Gorebridge to Haddington (alternative route)

Route out – Gorebridge to Newtongrange to Newbattle to Whitecraig to Musselburgh to Prestonpans to Port Seaton to Longniddry to Haddington. For route map click here.

Route back – Haddington to Gifford to Humbie to Fala to Fala Dam to Tynehead to Middleton to Fushiebridge to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mostly dry and reasonably bright with some sunny spells. Warm enough and not much wind. One annoying shower in the afternoon though.
  • Distance travelled – 50.72 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 5 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 30.9 mph
  • Average speed – 9.9 mph

Sunday was the first non-school day when the weather forecast was good so Dad and I decided to make the most of it and go for our longest ride of the year, a trip to Haddington in East Lothian but going a much more round about way than we did last year. We were out of bed and onto the road by 7:15am, speeding downhill through Newtongrange and Newbattle before turning right at the mini roundabout just after Newbattle Abbey. This took us through a residential area and then, after lifting our bikes over a fence, we joined the path of National Cycle Route no.1. This is a lovely section of route no.1, mainly off road, taking you through the golf course and then along an old railway line to the village of Whitecraig. Here, there’s a short section on road but route no.1 quickly takes you off road again next to the River Esk. The path soon splits at a bridge over the river and here we said goodbye to route no.1 and followed the River Esk path right into the centre of Musselburgh, passing a nice waterfall and going under a railway bridge along the way.

From Musselburgh we followed a combination of the well signposted routes of Cycle Route no.76 and the John Muir Way, staying off road almost all the way to Longniddry. We’ve been this way before so won’t go into detail here apart from to say it is a really nice route with amazing views to Edinburgh and Fife and is highly recommended for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Just next to Longniddry railway station, we followed the blue signpost for the Longniddry to Haddington Railway path which is a continuation of Route 76. We timed this perfectly, just in time to see a Virgin Train speeding through on its way to London. The path itself is probably OK to cycle on in the summer, but we discovered that it was very muddy (and uphill) for about 3 miles or so, so it wasn’t much fun. Thankfully, at Haddington the path becomes tarmac and then joins onto a minor road going back downhill until you reach the main A6093 road. We crossed over this road and followed the cycle route signs through a housing estate until we ended up on the River Tyne Walkway. This was a bit muddy again but we saw swans and another waterfall here and it was actually quite pleasant. We stopped on a bench for a snack next to the waterfall and it was then that Dad noticed that my front tyre had a puncture. Luckily Dad always brings spare inner tubes and it didn’t take him long to the muddy wheel off, the new tube in and the wheel back on. It did, however, take him an age to pump up the new tube with his rubbishy little hand pump. I was starting to get bored waiting and Dad’s right arm was knackered by the time he was finished. Just as well he’d brought 2 Yorkie bars with him today!

We left Haddington along the B6369, passing Lennoxlove House on the way. This road features a couple of right-angle bends and would be a lovely road to cycle on if it wasn’t nearly all uphill and also so busy with traffic. Never mind, it was only about 4 miles to the historic village of Gifford, where we stopped to admire some amazing old-fashioned road signs and a field of crocuses before having our lunch of boiled eggs, oatcakes and carrot sticks. After lunch we followed the B6355 and B6368 roads until we reached Humbie. These are much quieter and more pleasant roads for cycling on, with good surfaces and lots of ups and downs to keep it interesting. There are some good views of the Lammermuir hills too. The village of Humbie is a small place but it does have a nice-looking coffee shop type place called the Humbie Hub. We didn’t go in but did stop to admire their impressive sign. Whilst there, Dad spotted another amazing sign – an old Shell garage sign which appeared to be growing inside a giant hedge.

A mile or so after Humbie, we turned off onto the B6457 which took us back into Midlothian and Fala Village. Here, we turned right onto the narrow road that takes you very fast down the hill to Fala Dam before climbing back up the other side equally steeply but much more slowly… At the top we stopped to photograph some unusual looking sheep-goat-things with giant horns on their heads before continuing the short distance until the road reached cycling hell, also known as the A68. We’re not daft enough to cycle on this road as it is far too busy and the traffic travels too fast so we stayed on the pavement at the side of the road for a hundred yards or so before crossing carefully over onto the the B6458 which took us, slightly uphill, all the way to Tynehead. We had to cycle in the rain for a mile or 2 but it did mean we got a great view of a rainbow afterwards. From Tynehead we went straight on, taking the recently resurfaced and extremely smooth B6367 for a couple of miles until it reached the main A7 road. Unlike the A68, the A7 is reasonably safe to venture onto on a bike, especially on the downhill sections when you can go quite fast. It’s also a nice wide road with a good surface and nowhere near as busy. Anyway, we headed north on the A7 for about 1.5 miles, downhill and very fast before turning off at the minor road to Middleton. There’s not much in Middleton except 2 farms and a Cycle Route no.1 signpost but from there we had a very fun few miles of fast downhill cycling on a deserted back road (reaching over 30mph at one point). We eventually re-joined the A7 for a few hundred yards of downhill speeding until we turned off onto the quiet road to Fushiebridge. We saw our second train of the day here on the Borders Railway so that was well timed again. Then it was all uphill along a narrow and rather bumpy road which took us back to Gorebridge, near the top of Lady Brae. We then just had a short freewheel down another hill to get home. To Dad’s delight, we even made it home just in time to watch the football on the TV…

