The Eildon Hills may not be the highest hills in the Scottish Borders but make no mistake, they are steep. There are several tough climbs throughout a walk over this wonderful little range of hills, although it is made slightly easier by the excellent paths and tracks that criss-cross the summits. However, any exertion is richly rewarded, as the vista from each of the Eildon’s 3 tops is truly exceptional.
The Eildon’s rise above the town of Melrose, which was originally recorded in the 8th century as Mailros (Cumbric), meaning ‘the Bare Moor’. The town is dominated by the distinctive ruins of Melrose Abbey. The correlation with monastic life dates back several centuries before Melrose Abbey was established when, around 650AD, St Aidan founded a monastery nearby. During the 15th and 16th centuries wool and linen played an important role in Melrose’s development although today it is tourism that is vital to the economy of this lovely and active little town.
A little east of Melrose is Newstead, reputedly the oldest inhabited village in Scotland as it was here that the Romans settled around the 3rd century AD. It was the Romans who named the Eildon’s Trimontium, literally translating as ‘the Three Mountains’, and, due to the magnificent panorama from the summits, built a signal station to send long distance messages.
But the Eildon Hills were utilised by locals as a place of refuge long before the Romans set up camp underneath this unique range of hills. The Old English translation simply means ‘Old Hill Fort’ and around the time of the Bronze Age it is thought that up to 2000 people lived on the Eildon Hills, predominantly on the flat-topped North Hill. Local folklore suggests that the distinctive shape of the Eildon’s was created by the legendary wizard Michael Scot who split the one hill into three using his mysterious powers.