Ettrick Valley Circular Route

Route – Ettrickbridge to Ashkirk to Alemoor Reservoir to Tushielaw to Ettrickbridge. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – Sunny and reasonably warm with only a slight breeze.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 31.74 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 42 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.2 mph
  • Average speed – 11.8 mph
  • Height climbed – 2116 feet

A while ago, Dad discovered a really nice cycle route in the Borders and he kept telling me it was his favourite route ever. Eventually I gave in to his pestering and agreed to try it out – and he was right, we had an amazing day out in one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland.

The route starts in the village of Ettickbridge, about 5 miles from Selkirk, one of the main towns in the Scottish Borders. As the name suggests, it is located right next to the Ettrick Water and we immediately crossed a bridge over the river and headed East along the Ettrick Valley. The valley is extremely picturesque and the views got even better as the quiet road climbed gradually uphill for a mile or so. Soon enough, we turned right off the “main” road and onto a very narrow minor road (signposted for Ashkirk). As we approached the turn off, the minor road appeared impossibly steep but Dad told me that it looks a lot worse than it is – and he was right. I even sped away ahead of Dad at this point, stopping only so we could get a photo of the view behind us. The road flattens out for a short distance before climbing steeply again after another right turn, heading up and up and up, with the views of the hills all around getting better all the time. There were even some snow patches next to the roadside, that’s how high up this road was and Dad was convinced he spotted a Golden Eagle as well (I’m sure it was just a Buzzard though…). We actually cycled this way around the same time last year when we stopped here to roll our Easter eggs. This time, we stopped at the cattle grid right at the highest point on the road and had a quick snack – not boiled eggs this time but carrot sticks and celery!

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The next few miles are basically all downhill until the village of Ashkirk. The road has a nice smooth surface and is very quiet but there are quite a few sharp corners and it is quite steep so we had to be careful not to go too fast at times. Along the way, we had a nice view as far as the snow covered Cheviot Hills just over the border in England. We turned right in Ashkirk and cycled along the side of a river, through the trees and past a golf course for a couple of easy miles before the next steep hill of the day. It was quite a long but reasonably gradual climb which took us up to a very high and remote part of the Borders. After crossing another cattle grid, the views of the hills and the valley below really open up and the cycling was also brilliant: along here you get a few miles of easy, fast, slightly up and down high level riding. It’s probably one of my favourite sections of road anywhere. At the end of the high section, there’s yet another cattle grid so we stopped here for an early lunch. This time we did have some boiled eggs, along with oatcakes, cheese and Parma ham…

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After the cattle grid the road forks into two. We chose the right option and sped down the long gradual hill for ages, enjoying the amazing scenery all around us. We saw some amazing Beech trees and some lovely horses ran over to see us at one point. Soon enough we got to the bottom of the hill at the junction with the B711 road near Roberton. We turned right and then almost immediately turned right once more, staying on the B711. This road goes steeply uphill straight away but it was worth it as the views behind us to the South were incredible. The Cheviot (the highest of the Cheviot Hills) could clearly be seen from here. From the top of the hill, the next 10 miles or so are fairly easy, mainly quite flat and the road has a nice new surface in places. It takes you through some of the remotest parts of the Borders, following a small river through the hills, with really no settlements along the way apart from a couple of farms. I bet it is very bleak in a snow storm (and there were many remnants of snow drifts to be seen today) but on a warm sunny day like today it was extremely nice. Alemoor Reservoir is particularly peaceful and well worth stopping to enjoy the view. Also, as you cycle along, keep your eye open for the ancient stone signpost which tells you it is 9 miles to Hawick.

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Eventually, we reached the end of the road and reached the Ettrick Valley once more, crossing another bridge over the Ettrick Water at Tushielaw (which is little more than a couple of houses, a hotel and a farm) and turning right onto the B709. After a few hundred yards the B709 turns left and heads uphill, heading for the Yarrow Valley. We went straight on though, onto the B7009 which took us through the Ettrick Valley for the final 8 miles or so back to the car in Etrrickbridge. It’s possible that this is my favourite road for cycling on ever (even better than the high road earlier on today). It is so pleasant for cycling on: the views of the hills and valley are stunning; the road surface is good; there are no real hills, just a few undulations and it is mainly slightly downhill and very fast; and incredibly, the road is almost completely traffic free. If you think this route might be too long and hilly for you, you should at least make sure you cycle along some of the Ettrick Valley on the B7009 – it is amazing and you won’t be disappointed.

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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…?