About 2 miles North of Coldstream on the A697, in the Scottish Borders, but just above the border with England.
A beautiful walk through woodland and round a lake. Gorgeous rhododendron woods in the springtime. The Hirsel country house, the seat of the Hume family is on the far side of the lake. Here you can find a cafe and craft shops and a golf course.
How to get there
About 2 miles North of Coldstream, at the road junction for Kelso, the A697 turns a right hand corner (heading North) and about 300 yards further up there is a layby on the right hand side. This layby has an entrance to a large car park set behind a hedge. For satnavs, the nearest place with a postcode is Fireburnmill, TD12 4LN. This is the building at the corner where the A697 turns right, while the A698 goes on to Kelso.
Alternatively, you can turn right while still in Coldstream town, before you climb the hill to the hospital, and take the road signposted The Hirsel. This takes you to the car park by the cafe, but there is a charge for parking there.
You can see a map of the route here.
Starting from the carpark by the A697 road, take the upper, or North East exit and follow this main path round through the rhododendron bushes and woods until you come to a stone cairn which has a plaque with Dundock Woods on it, and invites you to contribute to the upkeep of the woods. At this point, turn right and walk up a slight hill through a beech wood until you come to a T-junction with a road way, turn left here and follow the road as it bends around to the right. It is circling round Hirsel Lake.
Follow this road until it leads into a field, and on the right you will see a path disappearing into the trees. Take this path and follow it right around the north side of the lake, which you will occasionally see through the trees. Eventually, this path comes out onto a grassy bank and a roadway. The roadway goes to Hirsel House, which is private, so turn left and walk between the road and the lake, which is now clearly visible.
You will soon come to some buildings on your right, which include various craft shops and a cafe, where you can sit outside with your dog and enjoy a drink and maybe a cake or two. Once you have had your refreshments, walk back over the road again, and take the farm track that goes off to the left, following the southern shore of the lake. Once again, the lake is barely visible through the trees, but there is a hide a short way down where you can go and watch the waterfowl on the lake.
This road takes you back to Dundock Woods, where on your right, you will the path through the oak trees that takes you back to the car park. Dundock Woods is a maze of little paths, but if you take a wrong turning, you should be able to hear the traffic on the A697, which will guide you back to the car park.
If you want a longer walk, it is possible to walk up behind Hirzel house along the banks of the Leet Water and through Dunglass Woods.
The Hirsel was owned by the Kerr family until 1611, when it was bought by the first Earl of Home, then King James VI officially granted the lands of Hirsel to James, the 2nd Earl of Home in 1621. By the mid 1700s the house and gardens had been significantly developed and the 9th Earl of Home embarked on a major programme of forestry and agricultural improvement.
The Home family started deveopling the estate as soon as they took possession, but a storm in 1881 caused a lot of damage to the woodland and as a result, Dundock wood was planted out with the Rhododendron bushes that are so attractive in Spring today.
The most famous of the Home family was the 14th Earl, who was born in 1903 and played cricket for Middlesex. Lord Dunglass, as he was then called, joined Parliament in 1931 as MP for Lanark in Scotland and was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Neville Chamberlain and would have had some involvement in Chamberlain's failed attempt to appease Hitler and so avoid the Second World War. When his father died in 1952, Lord Dunglass became the 14th Earl of Home and so had to resign his seat in the commons and serve in the House of Lords instead. He eventually renounced his title so he could get back into the commons, and became Prime Minister as Sir Alec Douglas-Home from 1963 to 1964.