The Scottish Borders, the countryside and it's wildlife.

Updated: May 2


A Hare and the bridge from England over the river Tweed and the border into Scotland


After our welsh adventures in Pembrokeshire (see previous blog) we wanted to go back to Scotland later in the year. We found a lovely cottage just over the border near Coldstream and booked for a week in Sept, a bit earlier than we normally go but it was hoped that would mean the weather was better and it did not disappoint. The weather was fairly warm and sunny, rain came on one morning while out for a walk but that was about it other than some over night on a few occasions. The wildlife was amazing right from when we first arrived even before we set foot in the cottage. This is what happened:

We turned off the main road onto a private track to head up to our cottage, halfway up and a Hare ran across the track in front of us, yelps of delight came from my wife as she loves Hares, it was a great start to the holiday. When we got to the cottage we had great views across the fields and beyond, there were more Hares in the field and we also saw 4 Roe Deer but the day was not finished for the wildlife. With the aid of a Bat Detector I detected and saw 2 Noctule Bats and I heard a Tawny Owl calling. The area where we were staying was under recorded with regards to moths so I took 2 moth traps to have a look and see what I could find, more on that later in the blog. What other wildlife would we see over the coming week?



You looking at me?

The cottage was on part of a working farm so there were plenty of the locals around the fields behind the cottage.


After all the travelling on the Saturday, we thought we would just stick local on the Sunday, the first thing on the agenda was a walk to stretch the legs, explore the local area and see what we could see. We left the cottage heading along the farmers track and out onto the road , seeing a Hare running in front of us and then we headed towards a wood and down to the river. We found a pathway into the wood that was used by fisherman, the first section was down some very steep steps (good for your calf muscles apparently) which opened out to a few open spots where people had been fishing, A nice view across the river, watching a Little Egret fishing and a Grey Wagtail flitting about the waters edge. After my legs had recovered from the climb back up we carried on through the wood and down to the waters edge along the river Tweed, It was quite open here with sheep feeding in the grassy fields alongside, we came across a fisherman's hut which could have been useful if it was open as it had started raining! It was a very peaceful spot. See photos below.


The River Tweed is known as one of the best Salmon fishing rivers in Scotland, flowing east for 96 miles along the border between England and Scotland. It is the 4th longest river in scotland after the Spey, Clyde and Tay.


Check these links for more details:

https://tweedguide.com/ https://sac.jncc.gov.uk/site/UK0012691



In the afternoon we went into the nearby town of Coldstream. There is a viewpoint in Coldstream at Henderson Park with some excellent views over the River tweed. (see photos below + a closer look at the bridge) Click on the link for more info on Henderson Park https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g940866-d12515047-Reviews-Henderson_Park-Coldstream_Scottish_Borders_Scotland.html


The next day we decided to visit a nearby castle, Norham Castle just over the border in Northumberland situated in a once strategically important position overlooking a crossing point of the river Tweed.

For more information on the castle check these two links.

http://www.castlesfortsbattles.co.uk/north_east/norham_castle.html

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/norham-castle/


It was a beautiful spot for a walk along the river. We had great views of a Heron fishing plus Butterflies along the river/path edge amongst the flowers and shrubs. Including this Speckled Wood perched perfectly for a photo.



There were many shrubs and flowers along the pathway including:



Himalyan Balsam

Now an invasive weed along riverbanks and ditches. It spreads rapidly at the expense of native plants. For more info check this link: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/wildflowers/himalayan-balsam



Guelder-Rose

A Deciduous upright shrub, can grow up to 4m, It is a great plant for wildlife with flowers in the spring for nectaring insects and lots of berries in the Autumn for the birds to eat and lots of colour in the Autumn too. Check this link for more details: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/guelder-rose/



Just on the edge of Coldstream is the Hirsel Estate which incorporates a Golf Course and an Arts & Crafts centre and also providing many walks around the estate through woodland and by a lake, there is even a bird hide overlooking the lake providing somewhere quiet to look at the wildlife. When we were there a lot of the craft shops were closed so we opted to go for a walk through the wood, stopping at the hide to have a look for some wildlife. I was looking out with my binoculars, spotting various Ducks and some Geese when I noticed something about halfway across the lake moving around but it wasn't a Duck, It was an Otter! I couldn't believe it, One of my favourite animals and only the 2nd time I had seen one in the wild. It was swimming around, playing, diving, catching fish. It was a brilliant sight. I could have watched it al day, it really looked like it was having lots of fun playing in the water putting on a real show for us. These were the best pics I could get.



