13th June 2021: West Linton to Peebles – 14 miles
Well that was one helluva good day’s walking! It’s the best day’s walking I can remember for a long time. It helps that I feel fit and capable again, after a long period of poor fitness and even more annoying repetitive injuries. Today’s 14 miles didn’t bother me at all and the hills, albeit mostly long gentle ascents were handled easily enough with a slow and steady pace, designed mostly to take care of my knee and my left calf. The knee is a little stiff now that I’m sitting in my room in the hotel in Peebles but nothing major and the calf has hardly been noticeable all day.
I slept surprisingly well last night, considering the noise from the bar below and the busy main road outside my window. I stirred around 5am and dozed for a couple of hours then switched the TV on for a weather report. It suggested mostly cloudy all day with sunny intervals, which was pretty accurate. They just forgot to mention the surprisingly strong southerly wind that I had to walk into for long periods of the day, but at least that kept the temperature down and although I sweated profusely all day, it never got too warm.
I had breakfast in my room, pain au chocolate, purchased from the co-op yesterday afternoon as the hotel doesn’t offer that as a service. The tea cups provided in the room were ridiculously small and I had to have three cups in order to satisfy my needs.
I was ready to walk by 8.30. Check-out at the Gordon Arms involves dropping your key into a basket at the front door as you leave, which is always a nervous moment, as once you close the door behind you, you’re committed and anything you’ve left in your room could be difficult to retrieve!
I walked through the lovely little village of West Linton, all its streets and houses hung with bunting for some local celebration. There were dozens of folk out walking dogs and I said my hellos as I followed the tarmac lane out into the country. From leaving the village to arriving in Peebles, I saw no-one on the hills. The only people I saw were cyclists on some of the lanes I had to use and a couple of people walking close to a farm.
One thing I do like about the CBDR is that although it’s one of Scotland’s Great Trails, it’s not heavily signed. When I walked the West Highland Way there was a marker post every couple of hundred yards. It felt like I was being led by the hand in case I got lost. The CBDR has its own way markers, the silhouette of a cow, but in places they are few and far between and you actually have to search for them. The result is, you need to keep an eye on your navigation – and I like that.
Today felt like a walk of three halves. The first section is fairly rural, but mostly through low lying fields and pastures, albeit with grand views. The second section is utterly brilliant – hills, valleys, woodland, forestry tracks and more hills, cracking little paths through the valleys for the most part (remember this is a drove road and the cattle would have been driven along the easiest paths possible). The final section is more fields and pastures, but the paths were lined by gorse in many places and the yellow flowers of these thorny bushes added a wonderful splash of colour to every view.
The first mile or so was along a quiet tarmac lane, and then up a green track to the transmitter mast on Broomlee Hill, where I tried (unsuccessfully) to bag the trig point. There was a dry stane dyke, topped with two rows of barbed wire between me and my target and I wasn’t prepared to risk the crown jewels or my trousers! A little further along and the path passed through a field of inquisitive young cows who kept rushing towards me as soon as I turned my back on them. I used a handy gate to get into the next field and continued in roughly the right direction. My hope that I could use another gate to return to the path were dashed and I ended up having to negotiate another tricky barbed wire fence (without issue thankfully). The path beyond was confused by a new deer fence and a huge plantation of new trees and I had to make a huge swooping loop (almost missing another exit gate) before getting back on the path.
I was soon crossing the A701 and from that point the path entered ‘section 2’ and things got much better. The path skirts around buildings at Rommano Mains and on the map it looks a bit crap, but it’s actually quite nice, quiet little paths between fences, climbing steadily up the hillside, before entering the shady cover of a long strip of woodland. The revelation of the day occurs as you exit the wood. You leave the close packed conifers and are presented with a view down a wide, open valley, green hills on either side and the path sweeping down the side of the valley to a small burn in the bottom. The valley is not named on the map, but the burn is called Fingland Burn. It will be a long time before I walk a finer mile! I stopped to take as many photos as I could as I descended down the path, trying to capture the beauty of the place, but probably failed. Joy of joys, at the bottom of the valley there’s a bench! I’ve been perching on fallen logs, rocks, or broken dry stane dykes for this walk, I think this was the first bench I’d seen. I used it to have a quick snack (some popcorn chicken bites) and enjoy the view. I couldn’t see the path ahead as it bent left up a connecting valley and into more trees.
