Discovering Moffat


On our frequent journeys to and from Edinburgh, Moffat has become a regular place to pause. Not only is it on the scenic A701 but the town also has a lot to offer. It is, as far as I know, the only town in Scotland to have a statue of a sheep in the centre instead of some local worthy. I must confess that at university we used to tease a guy from Moffat about this. The ram is a reminder of how important the wool industry has been to the town. I understand it even holds sheep races every year in August and unsurprisingly, the local rugby team is called The Rams.

However, Moffat’s growth from a small village into a popular resort began in the 17th century when Rachel Whiteford discovered its sulphurous waters. They were believed to have healing properties. My 1894 copy of Forrest’s Illustrated Guide states ‘Moffat has now been for more than two centuries a place resorted to by strangers on account of its mineral waters’; citing chronic gout, rheumatism and ‘serious intestinal derangement’ as disorders which would benefit from them. The town has three wells in the surrounding hillsides but the Moffat Well brought it fame and prosperity. The current Town Hall was built in 1827 as a bath house where people could drink and bathe in the pungent sulphurous waters. Visitor numbers grew in the 18th and early 19th centuries, with people staying to ‘take the waters’. Victorian luxurious hotels were built to accommodate the increasing numbers of tourists and several are still hotels today. Another consequence of Moffat’s fame as a Spa Town is the existence of the oldest pharmacy in Scotland. It still has many of its original shop fittings preserved. Moffat Well is a short drive or walk 1½ mile walk out of the town into the hills. It is something we hoped to do on our journey south today after a balmy few days in Edinburgh where I wondered why I had brought my coat but the low cloud, rain and the need to get home before Storm Ophelia reached western England meant we satisfied ourselves with a quick coffee in the town centre. There are also riverside walks and walks up into the surrounding hills. It is close to the Southern Upland Way and the Annandale Way. The Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall is 10 miles away in a hanging valley with walking trails nearby.

Moffat also has a campsite and several other accommodation options. There are many cafes and it even has its own Moffat Toffee. Parking is free in the town centre and in the car park at the south end. There are many independent shops including a book shop which I usually pop into when I stop off. The town hosted the World Gold-Panning Championships in August 2017.

As you leave Moffat heading northeast towards Edinburgh, you pass over a small bridge at Gardensholm Linn that was part of a murder story which gripped the whole nation in the 1930s. Dr Buck Ruxton, a physician from Lancaster had murdered and dismembered his wife and their housemaid and travelled to Moffat to dispose of them in newspaper parcels in an area still known as Ruxton’s dump. His downfall was due to pioneering forensic science at Edinburgh University examining the evidence and the use of his local Lancastrian newspaper which identified the perpetrator as someone not local. He also put the parcels in a smaller stream that was in full spate at the time. Had he put them in the Annan River, they may have been washed out to sea without being discovered. Ruxton was convicted and later hung in HMP Manchester in 1936.

Despite all this history and Moffat’s situation as a staging post on the road from Dumfries to Edinburgh, it barely gets a mention in Alistair Moffat’s book The Borders. However, we are discussing walking the Annandale Way at some point which has a loop north of the town around the Devil’s Beef Tub and then heads south to Annan and the coast. Today we had to content ourselves with driving back down the motorway with a curiously red sun peeking out from the clouds.

Shetland: Braewick and North Roe

On our last full day in Shetland we woke to yet another sunny morning and decided to walk on the beach at Braewick. It is a mixture of shingle and sand and has good views to Da Drongs and the cliffs. We had it all to ourselves.

We had a coffee at the café & met the German woman we had spoken to at Tangwick and sat chatting with her for a while. Then drove over to Ollibary and then over to rejoin the A970 on a minor road before heading north to Sandvoe.
The beach here was also empty apart from a few sheep grazing.

As we left family with a toddler & bucket and spades were just arriving. At North Roe we chatted to a guy who was cleaning his ropes in the sea.


Heading back to the lighthouse via a minor road to Urafirth, we spotted this sculpture at the junction with the A970.

Getting back on track: walking for Lent

My pledge to walk 4-5 miles each day for Lent came adrift towards the end of last week. I was unwell, not sleeping and could only manage very short walks scheduled around ‘must do’ activities such as work. In addition, we had visitors and I was trying to ensure that I looked after them, possibly neglecting myself in the process. However, I am now feeling better and clocked up just over eight miles on my shopping trip Saturday morning and Street Pastor shift on that night. Sunday’s total was less but I now feel back on track.
Smallwood View Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
Today began with blue sky but clouds were approaching so I decided to head out early afternoon.
Smallwood view 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
More signs of spring were around. Here are some of the ladies in waiting who will be lambing very soon:
Ladies in waiting Smallwood 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
In the hedgerows celandines and other spring flowers are emerging.
Celandine Smallwood 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Moorlands in winter

A family birthday celebration in Derbyshire and roads closed due to snow dictated our route over the Staffordshire Moorlands and into Derbyshire via Leek and Ashbourne. Driving over in the late afternoon just as the sun was dipping below the horizon and finding a layby just after sunset and where sheep were feeding was a good opportunity for some photos. The return journey was in the dark.Winter landscape Peak Distric (1 of 1)Winter landscape 2 Peak District (1 of 1)Sheep and Wind Turbine Peak District 2015 (1 of 1)