South East Scotland
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Route at a Glance
This route starting out from and ending in Moffat is a full day’s ride giving you a good taste of everything that the area has to offer. The A708 is a gem – Windy, twisty, challenging, up and down, and most of all stunning scenery. Turning on to the B711 will transport you into a rural and remote road – it will feel like you are in another world. Do not be deceived once you turn on to the fast B6357. It is a fast road but a couple of tight bends fly up equally fast. Just be alert.
Going towards Kielder Dam I always get a smile when I pass by the tiny little unassuming sign announcing “England” (or Scotland in reverse). Kielder is the biggest man made Dam in the UK and makes for a spectacular Dam side ride. – (Tip – stop off for tea at The Pheasant Inn about a mile or two past the dam wall – off road parking). From there you go through some of the great Northumberland roads and Yorkshire Dales and over the Pennines where you simply have to stop at the Iconic Hartside Café. Perhaps a little tired but it is a major stopping (and social gathering) point.
From there it is a very pleasant and smooth ride back to Moffat. (Tip – The B7076 from Gretna is very fast and generally always in reasonable nick. It is the original road to Edinburgh and Glasgow – pre motorway – it is generally always quiet – Make sure your GPS setting is switched to “avoid motorways”). A lovely blast to end the day.
Route Notes & Highlights
(Icons on the map)
- Grey Mare’s Tail – A little waterfall that sometimes freezes up in winter. Loch Skeen is a 40 minute walk above it. It starts off with a steep ascent so not suggested with full biking gear.
- Photo Opportunity – Tranquil and scenic. Cast your eyes around and find a good spot.
- Hermitage Castle – Quite an eery castle although it has a romantic past with Mary of Queen of Scots visiting her secret lover, the 4th Earl of Bothwell here when he was injured and on his sickbed. Sir Walter Scott was also fond of this castle and had himself painted with it in the background.
- Warning – Sheep! … There are always sheep roaming these corners so keep an eye out!
- Smuggler’s Leap – In the early 1800’s a lot of money could be made smuggling whisky between the two countries. This was one of the main smuggling routes affectionately known as ‘Smuggler’s Leap’.
- Kielder Water – Kielder Water & Forest Park offers nature on a grander scale. Home to the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe and, at over 250 square miles, the largest working forest in England.
- Tower Knowe Visitor Centre – A great place to stop and take in the views. If you wish to learn more about the area’s rich area pop into the visitor centre or simply grab yourself a bite and enjoy the views.
- Warning – This hairpin comes out of of the blue. You will be coasting along enjoying the twisties so be aware of this nasty surprise.
- Hartside Pass – From Melmerby, the A686 road climbs the summit of Hartside Pass from where there are magnificent views across the Solway Firth to Scotland. You have to mention the viewpoint at the Hartside Top cafe, you can see Helvellyn, Great Gable, Skiddaw, and in Southern Scotland – Criffel, simply awesome and another biking Mecca. The road continues to Alston, England’s highest market town.
- Devil’s Porridge – Museum and exhibition covering the two world wars and in particular the town of Annan’s role. It’s name bearing to the cordite production and how the town was built around it.
- The Old Blacksmith’s Shop, Gretna – Historically linked to weddings because of the more liberal marriage laws in Scotland. “Gretna” has become a term for a place for quick, easy marriages. The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for “irregular marriages”, meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as “anvil priests”, culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.
- B7076 – Be aware that this road, the B7076 runs parallel to the motorway the whole length of this section of the route. Your GPS device may wish to take you onto the motorway but trust me it’s worth staying on this road.
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Filling Stations on Route
There are fuel stations at all the main towns on this route, namely Moffat, Hawick, a quick nip into Hexham, Warwick and then all the usual motorway services heading back to Moffat.