On the John Buchan Way

Broughton Heights and Trahenna

Hillwalking route up Broughton Heights and Trahenna Hill

In the Southern Uplands, halfway between Biggar and Peebles the grass-covered little hills of Broughton Heights make for an excellent walk or run along well defined crests. Fences aid navigation, terrain is generally soft underfoot and views are expansive.

Route outline

Main summits

Broughton Heights, 

Trahenna Hill

Ascent 630m (2060ft)
Distance 11km (7m)
Time 3:45hr
Start/finish Shepherds Cottage, by Broughton
Grid Ref : NT120374
easy hard
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ok fab

From the village of Broughton, the Buchan Way forms a lovely 21km low-level walk through the hills towards Peebles. The first path of this route travels through Broughton Hope, the glen between Broughton Heights and Trahenna Hill.

Instead of hiking onwards, a delightful afternoon can be spent on the high ground above Broughton Hope following fence-lines and defined paths while taking in vast views over the Southern Uplands.

Route map

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Route description

1. Getting to Broughton Place

Shepherd's Cottage on the John Buchan Way

Shepherd's Cottage on the John Buchan Way

The picturesque village of Broughton sits on the junction of the B7016 and the A701, 7 miles due east of Biggar.

To the north of the village, just outside of the 30mph limit, a small stone bridge crosses Broughton Burn, from where a narrow road heads uphill from the A701.

The road passes some farm buildings, travels through an avenue of trees to cross a cattle grid by two stone towers below the impressive house of Broughton Place.

A rough track continues further for a short distance to a parking area by Shepherds Cottage. There is limited parking here, if there are no spaces, there is parking available by Broughton Village Hall close to the northern end of the village.

2. Broughton Heights

Hikers on the trod up Green Law

Hikers on the trod up Green Law

From the car park by Shepherds Cottage, head through a gate (marked with a sign for the 'John Buchan Way') and begin hiking up a farm-track.

To reach the foot of Broughton Heights, there are two possible options. The first is to follow the track ahead to a gate by a patch of forestry , then continue northwards following Hollows Burn through Broughton Hope to a sign by a bench . Turn left and hike up some soggy ground to a gate in a high deer-fence at Cowiemuir Hass - the col between Clover Law and Broomy Side.

A fine alternative to reach Cowiemuir Hass, which adds around 80m ascent to that above, is from behind Shepherds Cottage, head directly down to Hollows Burn, over a bridge and through a gate to climb up onto the southern shoulder of Clover Law. Follow the fenceline along the crest of the hill northwards over Clover Law's summit to Cowiemuir Hass .

Through the gate in the deer-fence and onto its western side, a well defined trod is then traced along a delightful grass-covered crest up the minor bump of Broomy side where the deer-fence ends.

Trig on Pyked Stane Hill and view to Tinto Hill

Trig on Pyked Stane Hill and view to Tinto Hill

The trod turns northwards and follows a lower fence-line to Green Law , from where a gentle drop of 50m or so leads to the final climb up Pyked Stane Hill , the highest point on Broughton Heights, where a cairn and trig point stand.

Trig on Pyked Stane Hill and view to Tinto Hill

Trig on Pyked Stane Hill and view to Tinto Hill

3. Trahenna Hill

Trahenna Hill from the cairn on Hammer Head

Trahenna Hill from the cairn on Hammer Head

Return following the fence over Green Law to Broomy Side and drop to the edge of the deer-fence.

A direct descent can be made from here to gain the foot of Hammer Head . However as this involves bounding over deep heather, it may be preferred to return to the gate in deer-fence at Cowiemuir Hass , drop to the bench and hike the short distance on the John Buchan Way to the foot of Hammer Head .

Keeping to the western side of the deer-fence, begin to hike uphill on a faint path through heather. As the gradient steepens, heather becomes more dense and the path rougher, but this lasts only briefly and the crest of the western shoulder of Hammer Head is gained. Pleasant grass-covered ground is crossed to reach Hammer Head's summit , where a tidy cairn stands.

Onwards from Hammer Head, the path and fence-line travel over the minor bump of Green Lairs and begin to climb up Grey Yade. There is a gate in the deer-fence on route - heading through this makes for a fairly direct, if rather rough, route to Trahenna Hill on faint ATV tracks.

Final approach to Trahenna Hill

Final approach to Trahenna Hill

An easier approach is to continue following the deer-fence over Grey Yade to the next gate , heading through it and on a more defined trod, tracing the line of an old fence-line and remains of a wall south-east directly to the grass-covered summit of Trahenna Hill . There used to be a few boulders marking this summit, but none on my last visit.

Final approach to Trahenna Hill

Final approach to Trahenna Hill

4. Return to Broughton Place

Descent down Cat Cleuch Head, Culter hills beyond

Descent down Cat Cleuch Head, Culter hills beyond

Return north-west along Trahenna Hill's crest to the gate in the deer-fence then follow the increasingly widening trod downhill by the western side the fence-line aiming towards Cat Cleuch Head.

As ground begins to level, a rough but obvious path on the right (west) can be taken. This path cuts through heather as is heads downhill, then crosses grazing land as it drops towards a deer-fence above the patch of forestry in Broughton Hope, from where footsteps are traced back to Shepherds Cottage.

5. Two Breweries Hill Race

Gaining Trahenna Hill's summit from Stobo

Gaining Trahenna Hill's summit from Stobo

The Two Breweries Race is a popular event taking place each September. The race begins from Traquair near Innerleithen and travels over the summits south of Peebles to finish by Broughton.

The last hill in the route is Trahenna Hill, with the final descent on the steep west facing and grass-covered slopes of Ratchill Hill.

There are 4 substantial climbs on the route, with ascent totalling 1700m over a distance of 29km. The fastest runners will complete the course in under 3 hours.

Details of the race can be found on Scottish Hill Runners.

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Alternative and nearby routes »

Culter Fell and Gathersnow Hill

The rolling Culter Hills lie in the Southern Uplands, just south of Biggar. The highest peaks are Culter Fell and Gathersnow Hill - vast heather and grass covered lumps. Navigation is fairly easy following well-maintained fences.

Peaks : 2 Grahams, 4 Donalds

Ascent : 960m (3150ft)
Distance : 19km (12m)
Time : 6:30hr

Tinto from Wiston and Thankerton

The most popular approach Tinto's summit is from the north and is also used for the line of the Tinto Hill Race. But a more quiet alternative is to aim up from Wiston to the south.

Peaks : 1 Graham

Ascent : 455m (1490ft)
Distance : 5km (3m)
Time : 2hr

Dun Rig and the Glen Sax Circuit

From Peebles, a fine circular hillrunning route overlooking Glen Sax takes in the high ground of Glenrath and Huddleshope Heights. Part of the route forms the Gypsy Glen Hill Race.

Peaks : 1 Graham, 4 Donalds

Ascent : 900m (2950ft)
Distance : 21km (13m)
Time : 6:45hr

Broad Law and Dollar Law

A delightful route following fencelines which aid navigation over the undulating ground between Dollar Law and Broad Law.

Peaks : 1 Corbett

Ascent : 810m (2660ft)
Distance : 16km (10m)
Time : 5:20hr


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