It is the largest and deepest natural loch in southern Scotland and I’ve always wanted to walk right round it, but the northern shore is bordered by the busy A708 and I’ve never been one to compete with traffic, especially while walking a dog.
When I read in last week’s Southern that a new circular path had just been opened round St Mary’s Loch, mostly avoiding the road, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.
It was a glorious morning when I set off from the car park near the Hogg Monument, but was disappointed not to find an information board or map to help me on my way. A leaflet would have been even more useful, but the only likely place to get one was the café, which didn’t open until 10am. Not a great start!
I eventually found a finger board pointing me in the right direction and telling me that I had seven miles to go.
The route along south side of the loch is made up of mainly decent path and forestry track (it is also part of the Southern Upland Way) and affords some of the most breath-taking views anywhere in the Borders. I kept encountering rocks with weird plaques fixed to them saying things like “Bloodline” and “Ribbons in the book mark this place. Tie the knot”.
Similarly wooden sculptures appeared on a shingle beach, with no explanation as to meaning or artist.
Just past the farm of Bowerhope, I spotted a small brown butterfly on some scabious, which I had never seen before.
It was a small skipper and a great find. I even managed some decent pictures. The path-side along this section was resplendent in late summer flowers such as gowan, harebell, knapweed and rosebay willowherb.
I could see on the loch that some yachts were beginning to gather for an afternoon’s racing and their blue sails really set off this idyllic scene.
At the end of the south side, the path crosses the outflow, past the ever present Selkirk flood prevention works and skirts the edge of the loch until the road is reached.
Here, a new section has been made, taking the walker above the traffic along the line of an old drove road through the bracken as far as Cappercleuch.
Here unfortunately, the route follows the road along the verge for a short while, until it drops down to another new section along the shoreline. It was near the end of this section that I had a bit of a drama.
Treacle the dog disappeared into some long grass by the lochside and reappeared obviously eating something. I told her to drop it, but could see that she was having difficulty complying.
I grabbed hold of her and was horrified to see two large treble fish hooks embedded in her jaw. Thankfully, they were tangled in her muzzle hair and not her flesh and I managed to free them.
As I pulled them out, I saw that the fishing line disappeared down her throat.
I gently eased it out and found a small fish on the end of it.
Obviously, it was the bait used by a careless pike fisherman. It was so nearly a large vet bill.
The walk itself had been most enjoyable, but could be improved by better information and a few more markers, but it’s early days and it has great potential.
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