Start location: crossroads, Oxton (NT 497 535)
End location: unclassified road between Threepwood and Wooplaw (NT 509 423)
Geographical area: Lothian and Borders
Path Type: Medieval Road
Path distance: 13.7km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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From the crossroads in Oxton, head southwest uphill by road to continue by a track west of Overhowden to a point (NT477507) west of Collie Law; it is then necessary to go left uphill alongside a field dyke to the plantation on the ridge at NT485501. The line of the old road is to be found on the west side of this plantation, and the ridge is followed south to Inchkeith Hill. Watch the direction here after passing the farm buildings. The dyke along the ridge is the line until in sight of the Stow to Lauder road, at which point strike left to reach this road near its highest point. Then go left along the road until a cart track is seen on the right going south towards the east end of a wood. The track ends at a road junction south-west of Threepwood.
For a continuation to Melrose, in preference to following the road down the Allan Water, go east for 2.5km along a minor road to join the Southern Upland Way at Bluecairn.
North of Oxton, the Girthgate can be followed from Kirktonhill along the line of Dere Street to Soutra Aisle.
OS Landranger 73 (Peebles, Galashiels & Selkirk)
This route is shown on Armstrong's 1773 map of the Lothians as starting from Soutra Aisle and going south to Threeburnford (via a now impracticable valley crossing), and then by Collie Law as outlined in our path description. It is named on that map and on the old OS 6" map as the 'Girthgate', ie sanctuary road, from some tradition that connected Soutra Hospice and Melrose Abbey (founded in 1164 and 1136 respectively). As Malcolm IV is said to have founded the hospital for lodging travellers, this indicates that the route was already in existence. Indeed north of Oxton to Soutra Aisle, the medieval Girthgate and the Roman Dere Street followed a similar line. However south of Oxton, Dere Street is thought to have kept more to the east in the Leader valley, unlike the ridge route of the medieval road.
The Girthgate has also been identified as the 'via regia' or royal road referred to in a Melrose Charter of 1180. South of the Stow to Lauder road, the Girthgate formed the county boundary for a mile.
Newsflash (November 2017): BBC Radio Scotland's Out Of Doors programme has recently included two interesting features about Soutra's medieval hospital - 28th October (c.1-9min) and 11th November (c.23-30min). Be quick to listen though as they're each only available for 4 weeks.