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Holy Orders at Jedburgh

Follow waymarked footpaths from this historic town.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 295ft (90m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Tracks, meadow paths and some sections of road, 2 stiles

Landscape Gentle hills and fine old abbey

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL16 The Cheviot Hills

Start/finish NT 651204

Dog friendliness Fair, but keep on lead near sheep and on road

Parking Main car park by tourist information centre

Public toilets At car park

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1 From the car park, walk back to the A68. Turn right, then cross over before you reach the river. Take the path on the left to walk beside the river, under an old bridge, then come on to the road. Cross and join the road opposite. Take the first right turn, then turn right at the fire station and cross the bridge.

2 Turn left, following the sign for the Borders Abbeys Way. Where the road divides, turn left and walk beside the river again - there's a small 'W' waymarker. When you reach the main road, cross over and walk along the tarmac road. Keep going until you reach a large building on your left (it was derelict at the time of writing).

3 Turn right here to walk in front of a small farmhouse called Woodend. When you reach another tarmac road, turn left. Your route now runs uphill, taking you past a radio mast and in front of Mount Ulston house. Maintain direction to join the narrow grassy track - this can get very muddy, even in the summer.

4 Squelch along this track until you reach the fingerpost at the end, where you turn left to join St Cuthbert's Way. The going becomes much easier now as it's a wide, firm track. When you reach the tarmac road, turn right and join the main road. Turn left, go over the bridge, then cross the road and go down some steps to continue following St Cuthbert's Way.

5 You're now on a narrow, grassy track which runs beside the river. You then have to nip over a couple of stiles, before walking across a meadow frequently grazed by sheep. Walk past the weir, then go through the gate to cross the suspension bridge - take care as it can get extremely slippery.

6 You now pass a sign for Monteviot House and walk through the woods to reach a fingerpost, where you can turn right to enjoy views over the river. If you wish to extend your walk, you can continue along St Cuthbert's Way until it joins the road, then retrace your steps. Whatever you choose, you then retrace your steps back over the suspension bridge, along the riverside and back to the main road. Cross over and rejoin the tarmac track.

7 The track almost immediately forks and you now turn right, following the road all the way back to join the A68 once again. When you reach the road, turn left and follow it back into Jedburgh. Eventually you'll come to the car park on the left-hand side, which was the starting point of the walk.

Although it was built back in the 12th century, the beauty and grandeur of Jedburgh Abbey is still clearly evident. It certainly dominates this bustling border town, and sits serene and seemingly untroubled by the hustle and hassle of modern life. It must have seemed still more impressive in medieval times, when the power of the Church was at its height and the population was generally uneducated and superstitious.

The abbey is one of four in the Borders - the others being at Dryburgh, Kelso and Melrose - and all were built after the Norman Conquest. They are stretched across the Borders like a string of ecclesiastical jewels. Jedburgh Abbey is one of the most impressive medieval buildings in Scotland. It was built for French Augustinian canons in 1138 by David I, on the site of an earlier Anglo-Saxon monastery, and was specifically designed to make a visual impact. This was not because the King was exceedingly devout, but was owing to the fact that Jedburgh is very close to the border with England. David needed to make an obvious statement of authority to his powerful Norman neighbours.

Each of the Border abbeys belonged to a different religious order. The Augustinian canons at Jedburgh were also known as 'Black Canons' owing to the colour of their robes. Unlike monks, canons were all ordained clergymen who were allowed to administer Holy Communion. Dryburgh Abbey was founded by Premonstratensian (try saying that when you've had a few refreshments) canons, who wore white robes and lived a more secluded life than the Augustinians. Kelso Abbey, which became one of the largest monasteries in Scotland, belonged to the Benedictine order, while Melrose was founded by Cistercian monks. The Cistercians took their name from the forest of Cîteaux in France, where their first community was established. Often known as 'White Benedictines', Cistercian monks adhered strictly to the Rule of St Benedict. Manual labour in the abbey was carried out by poor, and generally illiterate, lay brothers. These people lived and worshipped separately to the 'choir' monks who devoted their time to reading, writing and private prayer. The Cistercians adhered to a strict regime, designed to purify their lives. They banned the use of bedspreads, combs and even underwear.

These medieval abbeys all suffered in the battles that ravaged the Borders for centuries. Jedburgh, for example, was stripped of its roofing lead by Edward I's troops who stayed here during the Wars of Independence. It came under attack many times and was burned by the Earl of Surrey in 1530. After the Reformation, all the abbeys fell into decline and began to decay. Today they remain picturesque reminders of a previous age.

While you're there

In the town centre you can visit Mary, Queen of Scots House, a 16th-century fortified house where she stayed while visiting Jedburgh in 1566. She stayed here for several weeks recovering from a severe illness, caught following a lengthy moorland ride to Hermitage Castle, where she went to visit her injured lover, the Earl of Bothwell. Years later she regretted the fact that she hadn't died in Jedburgh.

Where to eat and drink

Simply Scottish on the High Street in Jedburgh is a good licensed bistro with cheery yellow walls, pine tables and wooden floors. As well as serving lunches such as ploughman's, it also serves fresh scones, hearty breakfasts and more substantial meals in the evening.

What to look for

Monteviot House Gardens are open to the public from around April to October. There's a River Garden, with views over the Teviot; a walled Rose Garden, a Herb Garden and a Water Garden made of islands which are linked by bridges. If it's raining you can always take shelter in the large greenhouse.

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