It was fairly mild for the time of year in Edinburgh today when we set out for Soutra Aisle in the Borders, it was dry and the sun was shining. Luckily we had the foresight to take warm and waterproof clothes with us, because just 20 miles (32km) from Edinburgh, the weather was very different!
Even on the A68, less than a mile from Soutra, the weather was fine. But as we started to climb the hill, it got very misty, and there were piles of snow by the side of the road. Not wishing to get stuck on the slippery road, we parked halfway up the hill, and walked the rest of the way.
Soutra Aisle is the 17th century burial vault of the Pringle family of Soutra, and is all that remains of a much larger church and hospital complex. Soutra was the highest monastery in Britain at 366 metres (1200 feet) above sea level. Founded in the 12th century, the House of the Holy Trinity is thought to have been the largest medieval hospital in Scotland. The foundations of further buildings still remain, but the burial vault is all that is visible above ground.
Soutra was built on the Via Regia, the main route down into the Borders and its abbeys. This road followed the old Roman road of Dere Street which ran from Eboracum (York) in northern England all the way to the eastern end of the Antonine Wall. A section of Dere Street can still be seen close to Soutra, but on the way we were distracted by some fantastic natural snow sculptures caused by the high winds.
The snow did a very good job of enhancing Dere Street, making the ditches on either side of the road more obvious.
It was incredibly windy and bitterly cold, so we didn’t stay long to marvel at the wonders of Roman engineering, instead walking at an angle back up to the road. On the opposite side of the road the driving wind had left its mark on some trees, with thin lines of snow driven against one side of their trunks.
Yesterday’s snow had collected and drifted in various hollows, creating wonderful wave patterns.
Nearby the snow had piled up, trapped between two field walls.
Having come out without even imagining that there could be snow, that was more than enough for today! Back in the car, we only had to go half a mile down the hill and it seemed like we were in a different world, dry, sunny and no snow in sight.