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.

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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…

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.

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…?

Gorebridge to Tweedbank (the long way)

Route out – Gorebridge to Middleton to Heriot to Fountainhall to Stow to Clovenfords to Galashiels to Tweedbank to Darnick to Melrose to Gattonside to Tweedbank. For route map click here.

Route back – Borders Railway (Tweedbank to Gorebridge).

  • Weather – sunny, warm and almost no wind at all.
  • Distance travelled – 46.06 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 18 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 29.4 mph
  • Average speed – 10.7 mph

Today, Dad and I decided to get up early and take a advantage of the brilliant weather by going for a long cycle through some of the most scenic parts of the Scottish Borders. For the first time ever, we also decided to do a one-way journey and then take the quick way home – on the Borders Railway.

The first part of the route from Gorebridge to the top of the Moorfoot Hills is exactly the same as one we did last last summer so for more details read that blog. It had snowed earlier in the week and despite the warm weather, we discovered quite a few large snow patches along the roadside near to Middleton and also on the high parts of the B7007 which took us up and over the top of the Moorfoot Hills. We also found an old sofa that some stupid idiot had dumped at the roadside… The highest of the hills in this area is Blackhope Scar and it was still fairly covered in snow which made for some great views as we cycled along the almost deserted road. At the bottom of the hill, just after Garvald Farm, we turned left onto the B709. This is a beautifully quiet section of single track road, roughly 4 or 5 fast, slightly downhill miles in this direction. The scenery was also nice in the sunshine today. We sped through Heriot and after climbing a short steep hill, we turned right onto the Old Stage Road.

The Old Stage Road is another very quiet single track road which takes you through the villages of Fountainhall and Stow. It basically runs parallel to the main A7 road, with the Borders Railway in between them. It’s a lovely road to cycle on because it is so quiet (more bikes than cars), the views are good and despite some quite steep uphill sections, there’s loads of really fast downhill bits. Heading south as we were today, it seemed as though there were more downs than ups and we certainly made good time. Oh, and another good thing about this road – you always see plenty of trains! Two things to note about this road though, there are a couple of cattle grids (one right at the bottom of a really steep hill so be careful not to hit it too fast) and also quite a few places where the road surface is rather bumpy. About 10 miles along this road we came to the one really killer hill of the day. It wasn’t so much that it was steep (though it was) but the fact that it seemed to go on for miles and miles. Thankfully the views were good on the way up and when we eventually reached the top, we found the perfect place to stop for lunch (boiled eggs, salad, oatcakes and crisps), a small patch of Beech trees with a stunning view right down the valley to the Eildon Hills at Melrose and the snow-covered Cheviot Hills in the far distance. After lunch we sped back down the other side of the hill, past a reservoir, a rock called “Dignity” and a field full of ponies. Soon enough, we whizzed down one more hill at 30 mph into the village of Clovenfords in the Tweed Valley.

As it was a nice day, we thought we’d nip into the shop in Clovernfords for an ice cream but unfortunately it now appears to be closed. So we carried on, taking the B710 downhill for a mile or so before turning left onto the A707 which runs alongside the River Tweed. It’s fairly quiet for an A road and we weren’t on it for too long anyway. After 2 miles or so we turned left following the Cycle Route no.1 signpost onto the B7060. This road climbs gradually and you end up quite high up with nice views back down the valley to the river below. After a short while, we turned left onto a very quiet narrow and scenic road which took us a few miles uphill, passing a nice little lake along the way, before speeding back down the hill into Galashiels. Judging by how quiet this road is, it must be a secret back entrance to the town…

At Gala, we skirted around the town centre, taking the A7 for a few hundred yards before turning off on the right just before Asda, onto a nice cycle path along the river side. We followed this path (which later became Cycle Route no.1 again) all the way to Tweedbank. At one point just before Tweedbank station, the path crosses a bridge over the River Tweed where you get an amazing view. It also runs very close to the railway line here and luckily for us, a train sped past at exactly the right moment… We decided not to stop at the station just yet but carried on along route no.1 into the historic village of Darnick and then into the town of Melrose. Here, just next to Melrose Abbey, we did find an ice cream shop so stopped to fill up on sugar and saturated fat. Dad had 2 scoops, the greedy monkey! We had a little bit of time to kill before the train home so we took the long way back to the station via the Chain Bridge. This is an unusual pedestrian suspension bridge crossing the River Tweed from Melrose to Gattonside. No more than 8 people are allowed on the bridge at any one time apparently… We then cycled a mile or so back along the riverside on the B6360 until we came to the B6372 and another bridge over the river, this one a hump-backed bridge with traffic lights. After the bridge, we turned right to go back along the path of route no.1 for a couple of minutes until we reached Tweedbank station again. This time we got on the train and were home in only half an hour!

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…

Grand Tour of the Moorfoot Hills

Route Out – Gorebridge to Crichton to Tynehead to Fala Dam to Fala to Heriot to Pirntaton Farm. For route map click here.

Route Back – Pirntaton Farm to Over Shiels Farm to George Wood to Ladyside Farm to Middleton to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

A large part of this route is off road through Fala Moor and the Moorfoot Hills so make sure you remember to take a map with you so you don’t get lost. See images below for the maps we took with us.

