Gorebridge to Tweedbank (volume 4: via Tweedsmuir)

Route out – Gorebridge to Eddleston to Stobo to Drumelzier to Tweedsmuir to Cappercleuch to Yarrow Feus to Yarrow to Yarrowford to Selkirk to Galashiels to Tweedbank. For route map click here.

Route back – Scotrail train from Tweedbank to Gorebridge.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – Heavy rain (and some hail) for the first 15 miles, then mainly cloudy but dry with some glimpses of sun. Quite cold and annoyingly windy (and we were cycling straight into the wind) for the last 30 miles.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 69.3 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 37 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 30.2 mph
  • Average speed – 12.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 3359 feet

Dad recently bought me a brilliant book called “Cycling Climbs of Scotland: a Road Cyclists Guide” by Simon Warren which details some of the best, and hardest hills you can possibly cycle up. One of the toughest climbs described in the book is known as the Wall of Talla. It has a 20% gradient according to the road sign and looked impossibly steep when we drove up it in the car a few weeks ago. We once cycled down it and I remember it being rather scary and very hard to stop yourself going too fast or even crashing. However, I like a challenge so was determined that this time we would climb up the “wall”. And just to make things more difficult, the route I had in mind would be one of the longest we’d ever attempted, with almost 40 miles to cycle before the 20% sign even came into view…

The weather didn’t look too promising when we left the house but the forecast said it was supposed to brighten up with just one or two showers later in the day. Well, my advice to you is never trust the weather forecast as just after leaving Gorebridge along the B6372, the rain really started coming down, interspersed with occasional bursts of hail. It really was foul and horrible to cycle in. Thank goodness we have decent lights because it was almost dark. It basically rained constantly for the first 20 miles of this route – “Showers my ar5e!” said Dad – but we decided we may as well keep plodding on, turning off the B road after a few miles and onto the minor road that skirts around the edge of Gladhouse Reservoir and then past Portmore Loch. The minor road is a lovely smooth road surface, perfect for cycling on – at least until you reach the signpost welcoming you to the Scottish Borders. After that it’s much rougher and full of potholes. Amazingly though, the awful section of potholes we spotted on our last route had been patched up. They didn’t do a very good job though as the filled in holes are almost a rough and bumpy as the potholes were! Just after Portmore, the road took us down a steep, twisting slope until the A703 road where we stopped for a drink before venturing out into the traffic…

IMG_20180428_113757219

It’s never particularly pleasant when you are cycling on a busy road and being overtaken all the time, but it’s even worse when it’s wet. We survived the 2 or 3 miles on the main road though and were soon in Eddleston where we turned right onto the minor road signposted for Lyne Station via Meldons. We were absolutely drenched by then, especially our gloves, and our hands were quite cold. We decided it would be a good idea to take off our gloves before carrying on. Bad idea. As we cycled up the gradual slope into the Meldon Hills the rain got even heavier and our hands just got even colder. So the wet gloves went back on soon enough! The Meldons road is one of the nicest you’ll ever cycle on – at least it is when the weather is decent. Today was just horrible as the road was extremely wet, flooded and muddy at times. Even on the downhills we had to go slow to avoid being constantly splashed by the water. At this stage we were so fed up that we were seriously considering aborting the planned route and just heading home. Thankfully, just as we reached the other side of the Meldons and we neared the junction with the A72, the rain suddenly stopped and skies brightened remarkably. In fact, it was almost sunny and just like that, despite the wet shoes and gloves, we both brightened up too…

IMG_20180428_121921176

After only a few metres on the A72 we turned left onto the B712. This section of the route is highly recommended, taking you into the Tweed Valley past Stobo Castle and Dawyck Botanic Garden, and is one of my favourite roads for cycling. It is mostly flat and has great views of the hills and the River Tweed (which it basically follows for about 8 miles). The road is relatively quiet and is very straight for long stretches too so it’s easy to go at a good speed. As we cycled along we were also amazed at the miles and miles of daffodils lining the road. Someone must have taken years to plant them all. Or maybe they are wild daffodils – who knows? Very beautiful anyway.

IMG_20180428_122644205

Eventually, we came to a junction with another main road, the A701. There is no way to avoid this one so we turned left and headed south. As it turned out the A701 is not very busy with traffic at all and it is also fairly flat with a reasonable surface for cycling on (well apart from the odd pothole to avoid). Like the B712, the scenery is stunning, with lovely hills all around and grand views of the River Tweed all along the 7 miles. Also, look out for several impressive-looking metal bridges crossing the river to farms and other private properties along the way. In this direction, we were heading in the opposite direction to the river flows so it should have felt as if we were cycling uphill. It felt more like we were going downhill though and in no time at all we’d arrived at the tiny hamlet of Tweedsmuir where we turned left onto the minor road and stopped at a nice old bridge and sat on some rocks at the river side and had our first proper rest of the day (after 35 miles unbelievably!). We were feeling rather peckish so ate some lunch of Parma Ham, oatcakes, grapes and celery sticks to give us an energy boost before tackling the big challenge ahead.