Gorebridge to Romannobridge (the long way)

Route out – Gorebridge to Temple to Portmore Loch to Lamancha to Romannobridge. For route maps click here and here.

Route back – Romannobridge to West Linton to Penicuik to Roslin Glen to Rosewell to Bonnyrigg to Eskbank to Newbattle to Newtongrange to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – dry and cold, mostly cloudy with a few sunny intervals and almost no wind.
  • Distance travelled – 44.57 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 27 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 29.2 mph
  • Average speed – 10 mph

Last Sunday Dad took me on a tour of some of parts of Midlothian and the northern Borders that we hadn’t cycled through before. It was freezing cold but we still had a great day out in the countryside.

We left Gorebridge on the quiet B6372 road, soon passing by the entrance to Arniston House before turning off at the signpost for Temple. The village of Temple is a lovely place but unknown to most people, there are actually 2 sides to the village. Dad described it a being a bit like a Beatles 7″ single: most people choose to turn left and uphill through the main part of the village (the A-side. eg. “I Want To Hold Your Hand”) but if you turn right and head downhill, you discover an even nicer but less visited side of the village (the B-side. eg. “This Boy”). Anyway, enough of Dad’s nonsense… We chose the B-side and headed down the steep hill, stopping to have a look at the ruins of the Old Temple Kirk on the way. After that, we faced a monster climb which took us back up the narrow road until it joined up with the B6372 once again.

We stayed on this road for a few miles going up and down (mostly up actually) over the many hidden dips until we reached the turn off for the back road to Peebles. This is a great road for cycling on as there’s very few cars and the road surface is mainly very good (Dad thought it was the smoothest road surface he’s ever cycled on). The sun even tried to come out to melt away some of the low clouds and give us a decent view of the Moorfoot hills. We cycle this way quite often but we normally turn left and head along the side of Gladhouse Reservoir. Today we kept going straight, heading for the Scottish Borders. A couple of miles past the Borders sign, we stopped at the side of the road and Dad lifted the bikes over a locked gate which marked the start of the track to Portmore Loch. A few minutes of bumpy path later, we reached the loch, a very peaceful and picturesque place to stop and have our crisps. We then followed the track on the west side of the loch, heading south into the woods. It was rather muddy but as it was nearly all downhill for a mile or two, the going was fast and it was actually really good fun, with lots of nice bumps to jump over. Eventually, just after having a sneaky peak at the massive and very posh looking Portmore House (which seemed to suddenly appear amongst the trees as if from nowhere), the mud turned into a proper road surface again and we fairly zoomed downhill along this section of private road until we reached the gatehouse at the entrance to the estate.

At this point we had no option but to turn right onto the A703 road. It’s the main road from Edinburgh to Peebles and not one I’d normally recommend due to the amount of fast traffic that uses it. However, we only had to go a few hundred yards along it (as fast as possible) to reach the minor road on the left which took us to Lamancha. This road is a great road for cycling as it’s almost completely deserted, is surrounded by beautiful Borders scenery and has a very good road surface with lots of really long straight sections. Some of the long straights were even downhill! After about 5 miles of this we arrived at a junction with another main road, the A701. This is a relatively quiet main road so much safer for us to cycle on, but first we stopped for a boiled egg (me) and a Yorkie bar (Dad) to give us an energy boost before tackling it.

We headed south along the A701 through a very nice valley. The road wasn’t too busy but the surface wasn’t all that smooth for a main road. It was mainly downhill though and in no time we had speeded past the hamlet of Lamancha (not much to see there) and also a place that sells tractors before reaching Romannobridge. Romannobridge is a very long village and it took a while to cycle right through it. Near the end, Dad spotted the actual bridge, so we stopped there for a photo. We then turned right onto the back road to West Linton. This is another great road with lots of nice views of the hills, including the Pentland Hills which became visible as we neared the village. The village itself is really lovely and quiet and would probably be a nice place to live. We stopped at the park for our lunch (oatcakes, cheese and carrot sticks).

