The Borders ride




3 Days 225 km

August 2000




I did not have a camera back then, I am afraid. So no pictures from that tour. But click on the button below to open up Google Maps.
Enter "Newcastle" in the search field & Google Earth for xtra pictures





Another tour high on my wishlist. That summer was a busy summer with the Mull, Moydart and the Kintyre ride. So I wanted to finish the season in style with a real good cracker of a good ride from Newcastle to Glasgow through Northumberland and The Borders. I found a weekend in August with reasonable good weather. After learning from mistakes on previous tours, I ordered my hotels some days before and brought the bike and rucksack with me to my office where I worked half day.



Day 1 25 km



I set off with a rucksack and my bike to railwaystation in Helensburgh for the forty five minutes train journey up to Glasgow and some hours of work at the office there. My bike was parked in the office, next to my desk. I was very happy to change into my travel clothes and walk down to Glasgow Central Station for my 1400 train down to Newcastle.
The two hours long train journey took me down past Edinburgh to Newcastle where I disembarked at the main railwaystation. I found the A 189 past the St James football ground, home to Newcastle FC, and headed up the hills out of Newcastle. The road was a dual carriage way and the cycle path along it disappeared after a while. The road was climbing quite steady up to a plateau. I had to cycle through a village and had to ask a lot of people for the way before I found the way to Ponteland again. I headed up that road and onto the A 696 which was going to be my companion for the next 100 km. The road took me past Newcastle Airport and up to Ponteland. I stopped there to withdraw some money from my overdrawn bank account and to get the direction to the B & B I had ordered some km outside Ponteland . I found it and settled in for the night at this nice B & B whose name has escaped me. It was a nice place with grazing sheep below my window.


Day 2 130 km

After an excellent breakfast and saying my farewells to the owner of the B & B (a very nice man), I found my companion for the next hours again, the A 696 road. The first kilometers was pretty flat along farmfields. But the road was rising steadily into the heart of Northumberland. The ride through and past Belsay was not the most interesting. But it was unrelenting and no freebies was given out. The road is best described as medium flat with some short steep climbs inbetween. The landscape was hedgerows and farmfields.
Just after Belsay, the road rose to a big moor. I was a bit sceptical because I had not anticipated that moor. It was a very substantial climb too. And so was the moor too. The drop down through some rather sharp corners was a substantial descent too. It felt a bit of a downer to loose so much height this way because I believed from the maps that the road through Otterburn to the border was far more gentle. Gentle is not the word I would use. But the weather was perfect for bikeriding so not many complaints from me. The landscape was fine too. But I was relieved to arrive in Otterburn after this ride up from Ponteland. Otterburn is 50 km from Newcastle and the landscape very open and almost moor like the whole way. Very interesting and scenic.
I bought some chocolate bars in Otterburn and continued up the road to the crossroad to A 68. The road climbed very steady up from Otterburn to this crossroad where I joined the A 68 which had come up from Hexham. The 20 km long bikeride from this crossroad up to the border between England and Scotland at Carter Bar was undulating with a lot of short steep climbs and some descents. It was unrelenting hard though through forests and along farmfields with the big hill at the border in the distance. The road went through a valley and past a big lake called Catcleugh Reservoir before the final climb through some big bends followed. The views was glorious, but this was some hard 20 kilometers bikeriding and I was tired and worn out when I finally reached the 418 above sea level high top at Carter Bar.

I have been on some fantastic viewpoints in Scotland, but Carter Bar has one of the best views of them all. It reminds me a lot about the Biblical figure Moses who was allowed to view into the Promised Land, but not enter it due to having murdered a man in Egypt. I felt like Moses at the top of Carter Bar. The views over Jedburgh and other villages in the Scottish Borders was truly incredible. But unlike Moses, I continued on my way into the Promised Land. But I have to say that Carter Bar is the perfect border crossing and a must visit. I have never ever seen anything like it. Shame about the lack of refreshments for sale there though. It is a desolate place and a bar/pub up there would had been great. I thought it was a pub there and I was really fantasising about the meal I was going to have up there. Never to be though ! But Carter Bar is a must visit place in Scotland.

