start: Bonchester Bridge
This takes in some sections of old rail track. While having much of interest, this can be a wet route at the best of times so you have been warned. You could skip the railway section and go round by road if you wish; this would add on some extra miles, though. If you're leaving a car in Bonchester Bridge you're as well to head out on the road signed for Hobirk to find somewhere to park.
It's a fair slog up the hill heading for Hawick from Bonchester. After a mile, turn L at Hawthornside. The road is still going upwards but only gently now. Turn L at the B6399 heading towards Newcastleton. You'll see the old Shankend viaduct and you're aiming for the left hand end where a track takes you up onto the route of the disused rail line. Follow this for about three miles to reach the tunnel - the track veers away from the road after a mile or so. The surface is good to start with but becomes a little stonier as you head into forestry country. It's getting quite overgrown as you approach the tunnel entrance and can get very wet here.
Since writing the original report for this route, the tunnel has been blocked off and the entrances sealed. I am told, however, that a route has been established over the top of it to meet the road at Whitrope Cottages. I can't vouch for the surface of the route and it might be reasonably strenuous so be prepared. The alternative is to take the road around - a little longer, but possibly easier.
Follow the rail track from Whitrope Cottages as it heads away from the road and into trees. After a mile and a half look out for a small sign for 'Will's Bothy' - it provides free shelter if you're desperate.
Just after this you're coming into a large open area. This used to be Riccarton Junction where the lines split - one route went to Newcastleton and the other to Kielder. There's little to show this now but in its day it was quite an important place. There are a couple of cottages up on the left. The route goes straight ahead following the old Kielder line - make sure you don't take the R fork for Steele Road. After some while following through a cutting you'll come out onto the side of a hill with clear views into the valley. The track follows the side of the hill up the valley while the road up the valley gradually climbs to meet it. There's another surprise where the road meets the old railtrack - a hundred metres or so of the old track has been preserved, complete with an old diesel locomotive and a goods wagon. Just why they are there isn't clear - it's hardly a tourist attraction, being hidden away from the road as it is.
Join the road going up the valley. The key word here is "up" 'cos there's quite a lot of it. When you think you're at the top don't get too excited as there's a little down but then more up to come. You will, however, be rewarded with a mile or two of good downhill cruising. You're looking for a L turn at (590 090). It leads steeply downhill to cross a river then go uphill and round to the R. Follow this road which goes L then R to pass through Hobkirk and back into Bonchester Bridge.
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