We left West Linton along Deanfoot Road which takes you about 7 miles, most of the way to Penicuik. This is yet another amazing road to cycle on with some of the best possible views of the Pentland hills on one side and bleak open moorland on the other. I imagine it would get quite exposed here but thankfully, there was virtually no wind today. The road surface is pretty good, traffic is light and most of the road is completely straight, with the last few miles downhill and very fast. Along the way we were chased up a hill by a Border Collie (the dog won the race) and saw some rather homemade-looking signposts pointing roughly in the directions of Lamancha, West Linton and Carlops. For the last half a mile to Penicuik, we rejoined the A701 and sped down the hill to the town at well over 20 mph.

From there we took the old railway path (cycle route 196) for about 7 miles through Roslin Glen, Rosewell and Bonnyrigg until we reached Eskbank. This is a good path for cycling on and goes through some amazing railway tunnels along the way. It was very muddy in places though. In Bonnyrigg, we entered some sort of weird time warp, where at one point we were simultaneously both 2 miles and 3/4 of a mile from Eskbank…! (See photos for proof) At Eskbank we left the time warp (and cycle route 196) behind and took the B703 road through Newbattle. We then turned left onto a road called “The Beeches” which took us to Newtongrange. From there we followed the “Bryans” path which skirts around the east side of the town, eventually taking us through a small housing estate and onto Stobhill Road, which we then followed for the last mile or so back to Gorebridge.

Edinburgh to Broxburn Circular Route

Route out – Edinburgh (South Lauder Road to The Meadows to Slateford to Juniper Green) to Balerno to Kirknewton to East Calder to Broxburn. For route map click here.

Route back – Broxburn to South Queensferry to Forth Road Bridge to Dalmeny to Edinburgh (Cramond to Silverknowes to Haymarket to The Meadows to South Lauder Road). For route maps click here and here.

  • Weather – mostly cloudy, not much wind and not too cold.
  • Distance travelled – 43.82 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 45 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.9 mph
  • Average speed – 9.2 mph

Just before Christmas, on the way back from Bathgate, Dad and I had intended to cycle along the Water of Leith walkway from Balerno to Slateford in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, we had run out of daylight so it had been too dark to follow this cycle path. However, we decided we’d like to go back and try that route again so we included it in a much longer circular route last weekend.

We started off in Edinburgh, following the same route as our Bathgate trip, through the Grange, The Meadows and then onto the Union Canal path (Cycle Route 754) for a few miles. After crossing over the impressive Slateford Aquaduct we turned off onto Cycle Route 75 – the Water of Leith Walkway. The path used to be a railway line and is mainly quite flat but we both found it quite hard going at times due to the wet, squelchy surface. I suspect it would be probably be a nicer path to walk on than cycle on and it would be better to go back in the summer time when it is less muddy. Along the way you get some good views of the river and some waterfalls though. One other really interesting thing about this path is that there is a time warp a few miles from Balerno. Really! I noticed at one point that we passed a sign saying “Balerno 3.5 miles” but a few minutes later we passed another sign and it was still 3.5 miles. A bit further along we reached yet another signpost which told us it was STILL 3.5 miles to Balerno. I couldn’t believe it. Soon enough, though, the next sign said it was only 3 miles to go – thank goodness. But just around the corner, the next sign once again announced: “Balerno 3.5 miles”. How could that be possible?! We really were stuck in a time warp. We had cycled about 2 miles and gone nowhere! Luckily, once we reached Currie, things returned to normal and we soon arrived in Balerno where we stopped for some crisps and carrot sticks to give us energy for the next section of the route.

After what had seemed like ages plodding along on the squelchy paths, we were both glad to be back on proper roads again for the next section of the route. We cycled a short distance along the main A70 road through Balerno before following the Route 75 sign onto an extremely steep, minor road which took us quickly downhill out into the countryside. At the bottom of the hill we turned left onto another quiet road for about 6 miles to Kirknewton and we had some nice views of the Pentland Hills and the railway line (we saw 2 trains too). At Kirknewton, we stopped for a quick look at the train station before riding over the level crossing on the rather busy B7031 road which took us to the main A71 road. Here we used the pedestrian crossing to cross over and then took a muddy track into the village of East Calder. East Calder seems like a nice enough place but we didn’t stop there and instead turned off through an archway into Almondell Country Park. The path here is much nicer for cycling on and it’s a lovely place to visit with nice views of the river Almond. We left Route 75 here and, at a bridge over the river, followed the sign post for the Union Canal. After a short time, the path takes you to a quiet narrow road  and it was here that Dad spotted a buzzard sitting in a tree quite close by and at one point we got a great view of a massive viaduct in the distance. Soon, we reached the canal path once more and we had a bumpy ride for the last couple of miles to Broxburn.

