15th June 2021: Innerleithen to Selkirk – 14 miles
Day 4 has just snatched the ‘best day of the walk’ title from day 2! Glorious paths, only 1/2 a mile of tarmac all day, sunshine for most of the morning and total solitude – it’s been a cracking day!
I managed to sleep until 5.20am today, then turned over a dozed for another 90 mins or so. I’d asked for breakfast at 8am, with a view to being out the door and down the road by 8.30ish. As such, I needed to be mostly packed and squared away by breakfast. I had 14 miles to do today and a lot more height gain than the previous days so I wanted to give myself time to take it easy.
Pam, my host at the Old Town Hall B&B, was brilliant. She’s lovely and friendly and nothing is too much trouble. Breakfast was perfect, eggs and bacon as requested and the bacon was cooked to perfection! I was all that stood between Pam and a holiday in Aviemore to see her son, so I promised to be out of her hair as soon as I could.
My accommodation in Selkirk had asked that I ring the duty manager on the day of arrival to arrange my arrival time. This was new to me, I’ve never had to do anything like this before and a distant alarm bell rang in the back of my head. I called after breakfast, just before setting out, and my suspicions were promptly justified as I was told that check in time was 4.30pm onwards and if I wanted any time earlier than this, I would need to pay £10! The guy began to explain why, and I just cut him off by saying I’d be there at 4.31. I made a promise to myself that I’d not spend another penny in the place. I know there’s a chippy in town, so I’ll eat there and get a couple of beers from the co-op. Sod them!
This put a little dent in my departure time as there’s not really any pubs in Selkirk that I could see on Google Maps, so I’d need to time my arrival to be close to 4.30 or else I’d be sitting around the town killing time. I reckoned the slowest pace I could manage would be 2mph, and that would require a couple of long stops too, so I couldn’t really leave much before 9.30.
In the end I was out the door about 9.10 – the clear blue sky (and a decent forecast) promised plenty of opportunity to relax along the way. The CBDR follows the Southern Upland Way for most of the morning and both these head out of Innerleithen on the same uninspiring section of road I used yesterday. Even when I was planning this walk, I’d decided that was going to be crap so I’d found an alternative option. There’s a little car park at the Tweed Bridge, on the way out of town and from here there are a bunch of mountain bike trails, part of the 7 Stanes and I’d selected one of these instead.
As I walked through the car park, it was full of bikers getting ready, drinking coffee and showing off their legs to each other. I found the beginning of the track I’d seen on Street View and realised that the MTB trail organisers had conveniently placed ‘push ups’ for the riders. These are basically tracks beside the main cycle trails that riders can push their bikes up. It saves them getting killed by riders coming down the main trails at 90mph and wiping them out on blind bends. I had been slightly worried about that, but the switch back push up trail was great! I can honestly recommend this route to anyone doing either the CBDR or the SUW from Innerleithen. It saves retracing your steps down the road, and the trail is dead easy to follow and even at 9.30 it was very quiet. I only saw one group of MTBers and they were all really friendly and each one had a hello for me.
The path is uphill for the first 3 miles or so, but it was fairly steady and only had one or two steep sections. After the initial set of switch backs, I emerged onto a wide forest track and after 2.5 miles I met the regular CBDR track. From here the path became much narrower, climbing steadily still, but now between the sort of undergrowth that builds up after a load of trees were cut down a few years ago. Lots of low stumps, small bushes and tiny new trees. It’s a familiar sight on the Pennine Way through the Cheviots and on earlier sections of the SUW. I loved it. The sun was still mostly out, but with patches of grey cloud breaking it up. I passed Resolution Point, an art installation that cut circles into the heather. It’s a few years old now, and the part of the piece that you’re supposed to look through was missing. There was a bench beside it, so I stopped for a while and ate the homemade shortbread that Pam had provided in my room last night.
I left the SUW and the CBDR at this point, heading up a thin path through the heather to reach the trig point and cairn on Minch Moor. It would be a wonderful path in late August when the heather flowers, but it was a bit drab today, with no views to speak of. I was glad when I arrived at the summit and the views opened up. I bagged the trig point and headed back down a steep track back to the SUW route.
I’ve walked the first half of the SUW (twice) but this section is new to me, but the fingerpost I met at the bottom of the track had a familiar ‘Ultreia’ plaque on it – meaning treasure ahead! You’ll need to read up on the SUW kists and waymerks if you want some background on this, but after a little hunting around I found the kist and bagged my 7th Waymerk!
A mile or so later on and I abandoned the CBDR! Unfortunately, it heads off down the valley, through Yarrowford, and ends up about 3 miles south of Selkirk. That would have meant a massive backtrack tomorrow morning and I’d decided that I could follow the SUW for a while and then use some other tracks I’d seen on Google Maps to drop into Selkirk from the north. I could then head south in the morning and pick up the CBDR again. It was a big compromise, but one I thought I could justify to myself.
I waved farewell to the CBDR for a while and continued along the SUW. It was more cloudy than sunny now and the wind was fresher and I began to look for somewhere sheltered to sit and have my first lunch. The path was quite exposed though and the benches that had been plentiful earlier were nowhere to be seen now. I eventually dropped down into a small glen, to cross a burn at the wonderfully named ‘Four Lords Lands’. Here I found a perfectly proportioned stile beside a gate and sat down, out of the wind to take a break. I made it a long one. Even though I’d spent most of the morning climbing and then taking it easy, I was still averaging about 2.3mph, which was too much! I’d be in Selkirk way too early at this pace.
When I resumed it seemed the wind was stronger and colder and the sun was a rare sight. I was glad of the shelter offered by Broomy Law as the path entered its lee and as it turned around the hill I could see the cairns of the Three Brethren ahead of me up an almost arrow straight path. The path seemed to be almost vertical too!
At the summit the wind was proper blowy and I was getting cold. I stopped in the shelter offered by one of the cairns, sat down for my second lunch and took the opportunity to put my coat on and stow my Tilley on my pack. I only stopped for a while, just long enough to get my average speed down to 2.0 and then pushed on. I only had a short distance left on the SUW. When I arrived at the point where I bid farewell to the SUW I found an interesting fingerpost that pointed to ‘Selkirk via Long Philip Burn’. From this point I had made my own route to Selkirk, but this suggested a more official and possibly signed route to the town. I had a quick look at it on the map and decided against risking it. It may be signed all the way into town, but I doubted it and the path didn’t look any more obvious on the map than the route I’d selected after some serious planning, with Google maps and street view. I’d have to trust in my own plan.
As it was, my route was fine. It’s a lovely path around Peat Law to begin, a wide track through the heather with views all the way down the glen into town. It’s then on a well used farm track (I saw a couple using it from a distance) down to a splendid path through woods beside Linglie Burn. Down from the top the wind was no longer biting and the sun came out again, so I shed my hard shell and sat on a grassy bank for about 40 minutes, soaking up the warmth like a fat lizard and eating the last of my lunch items.
I arrived in Selkirk at 4.10pm, which wasn’t bad and I spent a few more minutes seeking out the local co-op and stocking up on items for my room tonight, breakfast in my room in the morning and lunch tomorrow. That brought me to 4.20 and so I spent a pleasant final 11 minutes sitting in the sun in the town’s square watching the world go by. At 4.31 I knocked on the door of the County Hotel. It’s a proper run down looking place and the duty manager reminded me of Lurch from the Adams Family. However, the room is clean enough, the shower wasn’t all that bad and at least it’s en-suite!