IMG_20180428_140543561

After lunch, the narrow road took us eastwards, gradually uphill and straight into an annoyingly strong and cold wind. Soon we came to the Talla Reservoir which looks rather impressive with the very steep sloped hills around it. We couldn’t see the “wall” just yet but after a flat mile or so along the water side, we rounded the end of the reservoir and then, if you looked closely, you could just make out the line of the road heading up the next hill at a stupidly steep angle. Well, there was no going back so we tried to ignore the 20% gradient sign and started up the hill in our lowest gear. Immediately we realised that this was by far the steepest and hardest hill we’d ever tried to cycle up. It was real struggle to even keep moving. Dad decided to zig-zag up the road to help cut down the gradient and this certainly helped. Thankfully, despite this being one of the quietest roads in Scotland, a few cars came along when we were going up so we had no choice but to stop and let them past. These rest breaks certainly helped (and allowed us to enjoy the view behind us back down to the reservoir below too) and we eventually managed to reach the top. We probably could have walked up the hill quicker but we had climbed 150m in a mile according to the book so we were just pleased we’d managed it without any pushing at all.

IMG_20180428_143103431

From the high point in the road you a get a great view through the hills towards the next reservoir, Megget Reservoir. We stopped at the top for a rather long rest before soldiering on into the cold wind. At least most of the next few miles was downhill with only some short ups and it really is a lovely road for cycling on – although I didn’t think so at the time as my legs were well and truly broken after climbing the wall… The area around Megget Reservoir is totally stunning and well worth stopping for a picnic on a good day. Today, we just sped past and free-wheeled down the long gradual hill for a few miles until we came to the junction with the A708 next to St Mary’s Loch.

IMG_20180428_154243056

I was feeling worn out and wasn’t looking forward to the final 25 miles or so. It would be mainly on the main road and in to the freezing wind but after re-fueling on a banana we turned left and headed for Selkirk along the A708. Thankfully, apart from a number of motor bikes, this is a fairly quiet road and as it follows the Yarrow Water, it is reasonably flat. After Talla, I was really glad of this fact but I still didn’t really enjoy this section much, despite the nice views along the valley because I was so tired. I was glad when we eventually made it to the town of Selkirk as I knew that meant there wasn’t far to go… In Selkirk we avoided climbing the steep hill into the town centre but instead took a back street that follows the river past a recycling centre and eventually takes you to the main A7 road on the outskirts of town. Here we were able to avoid the traffic by going on the shared use cycle path. After a mile or so we turned left at the cycle route signs, over a bridge across the Ettrick Water and then into the Sunderland Hall Estate. A short, flat

IMG_20180428_172829461

straight section of road then took us to another bridge over the River Tweed and then onto Cycle Route no.1. We followed the cycle route for the last few miles and it was really one of the nicest parts of the day, with a mixture of well-surfaced paths and quiet roads following the river. There was wild garlic everywhere and we got a great view of Abbotsford House across the water. Soon enough we arrived at Tweedbank Station, perfectly timed, just as the train from Edinburgh arrived. We’d had a rather challenging day and one I’ll never forget and if you feel like a bit of an adventure, I’d highly recommend to try and cycle up the Wall of Talla. You won’t regret it – even if your legs will at the time!

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders vol.2

Route Out – Innerleithen to Traquair to St Mary’s Loch to Megget Reservoir to Talla Reservoir to Tweedsmuir. For route map click here.

Route Back – Tweedsmuir to Stobo to Lyne Station to Pebbles to Cardona to Innerleithen. For route maps click here and here. Note that there is a bridge over the River Tweed just after Lyne Station that Google Maps doesn’t know about which is why the route back is spilt into two maps. Just follow the Borders Loop signs and you won’t get lost…

  • Weather – cold and misty at first but sunny and warm for most of the day apart from one light shower in the afternoon.
  • Distance travelled – 54.43 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 27 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 28.4 mph
  • Average speed – 9.9 mph

On Saturday, Dad and I decided to go on another grand tour of the Scottish Borders. It was very cold when we left the house and as we drove along the road through the Moorfoot Hills the temperature dropped to 1 degrees C. It had only risen by a couple of degrees by the time we arrived in Innerleithen where we would begin the tour, so it was lucky we had brought our gloves…

We headed out of Innerleithen through the freezing mist along the B709. This is very quiet, scenic and in places narrow road, and after passing the village of Traquair, the weather brightened up and the road climbed gradually uphill for what seemed like an age through the hills. Someone has helpfully painted some funny messages on the road along the way. Just as the steepest section begins it says “and up”, and just when you think you’ve had enough it tells you it is “a wee bit further”. Eventually the good news arrived at the top of the climb with the message “and down” along with a smilie face. From there, there was a few fast and fun miles of downhill cycling until the junction with the A708. Here we turned right onto the main road which seemed quite quiet for an “A” road. After a few miles of fairly flat road, we came to the head of St Mary’s Loch. There was a thick fog hanging around over the loch and the water was so still that it was almost like a mirror. The reflection of the hills on the water surface was amazing.

