Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (Volume 5): The 4 Abbeys

Route out – Tweedbank to Gattonside to Newstead to Newtown St Boswells to Dryburgh to Clintmains to Kelso to Heiton. For route map click here. Note that Google Maps tells you to go onto the A68 at Leaderfoot but you don’t need to – just use the pedestrian bridge next to the viaduct to cross the river.

Route back – Heiton to Cessford to Jedburgh to Nisbet to Ancrum to Melrose to Tweedbank. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – bright and reasonably sunny in the morning but lots of heavy showers in the afternoon and very windy too.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 62.7 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 46 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 33.7 mph
  • Average speed – 13.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 2815 feet

Last Saturday, Dad and I took our bikes on the train to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders to try out a route I’d been thinking about doing for a while – the 4 Abbeys cycle route. This is a signposted circular route though as we found out, the signage is at times vague or even invisible so make sure you bring a map with you so you don’t get lost in the middle of nowhere. Our route is also slightly different in places but 90% of it is the same as the normal route.

After leaving the station we crossed the old bridge to the other side of the River Tweed and headed along the B6360 through Gattonside. This is a nice cycling road – quite quiet, good surface, relatively flat and nice views across to Melrose and the Eildon Hills. Before long we arrived at the Leaderfoot viaduct and immediately after passing underneath it, we nipped off the road on the right and joined a pedestrian bridge which crosses the

IMG_20170729_091153103

River Tweed. Here you get amazing views of the viaduct. We then crossed the river and followed the narrow road (closed to traffic) for the mile or so to the village of Newstead with the Eildon Hills getting closer all the time. After cycling up a steep hill to leave the village we came to the junction with the A6091. This road is very busy so be very careful here. Luckily we only had to go on it for 30 yards and then there’s a right turn lane which we used to cross over onto the mainly traffic-free road that goes along the side of the hills and is actually part of Cycle Route no.1. This is a lovely stretch of road for cycling and has great views along the way of the Borders countryside. There’s also a brilliant fast downhill stretch for the last wee bit as you reach the town of Newtown St Boswells.

We zoomed through Newtown and then up a steep hill to the junction with the main A68 road. We only had to cross over and onto a narrow side road but the A68 is busy so we had to be very careful here. Soon we arrived at an old pedestrian bridge with a wooden floor which crosses the River Tweed and we stopped here to photograph the nice views. On the other side of the water we cycled up a steep hill and and arrived at our first abbey of the day – Dryburgh Abbey. You can’t really see anything of the abbey from the road and unless you pay loads of money at the visitor centre you are stuffed – or so we thought. Dad went in and asked the man if we could sneak in and take a quick photo but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. He was though kind enough to direct us to a spot in the grounds of the hotel next door where we could see the abbey over a high wall so we did get some photos after all.

IMG_20170729_095603175_HDR

After Dryburgh we had a lovely ride through the countryside for quite a while, mostly slightly downhill and quite fast on a mix of quiet B roads and minor roads with lots of long straight sections. Eventually we arrived at a junction with the A6089 and we had to turn right onto this road for the last mile or so into the town of Kelso. This short section was not pleasant due lots of traffic and idiots overtaking when it wasn’t safe… However, we made it to the town centre in one piece and after stopping to photograph Kelso Abbey (no sneaking around and peaking over high walls required!) we ended up at Greggs the baker for an early lunch.

IMG_20170729_110543866

Leaving Kelso turned out to be a complete nightmare. Our intended route (the signposted route) should have taken us along the A699 for a short way and then down a minor road to Roxburgh on the west side of the river. Unfortunately there was some event on down that road and the road was completely blocked with a traffic jam. Rather than sit in a queue of cars (and ruin our average speed!) we took a diversion along another main road instead, the A698, which would take us the same general direction but on the other side of the river. This turned out to be a bad idea as the road was busy, but even worse, it was straight into the strong wind so we struggled to go at a good speed. It was a lovely road surface though and quite flat too. After about 5 miles of this, passing a village called Heiton along the way, we came to a junction where we could turn off onto the B6401 to re-join the official 4 Abbeys route. Thank goodness for that… From there we had a lovely time cycling along deserted

IMG_20170729_122057189

back roads (we saw only 2 cyclists and 2 walkers and no cars at all for a long time). We also had the chance to forage for wild raspberries at one point which is always nice. Just before Jedburgh, there’s a very long gradual hill to climb and then the road goes steeply downhill right into the town centre. On the outskirts of town Dad spotted a road called Rowan Road so we obviously stopped to photograph it before we quickly heading along to Jedburgh Abbey which is a very impressive ancient building overlooking the main road. It is impossible to miss as you cycle along.

IMG_20170729_132332450_BURST000_COVER

After a pleasant cycle through Jedburgh town centre and then along a short riverside path, we came upon the main A68 road on the northern outskirts of town. Here the signpost for the 4 Abbeys route isn’t clear but Dad checked the map and we were able to miss out the busy road and take a minor road that runs mainly in the same direction but on the other side of a river. This road was very quiet apart from a recently killed badger which was lying in the middle of the narrow road. Soon enough we came upon the dreaded A698 again and there was no way to avoid it this time. Thankfully it seemed a lot more pleasant cycling on it with the wind at our backs this time. After less than a mile we turned left onto the B6400. We immediately came upon an unusual narrow metal bridge that took us over the river into the village of Nisbet. From the bridge we got amazing views down the river valley to the East and West. We stayed on the B6410 for a few miles, heading westwards and slightly uphill through pleasant and peaceful countryside until the peace ended at the junction with the A68. We just needed to cross over main road to rejoin the B6400 again on the over side but it was very busy so it took quite a while till there was a suitable break in the traffic. It was there that we spotted an unusual stone bench so we stopped for a short break and watched my favourite bus go by (the Borders Buses 51).

IMG_20170729_141209470

After our bus stop we rejoined the B6400 and cycled through a village called Ancrum. At this point the rain really started to fall heavily so we put our jackets on and pedalled as fast as we could. We had been expecting some showers but it basically rained constantly for the rest of the journey back to Tweedbank. After what seemed like hours of slogging uphill in the wet through what was probably a very nice and scenic landscape (it was certainly quiet and we hardly saw any cars or cyclists), we finally turned off onto the B6359 heading even more steeply uphill, around the Western edge of the Eildon Hills before finally reaching Melrose with an extremely steep and scarily fast downhill section right to the town centre. In the rain, that downhill section wasn’t as much fun as it should have been… Anyway, we made it to our favourite ice cream shop safely enough and filled our faces with raspberry cone (me) and 2 scoop tub (Dad). Dad managed to sneak a photo of the Abbey through the fence too. We made it back to the station with a while to wait until the next train so we went for a quick cycle around Gun Knowe Loch to pass the time. When we got back, the train pulled into the station at exactly the same time as us.

IMG_20170729_154955973

This was a very long and challenging route with lots of hills but apart from the last hour or 2 in the rain, it was very enjoyable. If it sounds too long for you though, you could easily split it up into shorter sections. Right, I’m now ready for Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders volume 6 – where will we go next…?

Advertisements

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…

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…

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!

Gorebridge to Romannobridge (the long way)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hawick to Saughtree (mostly) Circular Route

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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