Tour de Galloway day 6: Glenluce Loop

Route – Newton Stewart to Wigtown to Bladnoch to Luce Bay to Achenmalg to Glenluce to New Luce to Challoch to Newton Stewart. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – bright but fairly cloudy, some sunshine, warm with a bit of a breeze.
  • Distance travelled – 50.86 miles
  • Riding time – 3 hours 32 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 29.5 mph
  • Average speed – 14.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 2035 feet

Dad and I have done a lot of evening cycle rides this year. Because it stays light till quite late at night in the summer in Scotland, it means you can actually manage to get a decent length of cycle in before bedtime. The longest evening ride we’ve ever done was on day 6 of our holiday in Galloway in July. Dad thought my planned route was a bit ambitious and was worried we’d have to cycle back in the dark, but after an early tea, we were on the road before 5:30pm as we began our race against the setting sun…

As with many of our Galloway routes, we began by heading down the quiet back road to Wigtown before scooting through the town centre and onto the A714 for the mile or so south west to Bladnoch. It was Galloway’s equivalent of “rush hour” so the A road was relatively busy with 3 or 4 cars having to overtake us along the way… We crossed the impressive bridge next to the distillery, over the River Bladnoch and then almost immediately, turned right off the “busy” road onto the B7005. A quieter road you could

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not imagine as we cycled generally west or south west through The Machars for an endless number of miles through peaceful countryside. There were very few settlements at all other than occasional farms and almost no signs of life apart from cows and sheep in the fields. It was nice but rather bleak as well and a bit of a plod as we were heading slightly uphill and straight into the rather strong wind all the way. Eventually we spotted the sea ahead and the road headed steeply downhill to Luce Bay.

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Luce Bay looked like it would be a lovely place to visit on a sunny day. There is an endless stoney beach there right next to the road and you could image that when the tide goes out, there would be miles of sand and mudflats to enjoy. Today, the wind was rather annoying so we didn’t stop this time and continued on along the A747, first along the coast and then uphill through Achenmalg which seems to be some sort of a holiday village. Soon after the village we turned left onto a narrow back road that took us straight back down to the coast again and an even prettier part of Luce Bay, before heading north for a couple of miles. At the junction we crossed over the busy A75 road to enter the town of Glenluce.

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Our journey then continued north through beautiful tree covered countryside, along a lovely smooth, deserted road. It was perfect cycling conditions and the trees even gave us shelter from the wind as we passed Glenluce Abbey along the way. The road steadily climbed uphill but we hardly noticed as the gradient was shallow for most of the time and we were really enjoying this part of the ride. Soon we arrived at a village called New Luce and it was here that Dad had to consult the map to make sure we didn’t miss the turning that would take us back to Newton Stewart. We almost did miss it actually as it was one of the most narrow roads we’ve been on and Dad was slightly concerned that it would turn out to be a dead end… Thankfully it wasn’t (though after a couple of miles we did see a dead end sign straight ahead at one point, resulting in Dad panicking for a minute before realising our road was just hidden from view as it turned round to the right!) and after a steady but easy climb up to the top of an open moor, we were rewarded with some amazing close up views of a massive wind farm. The turbines seemed to go on forever as we cycled along the smooth narrow road and it almost felt as though we were cycling along the top of the world for miles and miles and miles. It was probably one of the best roads I’ve ever cycled on and will definitely be going back there.

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After the wind farm, the road took us gradually downhill for quite some time, in and out of the trees with the low sun shining through the branches as we passed some small lochs on the right. After a while we came to a junction with the B7027 where we turned right and rode through the edge of the Galloway Forest for a while on one of the smoothest roads I’ve ever experienced. We saw evidence of lots of forestry operations going on and there were piles of logs everywhere, but at this time of night there was nobody working and we had the road and the forest to ourselves.

