Gorebridge to Blackhope Scar (nearly…)

Route out – Gorebridge to Fushiebridge to Middleton to Gladhouse Reservoir to Moorfoot to Moorfoot Hills. For route map click here.

Route back – Moorfoot Hills to Moorfoot to Carrington to Gore Glen to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mainly sunny and very warm but cloudy in the hills. Very little wind.
  • Distance travelled – 24.05 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 13 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.7 mph
  • Average speed – 10.7 mph
  • Height climbed – 1099 feet

Saturday was Gorebridge gala day. It’s a great day out if you enjoy bagpipes, junk food, expensive rides and even more expensive bouncy castles, surrounded by hundreds of noisy drunk people and screaming kids… It’s actually really not that bad but this year Dad and I decided to give it a miss because the weather was nice, so we went cycling instead. My sister Isla (who is only 7 years old) came with us too. It turned out to be her longest ever bike ride. It also turned out to be a bit of an adventure so read on…

After an early lunch of boiled eggs and soldiers, we took a familiar route out of Gorebridge along Vogrie Road and out into the Midlothian countryside. The narrow road took us through some Beech trees, high up above the Borders Railway line and soon we were at the lovely place called Fushiebridge where we stopped to look for trains as we crossed over the bridge to the other side of the train track. Sadly no trains to be seen today. We then sped down the hill until reached the junction with the main A7 road where we saw our first cars of the day. Rather than cycle on the busy road, we turned left and took the pavement along the side and cycled for a few hundred yards until we reached the Midlothian Council gritter depot. At that point we (very safely) pushed our bikes across the A7 and took another very quiet, narrow and very smooth road for about a mile or so (passing the Middleton Limeworks and climbing a massive hill) before we came to the crossroads at Middleton where we stopped for our first snack of the day (apple, orange and banana for me, Isla and dad). From Middleton, we got an amazing view back through the trees to Gorebridge which looked surprisingly nice in the sunshine with Arthur’s Seat in the background.

Next we followed the signpost for Bonnyrigg and cycled around the back of the limeworks quarries. You get some of the best views of the Pentland Hills, Edinburgh and even East Lothian along this road as it’s very high up. It’s also almost traffic-free but it is part of Cycle Route no.1 so you normally see lots of cyclists. Not today though strangely enough, despite the good weather. We turned left at the next proper junction, speeding past Outerston Farm and fields of sheep as we headed in the direction of the Mootfoot Hills. At the end of this road, we turned left again and up a steep hill and a mile or so of deserted back road later, we had arrived at Gladhouse Reservoir which looked nice in the sunshine with the Moorfoot Hills behind it. We stopped here for another snack (Yorkie buttons for Isla and oatcakes for me and dad) before heading along the smooth, mainly flat narrow road around the side of the reservoir.

After a few minutes we reached a junction and turned left onto another quiet and equally smooth road for only a few hundred yards before turning left at the sign for Moorfoot. Straightaway, we got an amazing view of the Moorfoot Hills as we cycled the half mile or so to Moorfoot Farm where the proper road ended. There, we followed a bumpy track, climbing gradually as we went, passing the ruins of Hirendean Castle and following a stream (which was actually the River South Esk) further and further into the hills. We’d never been along here before so weren’t sure what to expect and it was really quite hard to cycle on but we managed reasonably well. Even Isla didn’t complain too much… Eventually, with Bowbeat wind farm not too far ahead on top of the hill and just before reaching a small hut, the path forked in two. Dad checked the map and worked out that the left path would eventually take us to the top of the hill and to the highest point in the area called Blackhope Scar (651m high) which lies right on the border between Midlothian and the Borders. I’d always wanted to go there so we went that way. It was far too steep and bumpy to cycle on though so we left the bikes (and helmets) and decided to take a walk up to the top of the hill. It was a short and easy walk to the top and we got an amazing view of the wind farm as the sun came out from the clouds. Unfortunately, the path ran out about 100m below (and probably 20 minutes from) the summit and the grassy ground was very squelchy and boggy and we didn’t have walking boots on, so we decided (or rather Dad decided) it wasn’t worth getting wet feet for the sake of getting to the very top. So we headed back down the bumpy path to our bikes and we sped downhill along the bumpy track back to Moorfoot.

Leaving the hills and the Moorfoot road behind, we turned right and headed uphill on the quiet road until the junction with the B6372. We turned right and cycled for a mile or 2 along a very straight road, mostly downhill and with loads up humps and hollows to make it fun. Just outside Temple, we turned left and followed another quiet road for a mile or so to the village of Carrington where we turned right onto the very narrow back road to Gore Glen. This road is all downhill for about 2 miles and is great fun to cycle on. Just watch out you don’t go too fast down the very steep section just before the Glen as there’s a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and it would be easy to end up in the trees… Then there was another steep hill to get up from the Glen and back to the junction with the A7 main road. From there we turned left and headed up one last hill into Gorebridge through the new housing estate and then Arniston Park before heading home. It wasn’t the longest cycle route in the world (though it actually was a world record for Isla!) but it was certainly one of the most interesting, most scenic and most enjoyable.

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (vol.4: the 3 Valleys)

Route out – Innerleithen to Cardrona to Peebles to Cardrona (again) to Traquair to Mountbenger to Crosslee to Kirkhope to Yarrow to Yarrowford. For route map click here. Note that Google maps doesn’t seem to know about all of the cycle path from Innerleithen to Peebles. After Cardrona, do not take the A72 road but just stay on the signposted cycle path all the way to Peebles.

