Scottish Borders: Dams and Towers

We faced another grey day upon awaking, however by the time the van was packed up and we were heading off it was hazy yet gloriously sunny. Driving not too far we reached the dam at the end of the reservoir and decided to get out for a stroll. A grassy path had been created along the top of the dam for people to walk across, it didn’t really go anywhere but it did offer lovely views – one side over the water and the other down across the valley.

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It was a beautiful morning; the sun was still fairly low in the sky, shining though the haze, the sky was blue, with the water reflecting this and the grass was glowing in the light and moving in the soft breeze. The day had an almost dreamlike feel to it. Strolling aimlessly, we chattered away whilst watching the birds on the water, a small bunny nibbling on the grass spotted us from a distance and swiftly headed into the rocky embankment on one side. There were warning signs for adders; however we didn’t see any of these (disappointingly!)

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Reaching the end of the dam, we found there was absolutely nothing there except a big metal door straight into the hillside. Obviously this leads down to the workings of the dam but I still find doors like that very intriguing! And then back we went, retracing our steps. By this point I was feeling rather chirpy, skipping from left to right and doing the odd cartwheel – obviously holiday mode had set in, if there were any onlookers, of which we saw none, must have thought me entertaining if not a little mad…

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After driving for a wee while we pulled up in a space overlooking the Loch of the Lowes, there was a small stream running into the body of water which I couldn’t resist having a closer look for any signs of life. And I was not disappointed; the stream was full of small eel-like creatures wriggling around each other and poking their heads under all the small rocks and pebbles. They were heading upstream and after watching them for a while I noticed they had sucker mouths and would move small rocks or latch on to bigger one and appear to suck with a lot of effort – removing the algea/bacteria for food perhaps? They had silver bellies and 5 or 6 gill like holes on their heads/necks.

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I watched them for a while, coming across a cluster of about 9 or 10 all wriggling around in the same small space. It was only afterwards that we had a search on the internet and found out that they were Lampreys – creepy awesome little things. They look like something straight out of a horror film and can apparently grow up to a metre long when found in the ocean. I love it when I get to discover something new in nature!

After dragging myself away from the Lampreys we headed towards a small tower we had read about on an info panel during our walk the previous day. Dryhope tower is a small watch tower dating from approximately 1535, when large landowners in the borderlands were required to build barmkins of a specific size out of stone ‘for the resett and defense of him, his tennents, and his gudis in troublous tyme’ (thanks Wiki!) After falling into ruin, it was recently stabilised and opened for the public to explore.

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Making our way to the tower we took a wrong turn and found ourselves walking through a large grassy field covered in buttercups and daisies, it was very pretty albeit wrong. Reaching the far wall and realising we couldn’t just climb over as we would then be trespassing through someone’s back garden, we crossed a small stream and found a gate leading out on the far side. The gate lead out onto a small lane, the lane we should have been on in the first place. Walking though the farm and out the other side the tower was suddenly in view, situated in the middle of an undulating field, it looks good against the blue skies and rolling lands surrounding it.

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Visiting castles and towers is always high on our list when we are in Scotland, so compared with some others we have seen this one didn’t strike me as impressive, as such. However, it is always nice to be able to immerse yourself in the history of the area whilst simultaneously getting some great views! On route to the entrance we passed a small puddle acting as a bathing station for house martins, very sweet to watch them dunk themselves under the water and then fluff up and shake dry. The house martins continued to swoop around the sky as we entered the tower.

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They had put in place an old fashioned style metal door, leading to the interior and the spiral staircase to the roof. The thick stonewalls meant that, despite being incredibly warm outside, it was cold and damp-feeling inside (which was actually rather refreshing). Our entrance disturbed a nesting crow, which cawed fittingly as it flew off. Climbing up, I noticed several loose stones in the wall which made me wonder how long the most recent stabilisation will last.

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From the top you can see across the whole valley and St. Mary’s Loch, there was a nice breeze which encouraged us to stay up there and take it all in. The landscape was a mix of forests, rolling hills and farmland, there were big clouds rolling across the blue sky and it was a great vantage point to take everything in. To the right, however, we could clearly dark ominous clouds building and moving swiftly in our direction. We were aware that there were some storms on the forecast, so we took heed and exited Dryhope Tower. Crossing a small bridge on the other side and meandering through the scattered sheep I noticed the same crow swiftly fly back in, with another fitting caw, to reclaim his tumbledown territory.

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