Carlowse Bridge

Short Walk

This walk is one of the easiest points to access the River Tweed this far upstream, and offers a lovely walk along the bank. There are plenty of points to stop and throw stones into the water, or just have a seat and listen to the sound of the river tumbling over the stones and rocks.

You can descend to the riverbank on either side of the road beside the bridge, down the wooden steps, and walk along the bank either up or down the river. There is no well-defined path, and depending on how long the grass is you might need to wear wellies. The route upstream is easier to follow. The downstream section is more difficult, as you need to negotiate the steep riverbanks, and crossing small streams and boggy areas.

Carlowse Bridge

Carlowse Bridge was built in 1783, replacing an earlier brig erected sometime between 1694 and 1741. The bridge was a Category C listed structure until the renovation work that Scottish Borders Council carried out in 2012. The bridge became an important crossing point of the Tweed. Before it was built, the only access to the Kirk had been via a ford and stepping stones near the current Kirk site.

The small waterfall above the Bridge is named Carlow’s Linn, and the current bridge name has evolved from the original Carlow’s Brig. It is possible that the word ‘carlow’ comes from the old Scots word ‘carlin’, which is a disparaging term for an old woman: a witch. The falls may originally have been named Witches Linn, and the bridge, Witches Brig.

The River Tweed

The River Tweed rises at Tweed Wells, in the Lowther Hills in Tweedsmuir just before the boundary to Dumfries and Galloway. Both the River Annan and the Clyde rise near to Tweed Wells, heading in opposite directions. The Tweed is 97 miles/156km long, and flows east across the Scottish Borders before it meets the sea at Berwick-upon-Tweed, just across the border with England. The Tweed drops 1550 ft/472m from source to sea, and a half of this drop occurs in its first 20 miles.

The Path Upstream:

old summer traditions

If you choose to head upstream, you will be following the route of annual excursion to Gala Wood by pupils from Tweedsmuir School at the start of the 20th Century. This took place in late spring or early summer to coincide with the blossoming of the primroses and violets.
The children would have followed the Tweed to Gala Burn, and then followed the burn into Gala Wood, where they would spend the day exploring nature.

Around the same time Gala Burn was the summer residence of a travelling family called the Kennedys. They lived in traditional caravans, usually camping at Gala Burn, or sometimes at Menzion or Stanhope. Mrs Kennedy travelled around the area selling their goods from a well-stocked dog cart. This was the clipping season, and the Kennedys also bought (or were given) great quantities of the dirty wool from the tail end of the sheep, known as the daggings. They were too dirty to be sold with the clean fleeces, and the shepherds were glad to be rid of them, particularly if they were paid in kind. The Kennedys soaked and washed these daggings in the Gala Burn. Once clean and dry, they could be sold as first-class wool. The Kennedys were a regular part of Tweedsmuir summers for over 50 years.

Heading Upstream: The Giant’s Grave

On the west side of the path, after two grass fields, you will see a mounded hilly area. This is The Giant’s Grave. It is thought to be the burial place of a romantic hero, whose gigantic stature intimidated weak minds to obedience, and it was believed that he was a supernatural being. This “pirate” was shot and killed in an ambush. Who was this huge man the legend speaks of, and who was able to kill him?

Heading downstream: Quarter Knowe

On the opposite side of the river, at the end of Tweedsmuir Village, you will see a mound where the Kirk stands. This mound is called Quarter Knowe. It is thought to have been a site of religious importance since the Bronze Age. The current Kirk was built in 1874, replacing the Tweedsmuir New Kirk (built in 1648), and there is evidence that it was a site of druid worship in the 3rd Century BC. Quarter Knowe is a natural knoll, probably formed during the last Ice Age when the glaciers were melting, digging up and depositing loose debris.