Route back – Yarrowford to Bowhill to Selkirk to Yair to Peel to Innerleithen. For route map click here.

  • Weather – cloudy and cool at first but sunny and warm later on with a gentle breeze.
  • Distance travelled – 65.1 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 46 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 30.6 mph
  • Average speed – 11.2 mph
  • Height climbed – 3157 feet

A few weeks ago Dad came up with a rather ambitious cycle route which visited 3 of the main river valleys in the Scottish Borders, the Tweed valley, the Yarrow Valley and the Ettrick valley. I liked his idea but there were lots of steep hills and I thought it may be too hard so I sent him to try it out first one weekend on his own. He came back and reported that it was brilliant fun, very scenic and mostly quite easy going with lots of fast sections. He even recorded his fastest ever average speed! So a week ago last Sunday, I decided to let him take me on a guided tour: the Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders volume 4.

We started in Innerleithen on a cool and cloudy morning with the hills all around the Tweed valley hidden by low clouds. We began our journey along the cycle path signposted for Peebles which basically follows the River Tweed, through Cardrona village and golf course and eventually coming into Peebles next to the A72 road close to Peebles Hydro. It’s a very flat and fast cycle on the smoothly surfaced path. Even at 8:30am it was quite busy with dog walkers, runners and other cyclists so you have to pay attention. At one point we spotted a Heron fishing in the river but Dad was too slow getting his camera out and it flew away with a fish in its beak before he could get a photo. In Peebles, we took a detour through some rugby pitches and then crossed the river via a pedestrian bridge, coming out onto the B7062 road. Here we turned left and cycled along the other side of the river on a nice quiet country road with plenty gentle ups and downs to keep it interesting, past Kailzie Gardens and then Cardrona village again. Yes, we were basically heading back the way we had come – but there’s a good reason for this long cut so read on to find out why. After passing the driveway to Traquair House, we soon arrived in the village of Traquair where we stopped for a snack of boiled eggs and crisps. As usual.

We were only a mile or so from our starting point even though we’d cycled 13 miles already. The reason for this rather long detour was my idea. I knew from a previous route that the road from Innerleithen to Mountbenger is a long and difficult climb and is especially hard to do when you are not warmed up. So my solution was to cycle to Peebles and back first to stretch the legs before attempting to cycle over the hill. And it was a good idea as the cycle along the mostly single track B709 was much easier than I remembered. On the way up the hill I spotted loads of wild blueberries growing at the side of the road so I will definitely be coming back here in the summer to feast on those…! From the high point, we basically free-wheeled down the other side, leaving the Tweed valley behind as we entered the Yarrow valley.

At the crossroads next to the Gordon Arms hotel, we headed straight over, staying on the B709 and over a bridge to the other side of the Yarrow Water. The single track road then climbed uphill again but really quite gradually, and it was actually a very pleasant cycle as the sun also decided to come out. The views of the Yarrow valley behind and to the right of us were lovely. As we approached the top of the climb, we again noticed millions of blueberry bushes – a month or 2 from now and they will be loaded with berries. Yum yum. At the top, the road turns sharply to the left and here you see the Ettrick Valley for the first time. This is an amazingly fast section of road and we sped the last mile or 2 down the hill into the Ettrick valley at around 30 mph. Just make sure you watch out for sheep and cattle grids though…

At the bottom of the hill at Crosslee Farm, we turned left onto the B7009. This is a brilliant road to cycle on. It’s almost completely traffic-free, has amazing views as you cycle through the Ettrick Valley and it has lots of long, gradual downhill sections where you can go as fast as you like. We saw lots of other cyclists on this part of the route – no wonder, it’s one of the best cycling roads in the world. After many miles of fun, we eventually turned off this road at Kirkhope where we went left, onto a very narrow road which would take us over the hill to Yarrow. First though, we needed an energy boost before tackling the climb so we stopped for a lunch of oatcakes (with crab and cheese), salad from our garden and Dairy Milk.

This single track road turned out to be quite a hard climb and has lots of sharp bends on the way up. It climbs roughly 200m in less than 2 miles so it is pretty steep. The views down to the valley below are rather good though (so Dad says – I was too busy concentrating on plodding up and up and up that I forgot to look back…). Just after the top, we got an impressive view down into the Yarrow valley once again and we could see the road heading basically straight down the hill. It looked very steep – and it was – but it was very good fun and we got to Yarrow at the bottom of the hill in only a couple of minutes.

