Following the Pembroke trip I needed to continue the post Canada decompression process, and noting an improvement in weather began planning a trip through the Borders of Scotland which I suspected would prove enjoyable and interesting. My destination would be Kirby Stephen which would connect with the Pennine Bridleway providing an option for continuation should the prevailing conditions continue favourably. I divided the first section into five days, averaging fifty miles a day with the exception of the first which included travelling by train.
Saturday, an early start from Shrewsbury (8.46) to Crewe, I had booked the bike onto the Virgin pendalino but chose the wrong end of the platform so had hurriedly scuttle to the front of the train to stow the bike. The journey is three hours and upon arrival you are smack bang in the centre of Edinburgh. I chose not hang about as I find urban areas stressful and set about locking onto NCR No.1 easier said than done but I managed to extract myself from the city centre and ambled along the usual disused rail bed in the direction of Dalkieth. On the way I dropped into Musselbourough – nothing to report here and then arriving too promptly at my destination took in an excursion to Roslyn the famous chapel.
Although interesting in terms of the detail and history (Knights Templer) the quantity of tourists detracted from the experience and I soon pushed off back to Dalkieth. In my hotel room I was beginning to consider making a greater effort in future to find interesting accommodation – getting a bit bored with the Hotel room/food thing. Never mind it was perfectly adequate except for the evenings drunken marde grais going on outside.
Sunday, Dalkieth to Howick – sun was out – air temperature cool – wind in my face; which made progress initially slow but steady, climbing up through the lanes on NCR No.1 heading for the Moorfoot hills which run west to east like a wall. The road passes through a dip and suddenly I am in another world – the right one – I coast down a valley with the wind in my face to Innerleithen and a welcome coffee/cake. The next third of today’s journey I leave NCR No.1 and follow a narrow road south, with cyclists passing me in the opposite direction on an event with the beginning to warm the air and the wind decreasing I’m going along nicely.
The final section was more of the same, like this country soft and rolling with good roads and only the occasional car. A tremendous descent into Howick and its all over and only 3pm – that went a bit too quick. I was interested in Howick as it was a significant town that lost its rail link back in 60’s with predictable results on the local economy, the loss is still apparent as the reinstated section has not been extended as far as Howick. I dined at the local Indian and then retreated into tonight’s quarters, a guest house. Not sure about Howick.
Monday, Howick to Bellingham- sunny start and cold I was keen to get going and back into the hills, the road followed the bed of the Waverley line and I came to a position where a viaduct crosses the upland. After a quick call into the heritage centre which includes a small stretch of the line with carriages and shunter. A sign optimistically calls for the reinstatement of the entire line, I can’t imagine the cost! Newcastleton is small village with houses lined up symmetrically along a straight road, apparently a planned development associated with nineteenth century clearances. A quick coffee and cake and then onto NCR No.10 and across to Kielder, at last proper fire road trails. The temperature had risen and the going was warm so when I hit the lakeside trail and visitor centre it was an appropriate time for a shandy. Onto the dam and along the barrage the route forks off east along minor roads with the usual ‘up and down’ so when I rolled into Bellingham – I was cooked.
Tuesday, Belligham to Langdon Beck. A damp murky shroud over the landscape, NCR10 continues along minor roads, forest trails and then Hadrians Wall (nothing to be seen). I can’t even remover the name of the small town I stopped at for coffe and cake my mind was concerned with getting to Alston which turned out to be quite a nice surprise as the track bed of the disused railway provided a shallow gradient and upon arrival in Alston I felt ok.
Wednesday, cloudy and dry – I decided to take in High Cup Nic a trail which was on the list but as a walk so I set off not knowing what to expect. It turned out fine with some walking/pushing – I rattled down into Appleby had some lunch and set off for Kirkby Stephan with the wind in my face. I was tiring by this time and I knew that the final section up to the Moorcock Inn was a struggle and sensed I only had one more day in my legs. Despite the slightly eccentric surroundings the food was top draw.
Thursday, the final day and it was going to be a long anticipated section of the Pennine bridleway. The initial climb out of Dent up a narrow lane is a lung buster. The track then heads south at high level along good tracks, again the wind blew in my face but the initial flighty cloud cover dispersed in accordance with predictions leaving clear sunny skies and a pleasant temperature. The track heads down into Ribblesdale with the famous viaduct in view. After passing under the tunnel a final ascent to the limestone scars and a bumpy descent along lanes i arrive in Settle.