Peebles

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Peebles Easy Route (Cademuir) – pdf
Distance: 17.5km
Time: Two hours
Total Ascent: 360m
There’s not many routes around here that fall into the ‘easy’ category, but this short loop avoids doing too many hills. Most of the climbing is done in the fi rst 5km through Cademuir Woods, after that it’s an easy spin on quiet lanes and tracks to Lyne Station to return on the old railway.

Peebles Medium Route (Gypsy Glen) – pdf
Distance: 21km
Time: 2-3 hours
Total Ascent: 527m
Start from Glentress, but head across the road to pick up the riverside path to Cardrona. Climb up though Cardrona forest and out on to the open hillside to contour around the slopes of Birks Hill (push on up to the top of Birkscairn hill if you want a longer descent). The ride from Kirkhope.

Peebles Hard Route (Broad Law) – pdf
Distance: 59km
Time: 7+ Hours
Total Ascent: 1876m
There are no berms, no tabletops and no doubles on this ride. You won’t see anyone wearing body armour, in fact you probably won’t see anyone at all, it’s a proper big day out in the hills. The OS maps show some of the tracks (the 1:25000 is better as it shows the fence that you follow from the masts on top of Broad Law), but by no means all of them and don’t expect to find many signposts. Pick a dry day, or you’ll be facing a demoralising death-march slog that will make you sell your bike.

The Tweed Valley and the town of Peebles have become a familiar destination for mountain bikers who can’t get enough of Spooky Woods and Deliverance and all the other delights on offer at Glentress and down the road at Innerleithen. But look beyond the conifers and you’ll see a lot of unridden open country. Now that summer’s on the way it seemed like a good time to head for the hills and get a different slant on Tweed Valley mountain biking. I already
knew of a few tasty rides in the area, but I called local guide Iain from MB7, in case there were any treats I’d overlooked.

A simple plan

issue35pic2“We have a plan!” was all Iain would say, which should have told me that I was going to be in for a hard time, but I was foolishly caught up in the excitement and didn’t realise that I should have run away then while my legs still worked. The plan was to incorporate two of the biggest hills in the area into one ride, with a bit of ridge traversing in between. Thankfully there are no Munros (stupidly big Scottish hills) in the Borders, but Broad Law gets ‘Corbett’ status for being over 2500ft high and that was our first real target, although there was a lot of ground to cover before we got to it. By my reckoning Dollar Law (2681ft) should be in the Corbett club too, but it isn’t because apparently it doesn’t fulfil all the other criteria. We were going to head for it anyway because it was there and it seemed rude not to.

It was a bit nippy setting off at 8.30 in the morning, but we were soon warming up with a nice climb up to the top of Cademuir ridge. The wind was a bit brisk as we skirted around the ruined fort so we wasted no time in getting the hell out of there and dropping back down to the shelter of the valley fl oor. Despite the good weather forecast the hills were looking slightly ominous with cloud covering the high tops that we were heading for. I made some off-hand remark about us spending the day fumbling around in the mist wishing we’d brought a compass, but Iain was maintaining the optimistic view that it would clear by the afternoon.

Dead Wife’s Grave

After a bit of tarmac we turned into Hall Manor Woods and had a stiff climb up to the charmingly named Dead Wife’s Grave – say what you like, but civil war and the slaughter of Royalists has left us with some interesting place names. All our huffi ng and puffi ng up to this point had earned us a real blast of a descent straight down the other side of the hill and back to the Tweed.

Spinning along the minor road through Drumelzier, past the horse trials and onto the riverside track it all seemed so twee and it was easy to forget that we had an absolute bitch of a climb ahead of us.

Before that though we’d arranged to hook up with Euan who runs the Cross Keys in Peebles and his pal Bob who were both getting dropped off at the Crook Inn, which after two and a half hours of riding was looking like a timely coffee stop.