At Broxburn, the canal path surface thankfully becomes lovely and smooth and we enjoyed this section as it takes you alongside some impressive-looking bings. After a quick lunch break (cheese sandwiches and more carrot sticks), we continued along the path until a mile or so before Winchburgh, we hopped off onto yet another very quiet narrow road. According to the map, this road marks the border between West Lothian and Edinburgh City and it goes past Niddry Castle, then underneath the M9 motorway before reaching the B9080. We turned left onto this road. It is the widest road ever – wide enough for a dual carriageway but it only has 2 lanes – and after only a few hundred yards, we turned right onto another unclassified road which would take us up the hill towards Queensferry. This is a lovely quiet road and you get some unusual views of the 3 Forth Bridges once you reach the top of the hill. Eventually, the road joins onto the A904 but you don’t need to cycle on it – just follow the blue cycle route signs to Queensferry and you’ll be safe enough. Since we had plenty time, we decided to cycle over the Forth Road Bridge and then back again (stopping only to finish off the last of the carrot sticks on the Fife side of the bridge). I love cycling over the bridge as you get a great view of the railway bridge and all the trains. Dad and I both “accidentally” broke the 15 mph speed limit on the downhill parts. Oops.

On the way back from South Queensferry, we just followed Cycle Route 1 all the way back to The Meadows in Edinburgh. We’ve written about this route before (in the other direction) the last time we cycled to the Forth Bridge so for more detail, have a read of that blog. Basically, the route is mainly on a really nice cycle path and quiet residential streets apart from a short section through the city centre (though there are cycle lanes to keep you safe from the traffic here). From the Meadows, it was just a short distance back to the car. Unlike our last cycle ride, we made it back to the car with an hour of daylight left and we were home in time for tea: vegetable quiche – my favourite – with no carrot sticks…

Edinburgh to Bathgate Circular Route

Route out – Edinburgh (South Lauder Road to The Meadows to Slateford to Wester Hailes) to Ratho to Broxburn to Winchburgh to Linlithgow to Beecraigs Country Park to Cairnpapple Hill to Bathgate. For route map click here.

Route back – Bathgate to Livingston Village to Mid Calder to East Calder to Kirknewton to Balerno to Currie to Juniper Green to Edinburgh (Slateford to The Meadows to South Lauder Road). For route map click here. Google Maps is wrong for some of the section through Livingston. Just stay on Route 75 all the way and you won’t get lost.

  • Weather – Light rain at first, then mainly cloudy with some sunny intervals and no wind. Quite cold too.
  • Distance travelled – 56.35 miles
  • Riding time – 6 hours 51 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 33.1 mph
  • Average speed – 8.2 mph

The weather here has been very cold for weeks so Dad and I hadn’t been out cycling for ages. Luckily, on Saturday it looked like it would actually be a fine day to go for a cycle – still cold but at least it wasn’t frosty for once… Dad wanted to head south (as usual) for a route around the Scottish Borders but I decided that we would investigate two of the really good cycle routes nearer to home which start in Edinburgh: National Cycle Routes 754 and 75.

We parked the car in The Grange which one of the poshest areas in Edinburgh where all the houses appear to be mansions. Not much like Gorebridge then… Here we followed one of the signposted “quiet routes” (no.6) to The Meadows where we joined onto Route 75. After a short section along the cycle path through the park, we followed the route 75 signs onto the road for half a mile or so before turning off onto the Union Canal at Fountainbridge. The path alongside the canal soon becomes route 754, is completely flat and takes you all the way to Glasgow without going on any roads at all. We weren’t going that far today though – our first main destination of the day was Linlithgow, 22 miles away. The quality of the canal path varies a lot along the way. In Edinburgh it is quite a nice surface but is quite busy with pedestrians and dogs so you need to be very careful not to fall in the water or crash into anyone. Outside the city it is often very narrow, muddy, bumpy or squelchy with leaves so I found it a bit of a monotonous plod at times and it was a lot slower than I’d thought it would be. Because you are low down and never go up any hills, the views are not all that good either but there are some interesting bits, especially the amazing aqueducts which carry the canal high up over roads or rivers: the Slateford Aqueduct, the Scott Russell Aqueduct which crosses over the City Bypass and the Almond Aqueduct are all very impressive and it’s worth cycling along this route just to see these. Note that you have to push your bike along the aqueducts as the path is extremely narrow and made of cobbles and you really don’t want to fall into the water… The canal passes through some towns and villages along the way including Ratho, Broxburn and Winchburgh. Eventually, after the bumpiest section of the canal path, we finally reached Linlithgow.