At Yarrow, we turned right and headed onto the A708 road that would take us right through the Yarrow valley. This is probably the quietest “A” road I’ve ever been on – it has less traffic on it than most B roads and it was a pleasure to cycle along it (apart from a short section where the road surface was very worn out and bumpy). It is also mostly slightly downhill in the direction we were going so we made very good time. As usual with the Scottish Borders, the views of the hills and river were very nice too. Soon we passed through Yarrowford and came to sign pointing for Ettrickbridge on the right so we turned here onto the B7039 which took us back over the Yarrow water, around the edge of the Bowhill Estate and into the Ettrick valley once more. After a mile or so we crossed a bridge over the Ettrick Water next to the junction with the B7009. It was here that Dad noticed that unlike the Tweed or Yarrow Water, the Ettrick Water looked rather brown and muddy. Dad reckoned that the thunderstorms and heavy rain of the previous day must have washed half a hillside and 3 fields into the river. You certainly wouldn’t have filled your water bottle up here anyway…

We then had a couple of miles of mainly gradual uphill cycling through some of the best scenery you’ll see anywhere until we reached the town of Selkirk. In the town we had to cycle up the steepest hill of the day as we headed up to the town centre. After a quick stop at the Spar shop to stock up on water, crisps and chocolate (oh, and 1 apple for me too), we cycled back down the other side of the hill and out of town on the Bridgelands Road. This is a tiny, deserted road which passes by some horse farms for a mile or so before taking us to the junction with the main A7 road. Here we turned right but didn’t have to cycle on the main road at all. There’s a convenient cycle/footpath alongside the road so we stayed on the this for about 1 mile until we reached a bridge over the river. It’s at this exact spot where the Ettrick Water joins up with the River Tweed and we could clearly see where the muddy brown Ettrick Water was merging in with the lovely clear and clean water of the Tweed. It was rather interesting to see.

It was here that we turned left onto the B7060 where we joined cycle route no.1, which we followed for the 12 or so miles back to the car. This section of the route through the Tweed Valley is beautiful and highly recommended. There’s very few cars as well so it’s pleasant to cycle on and ideal for children and inexperienced cyclists too. When we reached Yair Bridge, we turned left, crossed the bridge and then immediately turned right to follow cycle route 1 (alternative off road route) for the 3 miles to Peel. You could take the main signposted cycle route along the A707 instead (it’s quicker and suitable for road bikes, unlike the alternative route) but I prefer the off road section as it’s very peaceful and scenic. It is quite hilly and very bumpy in places though so you have been warned. Dad hates the bumpy track as he has no suspension on his bike but I don’t mind it too much. Soon we reached the village of Peel and joined another deserted single track road for the last 8 miles of gradual uphills and long, fast downhills, cycling in and out of the trees, high up above the River Tweed down below. In no time at all, we reached Innerleithen again after nearly 6 hours of cycling and having completed one of our longest and most challenging rides so far. This is definitely one to be repeated. I may do it the other way round next time but when I do, it will certainly coincide with wild blueberry season…

Gorebridge to Rosewell Circular Route

Route out – Gorebridge to Newtongrange to Bonnyrigg to Rosewell. For route map click here.

Route back – Rosewell to Carrington to Gore Glen to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – cool and cloudy but mainly dry and not much wind.
  • Distance travelled – 12.54 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 11 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.2 mph
  • Average speed – 10.5 mph

Regular readers of this blog will know that I really love anything to do with railways and especially viaducts. Strangely though, there is one very impressive viaduct only a few miles from our house that I hadn’t cycled past before – the Lothianbridge viaduct near Newtongrange. A week ago on Sunday, Dad and I decided to go for a short local cycle run and finally found ourselves cycling underneath one of the finest features of the Borders Railway line.

As usually, we started off from the house in Gorebridge but for a change, headed down hill along Greenhall Road to Stobhill. We then turned off on to the back road to Mayfield (also known as Crawlees Road). During the week this is very busy road used by lots of lorries and vans travelling to and from the industrial estate. It also has lots of really bad corners so isn’t ideal for cycling. However, on a sunday morning it’s basically perfectly fine and it even boasts a lovely smooth surface and brilliant views over to the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh. After passing through the industrial estate we turned left and sped downhill along the B6482 (Bryans Road) into Newtongrange. There’s a speed sensor halfway down the hill and it flashed up that Dad and I were both breaking the 30 mph speed limit! We then maneuvered our way across 2 very odd joined up mini-roundabouts and sped down another short hill to the traffic lights at the junction with the main A7 road – where we got our first view of the amazing viaduct. Luckily the lights changed to red just as we got there so we had time to take a sneaky photograph.

The lights soon changed to green and we cycled as fast as possible on the main road along the side of the viaduct for roughly 300 yards before turning left onto a minor road signposted for Carrington. This very quiet road took us right underneath one of the great giant arches of the viaduct and after about half a mile, we came to a crossroads. We turned right, passing Cockpen and Carrington Parish Church before reaching the town of Bonnyrigg. There, we turned off the road and onto the Dalkeith to Penicuick Railway Path (cycle route no.196). The cycle path is lovely and smooth and straight and even though it’s slightly uphill in this direction, we had soon cycled the 2 miles to the village of Rosewell. Just make sure you keep an eye out for dog poo on the path…

We left the path at Rosewell and cycled along the main road through the village for a short distance before turning off to the left and into the park. After stopping at a bench for a quick apple and drink, we carried on, skirting along the edge of a field and then onto a slightly bumpy farm road. The bumpy road took us close to Whitehill House golf course, past lots of holiday cottages and then through Thornton Farm, where we saw lots of horses. There were also some unusual but nice views of the Pentland Hills from here. After the farm we turned left onto some familiar back roads which took us the remaining 2 miles or so to Carrington. The first section of road was rather bumpy in places but after turning right at the crossroads, you find yourself speeding along on the flattest, smoothest road in the world with fields and trees on either side. It’s also almost completely traffic free. After a while the flatness quickly becomes a steep downhill section and we both zoomed into Carrington at around 30 mph. Carrington is a peaceful place and we stopped there for another quick snack. I counted only 1 car and 8 cyclists passing through in the 10 minutes we were there.

