One of my favourite walks in the south of Scotland is at the pretty countryside town of Moffat at the very east side of Dumfries & Galloway, on the edge of the Borders. It is here one can walk from Moffat to the Devil’s Beeftub, a wonderful circular walk that follows the river Annan before climbing high onto the hills above the town.
The target is a bench, high upon ‘Great Hill’, which overlooks the ‘Devil’s Beef Tub‘, which is a dramatic hollow in the four hills which make up the ridge. The hollow is 500ft deep and is one of the sources of the river Annan.
I have walked this route many, many times. Alone, with a friend or with my dad. Everyone enjoys it and it can be shortened (or lengthened!) depending on your ability.
Also, and I cannot stress this enough, Moffat has a great chippy for when you finish.
I remember visiting Moffat as a child and it’s always been a town that I’ve had a soft spot for. The river Annan flows through it and there is a cute variety of shops, cafe’s and bars: it’s every bit a country town and is very popular in the summer. Even better, the town has free parking (as is commonplace in Dumfries & Galloway) with a large central ‘island’ of spaces for visitors.
When you visit be sure to check out Moffat Toffee which is a wonderful little old sweet shop, which was the first place I ate a proper Wonka bar as a kid! I still have a (now empty) Moffat Toffee tin in my house.
Following the Annandale Way
I’d arrived on a lovely, bright day and parked right in the centre of Moffat. One thing I love about this walk is it’s great at ANY time of year. In summer, the fields are covered in warm sunshine and full of lambs while in winter the walk has a wonderfully bleak feeling. Either ways the views are stunning.
Messi and I walked south through the town to the large carpark at the river Annan. The first stage of the walk is the busiest, as it follows the river through the small woodland at the edge of Moffat. It’s a pleasant spot and popular with the locals walking their dogs.
I was enjoying the soundtrack of the river and the views over the fields to Moffat. Messi was enjoying the river.
Without wishing to sound anti-social, I go walks to get away from people and enjoy the tranquility of the countryside, so when the path arrived at the little gate (with ‘Annandale Way’ signpost), I was glad to leave the river path and head over the fields onto the little country road that marks the second stage of the walk.
The walk from here follows a quiet country road, through a farmyard and passes by many pretty cottages. It’s peaceful and very few cars interrupted the walk. By this point, Messi and I were the only walkers (which has happened every time I’ve done this walk) and I always enjoy the countryside atmosphere in the area.
The path eventually forks to the left, passing by a little design studio building before arriving at a stile that heads into farmland, next to a large white farmhouse and eventually up onto the moors high above the A701. The views just get better and better and I was loving taking picture of the farm animals and the ridge at the Devil’s Beeftub.
If you are walking with a dog, or are a bit intimidated by cows, these fields usually have sheep and cattle.
On To The Moors
We were climbing and approaching the road, which is the A701 (which heads North from Moffat to Edinburgh or Peebles), and the weather was making the rolling hills beautiful to look at. You know the way the shadows of the clouds above roll over the sun-covered hills and it gives the landscape that wonderful ‘textured’ look? Well, as much as I love that, Messi seemed to be having far more fun rolling around in the soft grass. Sometimes I think he enjoys a nice view and other times I think he genuinley couldn’t care less.
A quick hop across the road and we were up on the little hill that faces Annanhead Hill, Great Hill and the Devil’s Beeftub.
A little walk along the road and we were at the base of Annahead Hill and the effort to push up onto the ridge is well rewarded. The little cairn on Annanhead Hill was bagged and we followed the path along to one of my favourite benches in Scotland which sits welcomingly at the top of Great Hill and offers views back down the valley to Moffat and East over the moors to the wonderful Corbett Hart Fell.
It’s a wonderful viewpoint, with magnificent views in all directions. I love this spot and wether you hike from Moffat or just drive to the top of the road and park at the base of Annanhead Hill, the views are worth the effort.
The only worry I had was if we would get the bench. I’d brough a sandwich and I really wanted to enjoy it (and, of course, give my buddy his lunch too). As the bench came in to view a couple were walking away and aside from them the summit was desolate. I parked myself and took it all in.
It was hard to tear myself away from the bench and once I had taken my fill of photographs, we pushed on along the ridge. This part of the walk is really enjoyable, as the little track goes up and down along the hills (but nothing too heartbreaking!) and the view and perspective changes.
Eventually, a little ‘Annandale Way’ cairn marks the point of descent.
Returning to Moffat
The path turns downhill, through a little forestry plantation and out over open sheep fields before arriving at the little road from earlier.
The path snakes past more cottages and eventually passes through a farmyard which is bisected by the river Annan, making a great dog-hydration-stop. From here on, the road heads straight back to Moffat and you have a choice: either re-trace your steps exactly (following the river) or just follow the road, which brings you into the top end of the village.
By this point I had put my camera away. I was looking forward to a chippy (I was fantasising about a sausage supper) and I knew Messi would help me finish it. I’d done this walk multiple times and had always planned to do it for the blog and I was pleased with the weather and how wonderful the views had been. What I wasn’t counting on was the walk had two more surprises for me: a herd of red deer and some horses in the fields!
I can’t stress enough how great a walk this is. It’s in a wonderful area, the town is pretty and the views are great. On top of that, you can really customise it to be whatever you want it to be! The route I have done here is around 16 miles but if you just want a gentle walk along the river you can do so or, if you’d rather see the views from the summit of Great Hill, you can drive up the A701 from Moffat.
On top of that, there’s a chippy and one beauty of a bench. If that doesn’t sell it to you I don’t know what will.
Route Length: 16 miles