Hartfell 2018-04-15T22:39:34+00:00

15. Hartfell

Listen to an Introduction:

Merlin was of royal blood and had been Chief Druid at the court of Caer Guenddolou, a small clan territory on the north side of the Upper Solway, probably one of the last bastions of the traditional Celtic religion. In 573AD, his clan was slaughtered in an act of genocide.

Suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from the horrors he had witnessed, Merlin fled into the forest. His clan territory was mostly absorbed by Strathclyde who invited St Mungo (aka Kentigern) to come with a large body of missionary monks to convert the people to Christianity.

Today’s bare hills were then covered by the dense Forest of Celydon and Merlin found the ideal hideout, on the upper edge of the treeline on Hartfell. Beneath a rock overhang, he built a shelter and he survived here as an outlaw living off what the forest could provide – surrounded by predators – not just bears and wolves, but missionaries determined to hunt to him down as a threat to their cause. A chalybeate spring bubbles out of the hillside. Rich in iron and calcium, Merlin would have been aware of its health giving properties. Local lore still says that whoever drinks from it gains wisdom.

For over a decade Merlin lived as a hermit. As the country was converted to the new religion, he became less of a political threat. His twin sister was married to Rhydderch Hael, the High Chief of Strathclyde and secretly she managed to contact Merlin to arrange a meeting with St Mungo to try and negotiate a reconciliation. Merlin would by now have been in his sixties and feeling his age. There was nothing to lose. So in around 583AD he climbed to the top of Hartfell and crossed over into Goddeu, in the valley of the Upper Tweed.


How to get here

Hartfell Map

At the far end of Moffat, beyond the High Street, take the second exit – right – at the mini roundabout and continue along this road until you see a green building on your right – the community centre. You may park here. The trail board is just ahead of you. Cross the Auchencat Burn and a signpost across a field to Hartfell Spa takes you through a kissing gate. You will see a scar of scree on Hartfell.

Make your way across the field with the burn on your right to a second gate. Follow the top edge of the valley to a third gate. Cross the burn and return to the edge of the slope. You will reach a stone wall which bisects the earthworks of what may have been a fort in the first millennium BC. Pass through the kissing gate and follow the fence.

When the fence turns right to a point, cut across to rejoin the fence line and pass through the final kissing gate; look out for the track ahead which runs along the side of the hill, follow it before dropping down to where a burn flows in from the left. Then follow the burn up towards the scree slopes of the cleugh.

Hart Fell from above

Transform into an eagle with our aerial views of Hart Fell. Click to play video.

The music was arranged by Erin Bullard and played by Claire Mann, composed by George S Cockburn – The Hills Of Moffat.

Places to Visit and Things to Do

Moffat History Trail
Moffat History Trail
Learn about our ancient past, for Moffat hills have borne witness to much of Scotland’s early history.
Moffat Museum
More History?
Visit Moffat Museum next… A super Family friendly museum with lots to look at!
Quests & Retreats
Guided Walks
Quests are cultural adventures in beautiful landscapes which help us escape our stressful lives.
Annandale Arms Hotel
Why not stay over?
Moffat’s town centre hotel. Welcome to the Annandale Arms and welcome to Moffat. Bang in the middle of town!

For ACCOMMODATION links see our map below >>


Latest updates, news, articles and some places to stay…

  • Merlin Trail on ITV Borderlife

Watch The Merlin Trail on ITV Border Life

July 3rd, 2018|

A wee bit of magic of a different kind?  The Merlin Trail was recently featured on ITV’s Border Lif [...]

  • Dell-Mar B&B Guesthouse, Moffat, Scotland

Dell-Mar B&B – within walking distance of Hartfell

May 3rd, 2018|

Dell-Mar Guesthouse, Moffat, is a home away from home, consisting of a warm welcome with tea or coffee available on arrival, home baking can also be included if guests wish to sample it.

On the Merlin Trail – A Trip Up Hartfell

March 20th, 2018|

After the fabulous Merlin Trail official launch in Moffat on the 20th March 2018, an intrepid band [...]

Buy the Book by Robin Crichton


The History behind the Legend

This is the true story behind the legend of Merlin. Born of a royal family to a life of privilege and luxury, his place in society was ordained until he lost everything in a bloodbath of pillage and genocide. Forced to live on the run he survived as an outlaw hiding out in a cave, living off what the forest could provide.

It is the story of the clash between Christianity and traditional belief – a duel between St Mungo the priest and Merlin the pagan, played out against a webs of late 6th century political intrigue and the strife of a land tearing itself apart.

Until now, our Early Dark Age heritage has been largely ignored by historians because of the lack of cross-checkable written data. This book combines history, archaeology, etymology, topography, botany and folk memory in a giant jigsaw. With nearly 150 colour illustrations and maps, the book is accompanied by a gazetteer of 28 Dark Age sites. It presents the evidence, suggests various interpretations and invites the reader to be the historical detective.

For further information: contact Robin Crichton – Email robin@merlintrail.com


Explore the local area

Use our interactive map to find out places to visit, local amenities, and things to do!

HELP: Just the click the points on the map, drag the map around to find more places of interest, zoom in or out, or open the menu  for a list. If you are using a mobile, why not go  fullscreen?