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Soon, we came to the A714 and sped the last few miles back down the hill to Newton Stewart. It was getting quite late (almost (9:30 pm) by the time we got back to our accommodation but it was light enough that we hadn’t even needed to put our lights on until the final couple of miles: we had beaten the setting sun with several minutes to spare! Our Glenluce loop had been an amazing circular route through hugely varied and picturesque landscapes with almost nobody else on the road. A highly recommended evening out!

Highland Perthshire Adventure: Glen Lyon, Ben Lawers and Loch Tay

Route – Aberfeldy to Dull to Fortingall to Bridge of Balgie to Killin to Kenmore to Aberfeldy. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – very warm and sunny with light winds at first but quite a bit windier after lunchtime.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 57.08 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 35 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.5 mph
  • Average speed – 12.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 3751 feet

Regular readers of this blog will have noticed that Dad and I spend most of our time cycling in the Scottish Borders. We really love the beautiful scenery and the fact that there are lots of very quiet roads to cycle on down there. It’s also easy to get to from our house in Midlothian. This week though, I decided that with the weather forecast looking good, it would be nice to travel a bit further afield and go for a ride through an even more spectacular part of the country – Highland Perthshire.

After a 100 minute car journey, listening to Sounds of the Sixties on the radio on the way up the M90 and the A9, we eventually arrived in the lovely Perthshire town of Aberfeldy. I’ve been here before when walking in the mountains but had never cycled in this area – until today. We parked near the river close to the play park and immediately cycled over an unusual looking bridge with traffic lights which took us onto the north side of the River Tay. Even at 9am it was already quite hot as we sped along the nice, flat road surface of the B846 past such interestingly named places as Weem and Dull. As we cycled

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along, the views started to get better and better and at one point we could see the impressive mountain Schiehallion in the distance (I climbed up it when I was only 5 believe it or not). After a few easy miles we turned left onto a minor road signposted for Glen Lyon. It was on this road that we spotted a sign warning of a cycle event but we saw no cyclists around so we continued on through the pleasant countryside on the mainly flat road. Soon we came to a village called Fortingall which had some strange old houses with thatched roofs and shortly after that we turned right at the signpost onto the narrow road that would take us through Glen Lyon.

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Dad had told me in the car on the way up that Glen Lyon was the most beautiful glen in Scotland, and I would have to say that he was not wrong. It has a bit of everything: lovely woodlands, narrow gorges, waterfalls and rivers at first and then a more open river valley with amazing mountains all around further down the glen. The road is great to cycle on too with little traffic. It is mainly slightly uphill in this direction but with lots of short ups and long downs and corners to keep things fun. We cycled right around the back side of Ben Lawers (the 5th highest mountain in Scotland I believe) which I climbed with Dad and my sister Isla last summer. Despite all the fine warm weather recently, there were still quite a few patches of snow high up in the hills. About halfway along

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Glen Lyon, we started to see groups of cyclists racing towards us. There were literally hundreds of people cycling east down the glen and we were the only ones heading west. As we found out later they were taking part in what must have been an amazing cycle event called the Tour of the Highlands, a 3 day event covering 300 miles and all the steepest hills (and all the ski centres) in Scotland and we appeared to be tackling about 30 miles of their Day 1 route – only in reverse! After about 10 miles of the most enjoyable cycling through the glen we came to a small village called Bridge of Balgie. Here we turned left, over a small bridge (strangely enough) and onto a very narrow road that would even closer to the mountain Ben Lawers…

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This road is another of the best cycling climbs in Scotland according to my current favourite book. It is about a 4.5 mile climb to the high point in the road at almost 600m, quite gradually uphill at first but then much steeper for a long long time as the road winds its way upwards into the mountains. It’s a really spectacular ride and the stunning views more than make up for the tired legs as you pedal ever upwards. The view of the

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Tarmachan ridge was amazing and looks so close to the road. Streams of cyclists were still passing us on this road, flying down the steep hill towards Glen Lyon. The road surface wasn’t the best, rather gravelly in places so I bet it was a bit of a tricky descent for them – much easier going up (well sort of…). There’s a reservoir just past the top of the pass and I waited here for about 3 minutes until Dad finally arrived! I thought it was quite an easy hill but he obviously found it much harder. He claims he kept stopping to take photos…

