Patervan Path

Medium Walk

This is a beautiful walk within sight of the River Tweed, and then along one its tributaries, Polmood Burn. You should be able to glimpse plenty of wildlife, including red squirrels, buzzards, hares and maybe even a golden eagle. At the end of the walk the landscape opens up to give spectacular views of some of the highest hills in the Borders, including Broad Law.

This walk takes you along well-maintained, coarse gravel farm tracks. The route is way marked by yellow arrows on small green circular signs. You follow a well-made track up the valley and then through the grassland in Polmood Valley. There are options to extend this walk, and you should consult an OS map to plan your walk if you wish. There is a cattle grid with a pedestrian gate, and several gates to go through, which should all be left as you find them.


Parking: There is a large layby on the A701 opposite the starting point at Patervan Bridge.

The walk starts on Patervan Bridge which was upgraded in September 2017 to enable timber extraction in the north-east of Tweedsmuir, avoiding the refurbished Carlowse Brig in the village.

Patervan (previously spelt Poltervan) comes from the Old Welsh for ‘a stream bordering a sacred site’.

Follow the farm track, taking the upper right junction as you walk up the hill; there is a route marker on the post indicating the direction you should take. The path then heads off towards Polmood Valley, looking down at the farmland below and the woodland above. As you turn the corner you will walk beside the mixed woodland of Polmood Forest. The name Polmood comes from the Gaelic for ‘wolf’s burn’ and was part of the ancient forest of Caledon. The forests were used by the Kings of Scotland from around 1000 AD as hunting grounds, and Polmood was a hunting lodge. 

The Story of Bonnie Bertha of Badlieu

Badlieu is a farm nearer the source of the River Tweed, about 5 miles from Polmood.

Bertha was the beautiful daughter of a local shepherd. King Kenneth III (996-1005) came to Polmood to hunt in the Wood of Caledon, and fell in love with Bertha (whom he met after getting lost in the mist). Kenneth and Bertha had a son, despite his already being married, and she moved to Polmood.

After defeating the Danes, Kenneth returned from war to find that his wife the Queen had died. He hoped to marry Bertha, but his hopes were dashed when he discovered that before her death the Queen had sent men to murder Bertha, her son and her father. Heartbroken, Kenneth dug up Bertha’s grave to prove to himself that the story was true.

Kenneth was later defeated in battle by his brother Malcolm. Some say he died in the battle, but others said that he returned wounded to Badlieu to die in the Tweedsmuir Hills near his beloved Bertha.

You should continue on the forest track and out through the gate into Polmood Valley. This area is still used to graze sheep, mainly Scottish Blackfaces. Scottish Blackfaces are ‘hefted’ to the land where they live. This means that the ewes train their daughters to survive on their own area of hillside, knowing where to find shelter, water and the best grass. A ewe without this training and knowledge would not survive the harsh winter, or be able to rear her lambs in the spring. The sheep that you see now on the hills are descended from many generations, and have survived due to the knowledge passed down to them.

On your right is Polmood Burn, which feeds into the Tweed. Salmon ladders have been installed in the steeper sections of the burn to allow the spawning salmon to return to their breeding grounds. Gold has also been found in this river, though unfortunately nothing big enough to make anyone’s fortune.

Follow the path up the valley, keeping the burn on your right.

You will also pass a round circular drystone bucht, where shepherds would house their sheep to protect them from the worst of the winter weather.

To your left you should be able to see Dollar Law (817m), and to your right is Broad Law, the highest hill in the Scottish Borders at 840m.

You can then continue to explore the hills further (make sure you have a map and the right equipment), or return to your car by the same route.