Thursday, 15 Nov 2018

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland

The Lammermuir Hills

The Lammermuir Hills have the look of English moorland rather than Scottish mountain. They aren’t high; Meikle Says Law at 532 metres is the roof of the Lammermuirs, or Lammermoor as the area was known. They share a landscape with neighbouring Northumberland. Even the hills’ suffixes, Law and Rig, are just as common south of the border.

Start in Duns, birthplace of 1963 and 1965 Formula 1 champion Jim Clark, and head west across the southern edge of the Lammermuirs to Lauderdale and the Royal Burgh of Lauder. It’s a pretty place but a busy one, because the A68 runs straight up Lauderdale to Edinburgh. You quickly leave it behind, though, as you climb over Lauder Common and descend to much more peaceful Stow.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 1

The Lammermuir Hills

Stow is on the banks of Gala Water, an attractive river that winds through a steep-sided valley to join the Tweed between Galashiels and Melrose. And Gala Water keeps you company for the next few miles as you climb steadily up its valley, then that of its tributary, Armet Water, for a long and winding climb to the edge of Fala Moor.

After a short descent the next part of the ride undulates through pleasant farmland to Gifford, where Scotland’s great reformer John Knox was born. So far you’ve skirted the Lammermuirs, going from their south to their north side; now you climb into them. There’s a drag out of town through Yester Woods, with the once dramatic Yester Castle on your right, then you descend sharply before just as sharply beginning to climb again.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 2

The Lammermuir Hills

A tough and exposed slog takes you to Wanside Rig and into the heart of the Lammermuirs. Now you see them for what they are, a huge horizon of subtly shaded moorland, topped by hundreds of little peaks and under vast and often changing sky.

Duddy Bank is hard, and the wind can be your best friend or worst enemy here. Whatever its direction, you will feel it; there’s nothing, and certainly no trees, to stop it. It’s a lonely landscape but a haunting one, too, a place for thinking big thoughts. The only place of any size is Longformacus, where Gaetano Donizetti set his opera Lucia di Lammermoor, based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 3

The Lammermuir Hills

The ride continues in character again to Duns, where a loop of the Lammermuirs’ eastern fringe starts. This traces the Whiteadder valley (yes, there’s a Blackadder south of Duns, too) up to Monynut Edge, and it’s a spectacular experience. You climb up the face of a steep valley cut by the tumbling Gowt Burn, through a pass at the top, then plunge down to Innerwick to catch a glimpse of the North Sea.

Inland you face a little more climbing. Ecclaw Hill is tough, but it’s the last big climb of the day as rest of the ride is mostly downhill to Preston; then there’s a little climb back to Duns. It’s a good ride, a different ride for Scotland, and one that prepares you for the changes south of the border.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 4

The Lammermuir Hills

Take the A6105 from the middle of Duns and ride south-west to Choicelee. There turn right, and go right again at the A697 and cross the A68 in Lauder, taking the B6362 to Stow. Turn right in Stow onto the A7 and go north to the B6368 junction. This is the Fala Moor climb; go up and over it and continue on the B6368 until its junction with the B6355. Turn right to Gifford.

Continue on the B6355 to climb Wanside Rig, which is five miles of climbing up to 433 metres, the highest point on the ride. Take the right fork onto an unclassified road just before the summit. The next 12 miles undulate between 300 and 400 metres before a descent to Duns. Turn left into Duns then left on the A6112. Turn left on the B6365 then left on the B6355 to Cranshaws.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 5

The Lammermuir Hills

Turn right on the unclassified road immediately after Cranshaws to climb Monynut Edge. Descend to a junction at a cemetery, with a sign for Innerwick. Turn right, ride through Innerwick and turn first right to Oldhamstocks. Turn left to climb Ecclaw Hill. Descend to the A6112 junction and turn right. Ride through Preston and back to Duns.

Start + Finish. The Lammermuir Hills: Duns

Getting There. The Lammermuir Hills: Duns is on the A6105, 15 miles west of Berwick-upon-Tweed and the A1. Berwick is on the East Coast main rail line, with a bus link to Duns.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 6

The Lammermuir Hills

Bike Shop. The Lammermuir Hills: Border Bikes

Cafe. The Lammermuir Hills: Cedar Cafe

Local Delicacy. The Lammermuir Hills: Hoardweel Farm Organics Berkshire pork.

The Lammermuir Hills. Southern Scotland - photo 7

The Lammermuir Hills

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

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