
For those who haven't walked far enough yet, a right of way continues from here past Mayshiel to reach the B6355 at NT622646 - a pleasant informal diversion avoiding the Mayshiel drive can be taken by turning north at NT619639, crossing the Over Burn and heading up the west side of a woodland strip to emerge on the B6355 at NT619646. The onward link to the Whiteadder Water (Garvald) Road has not yet been surveyed for the Heritage Paths project, but provides a useful connection to the promoted Herring Road over Dunbar Common.
At present this right of way is probably best recommended only for the determined old route aficionado, but for those who are interested it repays perseverance. Our survey is pieced together from various visits at different times a year, so additional feedback from others who have used the route will be greatly appreciated. It is suggested that the more difficult sections may be easier to find earlier in the year when the heather is low.
OS Explorer 345 (Lammermuir Hills) - NB the Herring Road (Track) is marked (in part with an indicative line) on the 1:25,000 map, but not in its entirety on the 1:50,000 OS Landranger.
The Herring Road is thought to have been predominantly in use during the 18th and 19th centuries when the herring industry was strong, although records of the inland trade in fish go back to the mid-17th century. The route was used by people bringing home a stock of salted herring for winter use and also by fishwives carrying huge creels of herring from Dunbar to the markets in Lauder.
The section of the Herring Road from Dunbar to the Whiteadder has long been signed by ScotWays as part of the promoted long distance route between Dunbar and Lauder. However, there has always been debate over its historic line south of Dunbar Common. Between the Whiteadder Water and Lauder, the Herring Road is shown on the old OS 6-inch map as lying further west than the promoted route, over Hunt Law and Wedder Law. Roy's map of 1755 appears to shows the road slightly further west still, going over Meikle Says Law, Hunt Law and Wedder Law, and thence to Cleekhimin (2km south of Carfraemill) and Lauder, naming it ‘Muir Road from Lawder to Dunbar’.
The exact line does appear to have moved over time, possibly dependent upon ground conditions. It's also worth noting that Lauder wasn't the only destination, for example, in the eighteenth century people from Westruther were said to travel to Dunbar at Lammas to get a stock of herring for the winter. Fish-carriers or cadgers also transported fish inland for sale. Old maps show that a network of routes existed across the Lammermuirs; the start that has been made in signing the Muir Road in addition to the promoted Herring Road is a welcome first step in acknowledging its history.
Another historic route similarly used for the trade in fish is the Buckie Fishwives Path, Moray.