St Mary’s Loch
St Mary’s Loch is the largest natural loch in the area and is situated between Selkirk and Moffat in the valley of the Yarrow Water. It is 5 kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide. Local legend had it that the loch has no bottom and is reputed to be the coldest loch in Scotland. Immediately upstream form St Mary’s Loch is The Loch of the Lowes, a smaller lake. Between the two is situated Tibbie Shiels Inn and the Southern Upland Way crosses between the two lochs. Tibbie Shiels Inn provides a useful start point for walking and the routes provide many good views over the loch and hills beyond.
There is a wonderful statue to local poet James Hogg just where the Loch of the Lowes joins St Mary’s Loch. Hogg was born in 1770 and lived and worked most of his life in the Scottish Borders. He attended school only briefly, mainly because when he was seven, his father, tenant farmer Robert Hogg, was declared bankrupt, and the young James took work as a cow-herd to supplement his family’s income.
As a young man Hogg worked as a shepherd becoming interested in literature in his early twenties, when he attempted writing songs and poems.. He continued to publish regularly while maintaining a contentious relationship with the Edinburgh literati, including his friend and some-time mentor, Walter Scott.
His fame lay not with his stand-alone talent, but also with his reputation as the ‘Ettrick Shepherd’ – the self-educated son of the rustic Borders and successor to Burns’ ‘heaven-taught ploughman’, appealing to popular notions of original genius. Recent years have seen an appropriate resurgence of interest in Hogg’s work, initiated by twentieth-century re-readings of his most renowned novel, The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824). Hogg continued to write, publish and farm until his death in 1835. He was buried in Ettrick Churchyard, appropriately next to his grandfather. Hogg’s widow and family put up a small stone, which was replaced twenty-five years later by the present memorial, raised by supporters of his work.