A curtailed Easter escape27th December 2018
At the end of January 2017, an idea came to mind. Preceding years had seen holidays being little more than elongated weekends and I fancied a little longer. Also, the idea of feeling ensconced in Edinburgh for a longer period of time appealed to me. Both thoughts came together to get me thinking of stretching the forthcoming Easter weekend by taking the preceding Thursday and the trailing Tuesday to make for a six-day trip to Scotland’s capital city.
The days were booked off from work and bookings made. An early train ticket purchase got me a great deal using advance purchase tickets, which was just as well given the cost of the hotel booking. At this stage in the year, the chance of a springtime sabbatical was a tenuous prospect though it had been discussed with my manager. The longer time off, unpaid as it was, required approval from more senior management and that took until March. That lack of notice meant that grander plans could not be made, which, in retrospect probably was just as well.
Though what I really needed was quiet time at home, I could not help myself and spent a pleasant weekend on the Isle of Man at the start of April, just before the Easter weekend. In hindsight, returning from there on Monday and departing again for Scotland on Thursday within the same week probably was asking too much and an Irish matter was to prove that. It threw me into indecision and pulled someone else through the proverbial emotional wringer as well. All was sorted in the end and there have been no lasting consequences, but such things did not half the weight on my mind at the time.
The result was that my Thursday departure was aborted, my non-refundable advance purchase ticket forfeited and my hotel booking cancelled. Though there was some money lost, there also was more money gained. A quandary descended on me at the same time and I ended up booking a journey to Edinburgh with National Express for the forthcoming Saturday morning as well as rebooking the hotel for fewer nights. Such an act still left me unconvinced but I went through with it.
Though there might have been an element of resolution regarding the piece of Irish business, there was a raw emotion evident during my journey north. The longer journey time was spent reading Mary Beard’s SPQR and taking a phone call from my brother. Some hot nourishment was enjoyed at Tebay motorway services as well.
When I reached Edinburgh, it was not as bright a day as the one that I had left in England. Occasional rain showers were a threat. Before I made for my lodgings, I pottered around St. Andrew’s Square and Princes Street Gardens. After settling into my room, I attended an Easter event in the heart of Edinburgh before retiring for the night.
A Wet Day around Glen Sax
Easter Sunday came wet in spite of suggestions of rain clearing away in any weather forecast. Even sitting out the morning in the hotel was to no avail. At other times, a day indoors might have sufficed but I felt other needs and braved the damp weather.
There were phone calls and text messages regarding a neighbour having passed away, and useful conversations were had on the bus to Peebles. Once there, a little wait by the Tweed seemed to be rewarded by a partial clearance of rain so I set off along a drove that I had not trodden for a good while. Grey skies lay all around and there was none of the pleasing light witnessed on the first Monday of June 2002 or what was to be savoured on a hot sunny day in June 2006. Nevertheless, I continued and others were out walking so it was not just any aberrant activity on my part.
If there were ever any ambitions to complete a round of the Glen Sax hills, poor visibility put paid to such an idea. Still, there were visits to Kailzie Hill, Kirkhope Law, Birkscairn Hill and Stake Law so I had gone further than any previous encounter with the place. As expected, wet ground was my lot and it was soggy in places too. Still, the walk was much needed regardless of this.
With the signs of any path becoming ever more tenuous and visibility declining all the while, I thought it to be best to return to the saddle between Stake Law and Birkscairn Hill to commence a descent down some steep slopes. These were negotiated more liberally than the path suggested by the OS map would have done. Zigzags were added to my course to ease the task sufficiently for the avoidance of any sense of cragfastness. Water entered my boots as I did so and wet feet were the result, another hint that my boots needed reproofing.
Soon enough, I was on the floor of the glen for a crossing of Glensax Burn to reach the sheep pens where I joined the track leading back towards Peebles. Though the air was heavy, the rain had stopped, and steady progress left me marvelling at how fast I was going. In fact, I hardly felt the length of the five kilometres to the gate near Gallow Hill where I again was on tarmac for the last stretch into Peebles to await the next bus back to Edinburgh.