To find out more about Otters in Scotland try this link:

https://www.nature.scot/plants-animals-and-fungi/mammals/land-mammals/otter


After the excitement of the Hirsel estate we weren't sure where to go next so we went for a drive and soon realised we were not too far from one of our favourite places - Eyemouth so thats where we headed. Sea air was just what we needed. It was nice to see the seals in the harbour area again and a Guillemot out for an afternoon swim and of course you can't go wrong with fish & chips by the seaside.


Check out this link for information on Eyemouth

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/eyemouth/eyemouth/index.html


One of the things we wanted to do while staying in the borders was to visit the coast and go on a boat trip and Berwick seemed the most likely place to do this as It wasn't too far away. Its always nice to be out on the open sea, looking for Seals, Dolphins and seabirds and enjoying the sea air. We didn't see any Dolphins but we did see several Grey Seals and seabirds such as Guillemots and Razorbills. (see photo of Razorbill below). After 1.5 hrs on the boat we took a walk through the town and stopped off at a café for some lunch. A great café with the best Fish Finger sandwich I have ever had, highly recommended if you are ever in Berwick. https://www.facebook.com/Cafe-Nine-Berwick-upon-Tweed-432696550594530/




Below is a link to the company we used for our boat trip


https://www.berwickboattrips.co.uk/


On the way back from Berwick we decided to call into the small village of Ladykirk just north of the River Tweed. We parked up and explored the local church and its grounds. Churches are quiet and peaceful and always fascinating to look round.


https://www.britainexpress.com/scotland/Borders/churches/ladykirk.htm




A visit to another castle at Etal was the plan on Thursday but travelling in style by mini steam train from Heatherslaw. It is the most Northerly steam railway in England offering magnificent views of the Northumbria countryside and a chance to enjoy some local wildlife too.

https://www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/attractions/heatherslaw-light-railway/






The castle itself was built around the mid 14th century to try to keep out the advancing scots, It is situated near the river Till. The ground of the castle were tidy with patches of Cyclamen growing. I love to look at old castles and to use my imagination to try and think what the castle might have been like before it became a ruin. A couple of links below to check out info on the castle and the River Till.


https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/etal-castle/

https://www.northumbrian-angler.co.uk/river-till/



After we had spent some time at the castle we took a walk into Etal village where we enjoyed a cuppa in the local café and then down to the river. A really nice little village and a quiet spot by the river and a ford (3rd photo) although I wouldn't want to cross that with my car. The last photo shows my wife enjoying the nice weather and having a splash in the river. It was a really nice day out, highly recommended.


Check out this website https://www.ford-and-etal.co.uk/ to find out more about the Ford and Etal Estates and things to see and do there.




More wildlife around the cottage:

I mentioned at the beginning of the blog about this area being under recorded for moths, so what exactly did I find? Over the week we were staying near Coldstream I recorded around 30 species of moth including a Large Wainscot which was new for the area, Frosted Orange & Lunar Underwing not recorded in the area since 1956 and the best of all a small micro moth called Ypsolopha scabrella which I had never seen before and in fact was confirmed as a 3rd record for Scotland, WOW! now that is pretty good going. I was rather pleased with that. See photos below: Large Wainscot, Green Brindled Crescent, Frosted Orange, Ypsolopha scabrella.





A Canary Shouldered Thorn on my finger getting ready to fly.


Perhaps the wildlife Highlight of the week was a very common mammal that not many people have seen except perhaps for the mounds of soil it leaves on the surface. About 9.30pm one evening I went outside to check on the moth traps and I saw a Mole scurrying around the lawn along the bottom of the wall. Wow! I had never seen a Mole above the ground before, what a rare and amazing sight. If anyone else has seen a Mole above ground then please do let me know by email: inf@theconservationbuddha.co.uk, I would like to see just how rare a sight it is.




I mentioned Hares earlier in the blog but couldn't resist adding just a few more pics of these beautiful animals. I managed to snap a few pics of a Hare running across the field right outside the cottage.


For more info on the Brown Hare please visit:

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals/brown-hare or http://hare-preservation-trust.com/


And now for something completely different and no wildlife involved, just some stunning scenery, somewhere high up and a 300m Zip Wire back down to earth: It was something my wife wanted to do and I thought Why not? lets give it a go, I must have been a bit mad. It was great fun and very safe. The Instructors were friendly and helpful and made sure we were both ok before we took the plunge. A good way to end the holiday. Some photos below and a video of my wife on her 3rd go! I got the impression she rather liked it.

Check out this link:

https://rockuk.org/centres/whithaugh-park/






A great week in Scotland, Amazing Wildlife and Scenery, we will most definitely be back!




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