Bathans, brochs, and beyond

Another day, another adventure! This time it was a visit to Abbey St Bathans and Edin’s Hall Broch in the Scottish Borders. I had never heard of either place before my adventure partner suggested the trip, so I was especially happy to have the opportunity to learn about new places!

We set out early enough so that we could start our walk before 10 o’clock in the morning, in part because I tend to stop to take photos and search for geocaches on adventures. And as my friend had afternoon plans, we would need to be done adventuring by 2 o’clock in the afternoon so that we could get back in time. (If not for that, I would have spent much more time exploring!)

The first part of the adventure was a gentle 6-mile circular route starting from the carpark on the east end of the village. The broch was a mile and a half away from the start through a combination of woodlands and bracken-filled open spaces. I didn’t care for walking through the bracken because it felt a bit “boring” compared to most of my recent walks, but once I saw the broch sitting on the hillside, I knew the boring-ness would be worth it!

Once at the broch, my adventure partner and I took our time exploring the ancient structure. The broch was likely built in the first two centuries AD and is situated in an older hillfort from 2,000-2,500 years ago. The ruins are part of a larger settlement built within the hillfort’s double ramparts, but the broch is the most recognisable part of the site. (You can learn more about the site from Historic Environment Scotland.)

Edin’s Hall Broch

I was very excited to see how prominent the ramparts of the hillfort were after thousands of years and as I looked out on the surrounding hills, I found myself wondering what the landscape would have looked like when the site was inhabited. Certainly, the fields wouldn’t exist as they are today and instead there would have been great forests all around. What a wonderful view that must have been!

After a good exploration of the broch, we sat inside of the structure to eat part of our lunch. As we ate, I imagined what the space must have been like when it was in use. I was so impressed with the construction of the structure and wondered how long it must have taken them to build. No easy feat, that’s for sure!

On leaving the broch, we continued across a few fields, along a couple of roads, and through some more woods back to the car. Like the walk to the broch, these four miles were slightly “boring” compared to some of the more scenic walks that I’ve been on. But the adventure was about the broch, not the walk. That said, I can almost always find interesting things to enjoy on a walk and this was no exception! (See the photo gallery for a few examples.)

We were back at the car less than 3.5 hours after we set off, which isn’t bad timing when I think about all the stopping along the way. The hope had been to get some coffee and cake at the local café to enjoy in the sunlight, but they are closed until September so we’ll have to make another trip for that. Instead, we just ate the rest of our lunch on a nearby bench before setting off to the other end of the village to visit the old kirk.

The second part of the adventure was much shorter than the first, but it was just as enjoyable! It was a stop at the Abbey St Bathans Kirk. The village was originally a priory established in the 12th century and was later used as a retreat by the nuns who formed communities nearby. The priory is now gone, but the existing kirk was rebuilt in the 1700s and incorporates some of the remains from the Church of the Priory of St Mary dating to the late-1300s.

Unfortunately, the COVID19 pandemic means that most churches are closed to the public, so it wasn’t possible to explore inside of the building. But the kirkyard was more than interesting enough to keep me entertained. (Can you call headstones entertaining?) Some of the stones dated back to the 1600s and truly showed their age. There are also a lot of modern grave markers as it is still an active burial ground for the 100 or so residents of the village. You can easily identify families who’ve been in the village the longest by the names repeated on the stones over a couple of centuries.

I definitely think that this is a place worth more exploration, and whilst I hope to make it back someday, I also know that there are so many other places to discover, too. So, for now, I will have to just enjoy the memories I created today!

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