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68. Tweedsmuir

start: Gordon Arms, Yarrow Valley
distance: 51 miles
OS map: 72, 73

Tweedsmuir route mapA longish route but pretty well all on road, apart from some optional detours. We travel through some of the finest that the Southern Uplands has to offer and take in what must be one of the steepest climbs in southern Scotland to reach a high point of 450m at the Megget Stone.

The route is described from the Yarrow Valley but there's no reason why you couldn't start from Peebles or wherever suits you.

Take the road up for Traquair crossing the watershed to roll down into the Tweed Valley. Turn L at Traquair to pass Traquair House, said to be the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. You'll also pass the Bear Gates, locked by the Fifth Earl of Traquair in 1745 as Bonnie Prince Charlie left, with a promise that they would only be unlocked when there was another Stuart on the throne. They have, of course, remained closed ever since. The house is worth a visit in its own right and now boasts a small brewery.

A few miles further, on the way to Peebles, you'll pass Kailzie Gardens on your L. The road enters Peebles along the S bank of the Tweed by a car park. The town centre is over the river if you turn R across the bridge.

Our route, though, goes straight ahead kinking L slightly to bring you to a mini roundabout. You have a choice here. The easy option is to follow the road going left. It goes up then steeply down to cross both Manor Water and the Tweed to join the main A72. If you want to stick with the road route then there's really no option but to use it for a couple of miles or so until the turn off for Drumelzier

Back at the mini roundabout, though, if you feel like an alternative then go straight across then almost immediately R to reach a T junction. Look out for a path going straight ahead between the houses which brings you to the river. Turn L to follow the S bank past a footbridge and as the path goes into trees, go up the bank on your L to find the old rail track.

You can follow the track for a few yards until it reaches a tunnel. It may be possible to go through the tunnel but you would need lights and it doesn't look too inviting. Instead, you need to take a path to the R and work your way through the woods trying neither to lose, or gain, much in the way of height. You'll be rewarded with impressive views of the imposing Neidpath Castle up above on the opposite bank.

You should aim to emerge at the other end of the tunnel where we pick up the old railway as it crosses the Tweed. Again there is a choice. Take the A72, as mentioned earlier, or follow the course of the railway to Lyne Station. If the latter, then note that there are 3 or 4 stiles to cross and some steps to negotiate. This path ends on a bridge which spans a minor road and the Tweed. Take the road which leads W to join the B712.

You'll pass Stobo Castle and also the Botanic Gardens at Dawyck - home, I think, to one of the largest collections of heathers to be found anywhere. Just after Drumelzier the road takes a sharp R to join the main A701 at Rachan Mill. It is possible to cut a mile off the journey by going straight on here, past Drumelzier Place and fording the Tweed. It is quite wide here and you'll get wet feet. Follow the track up to the main road.

It's quite a haul along the A701 to Tweedsmuir. There may be a route along the other side of the valley - parts of it certainly exist, but whether it's unbroken or not is another matter. A mile or two before Tweedsmuir is the old Crook Inn.

Turn L for the tiny village of Tweedsmuir. The Tweed is little more than a stream here and the photo on the front of the OS map was taken from the bridge as you cross the Tweed yet again. A mile or so brings you to the Talla Reservoir; a fine sight in this steep sided valley.

It's not really until you're some way down that you realise that the way out of this valley is up The Hill and at 15% it is a fierce haul indeed! No excuses, though, get your head down, put something soothing on the walkman, and just go for it. As you climb, the views unfold and whatever the mood and the weather, this is a fine place to be. Stop at the bridge to take it all in - there's a little more uphill, but you've done all the hard work.

Moving on, the Megget Stone is right by the cattle grid and marks the watershed. This is good ski touring country in the right conditions. Sometimes, even when the road is clear and many of the lower slopes bare, there's a ribbon of snow in a stream bed just down from the Megget Stone which comes right down to the road and so gives access to the slopes up onto Broad Law.

Enjoy the roll down to Megget Reservoir and from there down to rejoin the Yarrow Valley at St Mary's Loch. Turn L and it's about 4 miles back to the Gordon Arms.

jb, galashiels

Download GPS data in GPX format.

St Mary's Loch

St Mary's Loch

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