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On the way back down the other side of the hill the road surface is much smoother and although steeper and quite bendy, looked like a safer descent to me. The parking area for Ben Lawers was totally mobbed today because of the good weather and there were loads of cars parked on the grass verges too. We got some fine views of the mountains, including Beinn Ghlas which you climb on the way up to Ben Lawers, as we free-wheeled

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down the hill. We also got our first view of Loch Tay far down below. In a couple of minutes, we’d reached the bottom and turned right onto the A827 road, heading for Killin. Although a main road, this is fairly quiet, has a good surface for cycling and is fairly flat so we were able to go at a good speed. The view of the loch and the mountains in the distance was very nice too. A few miles later we’d left Perthshire and entered Stirlingshire and soon we arrived in the town of Killin (which was crowded with tourists). Here, after about 33 miles, we had our first stop of the day and ate our lunch (sausage rolls, crisps and grapes) sitting on a rock next to the lovely Falls of Dochart.

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After our tasty lunch we followed the sign for Cycle Route no.7 which is just opposite the Falls. This is a minor road which basically follows along the side of Loch Tay for 17 miles to the town of Kenmore. This road has a 40 mph speed limit to encourage walkers and cyclists and you would think that a road following a loch would be a nice easy flat ride (which would also encourage cyclists you would imagine). Well, don’t be fooled. This road is a hard cycle as there are virtually no flat sections and it is all short ups and

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downs (with a few longer, steeper ups and downs as well). After our efforts of cycling over the Ben Lawers road we found this road to be the hardest part of the day strangely enough and we made slow progress. It was a very nice road though and after a few miles cycling in the trees, eventually the views of the loch and the high mountains on the other side of the water come in to view. In fact some of the best views of the day were of the five mountains of the Ben Lawers ridge about halfway along this road so it’s well worth stopping for a photo (and a rest!).

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When we got to Kenmore (by now back in Perthsire again by the way), there were loads of people paddling in the loch, playing on the beach and sun bathing. We decided not to join them though and after a bit of decision making, decided to take the shortest route back to Aberfeldy, 6 miles along the A827. The first mile or so was rather steep (about 7.5% gradient) but after that it was all downhill and then flat along the side of the River Tay all the way back to the car. As usual, we decided to seek out an ice cream shop and within seconds, we found one. “Cones” in Aberfeldy is highly recommended as the amount of ice cream they gave us in a 2 scoop tub or cone was about as much as 4 scoops at any other ice cream shop! It was the perfect end to one of the best days ever. It was my first time cycling in Highland Perthshire and it certainly won’t be my last.

Gorebridge to North Berwick

Route out – Gorebridge to Crichton to Humbie to Longnewton to Garvald to East Linton to North Berwick. For route map click here.

Route back – 2 Scotrail trains (North Berwick to Edinburgh then Edinburgh to Gorebridge).

  • Weather – dry and mainly sunny, quite warm but rather windy.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 47.3 miles
  • Riding time – 3 hours 36 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 72.5 mph (not sure how that happened as it was a more believable 31.8 mph just before North Berwick…)
  • Average speed – 13.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 2064 feet

A few weeks ago we went on the train for a day out in North Berwick on the East Lothian coast. That day we climbed the Law Hill, went crab catching at the beach and had an ice cream. On the way home, the train conductor didn’t bother to check our tickets. Dad noticed that the return tickets were valid until the end of the month so we decided there was nothing to stop us using them a second time. Of course we’d need to find some way to get to North Berwick first…

So last Sunday, Dad and I left the house at around 8:30am on our new road bikes (so much faster than my old mountain bike!) with our train tickets in our pockets and headed for North Berwick again. We began by cycling along some of my favourite quiet Midlothian back roads, including the steep hill near Crichton. The roads are mostly very good smooth surfaces around here and there’s lots of nice scenery and wildlife to see. At one point a blackbird decided to fly right through the frame of Dad’s bike when he was travelling at over 20 mph! We stopped at a ford in the road at the border with East Lothian for our first snack of the day (banana for me and apple for Dad). This was about 9 miles in to the ride and we’d still seen no traffic at all.

