Broch ‘n’ Roll – Edin’s Hall Broch, Scottish Borders

Over summer I had been getting my reading gear into all manner of Scottish history books and in particular, books about the Bronze and Iron Ages when innovations in living really began to take shape. Something I’ve always been intrigued by was the way in which early peoples lived their lives and more importantly, the places within which they did their living. The mystery of the broch has always held a fascination for me as no one quite knows what kind of living exactly went on in these roundhouses. Were these community dwellings? Store houses or some form of fortification used to deter attackers?

Keen to explore one for myself, I discovered that there was one (almost) on my doorstep. Edin’s Hall Broch in the Scottish Borders is a mere hour’s drive from Edinburgh and in keeping with the mysterious legend of the broch … it probably shouldn’t even be there. Brochs are well-kent in the Highlands and are usually located near its coastlines. This one however, is perched atop Cockburn Law, one of the rolling Borders hills some 10 miles inland! Edin’s Hall Broch for this reason, truly is an anomaly and so, my intrepid pal, Kat and I headed off to discover its secrets …

Edin's Hall Broch sign

After a wee scoot along the A1 road in a southerly direction, we took the turn off at Grantshouse and followed the A6112 until we saw the Historic Scotland sign directing us down towards the start of the path. There’s some space to park cars, but not lots, so just be aware.

The path is well sign-posted and directs you along a wooded section which eventually leads to a crossroads. Take the left as the sign directs you and head on down towards the Whiteadder Water.

Edin's Hall Broch

You’re in for a treat here as the lovely (Idris) Elba footbridge (I know, but a girl can dream, right?) crosses a beautiful section of the Whiteadder Water rapids. Be sure to bring your cameras as you will undoubtedly be inspired to have a Kodak moment or two here.

Elba Bridge over Whiteadder Water

Whiteadder Water from Elba footbridge

Bonnie, eh? Upon reaching the other side you would be forgiven for thinking that you have hit the very definition of a dead end – a pretty gate awaits you displaying the sign ‘Private Property’ on it. Dinnae fash yersel’ though and take a right where you’ll end up in a bonnie orchard with a lovely bench and views across the river. Cross this area before heading up the stairs and wander by the hen coops but BEWARE OF THE VIGILANTE GEESE!

Once safely past, you emerge into a clearing which follows the route of the river to your right. Stick by it and you won’t go wrong for the way to the broch is well signposted.

It’s at this point that you turn left and head through a field and over a stile into a field which is usually full of livestock. Word of warning here to tread carefully near the cows and stay well away if there are calves in the field. Cows can get a bit frisky and square go ye if they feel you are a threat. We were aggressively mooed at and one cow started to advance on us for traipsing on by, but with hindsight that was probably more to do with Kat goading the herd by shouting, “Mmmm, steak!”

Once you’ve made it up and over another stile you’ve only got the hill in front of you – Cockburn Law – to negotiate and as climbs go, it’s not going leave you ower puggled (overly tired). When you get to the crest of the hill, gatherings of stones will begin to emerge and this marks the beginning of what was likely an Iron Age hill fort that the broch is part of.

The Broch

Edin's Hall Broch, Scottish Borders

The broch itself is very well preserved and is an impressive scale. The central space is very wide indeed and would have been difficult to roof. The walls are at least 5 metres wide with chambers which were possibly used to keep animals and for storage and guard cells. However, Kat and I thought that they’d be perfect for a game of Hide ‘n’ Seek!

It’s thought that the broch was built around the 2nd Century AD, although the surrounding settlement predates the structure. Standing in the midst of its drystone vastness, you start to consider how much of a deviation this design was compared to the wooden houses so typical of Lowland Scotland at the time. The location atop the hill however, makes sense that it should have been part of a fort as it would have been a perfect vantage point for invaders. However, the mystery of who built it, whether it was completed and how they transported the materials is ongoing. Various treasures have been dug up here during excavations (available to see in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh), but it seemed that in our own search for Iron Age plunder, our luck was out and then came the rain!

So, perhaps didn’t find our pot of gold, we did have time to chase a rainbow.

Distance: 4.5 miles round trip

Time: Roughly 1-2 hours

Map of route: Edin’s Hall Broch walk

Brochs: Some Interesting Facts 

  1. Broch is actually derived from a Lallans (Lowland Scots) word ‘brough’ meaning fort. So maybe Edin’s Hall being built in the Scottish Borders was a homecoming of sorts after all?!
  2. There are 500 known broch sites in Scotland.
  3. They seemed to spring up around the time of the Roman invasion of Scotland, unsurprising considering how partial those fellas were to conquering everything in their path! (Fact: Scotland was never conquered by Roman invasion despite four military campaigns. Just sayin’.
  4. You’ll find the biggest concentrations of them in Sutherland, Caithness and the Orkney and Shetland island

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