We have lived in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders now for 7 months and this is the first time I have written up a walk from the town. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Both Scottish Borders Council and The Hirsel Estate have some very well waymarked and published walks, so I didn't want to repeat those; and
  2. Since the storm in November 2021 many of the paths in the Hirsel and surrounding area have been impassable or difficult to follow, so have not been very easy to write up.

Anyway, the chainsaws have been working away all winter and the routes around the town are opening up nicely. I have been seeking the best Hirsel circular route for sometime so, with Dundock Wood renowned for its rhododendrons, we thought we'd head out on a walk to check it out. The walk was so good, we pretty-well reversed it the next evening as a trail run and it has now become my new favourite route from the house. It is a bit of a hybrid, taking in some the Hirsel's waymarked trails and part of the Council's. It is mixed terrain - so some nice trail, but also quiet tarmacked estate roads -fabulous to walk or run.

The Hirsel

We live on the High Street, so I will start this route by the Castle Hotel where you can park for free. Go to the back left hand corner and take the path through the gate and down through the woods. This is a pleasant downhill, although can be slippery and/or muddy after rain. Keep straight on along this route, winding through the woods. Eventually it broadens out into a track. Keep on the track until the wooden signpost points you left. The signpost is a bit hidden by foliage, but the path is well-worn so fairly obvious. Follow it left and then bear right, following the arrows. This takes you next to the River Leet and when there is a left turn follow it over the bridge - look out for herons on the river.

Follow the path upwards, away from the river and to the side of the big house. When you come to a junction in the path turn right and pick up the road which goes in front of the Hirsel House. It is the home of the Douglas-Home family best known for Sir Alec who was British Prime Minister in 1963.

Follow the tarmacked road to the left and keep on going, bearing slightly right past the old dairy. Just before you reach the gates to the estate follow the yellow arrow down a woodland track.

Dundock Wood

This path opens out into Dundock Wood. There are a lot of little paths to explore in this area, well worth doing if you are there to see the rhododendrons and azaleas. To make sure you are going in the right direction turn left once you get into the rhodies and keep fairly straight on, bearing right whenever you can. There are some little boggy areas, which you can normally tiptoe around. You will eventually meet the main track, which after the clearance of the many fallen trees is very wide, turn left onto this track.

When the track branches you need to follow the arrows to the right, which will take you around the south side of the Hirsel Lake. You will be able to glimpse it through the trees, but better still is a slight detour to the bird hide. The lake is quieter in the summer, but we were treated to a mute swan family, a pair of great-crested grebes and at least six little grebes.

Once you leave the bird hide keep along the track until you get to the main drive opposite the Homestead. If it is the daytime you can get refreshments here and browse some artists' units in the courtyard. This is also another chance to enjoy views across the lake.

From The Homestead follow the main drive out of the estate - this is the road used by visitors to the park, but with wide verges on each side it is perfectly safe. At the end of the drive turn left and back into Coldstream.

As you re-cross the River Leet have a look over the bridge upstream, there is often a heron fishing on the weir.

This is a good, easy circular walk with plenty of variety. It is dog friendly, but the estate does request they are kept on leads at all times.

River Leet on Hirsel Estate
River Leet from the bridge
Stunning rhododendrons by Hirsel House
Rhododendrons in Dundock Wood
Route through the rhododendrons in Dundock Wood
red azalea in Dundock Wood
Red azalea



Distance:    6.2 km

Total Climb: 35m

Difficulty:    Easy

Date walked: 25/05/2022


  • heron
  • great-crested grebe
  • little grebe
  • mute swan
  • rhododendrons
  • azaleas
  • highland cattle