The Thieves’ Road

One of many old drove roads in Scotland nicknamed ‘the Thieves’ Road’ (or ‘Thief’s Road’), this particular Border route has been carved into the land beneath the historic weight of countless feet (and hooves!). Perhaps following the same path as the pre-Roman Maiden’s Way, the Thieves’ Road runs from Teviotdale into Liddesdale by way of Swire Knowe. Still marked on Ordnance Survey map no.79, the route was used for many hundreds of years by both legitimate drovers of livestock, and the Borderland cattle-thieves known as reivers. The Thieves’ Road runs by the site of a ruined pele-house in the Dod Burn Valley, from which occupants may well have spied Mary Queen of Scots as she made the long horseback ride from Jedburgh to Hermitage to visit the wounded Earl of Bothwell. (The road crosses the watershed into the valley of the Hermitage Water just east of the summit of Swire Knowe, before descending by way of the Queen’s Mire and Braidley Burn to the Hermitage Water, and so it seems likely that it is the route Mary Queen of Scots would have taken.) As one walks the old road, there can be seen many traces of other ancient tracks over the Liddesdale-Teviotdale border – the open countryside a welcoming invitation to explore the many lost and remembered byways of Borders history.