If you want to experience Scotland at its wildest and most lonely, you could try the far north west, say around Fanagmore. Or you could take the first right turn off the A68 after you cross the Scottish border at Carter Bar. This is the starting point of a network of very minor single track roads that wind through the foothills of the Cheviots.
If you navigate past the junctions with long cul-de-sac roads leading higher into the hills (a map is not an optional extra for this trip) you eventually emerge on a "B" road not far from Yetholm, the start and finish of the Pennine Way Long Distance Footpath.
En route you will pass through a number of tiny settlements, sometimes no more than a farm or an individual cottage. The largest of them, though far from large, is Hownam. A row of houses centre on the village Post Office and behind the main road are a few other dwellings. The church lies at the north end of the village, and the church hall at the south end. Add in a couple of outlying cottages and that's about it.
Yet Hownam is a very old settlement. It was first recorded in 1165, and the name is thought to refer to the Hunas, the early tribe believed to have constructed the numerous hill forts in the area and the Five Stanes stone circle nearby.
A Parish School was founded here in 1609, while parts of Hownam Church date back to the 1400s: though most of what you see today is from more recent centuries, including a rebuild after a fire in 1907.
Julius Agricola could well have passed this way in AD80 en route to invade Scotland, because the Roman Road, Dere Street, passes over high ground to the west of the village. And for many years Hownam was on a road to England from Kelso and the north. This passed through the village and along the Kale Water before picking up Dere Street and crossing the shoulder of the Cheviots via Blackhall Hill and Brownhart Law en route to Rochester on the A68.
It was probably the through traffic on this route that led to the establishment of an inn in Hownam: and the removal of the traffic to more modern routes like the A68 that led to the inn's eventual closure as recently as the 1950s.
The roads in this area are narrow, and by the normal standards of Scottish single track roads have very few passing places. See our feature on Driving Single Track Roads to find out more about tackling them.
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