The last section of the route took us along a very narrow back road to Gore Glen. It’s nearly all downhill and very fast (just be careful though as some of the fastest parts of this road are rather bumpy and it would be quite easy to crash…). The climb up from Gore Glen to Povert Road was really the only steep uphill section of the day but at least it was quite a short one. After that it was a few hundred yards along the A7 again and then a left turn into Gorebridge via easily the bumpiest “proper” road in the world – Engine Road. It’s a rutted mess of potholes, ravines and loose stones and is about 50 years overdue some resurfacing work. Anyway, we were back home in time for our lunch of Mushroom soup and oatcakes.

This was a nice easy route with very few hills but lots of long downhill sections and although it was short, it was most enjoyable. This sunday, we went on a much longer and more adventurous route so stay tuned for that one…

The Lothians Loop

Route out – Gorebridge to Carrington to Roslin Glen to Auchendinny to Flotterstone to Balerno to Kirknewton to East Calder to Broxburn to Winchburgh to Abercorn. For route map click here.

Route back – Abercorn to Queensferry to Dalmeny to Edinburgh (Barnton to Haymarket to City Centre to Leith to Portobello) to Musselburgh to Whitecraig to Dalkeith to Newbattle to Newtongrange to Gorebridge. For route map click here then here. Note that Google maps doesn’t show the correct route through Newbattle. When you reach a bridge over the River South Esk, turn off the main path and follow the path marked “Lord Ancrum’s Wood” on the South-East side of the river until you reach the B703.

  • Weather – mostly sunny, quite windy and reasonably warm (but freezing cold along the east coast from Portobello to Musselburgh).
  • Distance travelled – 66.6 miles
  • Riding time – 6 hours 42 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 35.6 mph
  • Average speed – 9.9 mph
  • Height climbed – 3300 feet

When cycling through the Scottish Borders, Dad and I often end up following the “Borders Loop” cycle route signs so I decided to investigate whether there was a such a thing as a “Lothians Loop” cycle route. It appears that there isn’t, so I made up my own one. It’s one of our longest and most adventurous routes so far, visiting the Mid, West and East Lothian, as well as Edinburgh City. Hope you like it…

After leaving Gorebridge at 7:30am, we were soon heading down the deserted minor road through Gore Glen to the village of Carrington. The low sun was just starting to emerge from the clouds and Dad thought it made some of the trees look really nice so he kept stopping to take photos. I suppose he was right enough. From Carrington, we took the road signposted for Rosewell. The first half mile is one of the best cycling roads ever as it is very smooth and fast. Then, after turning left at a crossroads, the surface becomes rather more bumpy and worn out. Soon we reached another crossroads and headed straight across the A6094 and onto a quiet back road with views of the Pentlands hills in the distance. After a mile or so, we came to a signpost pointing to Roslin Glen so we went that way, downhill on a farm track for a wee bit and then, as the track turned sharply left, we turned right and headed down some steps (scaredy cat Dad pushed his bike but I cycled) into the picturesque Roslin Glen. There, we followed the Dalkeith to Penicuik railway walk for a pleasant mile or so of deer-spotting, cycling along the good path through the woods until we arrived at the village of Auchendinny.

At Auchedinny, we left the track and turned right onto the road. We immediately came to some traffic lights but they refused to change to green for us so we had to press the button on the pedestrian crossing and then cheekily cycle through the green man to get onto Graham Road which heads uphill past the Glencorse army barracks on the outskirts of Penicuik. Soon we cam to another set of lights but these ones did change to green so we headed straight over the A701 and headed uphill again along Bellwood Road, through some houses and then some trees until the junction with the A702. This is normally a busy road that we avoid but we were there nice and early and there were basically no cars around so we turned right onto the main road and speeded down the hill at 30 mph for a few hundred yards before turning off at the Flotterstone Inn and the entrance to the Pentland Hills.

The Pentland Hills are a lovely place to visit but they do tend to get rather busy. However, at 8:30am, it was still relatively quiet and very pleasant to cycle along the minor road, past the Glencorse Reservoir with hills on all sides. Further along the road, deep amongst the hills, we came to Loganlee Reservoir where we stopped for a snack. We saw quite a few other cyclists and people out running as we sat in the sun munching away on our carrot sticks and celery. After a while the road ended and at a signpost, we turned right and headed for Balerno. The path varied from short, bumpy grass to horrible, loose and large stones, to nice smooth dirt so it was hard going at times, though it did seem to be mostly downhill so we still enjoyed it. The views were very nice all the way. At one point, we had to cross a stream and we both ended up with wet feet but they soon dried off. After a while, we said goodbye to Midlothian and said hello to what is technically Edinburgh City. It didn’t look much like a city to me though as we emerged from the hills into a field of sheep and a gate with a sign warning cyclists not to go too fast on the road ahead. The road turned out to be incredibly straight, lined with trees and steeply downhill so we ignored the warning and freewheeled as fast as possible down the hill. It was great fun! In fact, we almost didn’t need to pedal at all for the 2 miles from there to Balerno, which appears to be a nice little town by the way.

