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Border Walking

PUBLISHED: 15:59 16 July 2008 | UPDATED: 09:56 23 August 2010

Picturesque walks along the River Tweed

Picturesque walks along the River Tweed

SCOTTISH Borders town Moffat is a godsend to many different people, some as far away as Afghanistan. In the High Street overlooked by a bank of forested hills is a family toffee shop with a secret recipe going back over a century to Elizabeth Blacklock.

Statue of writer Sir Walter Scott stands over Selkirk

SCOTTISH Borders town Moffat is a godsend to many different people, some as far away as Afghanistan.

In the High Street overlooked by a bank of forested hills is a family toffee shop with a secret recipe going back over a century to Elizabeth Blacklock.

Word got round to a band of British soldiers posted in Afghanistan that Moffat toffee could save their taste buds from an assault by American army sweets.

Blair Blacklock, 71, on reading their cries for help dispatched a free quantity of toffee - more than was economically sensible.

Walking through the ethereal remains of Melrose Abbey

Soon other treats that line the shelves in a bewildering number of jars were on their way, minty Hawick balls and Soor Plooms particular favourites with service personnel.

At the far end of the High Street is 69-year-old former priest Gerry Lyons, known as The Singing Potter, who saw Jesus appear at his bedside in 1985. Cured of a heart complaint he now makes stoneware jugs, bowls, water features and other pottery as well as recording gospel music.

But the main source of salvation for visitors who enjoy the great outdoors is Moffat becoming Scotland's first Walkers are Welcome town earlier this year, one of only eight in the UK.

The scheme was inspired by a walking group in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in 2006 and has shown positive signs for places earning the status.

Malcolm Wilkinson, chairman of the Walkers are Welcome Towns Network, said: "The scheme is different from most top-down accreditation schemes in that it has emerged from, and been promoted by, communities themselves.

"It helps to ensure that footpaths and facilities for walkers are maintained in good condition. Pubs and cafes showing the scheme's logo show they know the needs of walkers."

Obtaining the status helps strengthen a town's reputation as a place for visitors to enjoy the outdoors, boosting green tourism by linking walking routes with public transport.

Nearby is the Southern Upland Way, Scotland's longest walking route bi-secting the Borders from Portpatrick on the west coast to Cockburnspath in the east.

A high 7.5 mile section from Sanquhar crosses grouse moors of the Lowther Hills to Wanlockhead, a quaint village that belies its harsh lead mining past. Visitors can now try their hand at panning for gold and visit the fascinating museum.

The walk passes through striking countryside owned by The Buccleuch Family. Since the 15th Century, the Scotts of Buccleuch have played a leading part in the development of large parts of southern Scotland.

Returning to Moffat, the Bridge House restaurant provides the finest seasonal food, including a first taste of tender belted beef - taking its name from black cattle with a distinctive white band.

Guests at The Buccleuch Arms Hotel can have gastronomic breakfasts to stoke the fire before a long walk, smoked Scottish salmon on a ramekin of scrambled eggs, suits you sir.

Poet Robbie Burns inscribed a poem on a window pane in the Black Bull Inn which was removed and taken to St. Petersburg, Russia. A copy is held in the pub.

Selkirk marks the start of a 10-mile route to Melrose Abbey - founded by King David in 1136 - part of the recently finished Borders Abbeys Way that takes in four key sites.

And an imposing statue of writer Sir Walter Scott stands proud in Selkirk centre who was county sheriff from 1800 to 1832.

In the forest kirk William Wallace was declared guardian of Scotland in 1298 and the maternal ancestors of American president Franklin D Roosevelt lie within the town.

Visitors can benefit from guides run by Walking Support who place the landscape into a social context that has made Borders country famous.

The route takes in the ancient Roman Fort of Newstead, named Trimotium after the three Eildon Hills overlooking Melrose and a picturesque walk along the River Tweed before arriving in the town.

Walter Scott took great interest in preserving the majestic remains of Melrose Abbey, all be it with other people's money.

In 1996 a team from Historic Scotland removed a lead container from beneath the abbey's Chapter House floor said to contain King Robert the Bruce's heart.

Richard Welander, one of the investigators, said that although it was not possible to prove absolutely that it was Bruce's heart: "We can say that it is reasonable to assume that it is".

Centuries of conflict between the Scots and English have given the Borders a unique character and vibrant culture. Castles, abbeys, stately homes and fantastic local food. Many visitors sail through it on their way to the highlands and miss out on a real godsend.

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