Start location: A68 at Forest Lodge (NT 607 287)
End location: Scottish/English border at Black Halls (NT 788 106)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Pilgrimage Route, Medieval Road, Roman Road
Path distance: 27.8km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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Our route description for this stretch of Dere Street is given in two halves, running south and north respectively from Jedfoot.
Running south over the Cheviots, Dere Street is mostly a broad grassy track, so it is a splendid route for walkers. From the bridge at Jedfoot, where the A698 crosses the Jed Water 3km north of Jedburgh, Dere Street runs southeast and straight for 8km by Cappuck (Roman fort) to Shibden Hill; thence by Whitton Edge, Pennymuir (Roman camps), over the Kale Water at Tow Ford and southeast by Blackhall Hill to the Scotland/England border at Black Halls. It then continues, going south for 1km to the extensive Roman camps at Chew Green, thence southeast by Outer Golden Pot (now as a road) to Featherwood, and then down a straight 5km south to Bremenium (camps) and Rochester on the A68 which largely heads south along the continuing line of Dere Street.
The Roman Road can be reached at Tow Ford by road from Hownam. From Chew Green southward the road lies within an MOD artillery range; for that reason an enquiry about live firing dates and times is advisable.
Going north from the bridge over the Jed Water at Jedfoot on the A698, follow the waymarked link through Monteviot House to the B6400 on the north side of the River Teviot. There, from NT647250, a section of Dere Street runs north to the Eildon Hills. It is now signposted St Cuthbert’s Way and it runs northwest for 6km to Forest Lodge on the A68 road. From here if wished, St Cuthbert’s Way can be followed to Melrose via Newtown St Boswells and the Eildon Hills.
OS Landranger 74 (Kelso & Coldstream) & 80 (Cheviot Hills & Kielder Water)
Dere Street was the main Roman road into Scotland; in use on and off by the Romans between AD78 and AD211, it ran from York to the Forth and has been traced to Dalkeith. It is likely that the Romans followed existing pathways, at least to some extent, when building their roads; settlement patterns of Britons previous to the Roman occupation reveal a number of forts and settlements in the area. Dere Street crosses both the Teviot and the Tweed which would have been relatively easily to ford in the summer months, but may have required the use of ferries or indeed bridges, although no above-ground trace of bridges exist today. The major Roman fort on Dere Street was Trimontium, near present day Newstead, and there is evidence suggesting a cross-road with another Roman road running west to east at Trimontium.
Long after the Romans left Britain, Dere Street remained a north-south military route. It is said to have been used by the 6th century warriors of the Gododdin and the armies of Edward I in the Wars of Independence.
In the Middle Ages this road, where it crossed the Cheviots, was known as Gamel’s Path. The section of Dere Street between Jedburgh and Edinburgh was known as the Via Regia or the Royal Way. Throughout the Middle Ages, Dere Street remained an important byway connecting greater Scotland with the important abbeys of the Borders region. As such, Dere Street was a regular pilgrimage route and King Malcolm IV created the Church and Hospital of the Holy Trinity as a place of rest and healing for pilgrims, near the half way point between Edinburgh and Jedburgh. Soutra Aisle is all that remains of the Church today. After the border abbeys were destroyed during the Reformation, Dere Street fell into disuse and disrepair, serving primarily as an occasional drove road.
Another section of Dere Street lies further north, near Soutra Aisle.
Alistair Moffat's book The Hidden Ways explores this old Roman Road, along with other historic routes such as the Herring Road and Crachoctrestrete. Also, keep an eye out for repeats of Channel 4's programme Britain's Ancient Tracks, as in one episode Tony Robinson follows Dere Street, discovering both Roman history and how the road was used after they left.