The village of Pathhead runs along either side of the A68 main road as it climbs up the hillside on the south side of the Tyne Water. It is not actually quite as linear as it appears to passing traffic, but this is a village which both geographically and historically can be defined by the road running through it.
Two thousand years ago, the road was known as Dere Street, and linked the Roman town of Corbridge on Hadrian's Wall with their fortress at Inveresk, in today's Musselburgh. At that point the road did not bridge the Tyne Water, it crossed it at a point a little to the west of the bridge in the hamlet that became called, for obvious reasons, Ford.
The village you see today grew dramatically after a linen mill was built on the Tyne Water in 1738. By the late 1700s Pathhead had grown to become a straggle of single storey thatched cottages lining both sides of the main road for a significant distance up the hillside.
Much has changed since. The thatched roofs have all gone, and many of the cottages have been rebuilt more substantially and/or grown a second storey. Pathhead gained a post office in the early 1800s. The Lothian Bridge was built over the Tyne Water by Thomas Telford in 1831 as part of his greatly improved road network for Scotland. The result was to place Pathhead firmly on the direct route from Edinburgh to north east England.
A number of local services followed, and a number remain, including shops, pubs and a school. Oxenfoord Castle, a mansion designed by Robert Adam, was built a mile north of Pathhead in 1794, nor far from the considerably older Preston Hall.
Two miles south west of Pathhead, the Tyne Water flows through the valley in which Crichton Castle was built by the Crichton family in the 1400s. This is best known for being turned into a magnificent Renaissance mansion by Francis Stewart in the 1580s and today has an air of remoteness that is remarkable in somewhere only 15 miles from the centre of Edinburgh. To visit Crichton Castle, you need to walk for 500m along a track from the car park. Near the car park is another fine building, Crichton Collegiate Church, built in the years up to 1449 by William Crichton, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland. Now minus its original nave, this is otherwise a remarkably complete medieval church.
As you follow the A68 south from Pathhead, you come to the imposing bulk of Soutra Hill. Here the modern road diverges from the course of the Roman Dere Street. Close to the point where they diverge is Soutra Aisle, all that is left of what was once one of the three most important medieval hospitals in Scotland. A rather more recent addition to the nearby landscape is the Dun Law Wind Farm.
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