Monday, 5 May 2014

Borders Journeys Ancestral Tour to Carlisle

Yesterday, I enlisted the assistance of Ian Walker of Borders Journey's Ancestral Tours to take me to the area where my maternal grandmother was born and raised. I met Ian at the SAFHS conference last year and a couple of the participants from last year's tour travelled with Ian and had an amazing experience.

We left Edinburgh and drove down through the Borders. Ian took me by route of the Devil's Beeftub, which has a prominent place in the collective memory of my maternal family. Unfortunately the rain and fog rolled in just before the Beeftub, so the scenery was missed and we were thankful to have come out the other side safely. The Beeftub has a Drover's Road on the opposite side to where we were, but was a perfect hiding spot for the Reiver families to hide the cattle they had stolen from other border clans. It is a very very deep glen making it difficult to get to and a perfect spot to place the cattle and keep them safe...well, until the other Reiver family decided to retaliate!

 From the Beeftub, we entered Moffat. This area is well known for its Woollen Mills. I have aunts who worked in Moffat, so was able to stop and take a wander around. It has been many years since I have had the chance to do so.

From Moffat, Ian detoured into Gretna Green. I remember going here as a child on day trips with my cousin who lived in the Carlisle area. Gretna has grown into a marrying mecca and in many respects is now overgrown and far too commercialized. The kids and I were able to tour the original Smithy Shop which is much as I had remembered it.

From Gretna, we crossed into England and on to Kingstown. In 1911, at the age of 2 and a half, my granny was living in these cottages on California Road with her maternal great aunt, Ann Brown. I was surprised that this would have, at the time, been quite rural as the development around the cottages is all post WWII.

From Kingstown, we went to Kingmoor. The land that my granny's maternal grandparents owned (25 acres) is now a nature reserve. It was here that my gran was born in 1908.

I was pleased to see that it hadn't been developed and I was able to get a sense of just how large the property was as well as how rural. We were able to get out of the bus and wander. It was surprising to me to feel shivers and a bit of emotion. I know others feel this when they visit ancestral haunts, but having been so familiar with mine, having visited many many times, I did not anticipate the feelings I had. I was also acutely aware that ma granny was no happy wi me and was gi en me an earfy.

From Kingmoor, we went to the Carlisle Cemetery where some of my granny's paternal line are buried. Ian had found the plot and lair numbers but being Sunday, no one was around to assist us to find the actual headstones. No worries. My taphophilia kicked in and I was quite happy to wander around the older part of the cemetery and take in the stones. They are quite amazing and in some respects reminded me of the rather elaborate ones at the Glasgow Necropolis.


There are several shrubs with headstones growing up in the middle of them. And then we found this gnarly, twisted tree with it's own cemetery underneath:

Following our wander around the cemetery, we drove past the Grand Central Hotel where my granny's maternal aunt worked in 1911. She was a kitchen maid.

Another drive by was Castle St (we did attempt to get to Castle street, but logistically it wasn't working) where my great grandparents lived in 1901, prior to moving over to the family farm, where my great grandfather then took over from his father.

It was now time for a break. We stopped at Houghton Hall, now a garden centre, but at the time, was the grounds of Houghton House where my great, great grandfather worked as a butler in both 1841 and 1851.

 On the 1851 census, while great great granddad was busy as a butler at the Big Hoose, his wife was at Dykeside Cottage where she was the land proprietor.

I was able to meet up with my cousin and share a catch-up with him. All too soon, it was time to say goodbye and claim enough hugs from him to last another year.....

Our last ancestral place to see was the Railway Station House in Harker, where my paternal great grandmother was born when her father was down in England working on the railway. This is still used as a home.

On the way back to Edinburgh, Ian took us through Selkirk

and then on a ride through Melrose.

It was an amazing day. I know that my tour participants who have enlisted Ian's assistance for their ancestral journey will not be disappointed. Thank you, Borders Journeys!


  1. I hope there is local historical or genealogy societies who will work with volunteers to clean up the cemeteries and 'walk' them taking notes and photos to record the burials from grave markers that are still readable or can be repaired and cleaned up.

  2. There are, and they do. Most of the genealogy societies have not only transcribed, but also photographed, indexed and published the cemetery records

  3. It was an absolute pleasure to take you and your family on your ancestral tour yesterday. I'm delighted that you enjoyed your experience and thank you for recommending Borders Journeys' services to your clients.

  4. The areas you covered this day are of genealogical interest for both my husband's and my families. Your blog entry and the pictures were a treat.

  5. Glad you were able to "come along" vicariously, Brooke!

  6. Wow-busy first day! You didn't tell me you go to Scotland every year. I've been once which is why my husband and I were so fascinated with everything.