In Linlithgow, I was glad to get off the path and onto a proper road again and we cycled past the train station and into the town centre where Dad said he knew of a really good bakers where we could get some lunch. We ate our (very tasty) macaroni pies beside Linlithgow Loch where we got a good view of Linlithgow Palace. We also had to fend off a flock of pesky seagulls who were trying to steal our food! After that we turned onto the minor road to Bathgate and this turned out to be one of the hardest few miles of cycling I’ve ever done. This road heads south from the town and goes incredibly steeply uphill. We climbed about 350m in only 2 or 3 miles I think as the road winds its way through Beecraigs Country Park. Beware though: this may be an unclassified road (so not even a B road) but it was unexpectedly busy with traffic. This is particularly an issue when you are toiling up roughly a 10% gradient slope at only 3 or 4 mph… However, this was more than made up for with the good views back down towards the Forth where I spied a railway viaduct in the distance. Near the top we turned off onto an even more minor (and thankfully quieter) road which climbed up even further as we cycled past Cairnpapple Hill. From here we had an amazing view back down towards the 3 Forth Bridges and could even see North Berwick Law far far away in the distance. After that came the most fun section as we sped back down the other side of the hill (14% gradient at one point according to the sign) to the town of Bathgate.

In Bathgate we managed to find the signpost for Route 75 next to a supermarket so followed it onto a nice smooth cycle path. The path is nice and wide and mostly flat with some slight ups and down to keep it interesting and fairly fast. It was also very quiet and a pleasure to cycle on. We passed some weird pyramid things and crossed over the M8 motorway before travelling through some woodland that reminded me of Gore Glen near our house. After a while we came to an unexpectedly nice part of the town of Livingston – Livingston Village – not at all like the ring roads, roundabouts and housing schemes of rest of the town. Then the path followed the River Almond, past the football stadium and then headed through the woods to Mid Calder. This is a lovely part of the route and I’ll be coming back here again. Unfortunately, it was around here that Dad got a puncture on his back tyre so we had to waste quite a long time while he changed the inner tube. Dad always carries plenty spare tubes and tools in his bag when we go cycling just in case. It’s actually quite amazing that after over 1000 miles, this is the first time either of us have had a flat tyre. By this time, the light was starting to fade (too dark for photos anyway!) and we still had a quite a long way to go. So we sped as fast as we could through East Calder and Kirknewton (crossing over the level crossing at the train station was the best bit) before heading onto the quiet back road for a few miles to Balerno, near the Pentland Hills on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

By the time we got there, it really was pretty dark and it was clear that our bike lights, though they may have been useful in helping traffic see us, weren’t exactly doing much to help us see as we cycled. Our intended route from Balerno was to follow Route 75 along the Water of Leith until it joined back onto the Union Canal but the cycle path was just far too dark and wouldn’t have been safe. Dad made the decision that we would stick to roads with streetlights and we basically just cycled along the pavement alongside the main A70 road through Currie and Juniper Green for about 8 miles all the way back to the Meadows (passing the Slateford Aqueduct on the way). I’m sure the Water of Leith path would have been much nicer but I’ll have to come back during daylight hours to find out. Although I couldn’t predict that Dad would get a puncture or that the Union Canal route would be so slow, I did learn an important lesson today. In winter when there are less hours of daylight, it would be more sensible to stick to slightly shorter routes rather than ending up having to cycle for an hour in the dark. Still, it was nice to be out on my bike again after such a long break and we even had seafood pizza for tea when we got home!

Hawick to Saughtree (mostly) Circular Route

Route out – Hawick to Stobs Castle to Bonchester Bridge to Saughtree. For route map click here.

Route back – Saughtree to Steel Road to Whitrope Heritage Centre to Stobs Castle to Hawick. For route map click here.

  • Weather – Mainly cloudy and cool with some sunny intervals and an annoying northerly wind on the way back.
  • Distance travelled – 42.99 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 25 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 34.1 mph
  • Average speed – 9.7 mph

It’s not every day that you see cows on the road next to a cattle grid or some old trains completely in the middle of nowhere, but last wednesday Dad and I saw both…

I have been enjoying cycling in the Scottish Borders recently so I decided that we would go on a long route through the hills to the south of Hawick, one of the main towns in the Borders. We headed south out of the town along the B6399. This is a lovely quiet road that basically follows a small river and is mostly flat for the first 4 miles or so. After apparently passing Stobs Castle (which we couldn’t see from the road) there was a steep uphill section which gave good views of the countryside looking back down to where we’d come from. At the top of the climb we turned left onto the single track road signposted for Bonchester Bridge. This road climbed relatively gradually until we reached a height of well over 300m and was deserted apart apart from a herd of cows that we met at the top of the hill. We had to wait till they cleared the road before we could cross over the cattle grid. After that it was very fast down the other side with amazing views as far as the Eildon Hills near Melrose in one direction and (probably) England in the other. The single track road eventually joined onto the A6088 for the last mile to Bonchester Bridge. This was a really fun short section despite being a main road. There was almost no traffic at all and it was all downhill so we speeded there in no time at all.

