Day out: Elibank and Traquair Forest, Scottish Borders

Amble or cycle through the largest woodland in the Tweed Valley where Scottish kings once hunted boar and deer

Elibank and Traquair Forest, Scottish Borders

Enjoy a day out at Elibank and Traquair Forest in the Scottish Borders.

Located near the small town of Innerleithen, the Elibank and Traquair Forest is largely coniferous but contains delightful pockets of ancient woodland, along with fine views from the hillsides over the pretty River Tweed.

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The woodland can be explored on a network of walking trails, in addition to two long-distance paths: the Southern Upland Way and the Cross Borders Drove Road.

Autumn animals

In October, golden-brown leaves colour the horse chestnut and beech trees by Traquair, and it is a good time to see the resident red squirrels, when inexperienced youngsters are active alongside the food-caching adults.

Red squirrel in autumn
Red squirrel in autumn ©Getty Images

If you’re lucky, you may hear red deer rutting, though this takes place on the hills above the valley floor. Crisp autumn days are especially good for hearing the loud calls of great spotted woodpeckers.

This striking black-and-white bird – similar in size to a blackbird with a distinctive bouncing flight – feeds on mature conifers. The forest is also home to a variety of other birds, including buzzards, pipits, dippers, waxwings, crossbills, siskins, owls and chiffchaffs, as well as roe deer, otters, foxes, badgers and rabbits.

Great spotted woodpecker
Hear the calls of Great spotted woodpeckers in autumn ©Getty

Innerleithen was once surrounded by forests rich in bear, wolf, boar and deer.

Autumn colours on The River Spey, Aviemore, Cairngorms National Park

In 1107, King Alexander I signed a charter to ensure the surrounding hills became a nobleman’s playground for centuries to come, with forests maintained for hunting and riding. Scotland’s oldest continually habituated house – Traquair House – dates from the same year and was used by royal hunters.

A popular tourist attraction these days, it also has an 18th-century domestic brewery that was rediscovered in the 1960s.

Woodland wheeling

Some of the oldest yew trees in Scotland can be found on a woodland walk from Traquair House (open to the public until the end of October and then weekends until 24 November 2019).

Elibank and Traquair Forest is also home to the world-class mountain bike Innerleithen 7stanes trailsThey are free to use but are for experienced riders only, and walkers are not allowed on them for safety reasons. Recreational cyclists can enjoy the 8km Tweed Valley Railway Path that links Innerleithen and Peebles.

Useful information

For general information about visiting Elibank and Traquair Forest,  head to www.visitscotland.com

Road directions (from Visit Scotland)

Take the A72, heading east from Peebles for around 6 miles.
At Innerleithen, turn right off the A72 and take the B709 for Traquair.
The entrance for the large 7stanes car park is on the left, approximately 50 metres over the bridge.

Visiting Traquair House and Brewery

Head to www.traquair.co.uk for opening times and facility details.

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Mountain biking information

For 7stanes centre locations, see forestryandland.gov.scot