The day had been satisfying and I still would like to complete that Glen Sax Round at some point. This needs an early start since the walk will be a long one but I now have some sense of how to make it happen. Also, a better day with plenty of daylight hours will be in order. Having a less cluttered life could help too, but the Easter Sunday 2017 walk started an emotional recovery that was much needed. The following day would take things further.
In Better Spirits along the John Buchan Way
Easter Monday got the benefit of a better forecast. Fancying the prospect of walking somewhere anew, I plumped for the John Buchan Way; another attempt at going around Glen Sax could wait. My choice also involved a hike from one place to another, something that I prefer to the idea of an out and back venture. Much like Glen Sax on Easter Sunday, it also offered much needed solitude and felt a world away from the usual run of my life.
There was a bit of dawdling around Peebles as I sought the actual route that the trail took on the way out from the town. Though grey, the morning was dry and I was to escape rain for most of the day with cloud breaking to leave bright sunshine holding sway before a late afternoon rain shower made a visit.
Once I had got as far as Peebles’ extremities, the next task was to go around Morning Hill and the path on the ground took a slightly different course from what my map suggested. The line taken was good enough for me so I was not about to pursue the matter. The course became clearer as I shadowed the Cademuir Plantation to reach a lane that would convey me around a hill topped with a fort.
The up and down course continued to take me through pastoral surroundings laden with signs reminding drivers that pregnant sheep were all around there. The hint was that they should slow down, but that naturally did not apply to pedestrian stravaigers like myself. Crossing Manor Water, I continued towards The Glack where I would leave tarmac tramping behind me for a while. That a pesky pothole had nagged an ankle was more reason for going over softer ground.
The way to Stobo took me through many fields as I threaded my way along Glack Hope and over the lower slopes of White Knowe and other neighbouring hills. As the route went this way and that, a certain amount of attention was needed so as not to wander off it until matters became simpler after Easter Dawyk. Any height that had been gained was being lost all the while as the A712 grew ever closer. Eventually, a second crossing of the River Tweed (the first had been in Peebles itself) was to reach the road and seek out another escape from tarmac.
If I was seeking a bus stop from which to get back to Peebles, there might have been some uncertainty about such a plan but I was seeking out the trail for Broughton. That was to shadow Easton Burn for much of the way to Hammer Rig. By then, any vestiges of pastoral living were petering out and I could feel that I was in wilder terrain though civilisation never was that far away.
It also helped that sunshine lit up the surrounding hillsides as I crossed some of their number. This was where hilltops like those of Hammer Knowe, Hog Knowe and Hopehead Rig acted as progress indicators while I wondered at how far I was going up Stobo Hope to reach the isolated output of Stobo Hopehead.
Dark grey cloud was gathering from the east while my surroundings remained sun-blessed but it was not about to last. Just beyond Hopehead Rig, the rain caught up with me to ensure a damp finish to my walk. It might have been nice to have retained sunshine for the descent beside such heights as Clover Law or Cat Cleuch Head but I hardly felt denied because of what else that have been there to savour.
It was dry when I reached a dampened and quiet Broughton and the bus stop was easy to find and I was there in plenty of time before the next departure. That meant I could stroll about the village a little and note the laid-back youths who were hanging around with one of their number set to be a fellow passenger on the bus back to Peebles.
Once in Peebles again, there was time for strolling about the banks of the Tweed but the sun was not being so co-operative so photographic opportunities were limited. Maybe that was just as well given my need to return to Edinburgh before a southbound journey the next day.
The day after Easter Monday was when the matter in Ireland finally got sorted and I must admit some trepidation interrupted any peace of mind on the train from Edinburgh to Manchester. Any yapping on a phone by a Scottish NHS IT administrator was remediated before or at Carlisle and was a lesser intrusion in any event. At least, this train journey was one that I had booked back in January. On arrival in Macclesfield, I found out the good news from the other side of the Irish Sea and could look back on my weekend with satisfaction. Emotional rest was the order of service for the rest of the week until I realised how close my return to work was becoming.
Train journey from Macclesfield to Manchester followed by a coach journey from Manchester to Edinburgh. Two return bus journeys between Edinburgh and Peebles. Bus journey from Broughton to Peebles. Return train journey from Edinburgh to Macclesfield with a change in Manchester.
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