  • Weather – Sunny and cloudy, light winds and quite warm.
  • Distance Travelled – 38.69 miles
  • Riding Time – 4 hours 31 minutes
  • Maximum Speed – 30.1 mph
  • Average Speed – 8.5 mph

The weather brightened up on Saturday afternoon, so after lunch Dad took me on an amazing cycle route through the Moorfoot Hills that he’d discovered a while ago. He told me it would be really scenic but also extremely steep in places so would be very hard. He was right…

The first part of the route is basically the same as the Gorebridge to Fala Dam route that we went on a few weeks ago. We varied it slightly by staying on the B6367 all the way from Crichton to Tynehead. This is a nice quiet road with good views of the Pentland and Moorfoot Hills but it also felt a lot steeper than it looked for most of the way. At Tynehead we turned left onto the B6458. I thought this road looked completely flat but it must have been slightly downhill and we fairly zoomed the few miles to the junction with the main A68 road at almost an average of 20mph. Then, after crossing over the A68 onto a single track road (where we saw some rather unusual looking goats), we sped downhill to Fala Dam (where we once again met up with the nice old dog that we saw the last time we stopped there). After Fala Dam there’s a really steep uphill section for about a mile until the village of Fala. Here, we stopped for a rest and some crisps in the play park before tackling one of the hardest sections of the route – the Fala Moor Road.

About 50 yards outside Fala, you need to cross over the busy A68 road to get onto the Fala Moor Road. It’s not really a road (Dad says it maybe used to be a long time ago) and it’s very bumpy and covered with loose stones making the relatively gentle slope really hard to cycle on – not at all suitable for road bikes. It was a bit of a slog really, but at least we saw 2 deer on the way up. Once at the top, the “road” becomes a bit less bumpy (thankfully) and levels out at around 300m high for a couple of miles through the moor and we got some nice views of the hills and some wind farms in the distance. The “road” ends suddenly at a sharp right turn and becomes a track through sheep and cow fields. Thanks to the recent rain and the cows, the track either side of the several gates along the way had turned into a muddy swamp which was impossible to cycle through. It was a bit of a relief to eventually reach Brothershiels Farm where we rejoined a proper tarmac road once more for the last mile until the junction with the main A7 road.

We only went on the main road for a few hundred yards but annoyingly, this was the bumpiest road surface of the day so if you are cycling on this part of the A7, please be careful and don’t go too fast in case you come a cropper… We soon turned off the main road and went under the under-pass to the other side of the Borders Railway line into the village of Heriot. After that we basically followed the railway line southwards on the Old Stage Road. This is a lovely, quiet single track road which has lots of up and downhill sections and lots of good views too (and lots of foraging opportunities!). After a few miles we reached the turning on the right for Pirntaton farm and the road started to go uphill. Dad had told me there would be some unbelievably good conker trees next to the farm – and he was right, I’ve never seen so may conkers before. We filled up our rucksack with as many as we could fit before carrying on up the narrow road as it became steeper and steeper the further into the hills we went. Eventually, at a height of about 350m, the road ran out, and we had a brilliant view of the Moorfoot Hills as we crossed a cattle grid onto the track which would lead us right over the hills to the other side…

This section was a lot of fun with loads of fast downhills but some incredibly steep uphills too. The views of the hills were amazing and we saw loads of wildlife – millions of grouse and pheasants, a heron, hares and buzzards. The track is a very good surface for most of the way – a bit like the kind of hard packed gravelly surface you find on some cycle paths –  and it only became too difficult to cycle on the very steepest parts where the surface was quite loose (I wouldn’t try this route on a road bike by the way…). Amazingly, we only had to push for a couple of very short sections. We had to cycle through 5 fords along the way (this is where the stream flows over the path). This was quite hard the first time but Dad told me to use a low gear and pedal as fast as possible otherwise I would get stuck – and he was right again and it wasn’t too bad at all actually. I only got my feet wet a couple of times! After a while we eventually managed to struggle our way at 2mph in gear 1 up to the highest point of the hill at around 525m. Here there is a small area of trees called George Wood where we stopped to forage for wild blueberries (very tasty). From there, the view was amazing and we could even see the Eildon Hills at Melrose far away in the distance. We also got a good view of the path we’d cycled up and could see exactly how ridiculously steep it was… The ride down the other side of the hill is basically all downhill (obviously) and is great fun. However, the first part is VERY steep so you have to be extremely careful not to go too fast or skid off the path into the heather… Soon enough, the slope becomes more gentle and we had an easy, fast decent (through the fords) the rest of the way to Ladyside Farm where we joined onto the B709.

The last part of the route follows the B7007 back to Gorebridge via Middleton and Fushiebridge. See the route Gorebridge to Dewar for more details about this section. Just before the high point in the road, we stopped at the entrance to the track to Blackhope  Farm and from there we got a good view back down the valley to the Hill that we’d cycled over the top of. It was quite a amazing to think we’d managed to do it. In total (according to Google Maps anyway) we’d cycled up nearly 3000 feet of accent over the whole afternoon which is almost as much as cycling to the top of a Ben Nevis (so Dad said anyway)! So when we got back to Gorebridge, we decided we deserved to stop at the Gorefry takeaway for a seafood pizza before heading home. It was a really amazing journey through the mountains and one I’ll certainly be going on again.