The big picture: The Devil’s Beef Tub, Dumfries & Galloway

The Devil's Beeftub, Dumfries & GallowayGorgeous photograph by Kenny Muir

The Devil’s Beef Tub is one of the most impressive landmarks in the south of Scotland.

Located five miles north of Moffat, this plunging glacial hollow is surrounded by four hills – Great Hill, Peat Knowe, Annanhead Hill and Ericstane Hill – while the valleys form the headwaters of the Annan Water and mark the watershed between the Annan and Tweed rivers. Dotted across the hills are small relic stands of rare mountain plants and the occasional pocket of ash and hazel woodland – a reminder of landscapes past.

Today, it is a place of great tranquillity, enjoyed by walkers, fell runners and the occasional paraglider, but it is also a landscape with a turbulent past. The Beef Tub has great historical and cultural importance and was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott, who wrote: “It looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A damned deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is.”

The evocative name came from the notorious Border Reivers who hid stolen cattle in its cavernous hollow. It is also known for its association with William Wallace, who is reputed to have gathered men from the Ettrick Forest and the Border clans at Corehead and from nearby Corehead Tower led his first attack against the English in 1297.

Since the days of William Wallace, when the ancient Ettrick Forest covered this land, the hills have been grazed bare, leaving natural habitats such as heather moorland and native woodland much reduced. The Beef Tub forms part of the 1,580-acre Corehead Farm, which was purchased by Borders Forest Trust (BFT) in 2009 with the aim of bringing the upland sheep farm into conservation management. Through traditional agricultural practices and ecological restoration techniques, the Trust is now creating native woodlands, wetlands, hay meadows and heather moorland habitats. Just a short distance away is another BFT project, the Carrifran Wildwood. Together these projects form building blocks in the restoration of the Ettrick Forest.

One of the key aims is to encourage the return of wildlife – from black grouse and golden eagle to mountain hare and Scotch argus butterfly – while people are also encouraged to visit through a range of special events and volunteering opportunities. Over 100,000 trees have been planted in the last six months – the first step in the long-term transformation of this landscape. Trees will be planted across the farm, but not in the Beef Tub itself, where grazing will continue to retain the open aspect and dramatic views.

Louisa Finch
Borders Forest Trust

Getting there

(Google map) Located five miles north of Moffat, the Devil’s Beef Tub is one of the highlights of the Annandale Way, a recently-established long-distance walking route linking Moffat and Annan, see The Beef Tub can also be viewed and accessed via a layby on the A701 at Annanhead (NT 055127) – from the forest gateway, pass through the wooden gate on the right-hand side, then ascend Annanhead Hill. For more on Corehead Farm and the Devil’s Beef Tub, visit

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