Leaving the loch behind, we turned right onto the single track road to Tweedsmuir. Dad had driven along this road before and warned me that it would be very hilly in places – and he was right. It was a really fun road to cycle on though and one of the most scenic too as it goes right through some of the highest of the Border hills. This section was virtually traffic free (apart from a police car and a quad bike) but at one point we were almost driven off the road by a flock of sheep. One of the steepest climbs takes you past Megget Reservoir. We stopped here for a chocolate digestive or 2 (well I had 1 and Dad had 2) and we were overtaken by a large group of cyclists who seemed to be taking part in some sort of race. They were going much faster than us certainly. Apparently this reservoir provides drinking water to the city of Edinburgh (at least that’s what the information sign said). The road follows the reservoir for a few miles going up and down all the time. Eventually, after passing by 2 half eaten hedgehogs and a guilty looking buzzard, we stopped at the far end of the reservoir and for an early lunch. The road then went steeply uphill for a while until, finally, we reached the highest point of the road at about 450m high according to the map. From there the view down through the hills to the Talla reservoir was stunning and the road down to it was incredibly steep – the sign said it was a 20% gradient so I was glad were going down and not up this hill. Strangely, the group of cyclists we saw earlier were racing back up this steep hill as fast as they could. It must have been torture. We left them to it and sped the other way as slowly as possible (15mph with brakes fully on!) in order to avoid crashing and were soon cycling on the flat road alongside the Talla reservoir with impressive mountains on both sides. At the far end of the reservoir we saw a deer jump in and start swimming for the other side. Dad said he didn’t know deer could swim. Maybe they can’t. Hopefully it made it across OK… Then it was only a short downhill stretch to the village of Tweedsmuir where we had a rest (and another digestive) before tackling the next section of the grand tour.

We turned right after Tweedsmuir onto the main A701 road. This is a very scenic road to cycle on. The only problem is that it’s a main road, and although it’s the signposted “Borders Loop” cycle route and is not too busy for an “A” road, it seems to be popular with motor bikes too and we got over-taken loads of times, making it not too pleasant really. Because of all the hills everywhere, there are no other possible roads to take so we had no option but to go this way or back up over the 20% climb … so the A701 won. Annoyingly, there’s a dismantled railway line which basically follows the road all the way. If only someone would turn this into a cycle path, then we could have avoided the main road altogether… Anyway, after about 7 miles we were glad to turn off onto the B712 which is one of the back road to Peebles. To make the route more interesting we soon detoured left off this road onto a single track road which climbed high up and gave great views of the countryside and the hills of the Tweed valley. It was along this road, after 34 miles of cycling, that we finally found our first brambles of the day. So we stopped to stuff our faces of course. Then, after a fast downhill section, we rejoined the B712 and cycled past Stobo Castle. Strangely enough, the B712 was even busier with traffic than the A701 and was not much fun at all despite the good views. It was quite a relief to turn off onto the narrow road for Lyne Station.

There used to be a railway station at Lyne Station back when there were steam trains running, and here we followed the Borders Loop signs again and went under the bridge of the dismantled railway line (which is a signposted walk to Peebles), then over a narrow bridge across the River Tweed (the one Google Maps doesn’t know about). After a short muddy, bumpy section through the trees, we ended up back on single track road again with lots of ups and downs for the next few miles. When we came to an amazing signpost with about a million signs on it, we followed the one for Peebles. This took us on a long cut right around the side of a hill and seems to take you in completely the wrong direction for a good while. Then there’s a lovely flat, straight section for the last mile or so into the town of Peebles.

In Peebles, we crossed a pedestrian bridge over the Tweed just off the B7062 road and then cycled through the rugby and football pitches until we came to the A72 road. Here we spotted the signpost for the Peebles to Innerleithen railway path so we followed this lovely cycle route for the 5 miles back to the car. The railway path follows the river, goes right through the middle of Cardrona golf course and you get lots of good views along the way. It’s an ideal cycle path for young cyclists as it’s very flat and other than a very short section through a quiet housing estate, it’s all off road – highly recommended. Anyway, it was a long but an brilliant day out. If you don’t mind all the steep uphill sections (we climbed over 2500 feet today), the Borders is the best place in the world for cycling. I’m already planning for the Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders vol.3…