After a quick bag of crisps, we left Balerno behind and followed Cycle Route no.75 out of the town, down another really steep hill (this road is a bit bumpy so be careful not to crash). It was then a few more miles through quiet, narrow country roads along Route 75 until we reached Kirknewton, just over the border into West Lothian. It’s quite a steep climb on the way into the village but the way out down the other side is great fun and very fast and you get to cycle over a level crossing, which I really liked. Didn’t see any trains though. We stayed on Route 75 for another mile or so, crossing over the main A71 road at the traffic lights and then heading down a bumpy track into East Calder. There we followed the nice path through the beautiful Almondell Country Park, dodging in between the dog walkers and little children, over a bridge across the River Almond and up a steep hill before rejoining a quiet minor road. This road took us underneath the railway line (where we did see a train) and underneath the M8 motorway, before taking us to the town of Broxburn.

At Broxburn, we spotted a Greggs so we made an unplanned early lunch stop (it was only 10:50am). Sausage, bean and cheese melt plus soup for me, sausage roll and soup for Dad. Very tasty. After lunch we cycled along the B8020 which took us around the side of what I like to call “The Volcano” but Dad says it is actually a giant bing. It’s rather impressive to look at anyway. Soon enough we reached Winchburgh, where we turned left onto the B9080 road. After a mile or so we saw a signpost for Hopetoun House and turned right onto a very quiet tree-lined back road which took us through some nice countryside and underneath the M9 motorway until the junction with the busy A904 road. We could have taken this road directly to Queensferry but took the scenic long cut instead. We went straight over the main road and onto a lovely quiet road for a couple of fast, downhill miles to a tiny place called Abercorn. We missed a turning and ended up in a church yard by mistake but the church was nice and had an impressive bell tower. After retreating 20 yards, I spotted a Route no.76 marker on a gate so we followed that path, down some steep bends into the woods. The track was a bit bumpy for a while but then became a narrow but proper road again as we cycled right past the biggest house I’ve ever seen – Hopetoun House. I bet the whole population of Gorebridge could live inside it… We the followed the quiet road alongside the Firth of Forth, under the new and old Forth bridges and into Queensferry.

I wanted to cycle over the Forth Bridge but Dad thought it was too windy today so we simply carried on past Dalmeny train station (where we saw another train) and then onto Cycle Route no.1, speeding down the hill to Crammond on the outskirts of Edinburgh. After stopping at another bridge over the River Almond for a quick Yorkie bar and boiled egg, we followed route no.1 mainly off road to Haymarket (where we saw a tram and a train) and then through some quietish residential streets until we got to the centre of town. George Street was fairly busy today but there’s a cycle lane to keep us safe. When we got to St Andrews Square, we joined Cycle Route no.75 which took us steeply down Dublin Street and eventually onto a cycle path which went right past one of my favourite places in Edinburgh – The Yard adventure centre. We followed the path for a couple more miles until we reached Leith. Then we followed a signposted cycle route (again mainly off road) for a few miles to Portobello. The weather had been brilliant all day up till then but it was really cold and windy at Portobello beach, so we quickly took a detour away from the coast and went along the busy high street instead. It wasn’t much warmer though and the 2 miles or so cycling along this road to Musselburgh in East Lothian were horrible – right into the strong wind and very cold. Thankfully, Musselburgh has a great ice cream shop called Luca’s so we joined the long queue and eventually got to fill our faces (I had Kit Kat ice cream which was rather good).

My original plan was to head a bit further into East Lothian but by this time I was starting to feel tired so decided I’d rather head the quickest way home instead. So we cycled through Inveresk and Whitecraig (via the interestingly named place called Cowpits) and then joined the cycle path of route no.1 once more for a short time. We then took a detour off the path and headed up past another “volcano” and onto the B6414, where we turned right to re-enter Midlothian and then zoomed down the hill at over the 30 mph speed limit into Dalkeith. We rejoined route no.1 again for another short section through Woodburn and then onto a cycle path as far as Newbattle Golf Course. Then, just next to the humped bridge, we cycled through a gap in the wall and into Lord Ancrum’s Wood. It’s not very long but this is an amazing path with lots of short ups and downs which follows the River South Esk past Newbattle Abbey. It’s a nice hard packed surface which is easy to cycle on. Lots of interesting and ancient trees to see and more wild garlic than even I could eat! There’s one really steep bit near the end that goes down some steps (I cycled down it but as usual, Dad had to push…). We then headed left onto the B703 for half a mile before heading onto the quieter road called The Beaches, uphill into Newtongrange. Then it was simply 2 miles of gradual uphill cycling to get home, first along the Bryans path and then up Stobhill Road into Gorebridge. We arrived home just in time for tea.

It had been a very long but enjoyable day – in fact, that was the longest cycle run I’ve ever done at over 66 miles – but we did manage to complete our Lothian Loop. It’s probably one of the most varied routes we’ve ever done with all sorts of different road surfaces and paths and travelling through such a huge variety of countryside and urban areas. Definitely one to repeat sometime.

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (vol. 3)

Route out – Tweedbank to Abbotsford to Lindean to Selkirk to Ashkirk to Hawick. For route map click here.

Route back – Hawick to Minto to Newtown St Boswells to Dryburgh to Leaderfoot to Newstead to Melrose to Darnick to Tweedbank. For route map click here. Note Google maps says to go onto the A68 at Leaderfoot but this isn’t necessary. Just head onto the B6360 and immediately pull off the road on the left and use the pedestrian bridge next to the viaduct to cross the river.

