Stunning views and quirky history at a butterfly hotspot
There are walks, wildlife, stunning views and quirky history to discover at this quiet forest. The grassy slopes below the car park are just right for butterflies like the Small Copper and the Northern Brown Argus.
One of the folk tales collected by Sir Walter Scott in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders tells of Muckle Mou’d (big mouthed) Meg, the notoriously ugly daughter of the Murray family. You’ll find out how she found true love from interpretation panels near the car park. Look out for the ruins of Elibank Castle, the Murrays’ home, which you can still see across the valley.
A gentle meander with plenty of places to sit. Spot the butterflies this forest is renowned for, or the anthills on the edge of the pines.
Largely firm gravel surface, with some loose stones. Some short moderate slopes and a few steeper ramps. Regular seats along route.
Allow ¼ hours
Sit patiently for a while in summer and you'll meet some of the fascinating small inhabitants of Thornielee. The forest is renowned for its butterfly population, especially the south-facing grassy slopes below the car park, warmed by the sun. Look for Northern Brown Argus, a priority species for conservation that usually flies in June, and the pretty Small Copper, which can be seen in May and June.
'A long climb to the top of Thornielee Forest is rewarded with magnificent views.
Rough earth and grass paths with exposed tree roots and several muddy sections. Long steep slopes for up to 500m.
Allow 1½ hours
Discover the Shepherd’s Cairns, impressive jumbles of stones that were once a burial place. Nobody knows whose body lay here, but the views over the Tweed Valley make it a wonderful resting place.
Facilities & access
The nearest public toilets are in Innerleithen or Galashiels.
Thornielee forest is halfway between Innerleithen and Galashiels on the A72. Look for the car park on the north side of the road, ½ mile west of Thornylee village.
TD1 3LN is the nearest postcode.
Buses between Galashiels and Innerleithen can stop at the forest on request. Plan your journey at Traveline Scotland.
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