Day out: Moffat Hills, Dumfries and Galloway

The quiet hills, rambling rivers and vibrant forests surrounding the town of Moffat are a serene alternative to Cumbria’s lakes

Moffat Hills, Dumfries and Galloway

Lying just an hour or so from the urban centres of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Carlisle, the Moffat Hills comprise one of the most striking landscapes in the Southern Uplands.

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Although popular with walkers and cyclists, the lonely moorland, moody valleys, frothing waterfalls and enticing summits are relatively undisturbed compared to the Cumbrian peaks a little further south.

Golden eagle
Golden eagles have been reintroduced to the hills
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Wildlife and birdlife abound. In spring, red squirrels and emperor moths can be spotted, while ospreys, white-bibbed ring ouzels and wheatears returning from their sub-Saharan winter residency are among the area’s many bird species. Golden eagles have recently been reintroduced here, too.

River to tub

North of the town of Moffat, the River Annan rises on Tweedsmuir and flows through the cavernous Devil’s Beef Tub, a vast hollow in the hills once used by reivers (raiders) to hide stolen cattle. Here at Corehead, low intensity farming is integrated with woodland restoration, one of several local projects in which almost one million trees have been planted in the past 25 years. The fresh tones of mixed woodland are complemented by the woody hues of low-growing prostrate juniper and the silvery catkins of downy willow.

Isle of Eigg, Small Isles, Scotland. Beautiful bay in Summer with blue sky and An Sgurr reflected in the clear blue waters

A walk of around six miles takes in the Beef Tub and Corehead. Those in search of a little more adventure can challenge themselves to the 56-mile Annandale Way, which runs south all the way to the Solway Firth.

Flowers by the falls

The Grey Mare’s Tail Nature Reserve, rigged with a live camera feed of a nesting peregrine, lies 10 miles east of Moffat within the Moffat Hills Special Area of Conservation. Following the path up the side of the waterfall – the UK’s fifth highest – the verges are dotted with bright yellow globeflowers, delicate starry saxifrage and the purple-green lesser twayblade orchids. The bleating of lambs punctuates the silence and feral goats roam the slopes.

Grey Mare's Tail
The outflow from Loch Skeen on Tail Burn above Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall
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Statistically, May is the area’s sunniest month, with June a close second. The former spa town of Moffat is a popular hub for a springtime break – it’s also the country’s first ‘Golden Eagle Town’. Come for its Golden Eagle Festival (13–20 September) or Walking Festival (2–4 October), finding lodgings at Summerlea House B&B. moffatbedandbreakfast.co.uk