The John Buchan Way

John Buchan was a world-famous author, politician and international diplomat. The John Buchan Way is a walking route named in his honour that runs from Peebles to Broughton in Tweeddale.

View of John Buchan Way sign post with hills in the background

John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir (1875-1940) was a prolific Scottish writer, best remembered now for his novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps. But he was also a historian, politician, soldier, journalist, diplomat  and statesman. His final role was as Governor General of Canada.
Most people today would remember John Buchan as a novelist. His fast-moving thrillers, many of them starring the secret agent Richard Hannay, are still widely read, and the best-known, “The Thirty-Nine Steps”, made a successful transition to the film screen. However, there was much more to his life than that.

Buchan was born in Perth in 1875, the son of a church minister. The family later lived in Fife, Glasgow, and the Borders. After graduating from Oxford, Buchan pursued an enormously varied career which included editing The Spectator, serving as Member of Parliament and twice being High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. 

In the First World War, Buchan served in the government as Director of Information and wrote many articles about the war, intended to maintain morale at home. In all, he wrote over a hundred books, of which only about 40 are fiction. His biographies and historical studies were regarded as classics in their day. In 1935, at the age of 60, Buchan was appointed Governor General of Canada, and took the title Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, his home in Oxfordshire. He died in 1940, shortly after signing Canada’s formal entry into World War Two.

The John Buchan Story is a museum in Peebles which explores Buchan’s life and legacy, showing the variety and scale of his personal experience and literary output, beyond “The Thirty Nine Steps”. His parents had grown up in Tweeddale and family holidays were spent with relatives in the area, so Buchan developed a great passion for the Borders countryside and its people. Visitors to the museum can follow the path through the many stages of his life, using his novels and other works as a backdrop to the exploration of this intriguing man.

Yon are the hills that my hert kens weel, 
Hame for the weary, rest for the auld, 
Braid and high as the April sky, 
Blue on the taps and green i’ the fauld: 
At ilka turn a bit wanderin’ burn,
And a canty biggin’ on ilka lea 
There’s nocht sae braw in the wide world’s schaw 
As the heughs and holms o’ the South Countrie.

From ‘The South Countrie’ by John Buchan

It is fair to say he had a life-long love of the countryside in the Scottish Borders and that it inspired the young author to create timeless works of fiction. His love of the Borders countryside was through his parents. His father was a minister for the Church of Scotland who came to fill in at Broughton and he just loved roaming the hills and meeting local people. This would give him ideas for his short stories but also for his longer novels later.


The John Buchan Way

John Buchan Way view looking through the valley

The John Buchan Way is a 13 mile (22km) linear walking route named in his honour that runs from Peebles to Broughton in Tweeddale. Highlights include Cademuir Hill, The Glack, Easter Dawyck, Harrowhope, Penvalla, Stobo Kirk and Broughton Place.

On Peebles High Street is the John Buchan Story Museum, dedicated to his life and work. The John Buchan Way starts from Bank House in Peebles. Although John Buchan did not live here, his brother Walter and sister Anna, to whom he was very close, resided here during the early part of the 20th Century. Plaques on the building (which is now a B&B) mark the Buchan family connections, and his parents and siblings, including Anna Buchan are buried in the cemetery of St Andrew’s Church. 

Along the 13-mile route, you will take in the same breathtaking scenery and views that Buchan himself would have enjoyed whilst out walking.

The route is waymarked in both directions and was opened in spring 2003. The route mainly follows long-established hill tracks through the Peeblesshire countryside. It has three main ascents and descents which give a total climb of about 800 metres, but this climb is never severe. The walk can be completed in one day by strong walkers or can conveniently be split at the halfway point at Stobo. 

Broughton Green House is the home of his mother before her marriage to John Buchan’s father. He holidayed there throughout his life, last visiting in 1938. It remained in the Buchan family until recently. The red-stone church in the village became the first home for The John Buchan Centre Museum, opened in 1983 (it is now the John Buchan Story, and located in Peebles).

You may not be planning to get your walking boots out until the Spring but in the meantime, we do hope that you have enjoyed reading about John Buchan and his strong connections to Tweeddale. The full route for The John Buchan Way can be found here.

Of course, when you stay with us at Cringletie we are happy to arrange for pickups along the route and also to provide picnic lunches if required.