Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Revisiting the Scottish Borders

10th May 2010

After a bank holiday weekend spent expanding my explorations of the Isle of Man, last weekend allowed a getaway to a part of the world that I haven’t really visited for nearly four years: the Scottish Borders. Since then, a new long-distance trail has appeared on OS maps, the Borders Abbeys Way, and caused me to look at the copyright date that was on the one that I used when I last got to sample the area around Peebles and Galashiels. With the legend “2002” peering back at me, I began whether a new edition was needed, but I persevered with the older one while up there.

It was sufficient for the task of hiking from Selkirk to Melrose via The Three Brethren and, from there, the Southern Upland Way on an ever improving afternoon and evening; I left the Borders Abbeys Way with its requirement for remembering where it went for another time. The Eildon Hills were catching the light sporadically as I grew to realise the distance between Galashiels and Melrose. Very deceptively, the proximity of Galashiels, Tweedbank, Darnick and Melrose would lure you into thinking that everything is close together, but the whole conurbation put together is at least five miles long!

Melrose Abbey, Borders, Scotland

After the exertions of the previous day, Sunday was left as an easy day before I returned home again after a stay in Melrose. That energy expenditure made for tired legs, so I contented myself with enjoying the impressive sight of Melrose Abbey (yes, a camera was set into action too, but it’s often what gets me out and about in the first place) on a day that kept improving after a damp start. There was an uphill potter along St. Cuthbert’s Way to take a closer look at the Eildon Hills but time constraints put a stop to any potentially foolish designs that may have lain in my mind.

A look at a map since then has popped an idea into my mind: using St. Cuthbert’s Way for a walk from St. Boswell’s to Melrose that might grant me glimpses of Dryburgh Abbey and would pass over the Eildon Hills. Those hills are criss-crossed with paths, but there are other possibilities with sections of the Borders Abbeys Way allowing for sampling of the countryside around places such as Kelso, Hawick and Jedburgh. All in all, it looks as if there is plenty on offer to the passing wanderer in search of pleasant countryside with a smattering of low-sized hills.

After all, this is countryside that I should have been exploring when I lived in Edinburgh but for a combination of succumbing to the attractions of a very nice city and being blinded by attractions further north. Then, I would have considered cycling and the practicalities of getting a bike out into the Borders with no car would have raised their heads too. Until the restoration of the rail link to Galashiels and Tweedbank, that one will persist because I saw no evidence of bicycle carriage on any buses that I used over the weekend. In a way, that’s a pity because there is the Four Abbeys Cycle that echoes the intent of the Borders Abbeys Way and there are quieter roads around the area too. That new railway could make things interesting but the prospect of it packing the area with visitors is hard to envisage with all the space that there is for everyone.

One thing that struck me over the weekend was how quiet everywhere was, and it is an area where you unleash your reverie without too much fear of intrusion. Of course, you still have to watch where you are going, but that effectively is the limit of things. Those ideas that have come into my mind already should keep me returning, and I do hope that it’s more regular than it has been.

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