There isn’t much to see in Bonchester Bridge (apart from a bridge) so we carried on out of the village on another very quiet, narrow road (passing an odd looking church at Hobkirk along the way) before climbing up an incredibly steep (but short) section which took us up to the B6357 road which is another quiet road with a good surface for cycling on. We had cycled on another part of this road before when we’d visited Rowanburn a couple of weeks ago but this section of the road was much more challenging. Soon the road began to climb very steeply uphill – probably at least a 10% gradient, though there were no signs. It seemed to go uphill for a long time but it was actually only a few miles really. At the top of the hill we got a nice view over to the Kielder Forrest in the distance and I even found some brambles to munch on to give me an energy boost. It was really hard cycling to the top (over 350m high) but it was worth it because it meant we got to speed back down the other side of hill as fast as we could all the way to Saughtree a few miles away.

Here, we passed the turning for Kielder that we cycled on before but we ignored the signs and continued along the almost traffic-free B6357 for a few more miles of lovely smooth, flat cycling through the Borders, following the Liddel water until we spotted a Cycling Byway signpost pointing to the right. We went this way onto a very narrow road that took us through some really peaceful, pleasant countryside for a few miles, passing under an old (dismantled) railway bridge at a tiny hamlet called Steel Road before eventually joining up with the B6399 once again. At this point we turned right to begin the journey back to Hawick. Unfortunately though, the wind had decided to increase and for the last 15 miles of the route we would be cycling straight into the wind. To make things even worse, the next section was all uphill for a long time…

Actually, it wasn’t all that bad as the road was quiet and the sun came out for a while so we just plodded along slowly until we reached the top of the hill (well over 300m again!). I bet it is a lot more fun going in the other direction though. Anyway, just before the top of the hill, we went underneath another old railway bridge but this time, on the other side we got a really unexpected surprise to see a line of old railway engines and carriages right on the roadside, completely in the middle of nowhere. I love trains so this was easily the highlight of the day. It turns out that this was the Whitrope Heritage Centre and this section of old track was once part of the old Borders Railway (Waverley Line). The centre was closed for the year but we did stop long enough to get some nice photos and we sat on an old section of track to have a snack. Not far north from here on the road back to Hawick, we spotted a lovely old railway viaduct as well. I really hope that the new Borders Railway is extended to run through this part of the country again all the way to Carlisle as it really is very scenic and it would be a very nice train ride. Shortly after the viaduct we passed the turning for Bonchester Bridge once more and then headed back down the hill, before having an easy cycle for the last few miles back to Hawick. According to Google Maps, we climbed over 2600 feet today and it really felt like it as there were a lot of hard uphill sections on this route. But if you don’t mind the steep hills, and fancy a day out in some very quiet and (at times) very interesting countryside, then this is the route for you.

Grand Tour of the Scotland-England Border

Route out – Rowanburn to Kershope Bridge to Newcastleton Forest to Kielder Forest to Kielder Water to Kielder. For route map click here.

Route back – Kielder to Newcastleton to Rowanburn. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mostly sunny and relatively warm with a light breeze but one long rain shower later in the day.
  • Distance travelled – 49.91 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 3 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.9 mph
  • Average speed – 9.8 mph

On the way home from our holiday in Wales in July, we had stopped for a rest in the lovely (and brilliantly named) village of Rowanburn in Dumfries and Galloway, not far from the border between Scotland and England. I had noticed that the roads near Rowanburn looked perfect for cycling so I’d been thinking of going there for a cycle for ages. Finally, last Saturday, Dad and I managed to go back there with our bikes to have a grand tour of the Scotland-England border.

