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32. Newcastleton

start: A7, North of Langholm
distance: 31 miles
OS map: 79

Newcastleton route mapThis route is all on road. The bad news is that part of it is on the main A7 road - scenic enough but quite busy. Maybe you could arrange transport to avoid having to cycle that bit. The main haul is the road between Langholm and Newcastleton so you may want to consider the benefits of a following wind when deciding which way round to do the route. I decided to get the A7 bit out of the way first so started about 8 miles N of Langholm where the road over from Hermitage Castle comes out. You can leave a car about a quarter of a mile down this road at (394 965).

It's 7 or 8 miles to Langholm along the main road; a mile and a bit of this is on a dedicated cycle track. Unless you particularly want to go into the town take the road to Newcastleton on the L just before Langholm. This is steep to start with but the gradient eases a tad as you come out of the trees. Towards the top of the hill you'll come a rusting hulk of a monument to the memory of the poet Hugh MacDiarmid. There's a track off to the R leading towards the much more imposing monument that you can see on top of the hill. This is the Malcolm monument and the views from the hill here are worth the mile and a half round detour to get there. To the W and S you can see the Solway Firth and hills of the northern Lake District. To the N is a fine view up Eskdale.

The road continues and heads down slightly to Tarras Lodge before climbing again to a high point of about 340m. From here it's a real treat of a run down into Newcastleton. If you've visited Tomintoul in the Grampians you'll be struck by the almost identical layout of the main road and square in the town.

Leave the square heading N towards Hawick. After a couple of miles go over a bridge and turn L, again signposted for Hawick. Four miles or so and there's a turning on the L for Hermitage Castle and, if you've time for a visit, it's a mile along the road. The castle was built in the 13th century and was once the home of the Earl of Bothwell, lover of Mary Queen of Scots. The road continues past the castle and up a quiet valley and while it does climb, it's not as strenuous as what you've come over earlier. The high point is at the far end of some forestry on the R and from here it's a fine run down to the A7.

jb, galashiels

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