It’s like having a huge road cycling playground of constantly changing semi-remote beautiful scenery in my back garden – it’s amazing how accessible this sort of countryside actually is….its only 1hr away from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the two largest urban centres in Scotland.
It is just amazing…..The route is offically dubbed Bordersloop4 – a quarter of the much larger and even more enjoyable Borders Loop route that takes several days to circumnavigate…I’m gonna have to do that route eventually once I sort out B+B’s or overnight stays in the Borders towns along the way…
Part of the route area appeared within the recent Tour of Britain – Stage 3 (Sept 11 2012) left from Jedburgh and travelled over to Dumfries. It was a stage that Mark Cavandish went on to win! Yeay! – go CAV!
Sadly, I was working that day and couldn’t get along to see Wiggo and the sky team set off…
So here’s the map …….
Well…the day didn’t start so well…I slept in! And having slept in till about 11am, it took me a while to get going because I had actually OVERslept…and felt rubbish, as a result.
No…I had NOT been on the booze the night before , before you even go there…..
Anyway – to cut a long story short it was 1.30pm in the afternoon before I actually got to Peebles – the start point of the route for me that day. A rudimentary calculation told me that 54miles at about 10 mph average ( I can go a LOT faster but thats a safe estimate when there’s hills involved), meant that I’d be cutting it fine in terms of natural daylight, as I’d get back to Peebles around 7pm, so I took my newly charged super-bright front light along – just in case.
Peebles is a lovely town…and in particular has a lovely park down by the River Tweed, which travels through the town centre. I worked in Peebles for a year, earlier in my architectural career and I have fond memories of having lunch on the benches in the park, next to the river in the sunshine, feeling the warmtth of the suns rays….aaaah. Rose tinted glasses – work every time. Cosy glow of fond remembrances aside – it IS a lovely town.
Nestled within an area of outstanding beauty and only 23 miles south of Edinburgh, the Borders town of Peebles sits across the River Tweed, well known for its salmon fishing river. A Royal Burgh since 1152 and the rule of King David I, Peebles has for many years been a market town cherished by locals and visitors alike for its picturesque and unspoilt character, and is a good base for fishing, walking, golf, cycling and horse riding. Its close to the great Glentress 7 stanes mountain bike centre. If you like the mad charging down hills and getting muddy version of cycling then that is definately the venue for you.
Peebles is also widely being recognised as an arts destination town and many visitors make the trip to enjoy the wide range of local contemporary and traditional art available. The 240 seat Eastgate Theatre & Arts Centre is a centre of excellence attracting touring theatre companies, performing visual arts, dance, craft, music and cinema all year round. The town’s High Street is typical of the scottish borders architecture, comprising a market space and single high street with alleyways and medieval closes leading to the surrounding streets. The park at the riverside and walkways along the River Tweed have barely changed over the passing centuries. Peebles is also a festival town with a number of annual celebrations taking place. The famous week-long Beltane Festival showcases local legend, traditions and history; the Rugby Sevens tournament is keenly contested throughout the borders townships; there’s a Peebles Jazz Festival and an Arts Festival each year. Peebles also has the distinction of being ranked as the Top Independent Retailing Town in Scotland, and second in the UK, for its range of independent shops and ‘home town’ identity in contrast to the ubiquitous ‘cloned towns’ predominant in other areas – so there, thats you told.
Having got there I parked the car down near the riverside near the Lenzie Memorial Parish Church, geared up and crossed the River Tweed heading south east on the B7062 towards Cardrona. It’s easy going at first, the road dips up and down slightly but is largely level as you follow the river round the valley past the village of Cardrona on towards Traquair House. Before you get to Cardrona, you see the massive pile that is the MacDonald Cardrona Hotel and I’m surprised that it ever got planning permission to be sited in the beautiful setting of the river valley -it isn’t exactly sensitively designed to blend in. See what I mean for yourself – the photo is below.
The road continues round past the entrance to Traquair House, the oldest inhabited house in Scotland.
Dating back to 1107, Traquair was originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland. Later a refuge for Catholic priests in times of terror, the Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite cause without counting the cost. Today, Traquair is a unique piece of living history welcoming visitors from all over the world, and provides a magical and romantic setting for weddings, summer events and corporate functions. Visitors can view the house, extensive grounds, maze, craft workshops, 1745 Cottage Restaurant and the famous Traquair House Brewery, housed in the eighteenth century wing and producing the world famous Traquair House Ales.