We headed north out of Rowanburn along the B6357. This is lovely smooth road for cycling on and not too busy with traffic. After less than a mile we entered the Scottish Borders and had to cycle up a short but steep 11% gradient section of road so that fairly warmed our legs up. Soon after, we turned right onto the B6318 which immediately took us steeply downhill to a bridge over the Liddel Water and back up another extremely steep hill into Cumbria. We were in England for the first time today! Around here, the Liddel Water marks where the Scotland-England border is for quite a long distance and our route basically followed this in a north-east direction along very quiet, scenic and narrow roads for about 5 miles until we almost reached a place called Kershopefoot. Here, the border changes direction, heading more towards the east along a different river called the Kershope Burn. At a junction, we headed right and then over the border river and up a very steep section, back into the Scottish Borders. The road goes relatively high up here and the views are really nice. Soon we doubled back on ourselves at an acute angle and headed back down the hill to England again at Kershope Bridge. We stopped here to have an early lunch among the sheep to give us an energy boost before tackling the hardest part of the route.

At Kershope Bridge we turned left and followed the signs for National Cycle Route no.10 which took us into the forest on a reasonably smooth landrover track. After a short while the track crossed over a bridge across the burn back into the Newcastleton Forest in Scotland. After this the path followed the border burn for a long time and the path seemed to become bumpier and bumpier along the way. It was also all uphill and really hard going at times and I almost thought about turning back. Luckily I spied some wild blueberries growing at the edge of the fir trees so I stopped to fill my face and I cheered up a bit after that. Eventually, we reached another bridge and this took us over the border again to England and the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. This was the worst section of all as the path became un-ridable due to the loose stones and the steepness of it, even on a mountain bike. After pushing up the slope to the highest point, the path leveled out but the loose stones made it very unpleasant to ride along. I really was wondering why Sustrans had made this a signposted cycle route. It must have been someone’s idea of a joke surely… It would have made a nice walk though. Thankfully, the bumpy loose stoney path ended when it joined onto another forest road. This was a really nice smooth track and was all downhill so we sped the last few miles to the Kielder Water in no time at all. After about 15 miles of deserted forest, we were finally back in civilisation and saw people for the first time in over 2 hours…

We stopped at the reservoir for a much needed break and a snack of oatcakes. Then we headed onto lovely smooth road once again and sped off northwards in the direction of Kielder. This road is unclassified but on this section it was more like an A road, nice and wide with a white line down the middle and a nice surface for cycling on. Not too much traffic either so that was good. Dad spotted a sign post pointing to an interestingly named place called Gowan Burn and we thought about taking a detour to see what was there. But Dad didn’t think we’d have time for that as we still had about 25 miles to go and we wanted to be back at the car by tea time. So, at Kielder village we just stopped at the shop for Smarties (me) and Yorkie (Dad) before heading in the direction of Scotland once more. The road had by now reverted to single track with passing places and the weather had reverted to rain. Despite the weather, we stopped at the border to photograph all the amazing signs.

The last 20 miles or so of the route was along the B6357 again, heading roughly south and following the Liddel Water once more. It was also almost all downhill and very fast through the quiet countryside along the nice smooth road surface. We stopped in the pleasant little village of Newcastleton to have our last proper break of the day before following the river (which turned into the Scotland-England border once again) back to Rowanburn. It was a long and tiring day but we had crossed the border a total of six times and I really enjoyed most of the route. The roads are very good quality, quite quiet and the scenery is nice so I would highly recommend cycling in this area. Apart from cycle route no.10 through the forest that is – that is NOT recommended at all!

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders vol.2

Route Out – Innerleithen to Traquair to St Mary’s Loch to Megget Reservoir to Talla Reservoir to Tweedsmuir. For route map click here.

Route Back – Tweedsmuir to Stobo to Lyne Station to Pebbles to Cardona to Innerleithen. For route maps click here and here. Note that there is a bridge over the River Tweed just after Lyne Station that Google Maps doesn’t know about which is why the route back is spilt into two maps. Just follow the Borders Loop signs and you won’t get lost…

  • Weather – cold and misty at first but sunny and warm for most of the day apart from one light shower in the afternoon.
  • Distance travelled – 54.43 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 27 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 28.4 mph
  • Average speed – 9.9 mph

On Saturday, Dad and I decided to go on another grand tour of the Scottish Borders. It was very cold when we left the house and as we drove along the road through the Moorfoot Hills the temperature dropped to 1 degrees C. It had only risen by a couple of degrees by the time we arrived in Innerleithen where we would begin the tour, so it was lucky we had brought our gloves…

We headed out of Innerleithen through the freezing mist along the B709. This is very quiet, scenic and in places narrow road, and after passing the village of Traquair, the weather brightened up and the road climbed gradually uphill for what seemed like an age through the hills. Someone has helpfully painted some funny messages on the road along the way. Just as the steepest section begins it says “and up”, and just when you think you’ve had enough it tells you it is “a wee bit further”. Eventually the good news arrived at the top of the climb with the message “and down” along with a smilie face. From there, there was a few fast and fun miles of downhill cycling until the junction with the A708. Here we turned right onto the main road which seemed quite quiet for an “A” road. After a few miles of fairly flat road, we came to the head of St Mary’s Loch. There was a thick fog hanging around over the loch and the water was so still that it was almost like a mirror. The reflection of the hills on the water surface was amazing.