After crossing the border into Scotland and The Borders district, I continued down the hill for a couple of hundred meters before taking the A 6088 towards Hawick. This is one of the most dangerous roads in the UK and I quickly found out why. Narrow road with some sharp blind bends got my full attention. Dangerous, but extreme entertaining cycling in a fabelous landscape. This was a good reward for the hard work up to Carter Bar from Newcastle. The ride was excellent and mostly a descent until I reached the sharp bends at Bonchester Bridge and the Horse & Hound Bar where I took a lunch break. Well refreshed after a half an hour long break, I continued up the vertical hill on a full stomach. Not a good combination though. The hill was both steep and hard. I spotted a road high above me and really thought I was in deep trouble. But that was a farm road and not this road which topped out 1 km after the Horse & Hound Bar after this vertical climb. The road then went pretty gently down towards Hawick with a couple of smaller climbs to entertain me along this descent alongside a river. The road was littered with blind corners and I took it easy. A very interesting ride and A 6088 is high on my list of the best bikerides in Scotland.
I reached the scenic town of Hawick after this long descent. A very dark and foreboding town. It was now starting to rain too. I had a look at this town and continued up the hill over to Selkirk. A long, boring bikeride on the A 7 main road up from Hawick, over a moor, down again and up another long boring climb on this very boring road. The rain did not help the matter either. The Hawick to Selkirk in A 7 is one of the most boring bikerides in Scotland and well worth avoiding. I was very relieved to arrive safe and well in Selkirk where I left A 7 for a scenic stroll on the A 707. A very good twisty undulating road which started with a small climb and then descended down to a bridge taking me over one of the big rivers in Scotland; Tweed. The road up the river to my hotel in Walkerburn was very nice. The valley is very narrow though and when some thunder and lighting hit the valley just ahead of me, I almost got a fatal heart attack. But I arrived in my hotel at Walkerburn, The George Hotel. I had ordered a room here and I was dead tired too. No drying facility though, but I got my gear dried up in my bed. The food was nice though. A lovely hotel and highly recommended.



Day 3 75 km

After a very sleep after exhausting myself the day before, I woke up and had a nice breakfast. The weather had improved overnight and the sun was shining. I continued up the the rather narrow valley alongside Tweed to the first village on the way; the idyllic Innerleithen. A very nice village it is too. But it is overshadowed by the big neighbour and one of the prettiest villages in the whole of Scotland; Peeples. The road up there was flat and I made good progress to Peebles. This village is one of the reason I chose this tour and it did not disappoint me. It is indeed a truly magnificant village and I was sad to leave it behind.
The next part of the ride on the A 72 took me up the river valley and into a very idyllic terrain. It was also a very dry place in the baking hot sunshine and I was running out of water. The bikeriding was excellent, although pretty hard up this valley. I was very thirsty, but I was saved by a small bar selling cola. I had one liter of it. So the big lesson is: Stock up on plenty of drink in Peebles because there is not a single shop for 30 km or so after Peebles and the bikeriding is both hard and exposed.
I reached the crossroad at the head of the Tweed valley and bade my farewell to a truly great 60 km long valley ride from crossing the bridge over Tweed the night before until leaving the valley here. I now continued on the A 72 towards Biggar for some kilometers up another valley. At a new crossroad, I took the A 721 towards Glasgow. The next 20 km was spent on crossing valleys and cycling through the forests between them. That made for some really undulating cycling. I stayed on the A 721 all the way to Carnwath. The scenery was excellent. The cycling very hard at times. I was not complaining though. After crossing numerous valleys and forests, I arrived at Carnwath. A ride past the golf course on A 70 took me down to a roundabout where I rejoined A 721 again. The climb up to the viewpoint a three kilometers after this roundabout was hard. But the views brilliant and another good reason to do this ride. One of the best 360 degrees viewpoints in the central belt of Scotland, no doubts. The descent down to and through Wishaw was a vertical drop. The traffic was heavy too and I was both tired and unfocused. For the sake of my own safety, I quickly dropped the idea of cycling through Glasgow to Helensburgh again. I found Motherwell and the railway station there. A very wise move which probably saved me from personal injuries or worse. The traffic through Glasgow is murderous. A one hour long train took me all the way home to Helensburgh again where I arrived late afternoon.



Conclusion



A great ride/drive from England to Scotland if you arrive by ferry from mainland Europe. The alternative is the boring as heck coastal road to Edinburgh. This is a hard ride though. But the views is excellent all the way. The Borders are undervalued in my view. In particular the area around Peebles and the village itself. It has some of the best scenery in the British Isles. I recommend this bikeride and it is very probable I will do it again sometimes soon. This time with a camera.