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Wednesday, 31 October 2012


 So as promised a blog about Fairhaugh, the destination of our walk last Sunday, if you Google Fairhuagh it comes up as a holiday cottage set in the beautiful and remote Cheviot Hills. I have often wondered myself what it would be like to stay here so remote and with no electricity, I think it would be an awesome experience, not least because of the impression the place leaves with me.

I have found this piece of writing in D. D. Dixon’s Upper Coquetdale in which the author himself quotes from another source,

“There is an attraction in these billowy uplands which increases the better we know them; beauty in the mighty stretches of green pasture, sloping upwards and backwards, as often as not vanishing into grey mist in the acres of waving brake, the many coloured rocks and boulders, the flashing streams and burns, the flowers wild birds, less wild here than in the peopled lowlands.  Then there is the silence and all-aloneness of the borderlands, you may walk all day and see no one except some solitary fisher, or a shepherd and his collies on the fellside; above all, perhaps there is the consciousness that you are treading on historic ground, where each hill could tell of some fierce conflict, and where each valley and stream is associated with the loves, the passions, and the death throes of buried races.”

Cheviot Mountains Lone – Field, Oct 3rd, 1885.

This seems to encompass everything; it is all this that I am trying to convey when I talk about the “magic”, there is so much here from peace to heartache and all the trials between.

Fiarhaugh is an 18c farmhouse built on the Usway, probably in years gone by it would have been a shepherd’s cottage. There are many tales of hardship for the dwellers of this region and Fairhaugh has its share, around 1874 Fairhaugh was very nearly crushed under an avalanche, the shepherd who lived there was out at the time, he came to the crest of a hill and noticed that a large area of snow had slipped during his absence, the avalanche had demolished an out house and hay stack but had stopped within a few feet of his cottage. It seems there were a few similar incidents in the area over the years not all with such fortunate outcomes. It is indeed an area full of the mysterious, there are countless tales tell of travellers becoming lost once the mists had descended, it should be no great surprise to learn that the area was well suited to the development of innocent whiskey, stills being easily hidden in the inhospitable landscape, confusing to those unfamiliar with the terrain, thus often undetected by the authorities. Smugglers sold this innocent whiskey at the farmhouses up and down the valley, carried in kegs and large stone-ware bottles known as “grey hens”. It is said that the raw materials for the manufacture of this contraband was carted in the open and during daylight hours, the smugglers were so confident of their natural concealment. During this time the main bridges across the Coquet were situated at Warkworth, Felton and Rothbury at certain times when the river was in flood it would have been a perilous task to venture a crossing elsewhere.

Hundreds of years before the smugglers were selling their contraband border warfare was rife, fierce raids and fights, lives lost families devastated, blood spilt upon the blood of ancestors across the hills and valleys, a harsh period in history when some borderers it seems lost their sense of kindred ties and nationality becoming almost a singular race. Even before the border raids the area was inhabited by the Romans stationed at Chew Green, the very source of the Coquet, remains of standing- stones and cairns studded around the hills and by the waterways are witness to the lives of a pre historic people who lived if not permanently in the area then with a close association to it. The area known as upper Coquetdale is one of those places where the ancient past, the historical past and the present mingle readily; an area that still holds so much of the primitive it is easy to imagine life in other times. As usual I have found so much in the history and folklore of the area that I can not possibly do it justice in a blog, but I may have peaked your interest and you might decide it is worth a visit.
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