Leaving the loch behind, we turned right onto the single track road to Tweedsmuir. Dad had driven along this road before and warned me that it would be very hilly in places – and he was right. It was a really fun road to cycle on though and one of the most scenic too as it goes right through some of the highest of the Border hills. This section was virtually traffic free (apart from a police car and a quad bike) but at one point we were almost driven off the road by a flock of sheep. One of the steepest climbs takes you past Megget Reservoir. We stopped here for a chocolate digestive or 2 (well I had 1 and Dad had 2) and we were overtaken by a large group of cyclists who seemed to be taking part in some sort of race. They were going much faster than us certainly. Apparently this reservoir provides drinking water to the city of Edinburgh (at least that’s what the information sign said). The road follows the reservoir for a few miles going up and down all the time. Eventually, after passing by 2 half eaten hedgehogs and a guilty looking buzzard, we stopped at the far end of the reservoir and for an early lunch. The road then went steeply uphill for a while until, finally, we reached the highest point of the road at about 450m high according to the map. From there the view down through the hills to the Talla reservoir was stunning and the road down to it was incredibly steep – the sign said it was a 20% gradient so I was glad were going down and not up this hill. Strangely, the group of cyclists we saw earlier were racing back up this steep hill as fast as they could. It must have been torture. We left them to it and sped the other way as slowly as possible (15mph with brakes fully on!) in order to avoid crashing and were soon cycling on the flat road alongside the Talla reservoir with impressive mountains on both sides. At the far end of the reservoir we saw a deer jump in and start swimming for the other side. Dad said he didn’t know deer could swim. Maybe they can’t. Hopefully it made it across OK… Then it was only a short downhill stretch to the village of Tweedsmuir where we had a rest (and another digestive) before tackling the next section of the grand tour.

We turned right after Tweedsmuir onto the main A701 road. This is a very scenic road to cycle on. The only problem is that it’s a main road, and although it’s the signposted “Borders Loop” cycle route and is not too busy for an “A” road, it seems to be popular with motor bikes too and we got over-taken loads of times, making it not too pleasant really. Because of all the hills everywhere, there are no other possible roads to take so we had no option but to go this way or back up over the 20% climb … so the A701 won. Annoyingly, there’s a dismantled railway line which basically follows the road all the way. If only someone would turn this into a cycle path, then we could have avoided the main road altogether… Anyway, after about 7 miles we were glad to turn off onto the B712 which is one of the back road to Peebles. To make the route more interesting we soon detoured left off this road onto a single track road which climbed high up and gave great views of the countryside and the hills of the Tweed valley. It was along this road, after 34 miles of cycling, that we finally found our first brambles of the day. So we stopped to stuff our faces of course. Then, after a fast downhill section, we rejoined the B712 and cycled past Stobo Castle. Strangely enough, the B712 was even busier with traffic than the A701 and was not much fun at all despite the good views. It was quite a relief to turn off onto the narrow road for Lyne Station.

There used to be a railway station at Lyne Station back when there were steam trains running, and here we followed the Borders Loop signs again and went under the bridge of the dismantled railway line (which is a signposted walk to Peebles), then over a narrow bridge across the River Tweed (the one Google Maps doesn’t know about). After a short muddy, bumpy section through the trees, we ended up back on single track road again with lots of ups and downs for the next few miles. When we came to an amazing signpost with about a million signs on it, we followed the one for Peebles. This took us on a long cut right around the side of a hill and seems to take you in completely the wrong direction for a good while. Then there’s a lovely flat, straight section for the last mile or so into the town of Peebles.

In Peebles, we crossed a pedestrian bridge over the Tweed just off the B7062 road and then cycled through the rugby and football pitches until we came to the A72 road. Here we spotted the signpost for the Peebles to Innerleithen railway path so we followed this lovely cycle route for the 5 miles back to the car. The railway path follows the river, goes right through the middle of Cardrona golf course and you get lots of good views along the way. It’s an ideal cycle path for young cyclists as it’s very flat and other than a very short section through a quiet housing estate, it’s all off road – highly recommended. Anyway, it was a long but an brilliant day out. If you don’t mind all the steep uphill sections (we climbed over 2500 feet today), the Borders is the best place in the world for cycling. I’m already planning for the Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders vol.3…