Route out – Hawick to Stobs Castle to Bonchester Bridge to Saughtree. 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.