FOLDING IN THE LOWLANDS AND BORDERS
I had come along NCN76 from Dunbar as far as Cockburnspath before heading into the Lammermuir Hills, and the westerly wind. Ignoring the warning of a road closure, I kept to this narrow lane route, very hilly with each climb seeming always to be headed into the hardest gusts! Taking the lane across the Lammermuir Hills to Duns brought me to the road works, where a pipe was being laid alongside the road and I was allowed through very pleasantly. Now even the steep descents were headed by the freshening breeze! Duns provided a welcome tea stop at a central bakery.
Continuing along signed B roads for Kelso I crossed both the Whiteadder and Blackadder rivers. The woodland gave a very strong aroma, which I subsequently realised to be of garlic, wild garlic in profusion. Kelso provided lunch. Afterwards a brief visit to the riverside park, and a run out across an older bridge over the Tweed then directed me to A roads for Jedburgh. The camp site is rather small and still uses the original 1960's building; also a public road runs through it to the playing field; with a metal covered bridge at the entrance, every vehicle clanks across loudly! A rather neglected C&CC site. From this approach the town seems very drab and untidy: it is trapped in a long narrow valley with a main road through it, and initially just small industrial units along either side, rather unattractive.
Next day this impression changed as I entered the town centre, which looks very interesting with fine stone buildings from bygone ages enclosing the streets and market place, the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey high above the surrounding properties and the remains of the Newgate which led to the prison. The road leading up out of town reached the Castle-Jail on its promontory, looking in sound condition. Although this road also indicated a closure ahead, I proceeded in hope: however, the road works entailed a trench right across the road and even walking by was not possible. I had to retrace up the last descent for nearly a mile and then follow the detour, all this adding about 4 miles to my distance.
Arriving in Traquair I soon found the Quest and had a conversation with a political activist who, being a cyclist, discussed routes onward with me! Entering the adjacent Delicatessen/Tearoom I enjoyed a refreshing break and found that my bill had been discounted somewhat as I arrived by cycle: this establishment welcomes cyclists!
The A7 to Selkirk was fine for cycling, wide, with little traffic. In Selkirk I had to back-track a circuit having overshot the Quest but then chose the posh County Hotel for lunch, pricey but good! Taking the A72 to the river crossing, I turned into a minor road for Peebles. This made for a harder, hilly ride, but was preferable to remaining on the A72. I proceeded up and down, encountering only three vehicles in the 8 mile stretch! Peebles looked to be a lovely town and I could have stopped there but, not wanting to camp here so early as it would compromise my next day's journey, I pushed on for Biggar, some 8 miles further on.
The wind still headed me at times. Arriving at the Golf Club cum public park cum camp site at 17:40, I found the reception shut! I set up my tent in the obvious place, filled up my water bottle, and then found that the ablution facilities were locked! Presumably all the static users have their own keys! The club facilities were available until 20:30 but without any shower, so I made the most of my wild camping!
Next morning I was up early and left at 07:40 without trying to pay for the loan of some grass and a litre of water. Surprisingly in Biggar I saw a proprietor preparing his café for opening (usually this is at 08:00) and he allowed me in to a very good Illy coffee and the necessary use of the toilet! A short distance from there brought me to Thankerton, where the Quest was discovered. A mostly quiet road then took me to Lanark, just making use of the A726 for a few miles into town. Thinking I had finally found the Clyde Walk at its western end, for the Quest at the Falls of Clyde, the first gate was open, but the second locked. This is a public right of way. Discussing the matter with an official at the Visitor Centre (now open), he confirmed that the gate should not have been locked as he thought this issue had been resolved. Giving me directions for another part of the Clyde Walk (from New Lanark), he also said it would be an hour's walk each way to the Falls. By the time I reached New Lanark it was after 11:00 and I would not make the evening camp site if I persisted in the Lanark search. I had a proof of presence photograph, which would suffice, in lieu of the answer to the question.
Leaving Lanark, I rode for Douglas on the A70: the traffic was reasonable, largely HGV's, but the road surface atrocious! If not potholed, it was deeply cracked or just topped with coarse stone. Later, on one stretch where a smooth new short length appeared, my speed accelerated from about 9 mph to over 12 mph almost instantly! After lunching, I continued on the A70 to Muirkirk where I turned on to the B743 to enter a long climb, assisted now by the wind. Coming eventually to Drumclog for another Quest, I finally found that the Gilmourton Primary School had been totally rebuilt, and failed to see that the original entrance wall with its engraved date had been preserved! So, another photographic proof and off to Strathaven. Here I again had difficulty finding the Quest but located its remains eventually: the museum was in the process of being demolished but, as the façade was still standing, I could answer the Quest, needing the date above the entrance. By now it was quite late and traffic building up, so entering Hamilton down the long descent of the A723 and, knowing that the Quest would only be accessible on a Sunday, I merely paused for the proving photograph and then rejoined the rushing traffic through the town following the one-way system and around the large roundabouts where the M74 junctions are, staking my claim to my lane! Spotting an adjacent cycle path, I pulled up and crossed the grassy divide to sanity! A little further on I spotted, below me, another cycle path, signed to Strathclyde Country Park, my destination. The steps leading down to this had a concrete slot for cycles to be run along, so I did not have to lug the laden cycle down.
Cycling through the woods to the Park was so quiet. I finally arrived at the camp site. After checking in an erecting the tent I walked to the nearby Toby Carvery for my evening meal, not having made any purchases along the way. Relaxing over a mound of vegetables hiding my roast meat, I consumed a pint of Belhaven Best, but, being chilled, this was not quite as creamy as my Dunbar pint!
Camp sites used:
Jedburgh Camping And Caravanning Club Site, Elliot Park, Jedburgh, TD8 6EF Tel: 01835 863393
Biggar Park Caravan And Camping, Broughton Road, Biggar, ML12 6JS Tel: 01555 894867
Strathclyde Country Park Caravan Club Site, Bothwellhaugh Road, Bothwell, Glasgow, G71 8NY Tel: 01698 853300
For the British Cycle Quest:
PUBLISHED JANUARY 2017