Shame that someone forgot to tell us that the Crook Inn was closed, which meant the next cafe stop would be Peebles – 20 miles away across the hills. We now had to face The Worst Climb In The World without a caffeine boost, and if that wasn’t bad enough Euan and Bob had arrived with fresh legs to put some pain into us over 600m of ascent.

Bonny Corbett

The route up Broad Law follows a wellsurfaced doubletrack all the way to the summit – providing access to the antennas that must be the highest electronic gizmos in the UK. This means it is entirely rideable even though in places walking would be the quicker option. It rises 600m over 4km and it took us over an hour to reach the summit. Still, I can’t think of many other places where you can actually ride to over 800m and the views when you get there are jaw dropping, stretching from the Cheviots to the southeast to the Arrochar Alps in the northwest. Big Country. We stopped a while to munch our sarnies and reflect on the horror of what we’d just ridden up, deciding that there must be easier ways of getting up here and concluding that kite-biking must be the future, maybe.

Dreaming of beer

issue35pic3As Iain had predicted, the morning cloud had cleared by now and it was a pretty glorious afternoon, which we were grateful for because it was going to a good while yet before we’d drop below 650m.

Descending over moorland tussocks isn’t quite the same as railing it through another manmade berm and it felt like we were a long way from Spooky Woods up here. More worryingly it was a long way to the pub and Iain was starting to talk about how good a cold beer would be just now, we probably deserved one by now, but did we still have the legs to make it back? It’s good to have a purpose in life though and the thought of sipping a pint in the sun had a re-vitalising effect as we pushed up towards the summit of Pykestone Hill.

We’d initially planned to drop down to Drumelzier from here but Euan and Bob assured us that a better option was to stay high, going over the Scrape, down to Dead Wife’s Grave again and then following the ridge north to pick up the John Buchan Way. The map doesn’t show any track here, but as Euan’s been riding and running over these hills for
longer than he cares to remember it seemed reasonable enough to follow his suggestion, plus he was threatening to stand us a pint when we got back to Peebles, so I decided to stick to his wheel from then on.

It still felt like we had a long way to go (eight miles seems like a long way when you’ve been out for over six hours) but it was reassuring that from the top of The Scrape we had four (four!) miles of almost continuous descent to look forward to. It’s not often you get so much downhill in one stretch; things like this have to be earned and there was no question that we’d earned it, so we hammered it down to the road, guilt-free.

We picked up the old railway line to get back to Peebles, which wasn’t very gnarly itself but we got the chance to ride the steps down to the river, which was a nice bonus. Back in town we made a bee-line for the Cross Keys and a pint of Landlord, courtesy of er, the landlord. Some hucker once said “Life’s too short to not go big, you gotta go big”, or something like that. We’d gone big, in our own way and it was good. Bikes, hills, good people, beer – these are all good things, put them together and you’ve got a great day out. Life’s quite simple really.

Where to stay

Thanks to the Glentress phenomena, the Tweed seems to be rapidly making itself the most bikefriendly place in Britain in terms of accommodation. The Cross Keys (01721 724222) is just off the High Street in Peebles and offers bunk rooms along with your more traditional B&B rooms. They also provide secure bike storage and most importantly a
fi ne pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, making a visit almost mandatory in our opinion. Down the road at Innerleithen the Bike Lodge offers self catering accommodation, bike storage, a workstand and a fine collection of vintage MTB magazines. Call Nic on 01896 833836 or visit www.thebikelodge.co.uk.

Bikes

Border Bike Sport in Peebles 01721 723423.
The Hub at Glentress 01721 721736

Fuel

If you need Pasta or Pizza then you need Franco’s restaurant on Port Brae. The Prince of India provides curry, or if haggis and neeps are more your style try The Crown on the High St, or The Neidpath (www.neidpath.co.uk).
Also worth a mention are Villeneuve Wines who can sort you out with a good bottle of single malt, you’ll find them on the High Street.

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Southern Scotland