  • Weather – mainly sunny with some cloudy intervals, cool at first but warmer later and no wind at all.
  • Distance travelled – 52.40 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 11 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.2 mph
  • Average speed – 10.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 3346 feet

The weather forecast looked perfect for cycling on Easter Monday so Dad and I got up at some unbelievably stupid time in the morning and found ourselves (and our bikes) on the 6:49 train from Gorebridge to Tweedbank. Half an hour later we were on our bikes, cycling through a housing estate and then around the lovely Gun Knowe Loch in Tweedbank before crossing the main road and onto the quiet B6360 which goes past the home of Scots writer Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House. This road was follows the River Tweed and is lined with trees and has loads of wild garlic growing on the verges which made an amazing smell as we cycled along. After a few miles we had no choice but to turn left onto the main A7 road. It’s only 2 or 3 miles along the A7 to the town of Selkirk but the road was very busy and if you’ve read the blog before, you will know we prefer to stick to the back roads so after only half a mile or so we decided to turn left and take the long cut. The long cut took us onto a deserted single track road which straight away went steeply uphill. We cycled through a tiny place called Lindeen and then up and up and up for a long long long time until at the top of the hill, we came to an un-signposted junction on the right, heading sharply (almost backwards) at a reflex angle. From there it was a very fast and fun descent for a couple of miles down to Selkirk with some nice views of the Borders countryside all around us.

We left Selkirk along the B7009, heading into the stunning Ettrick Valley and following the Ettrick Water for a while. We turned off this road when we saw a sign for Ashkirk and this took us up another steep hilly single track road for quite a long time. It was nice and quiet though and the views of the hills and valleys got better and better the higher we went. Since it was Easter, we stopped halfway up the hill and rolled our eggs. Dad had painted his egg like Derek McInnes the Aberdeen FC manager but after I’d smashed it down the hill, it no longer looked like him! McInnes tasted fine though… At the top of the hill we crossed a cattle grid and then it was simply a case of zooming back down the other side to the village of Ashkirk. Just before the village, Dad spotted a very unusual road sign warning car drivers not to go down a certain road because their “sat-nav is wrong and the road isn’t suitable for cars” (see photo below). It was probably OK for bikes but we stuck to the proper road this time. Askirk seemed nice enough but beware that there’s a lot of misleading sign posts there pointing to various places and most of them seemed to be pointing in completely the wrong direction. We ignored the sign pointing left to the golf course and Roberton and instead headed right – in the direction of the golf course and Roberton…

After a few miles of easy cycling along a nice quiet road, we came to yet another uphill section as the narrow road took us up very high and into some really remote and hilly countryside. It was perfect for cycling as it was quite a gradual climb really and the views were amazing. We even saw some baby Highland cows in a field. After a short while cycling right along the top of the hills, the road then went downhill for a long time (maybe 4 or 5 miles) and we sped far too fast until we reached the junction with the B711 where we turned left and cycled along a much flatter and very smooth road for a couple of miles, following a river. Just before reaching the A7 again we turned left onto a minor road which took us to the park on the outskirts of Hawick so we cycled through the park and then over a bridge into the town centre where we stopped at Greggs for an early lunch (cheese and onion pasty for me, 2 sausage rolls for Dad).

We followed the Border Loop cycle route signs out of Hawick on a minor road and were soon in the countryside once more. This area is extremely quiet and scenic and the roads are nicely surfaced with lots of ups and downs so it is ideal for cycling. After a while we came to a crossroads with lots of signs on it so we chose Minto. This turned out to be a rather steep choice but we found that Minto is very pleasant place with a golf course and a nice church. We stopped there for a snack of oatcakes and Dad spotted 2 pheasants that were either fighting or mating – we didn’t stay long enough to find out… After Minto it was uphill again and we cycled around the side a rather distinctive dome-shaped hill (called Minto Hill funnily enough). Then it was basically another 6 miles of peaceful cycling on quiet roads with lots of ups and downs (mainly downs this time) heading closer and closer to the impressive Eildon Hills as we eventually reached Newtown St Boswells.

We quickly headed out of town, across the main A68 road and along a quiet road for less than a mile before crossing over a pedestrian bridge over the River Tweed to Dryburgh. There’s an abbey near there but we didn’t see it today and instead followed the road which would takes us the long was back to Melrose via the Leaderfoot viaduct. Before reaching the viaduct though, we had yet another hill to climb but it was well worth it as the views from the top were amazing. There’s a view point at the top called Scott’s View because it was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view in the Borders. He was right enough as the view of the Eildon Hills and valley below was reasonably remarkable I thought. Then it was a short and fast downhill section to Leaderfoot and the amazing viaduct which came into view just as we cycled underneath the main A68 road. Just there, we turned left onto a pedestrian bridge which carried us over the Tweed once more and provided us with great views of the viaduct. After crossing the bridge we turned right onto a road that is not open to cars (there’s a locked gate at the end of it) but it’s good for bikes and it took us right under the viaduct and down to the village of Newstead. It was then just a mile along the B6394 to Melrose (where we stopped as usual for an ice cream) before heading back to the train station in Tweedbank following Cycle Route no.1 via Darnick. Oh, just outside Melrose on the B6394, Dad spotted a very large banner advertising a fencing company who claim to be the “Erection Specialists” (see picture below). He was basically in tears with laughter but I didn’t have a clue why. Dad says I will understand the joke in a few years time…

