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.

Grand Tour of the Scotland-England Border

Route out – Rowanburn to Kershope Bridge to Newcastleton Forest to Kielder Forest to Kielder Water to Kielder. For route map click here.

Route back – Kielder to Newcastleton to Rowanburn. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mostly sunny and relatively warm with a light breeze but one long rain shower later in the day.
  • Distance travelled – 49.91 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 3 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.9 mph
  • Average speed – 9.8 mph

On the way home from our holiday in Wales in July, we had stopped for a rest in the lovely (and brilliantly named) village of Rowanburn in Dumfries and Galloway, not far from the border between Scotland and England. I had noticed that the roads near Rowanburn looked perfect for cycling so I’d been thinking of going there for a cycle for ages. Finally, last Saturday, Dad and I managed to go back there with our bikes to have a grand tour of the Scotland-England border.

We headed north out of Rowanburn along the B6357. This is lovely smooth road for cycling on and not too busy with traffic. After less than a mile we entered the Scottish Borders and had to cycle up a short but steep 11% gradient section of road so that fairly warmed our legs up. Soon after, we turned right onto the B6318 which immediately took us steeply downhill to a bridge over the Liddel Water and back up another extremely steep hill into Cumbria. We were in England for the first time today! Around here, the Liddel Water marks where the Scotland-England border is for quite a long distance and our route basically followed this in a north-east direction along very quiet, scenic and narrow roads for about 5 miles until we almost reached a place called Kershopefoot. Here, the border changes direction, heading more towards the east along a different river called the Kershope Burn. At a junction, we headed right and then over the border river and up a very steep section, back into the Scottish Borders. The road goes relatively high up here and the views are really nice. Soon we doubled back on ourselves at an acute angle and headed back down the hill to England again at Kershope Bridge. We stopped here to have an early lunch among the sheep to give us an energy boost before tackling the hardest part of the route.

At Kershope Bridge we turned left and followed the signs for National Cycle Route no.10 which took us into the forest on a reasonably smooth landrover track. After a short while the track crossed over a bridge across the burn back into the Newcastleton Forest in Scotland. After this the path followed the border burn for a long time and the path seemed to become bumpier and bumpier along the way. It was also all uphill and really hard going at times and I almost thought about turning back. Luckily I spied some wild blueberries growing at the edge of the fir trees so I stopped to fill my face and I cheered up a bit after that. Eventually, we reached another bridge and this took us over the border again to England and the Kielder Forest in Northumberland. This was the worst section of all as the path became un-ridable due to the loose stones and the steepness of it, even on a mountain bike. After pushing up the slope to the highest point, the path leveled out but the loose stones made it very unpleasant to ride along. I really was wondering why Sustrans had made this a signposted cycle route. It must have been someone’s idea of a joke surely… It would have made a nice walk though. Thankfully, the bumpy loose stoney path ended when it joined onto another forest road. This was a really nice smooth track and was all downhill so we sped the last few miles to the Kielder Water in no time at all. After about 15 miles of deserted forest, we were finally back in civilisation and saw people for the first time in over 2 hours…

We stopped at the reservoir for a much needed break and a snack of oatcakes. Then we headed onto lovely smooth road once again and sped off northwards in the direction of Kielder. This road is unclassified but on this section it was more like an A road, nice and wide with a white line down the middle and a nice surface for cycling on. Not too much traffic either so that was good. Dad spotted a sign post pointing to an interestingly named place called Gowan Burn and we thought about taking a detour to see what was there. But Dad didn’t think we’d have time for that as we still had about 25 miles to go and we wanted to be back at the car by tea time. So, at Kielder village we just stopped at the shop for Smarties (me) and Yorkie (Dad) before heading in the direction of Scotland once more. The road had by now reverted to single track with passing places and the weather had reverted to rain. Despite the weather, we stopped at the border to photograph all the amazing signs.

The last 20 miles or so of the route was along the B6357 again, heading roughly south and following the Liddel Water once more. It was also almost all downhill and very fast through the quiet countryside along the nice smooth road surface. We stopped in the pleasant little village of Newcastleton to have our last proper break of the day before following the river (which turned into the Scotland-England border once again) back to Rowanburn. It was a long and tiring day but we had crossed the border a total of six times and I really enjoyed most of the route. The roads are very good quality, quite quiet and the scenery is nice so I would highly recommend cycling in this area. Apart from cycle route no.10 through the forest that is – that is NOT recommended at all!