I’d been making good progress, even at my leisurely pace. When I checked Viewranger I was surprised to see that my average speed was still 2.4 mph, even with breaks. I felt like I was ambling along, but I guessed the first mile or so along the tarmac lane had given me a good start.
Section 3 began at Nether Stewarton, lots of left and rights as the path seems to struggle to find a steady rhythm. It’s mostly OK, but nothing special. The gorse bushes rescued it for me. At Mosshouse I joined a road and saw about 20 cyclists and a couple of cars passed me too. The wind was really bad along this bit, straight into my face and really strong. I put my head down and slogged it out. Putting my head down was important, to keep my Tilley on my head. If I’d had lifted my eyes to take in the views, I’d have been chasing the bloody thing back down the road all the time.
I soon turned off the road and followed a tarmac farm track, still with a troublesome wind, but on my own again at least. The path soon left the lane though and here I pinched a huge yellow bucket from behind a gate, to form a seat just off the lane, where the path cuts down into a little valley. The view was nice, the seat was comfortable and I was out of the wind! I had my proper lunch now, a Ginsters sausage roll and a bottle of Ribena which went down a treat.
The next couple of miles were the highlight of this section, a springy green path through more gorse, which soon opened up into a wider hillside path that climbed up the flanks of Hamilton Hill. I shunned the diversion to the top, as it would have involved another barbed wire fence scramble and instead enjoyed the long steady climb with the views that opened up to show the roof tops of Peebles, sheltered in the valley below. It’s quite a big town, hemmed in by green hills on all sides, and quite picturesque from this height.
The path dropped again, through the ubiquitous gorse and I was soon on the outskirts of the town. The final mile was along pavements, past houses and shops and over a river that runs through the town. I passed a Sainsbury’s and mentally bookmarked it for supplies later.
The Green Tree Hotel is a busy little place and I immediately liked it. The guy who checked me in was friendly and helpful, despite obviously being rushed off his feet. He wouldn’t hear of me finding my own room and insisted on showing me up.
I’ve had a shower now (excellent) and a couple of pints of Diet Coke, as there’s no draft beer on tap, and I ain’t drinking electric bitter under any circumstances! I’d half considered leaving in time, or walking fast enough to ensure I could get to the hotel in time to watch the England v Croatia match, but in the end I decided that time on the path, enjoying the hills was more important. I caught the second half though, watching it in the bar drinking my coke and when Sterling scored you could have heard a pin drop. Not so much as a murmur from the locals!
When the game was over I stopped into Sainsbury’s and picked up items for lunch tomorrow and a snack for my room later. On the way back I booked a table for tea and then went to write up today’s journal.
I’ve had an excellent Steak Pie with chips (and they even agreed to swap out the vegetables for more chips) and I’m back in my room again. Unlike the piss poor WiFi from last night, the Green Tree has better speeds than I get at home, so I’ve already managed to upload yesterday’s report and I’ll probably do tonight’s as well, cos you never know what you’ll get tomorrow.
Day 3 of the walk is only 11 miles and I’m in a B&B rather than a hotel, and I can’t check in until 4pm, so I’ll try and leave as late as possible in the morning. Even walking at my easy pace I’ll be there way too early otherwise and I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find a pub to sit in and kill the time until the B&B will let me in.
From yesterday mornings melancholy to this afternoon’s high, walking down the Fingland Burn, has been an incredible turn around and it’s hard not to compare my feelings on this walk to the days I spent on the Ravenber walk in 2019. Chalk and cheese isn’t a big enough difference and I put it mostly down to my fitness levels. Every hill was a challenge on the Ravenber (the path was fantastic, but it was lost on me) and the pack felt like it was hammering me into the ground, yet now I feel fine even going uphill and the pack (even though its the same weight) hardly gets a thought, except for the squeak on my shoulder strap!
Here’s hoping for more of the same tomorrow and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with two posts in the same day!