Today was really fun day out with lots of hills to climb, very little in the way of traffic and some of the best views we’ve had whilst out cycling. We love going to the Borders but it’s a big place and there’s still lots more of it to explore so stay tuned for Grand Tour vol.4 sometime soon…

Gore Glen Circular Loop

Route out – Gorebridge to Gore Glen to Arniston Estate to Temple. For route map click here and then, because Google Maps isn’t clever enough to go off-road,  follow the black line drawn on this map:

gore glen map

Route back – Temple to Carrington to Gore Glen to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – dull with light and patchy rain. No wind though.
  • Distance travelled – 8.78 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 7 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 29.8 mph
  • Average speed – 7.8 mph

On Easter Sunday, we had some time to kill before going to Grandma’s house for tea so Dad and I decided to go for a short local cycle. Just to be a bit more adventurous than usual, this included a 5 mile off-road section along one of our favourite walking routes through Gore Glen and the Arniston Estate following the Gore Water and then the River South Esk all the way to the village of Temple.

We headed out of Gorebridge along Engine road (which is the bumpiest road in the world) and soon turned left onto the single track road which leads you through the trees into Gore Glen. After a short time, you have to pass a through a gate and the road turns into a narrower but still tarmaced track running close to the Borders railway line. Our route was on the other side of the railway track so unfortunately, we had to hump our bikes up and over the pedestrian bridge. Luckily Dad is very strong and he carried my bike up to the top of the bridge…

After that, the fun started with a very steep drop down into the glen which takes you underneath the main A7 road. The surface was quite loose and very bumpy but with brakes fully on, we both managed to get to the bottom without falling off. We then had a nice ride for about a mile or so along the good quality but narrow footpath which follows the Gore water, passing through endless amounts of wild garlic on both sides of the track. I stopped to forage some garlic at one point (the leaves are really tasty!). We then crossed over a rather rickety looking hump-backed bridge where the Gore Water joins the larger River South Esk. From that point the path follows the South Esk the rest of the way to Temple. However, the path is nowhere near as good after that and we had to watch out for lots of tree roots, pine cones, rutted dried mud, swampy wet mud and fallen trees. We saw some amazing caves, a badger’s den, a waterfall, an old water-pumping-station-shed-thing and some massive, ancient Beech and Giant Redwood trees along the way. We had a great time and it was a pleasant change from cycling on the road. Just before we reached Temple we passed under a rather impressive road bridge and then had to endure the impossible section, resorting to pushing our bikes up and down a lot of steep steps before eventually emerging out of a wooden gate and onto the road once more.

From Temple, we followed the quiet road to the peaceful village of Carrington. I’m sure people must live in the houses there but strangely, you never see anyone… Today, we stopped to have a nosey at the unusual looking church. We then sped back down the narrow road past Carrington Barns farm and fields of oil seed rape and then down a really steep hill and into Gore Glen once more. From there, we headed straight back up another monster hill, over a bridge across the Borders Railway line again and back into Gorebridge via the new cycle path through Arniston Park. We made it home just in time to go to Grandma’s where I had my favourite broccoli quiche for tea…

NOTE FROM DAD: We often go walking along the off-road section of this route and although it was basically fine to cycle at this time of year, once the nettles, ferns and brambles start to grow in the next month or two, much of the River South Esk path will be overgrown and probably impossible to ride on. It will also likely be much muddier through the summer too so best to attempt this route when it’s dry in the winter or spring. ie. go now before it’s too late…

 

Gorebridge to Tweedbank (Volume 2)

Route out – Gorebridge to Crichton to Fala Dam to Fala to Gilston to Fountainhall to Stow to Langshaw to Gattonside to Melrose to Eildon to Newton St Boswells to Bowden to Darnick to Tweedbank. For route map click here.

Route back – Borders Railway (Tweedbank to Gorebridge).

  • Weather – sunny with a light breeze. Cool at first but warm later.
  • Distance travelled – 44.35 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 26 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 35.4 mph
  • Average speed – 10.0 mph
  • Height climbed – 3245 feet

On Saturday Dad and I continued our recent theme of cycling to Tweedbank and then getting the train home to Gorebridge, this time going the hard way over lots of really steep hills. The first part of the route takes you through some of the most scenic parts of Midlothian on very quiet single track roads which are perfect for cycling. The route we took is exactly the same as one we went on previously when going from Gorebridge to Fala Dam so read that blog for more detail. We were out really early (7am start) so this meant there was loads of wildlife out and about. We spotted 2 buzzards, 3 deer and 1 hare in only the first few miles from the house. After Fala Dam there’s a huge steep hill to climb on the way to Fala Village. Fala looks like it would be a fine place to stay so we stayed for a bit, stopping there for a well earned break. I had an orange for my snack and Dad had a much healthier snack (so he said) of a bag of salt and vinegar crisps…

After that we headed out of the village, downhill and extremely fast on the B6457 for a mile or so until we entered East Lothian just before the junction with the B6368. Here, we turned right and headed towards the hills in the distance. Eventually, we came to the junction with the main A68 road – normally a road that we would avoid like the plague as it’s really busy. However, today we had no choice but to venture onto it, turning left and cycling gradually uphill for a few hundred yards before turning off (using the handy right turn lane for safety) onto the B6368 once again – AKA the Gilston Road. By the way, our minute or so on the A68 was actually fine as it was still early in the day and the traffic was relatively light. The road surface was also nice and smooth. Anyway, from this point on, the B6368 is actually a really quiet single track road and it climbs right along the border between Midlothian and the Scottish Borders (actually just inside the Scottish Borders) quite steeply at first up to the high point of 369 m at some historic place called Soutra Aisle. We stopped for a look at it but I preferred the view of the Soutra Hill wind turbines in the distance. The 6 miles we cycled along the road were brilliant fun with lots of amazingly fast downhill sections and some short but steep uphills. The views of the hills and countryside were nice and we saw lots of baby lambs in the fields – and also a dead badger at the side of the road for the 2nd time in 2 days… We also only passed 1 or 2 cars in half an hour which made the cycle even more pleasant.