Side Entrance to Traquair House On the Innerleithen to Traquair road, this entrance can be used only by pedestrians. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Pretty soon I came to the junction of the B7062 and the B709 heading due south. After winding around for a mile or so, the road starts to climb. For the next 2.5 miles, I kept a steady rythm pushing uphill past the Kirkhouse Forest on the left and the farm steading of Glenlude on the right. I was pushing very hard but not making as much headway as I would have liked, because I was pushing into a gusty headwind which slowed me down hugely. The gradient is not too steep however and the 2.5mile uphill is rewarded with a 3.6 mile downhill stretch which allows you to speed down the valley, rumble over a cattle grid at the Old Toll House, and climb round a slight uphill to the rounded shoulder of the hill that drops down sharply to the valley containing the B708 and St. Mary’s Loch. Unfortunately, the headwind I was battling meant I had to keeping pushing even to go downhill, so the going was quite tough even with gravity on my side.
Having reached the bottom, you turn right at the junction with A708, at the Gordon Arms Hotel. I’ve had a drink in there once, many years ago, when I walked from Innerleithen over the hills to the loch as a days outing with a friend. The Gordon Arms was a very tired worn out local back then and It didn’t inspire me to re-visit it this time round so I pushed past it determined to try and make reasonable time even against a headwind.
I pushed along the A708, steadfastly shoving against the wind, but stopped when I saw a roadside memorial. Part of it was curiosity, part of it was a relief to stop pushing against the wind , grateful for the excuse to stop. The combination of the fact that the memorial looks recent, is well tended and is in a remote location that wouldn’t be easy to get to all served to leave me in a melancholy mood when I moved off again after taking some photographs.
I push on towards St Mary’s Loch but am already calculating that I’m going too slow to make it all the way round to Tweedsmuir and Broughton on the full extent of the loop, before it starts to get dark. The wind has really been slowing me down from the pace that I’ve been expecting to achieve. I am stubborn however, and I determine that I’ll just keep going and see how the remaining hours of daylight will play out with the ride. The scenery around me by now has a real “isolated from the rest of the world” feel to it and I’m loving it.
St Mary’s loch was just another 3 to 4 miles along the road from the Gordons Arms Hotel, not long after the roadside memorial, and is a beautiful loch to cycle alongside heading west, as it opens out to reveal more valleys leading off and away to the southwest towards Crosscleuch Burn, which the A708 leads towards.
You turn right off the A708 at Cappercleuch onto a single lane countryroad that is by all accounts deserted. I passed by a single walker that I exchanged greetings with as I passed him by.
10 minutes later I had stopped for lunch by the roadside when the walker caught up with me and we chatted for a while, with the definate concensus between us being that the immediate countryside was awesome.
The road follows the path of the Meggett Water river but veers off to the right and climbs a medium gradient hill to get up alongside the top or northernmost edge of the Meggett reservoir dam.
The dam is of an earth berm type and from the distance just looks like a solid green line of grass rising up above the rooftop of the house immediately in front of it. It just dwarfs the house – you barely make out the house in the photo, in front of the line of the dam against the sky.
Once you get past the reservoir dam, the reservoir itself stretches on for quite a bit – the road clings on to the northern side of the reservoir but rises and falls quite a bit – often with unprotected edges to steep falls into the freezing water. The road is wide enough for it not to be dangerous – but I still could n’t but help of driving my car over the edge and plummeting into the water. Strangely I wasn’t so concerned about cycling over the edge……
By now, the landscape is quite rugged and verging on bleak – there is no protection from the wind and I couldn’t imagine how exposed it would be if you were cycling up that way during the rain…you would have to have obtained good wet weather gear to stay warm and dry methinks.
By now the weather is starting to close in. True to the old adage that you can experience 4No.seasons of weather all in the space of 1 day in Scotland, the haziness of excess moisture and a rain cloud hangs in the air up ahead. I know that the road climbs upwards another 3-400 ft beyond the reservoir and climbs up a further stage of ascent. Additionally, the weather forecast had also warned of rain coming over from the west coast.
I’m experienced enough to know that I’m not carrying the right amount of wet weather kit with me so I reluctantly turn around and proceed back the way I came. The trip out to that point from Peebles took about 2hours – the return trip took about 45 minutes and went past in a blur.
Summary – I was a great trip all round and highly recommended – the scenery is fantastic but make sure you’re properly kitted out before you go…..