A Walk to Barns along the Tweed

One of my favourite walks in the Scottish Borders is following the River Tweed down from Peebles to the fortified tower of Barns – made famous as the home of the eponymous hero of John Buchan’s early novel John Burnet of Barns.

Barns Tower

Apart from the river scenery, which is quite wonderful, you also walk a stretch of the now disused Symington, Biggar and Broughton Railway – a delightful ramble in itself.

Heron on the Tweed

Leaving Peebles we followed the Tweed below Neidpath Castle, founded around 1190 and very dramatic high above the path. A true guardian of the Tweed Valley, almost sending out a visual challenge to anyone who dared to approach with malicious intent. You can almost picture the sentries of old glaring down on you from its high walls.

Neidpath Castle

The Tweed is a beautiful river, one of my favourites. As we wandered its banks we saw three herons, each one posted on its own section of the water, like crusty grey fisherman seeking fish on their individual beats.

The Railway Viaduct

Eventually, we came to the spot where the old viaduct of the Symington, Biggar and Broughton Railway crossed the river. Steps lead up on to the line and we followed it Lynesmill Bridge – even in late September (for there was still little sign of Autumn colours) a rich sight.

On the railway line

A path leads down to the Tweed, which is crossed by a footbridge, then a wooded walk along the river and down the drive to Barns. If you’ve never read Buchan’s novel and like historical adventures, I commend it to you.

Apart from the tower house with its iron yett (gate), which you can now rent out as a holiday let, there is a more modern house – i.e. just a couple of hundred years old – which is every bit as delightful.

Barns Tower

We followed a footpath back down to the Tweed and walked the river downstream to its confluence with the Manor Water and the Old Manor Bridge, which dates back to 1702. I well remember when it was still open to motor traffic, but thankfully the road is now blocked to everyone but walkers, cyclists and riders.

New Barns House

Its setting is an absolute delight, and the Manor Water, so familiar to John Buchan – he named a family after it in his books – is well worth exploring right up to its headwaters.

Path above the river

We climbed the lane up to Manor Sware, which offers grand view along the valley of the Tweed, before taking the woodland paths through South Park Wood and back down into Peebles.

Old Manor Bridge

If you like river scenery with good paths, or are a John Buchan fan, you’ll love this walk. I’ve done it several times and hope one day to do it again.

On the Tweed
Autumn Berries

By John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.


  1. The river looks very high in some of those photos – are they just now in all this awful rain?

    It would be nice to stay in that tower – is it a Peel Tower?

    Nice to see a photo of Neidpath Castle – it’s a strathspey we do a lot in our Scottish Country Dancing but I had no idea what it looked like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There had been a lot of rain in the night and it was clearing after a dry spell. No it’s not a peel tower technically just a tower house – we stayed somewhere more modest.. I think it’s £149 a night. Neidpath is very dramatic in its setting.


  2. I forsee a future holiday in Barns Tower – what a wonderful holiday home in a late medieval castle! And now we have a beautiful walk to do while we’re there. Just need to read Buchan’s novel now. Great stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s