The James Hogg Trail

Driving Route

The James Hogg Trail


James Hogg was born in a small cottage on Ettrickhall Farm at the top of the Ettrick Valley in 1770.

He was the second son of Robert and Margaret Hogg (nee Laidlaw). Robert Hogg tried farming but soon became bankrupt and at the age of six, James had to leave school to perform the most menial tasks of farm service.

At the age of eleven, he became a shepherd watching the flocks as they grazed on the unfenced hills. While there, he practised reading with the encouragement and use of his master's library. By the time he was eighteen he could read proficiently, and write well but slowly at twenty-four.

Although he had little formal education, Hogg was fortunate in his family connections. His mother and her family had a great fund of the oral traditions of the Border Ballads, the folklore and superstitions of the country people. His father was of Covenanting stock and from his side of the family, Hogg observed the effect of over-zealous Calvinism.

This background was his basic material as a poet, storyteller and songwriter.

With most of his life spent in the hill country, familiar stories, places and people appear in his works, often thinly disguised. Hogg was a collector of the oral and musical traditions of the Borders and when a young lawyer called Walter Scott was seeking fragments of ballads in the Ettrick Forest in 1801, it was little wonder that he asked Jamie the Poeter to be his guide. This was to be the start of a friendship which lasted until Scott's death in 1832.
Hogg had published in his own right but Scott introduced him to the literary establishment of the Edinburgh Enlightenment. Soon Hogg was taking his place amongst them as their equal or even superior in published prose and poetry.

His epic poems The Queen's Wake', Mador of the Moor and 'Queen Hynde' bear comparison to any, while his The Confessions of a Justified Sinner' is recognised as a major prose work of the century.

Many of the literati of Edinburgh professed to look down on the unlettered countryman while still being envious of his talents. Hogg probably knew this and played up to his country shepherd image as he describes himself in The Queen's Wake.

"But when the bard himself appeared,
The ladies smiled, the courtiers sneered
For such a simple air and mein
Before the court had never been
A clown he was, bred in the wild,
And late from native moors exiled".

As well as being a literary success, Hogg had a constant ambition to the higher praise in Ettrick Forest of being 'a farmer'. Here, he was much less successful; money made by his pen was lost in a series of farming failures. Such was his determination to be seen to have made good in the eyes of his neighbours, that when Sir Walter Scott obtained two seats for himself and Hogg at the Coronation of George IV in Westminster Abbey, Hogg refused on the grounds that it was at the same time as the great St Boswells Fair and no new farmer could afford to miss that.

James Hogg married Margaret Phillips in 1820 at the age of fifty. When he died fifteen years later, he left a family of one son and four daughters. After a space of twenty years, his widow received a yearly pension of £100 until she died in 1870.

36mi / 58km
Total climb:
3,050ft / 930m
Total descent:
2,722ft / 830m
Towns along route:
Selkirk, Ettrick
Our best efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of data, however the data and geographic information contained along route lines and on maps should be used for informational purposes only.

What you'll see


Towns & Villages

Start at Selkirk where James Hogg was a regular visitor.

Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom - Selkirk

Museums & Exhibitions

Sir Walter Scott's Courtroom in Selkirk has a permanent exhibition dedicated to Scott and his contemporaries.

Aikwood Tower - Selkirk

Exclusive Use, Self-catering

Aikwood Tower, is a grade-A listed Border Peel Tower, abound with 500 years of history and medieval castle charm.

Kirkhope Tower - Selkirk


Kirkhope Tower was originally built in the sixteenth century by the Douglas owners of the Ettrick Valley.

Tushielaw Inn - Selkirk


The Tushielaw Inn is an historic coaching inn in the Ettrick Valley. Today it is a B&B, glamping and inn.


Towns & Villages

Once past the school and the Village hall you will come to the birthplace of James Hogg.

James Hogg Exhibition - Ettrick

Museums & Exhibitions

This exhibition celebrates the life and works of James Hogg, 'The Ettrick Shepherd', in the beautiful and remote Ettrick Valley.

Craig Douglas & Blackhouse Farm - Yarrow

History & Heritage

This is a very ruinous structure of the late 16th century

St Mary's Kirkyard - Yarrow

History & Heritage

One of the most atmospheric settings in the Yarrow Valley

St Mary's Loch - Selkirk

Outdoor Activities

St Mary's Loch lies right in the heart of the Scottish Borders between Selkirk and Moffat and provides a beautiful setting for a relaxing walk.

James Hogg monument - Selkirk

Historic Buildings, Monuments & Statues, Monuments & Statues

Overlooking Tibbie Shiel's Inn (up the hill off the A708) is a statue of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd; his right hand grasps a shepherd's…