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Soon after, we were on the B6371 heading for Humbie when a car finally drove past. I spotted some wild raspberries so we stopped to stuff our faces as another car and a whole load of cyclists sped by. At the junction in Humbie we turned left onto the B6368, crossing a river and up a very steep hill until the Lammermuir Hills appeared in the distance on the right hand side. This a great cycling road as it has a nice surface and lots of straight bits and interesting humps and hollows but we didn’t stay on it for long today as we turned onto a narrow road on the right, heading towards the hills. East Lothian has lots of amazing ancient road signs dotted around the countryside (with distances give to the nearest 1/8 of a mile!), and it was at one of these that Dad made a wrong turning and we ended up back at the B6368 by mistake. Rather than go back, we turned right onto this road again and then took the next proper road on the right to head uphill and into the middle of nowhere once again. At the top of the hill we got a great view of the Lammermuirs on one side and Traprain Law and North Berwick Law miles away in the distance.

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The next while was spent in some very remote parts of the region, going up and down a lot, skirting along the edge of the hills. When you think of East Lothian you think of the coast and beaches and golf courses and tourists and this area really felt a million miles removed from that. It was fantastic cycling territory though and we saw loads of road cyclists when we were there and basically no cars. At one point Dad also saw a ferret scuttling across the road in front of us but I missed it… The only real village we passed through was Garvald and after that we had to climb a mammoth hill at Papple before we finally started to get some good views over to the East Lothian coast with the impressive Traprain Law not far away now. We took a rather round-about route which took us up quite high and then down a long fast hill before going right round to the other side of the Law, where we joined up with Cycle Route 76. This took us onto a tiny road past the ruined Hailes Castle where we stopped for lunch of oatcakes with crab and cheese. Tasty. Note that this road may be very narrow but does have a fair amount of cars using it to get to the castle so be careful. After that, it was mostly downhill to the picturesque village of East Linton where we stopped in to say hello to my cousins Ella and Angus. Oh, and to eat their biscuits and use their toilet too…

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In East Linton, dad spotted an incredibly stupid signpost which pointed to North Berwick in two completely different directions. We chose left and headed uphill on the B1377 for a short distance before turning left onto the first road we came to. This quiet road gave nice views to the west and after a couple of miles of pleasant cycling, we came to the junction with the B1347 which took us past the Museum of Flight. Immediately we noticed that this road was very very busy. It might have been because it was a sunday and the weather was nice but it wasn’t much fun to cycle on. It’s also mainly uphill and there’s a lot of bad corners on it (some right angled bends too) which make it hard for cars to overtake safely. We witnessed some rather dangerous overtaking today by an idiot in a BMW. Thankfully the driver failed to kill himself or anybody else… If we ever come this way again, we’ll certainly try and find a quieter road from East Linton to North Berwick. Eventually, we got to the top of the long, gradual hill and got some stunning views of North Berwick Law with the Bass Rock in the distance.

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Dad actually spent too long taking photos that we got to the train station 1 minute after the train had left! That left us with  an hour to kill before the next train so we cycled down the hill into the town centre and bought come ice creams… The train journey back to Edinburgh was rather interesting as there were only 2 bike spaces but at least 12 bikes managed to cram their way into the carriages. Luckily the ticket conductor didn’t seem to be too bothered and everyone made it back to Edinburgh OK. We’d made it this far without having our tickets checked again so we were already planning an alternative route to North Berwick to re-use the tickets once more. Most annoyingly though, on the train back to Gorebridge, this conductor actually bothered to check our tickets, so those plans have had to be postponed – for now.

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 Haddington (alternative route)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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