Day Five: Penton to Gretna

This last stretch to the west coast and is the longest so far at about 15 miles, continuing along Liddell Water where it eventually becomes one with the Esk. Shortly after, for the first time in three days the border suddenly stops following a water source and takes a sharp right heading west in straight line across the A7 to join the Sark, three and a half miles away. This is one of the most substantial man-made sections of the whole borderline, known as Scots Dike and was once the most contentious length of frontier in Britain. It consists of two parallel ditches with the earth piled up between and was built to end a long-standing and bloody dispute over the Debatable Lands between the Sark and the Esk rivers.

In 1551 Lord wardens of both countries issued a joint proclamation calling open season on lawlessness:

“All Englishmen and Scottishmen, after this proclamation made are and shall be free to rob, burn, spoil, slay, murder and destroy all and every such persons, their bodies, buildings, goods and cattle as do remain or shall inhabit upon any part of the said Debatable land without any redress to be made for the same”.

By the following year nearly every dwelling had been burnt to the ground so realising that probably wasn’t the wisest policy ever enacted, they enlisted the diplomatic assistance of the French ambassador. In September 1552 he drew a straight line running due east from Sark to Esk Rivers in the hope to finally to settle the arguments over the boundary line.

A long strip of dense dappled woodland now covers the dike, every now and again I could make out the remnants of the ditches covered by a thick carpet of fern. It was tough going but quite a magical scene in the dappled light.


View of the Liddel Viaduct from Rowanburnfoot

scots dyke-4

Scarecrow border gaurd at the foot of Scots Dyke


Woodland covering Scots Dyke


Woodland covering Scots Dyke


Evertown, Dumfries and Galloway, just north of Scots Dyke

The last stretch of the border runs through the small Sark River and underneath the M6 motorway before flowing into the Solway Firth.


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