An interesting route following part of the Southern Upland Way along an old drove route to reach the large boundary cairns known as the Three Brethren. The cairns were built in the 16th century to mark the boundary of the Yair, Philliphaugh and Selkirk lands.
The first half of the walk is very straightfoward on good well maintained paths, even the upland sections. However, the second half is partly off path through grassy fields and on a rough overgrown path through the forest. If you just want to visit the Three Brethren you can return by your outward route (or a variation of it). If you want to do a circular walk but don’t like the forest path it can be avoided by a longer road/cycle track route walk.
This route includes a section of upland walking and it is recommended that you dress appropriately for a hillwalk and be prepared for the weather to be changeable. Although the paths are easy to follow, navigation skills are a must if the hills are shrouded in clouds.
- Distance: 13.8 km / 8.6 miles
- Ascent: 500 m / 1620 feet
- Terrain: Mixed of unsurfaced paths and off path walking over moorland
- Start/finish: Yair Bridge (Selkirk) Forestry car park on the A707 – grid reference NT 458 324.
Convenient parking is available at the Yair Forest car park close to Yair Bridge on the A707. From the car park walk along the road for 100m towards the bridge/traffic light. Head along the private road at the corner for about 600m passing some houses and crossing a burn. Look out for a Southern Upland Way sign pointing up the hill on your left hand side. Follow this path up the hill on the edge of the forest crossing two forest roads in the process. After almost 3.5km you emerge on to the open hillside at a path junction.
From here there are paths to Selkirk, Yarrowford and, the one we want, the Southern Upland Way to the Three Brethren. Follow the signpost to the right along a well maintained path across the open heathery hill with views of the surrounding countryside. From the signpost it is just under 1km and 100m of ascent to reach the distinctive Three Brethren cairns. At 464m this is our highest point of the day. As well as being the boundary of the old estates, this point is nowadays also a junction of paths and tracks and sports an OS trig point. The plaque on the fence lists the names of recent Selkirk Common Riding Standard Bearers.
Continue your walk along the Southern Upland Way on the landrover track (but don’t go down into the forest). The track becomes a pleasant path following the crest of the hill for a while. After just over 1km you will reach a signpost for a path down to Yarrowford to your left. Ignore this and look for a wooden gate in the wall soon afterwards. Go through this gate and pick up the grassy path on the other side which will take you to the summit of Broomy Law (463m) ahead of you.
From the summit continue westwards along the path which will bear right and then left to bring it back close to the wall. At some point you will need to cross the wall to get back on to the Southern Upland Way path. Pick a convenient lower point and take care not to damage further the drystane wall. Stay on the Southern Upland Way for a short distance until you reach a stand of trees on your left.
At this point leave the path in a northerly direction to reach the flat unnamed summit at 452m. Proceed downhill in a north east direction on tussocky grass. There are some patches of bracken but these are easily negotiated and you may find a sheep track to assist you. Livestock may be encountered on this section of the walk so keep any dogs under close control and on a lead if necessary. You will need to cross three fences on the descent but there are openable gates in convenient places (if you find it easier to climb the gates please do so at the hinged end so as to minimise damage).
Close to the trees at the bottom of the hill, after crossing the third fence, you should be able to pick up the start of a field track. Go left (north) on this track which goes slightly uphill, before bearing left and dropping down to Williamhope. From here go right onto the metalled access road and follow it down the glen for 1km. After the road turns left look for a grassy patch on your right hand side and a gate leading into the forest.
This next section of the walk through the forest is rather rough. If you would rather not walk this section it is possible to stay on the Williamhope road until it joins the public road at Peel and then follow National Cycle Route 1 on forest tracks back to your start point. It is almost 2km to the public road and then almost 5km along the cycle route as opposed to 4km using the forest path.
Go through the gate and follow the feint rough overgrown path to a wooden gate. The gate is followed by a wooden footbridge across a burn and a further wooden gate. The gates and the bridge might be quite hard to spot through the undergrowth but they are there! After crossing the gate there is a feint path which initially follows the fence (which should be on your right) in a south east and then east direction. The underfoot conditions here are not particularly easy but it is only for about 500m. After passing a clearing in the forest a forest road is finally reached. Go right on the forest road and then immediately left onto another path. This second path is easier going than the first one and after 250m you reach a gate into a field.
The path across the field shown on the OS Landranger map doesn’t exist and part of the field has been ploughed. Walk around the outside of the ploughed area on easy grass to reach a cluster of trees in the field. Go round the back of the trees and on the far side (east) you will be able to pick up a field track. Follow this track to the right, downhill to reach the burn at a field corner. Turn left (east) onto a now more obvious track which follows the Yair Burn down the glen to reach Yair Farm. As you start to reach civilisation the track becomes a metalled road. From the field corner to the farm is just under 1.5km.
If you used the Williamhope road and cycle route instead of the forest path, you will also reach this point at Yair Farm. From the farm it is only a short distance along the road to the point where you started following the Southern Upland way path earlier in the day. It’s now only about 10 minutes walk along your outward route, back to the car park.