The Gilston road ends with a fast downhill section which takes you to the junction with the A7 road, the main road between Edinburgh and Galashiels. It’s a much safer road to cycle on than the A68 as it is nowhere near as busy for some reason. We turned left and cycled for a mile or 2, slightly downhill and really fast along the newly resurfaced road, before turning right into the village of Fountainhall. We then took the quiet back road south for a few miles of ups and downs through the peaceful and picturesque Borders countryside. The road basically follows the route of the railway line and luckily we spotted a few trains today, including one with an incredible 5 coaches (most unusual for the Borders Railway!). Soon we reached Stow where we turned off the back road and cycled downhill past the train station and over a bridge across the Gala Water and into the main part of the village. There’s a few shops and cafes in Stow but we only stopped long enough to photograph the 15% gradient sign at the side of the B6362 (signposted for Lauder). We weren’t going that way though and instead followed the Border Loop cycle route sign up an equally steep (or more likely even more steep) narrow road that took us out of Stow and into the countryside again. The road was unbelievably steep for the first while, easily the steepest road we’ve cycled up. Dad checked the map later on and reckons we climbed 200m in only a mile or so. The hill seemed to go on forever but luckily, someone had had the good idea to put a bench halfway up so we stopped there for a snack and to enjoy the views of the hills. After what seemed like forever, the road started to level out a bit to what I would describe as “only quite steep” and the wind farm came into view. It’s quite an amazing sight to see the wind turbines right up close, though today, they were barely turning at all due to the lack of wind… After the high point on the road of 372m it was all downhill for ages and we fairly sped along, trying not to crash at a right-angled bend, before passing a farm and a nice woodland and then reaching the junction with the back road from Lauder to Galashiels.

We turned right here and cycled south towards Gala, mainly downhill and very fast again along a reasonably quiet and reasonably surfaced road. There were some cars but the road is wide enough for them to overtake safely enough. The views along this road are pretty good, especially as you near Gala and the Eildon Hills come in to view in the distance. After that really fun section, we came to the B6374 road from Galshiels to Melrose. We turned left for Melrose. This road was not much fun at all with a lot of traffic and corners, making it hard for cars to get past us. After a few minutes, Dad spotted a signpost for Gattonside Mains and decided to follow it, turning off the busy road and going left onto a deserted single track road. This was certainly a long cut but was worth it to get away from all the cars. It turned out to be one of the best cycling roads ever as it climbed up high above the River Tweed and the views of the Eildon Hills were unexpectedly good. We saw no traffic at all – just 1 horse and 1 dog – and after a couple of miles, the road went steeply downhill and we sped into the village of Gattonside far too fast, even with our brakes on full… We crossed over the main road in Gattonside and then headed for the River Tweed, crossing into Melrose over the Chain Suspension Bridge as we did the last time we were here. Arriving in Melrose, we soon noticed that the town was much busier than usual – we hadn’t realised that the Melrose 7s rugby tournament was on today. Luckily, our favorite bakery and ice cream shop were less mobbed than the surrounding streets so we enjoyed a lunch of 2 macaroni pies (Dad) and a cheese and onion pasty (me) followed by a raspberry cone (me) and a 2 scoop tub (Dad).

After lunch, we had plenty energy and plenty time left before we needed to get a train home so we decided to cycle around the Eildon Hills before heading back to Tweedbank station. For some reason I really like the Eildon Hills and me and Dad often come down here to climb them but this would be my first time cycling around them. First we left Melrose and followed Cycle Route no.1 along a mainly traffic free road to the left of the hills. There’s a gate blocking the road so only bikes can go past a certain point beside the Rhymer’s Stone. Soon you start to get good views to the south as we cycled past the village of Eildon itself and then onto the town of Newtown St Boswells. Here we took the B6398 road to Bowden which is a lovely straight road that takes you around the back of the Eildon hills and gives you probably the best unspoiled views of all. After Bowden (which seemed like a lovely little village), we turned right onto the B6359 which turned out to be suspiciously uphill for quite a while but at least it was a quiet road so we plodded along enjoying the views for a couple of miles. Then we came to the best part of the ride. We followed a signpost for the 4 Abbeys cycle route and turned off onto a narrow road on the left. This turned out to be one of the steepest and fastest roads I’ve ever been on and it was brilliant fun despite a few hairy moments on the corners. It was a bit like downhill mountain biking with out any of the mud, rocks or trees… In only a minute we’d sped all the way to Darnick and from there, we simply had to follow the Cycle Route no.1 signs for a couple of miles back to the station at Tweedbank. We got the 1:30pm train and were home just after 2pm. Brilliant weather, brilliant scenery and a brilliant day out.

How many other ways can we go from Gorebridge to Tweedbank? Who knows…?