There are a few instances of sporting endeavour on this blog and it is time to subject you to another. As you know the ScotlandShop team live and work in the beautiful Scottish Borders and you just can't live in such a picturesque rural area without being seduced by the joys of riding a bike. VisitScotland
has written numerous excellent guides on the subject and Sustrans
has greate route maps galore so there really is no excuse. The boss is a member of Auchencrow Thistle Cycling Club
(petite and bijou with 20 members and taking it's name from the quaint and tiny village of Auchencrow near Duns, home to a very nice pub The Craw Inn)
and has slowly been drawn into trying to cycle faster and on this occasion further.
The Border Loop is a 250 mile circular cycle route with 5839 feet of climbing and the route's guide suggests it should take 7 days to complete.
Somehow the most enthusiastic man on the planet, electronics engineer and mountain rescue volunteer Ian Stark cajoled 3 fellow Auchencrow members to join him in his quest to complete it in one day, and what a day! The adventure started at 3am with lights on and what an amazing feeling cycling through the total still and quiet of the back roads over the Lammermuirs to Eyemouth.
Lough's bakers fed us a delicious sausage, cheese and beans bridie at 5.15am, then the route sneaks over the border into England and back to Kelso. A tasty bacon roll from the bakers (yes we cyclists like to eat!) and off we pedalled through Yetholm, Hownam and Chesters. On the approach to Hawick the lone woman in the group (me!) was flagging, and panicking that we were only at 100 miles and maybe she wasn't invincible after all. However we recommend a visit to Tower Mill
where the disused spinning mill with it's very own 14 foot high Victorian waterwheel has been renovated to welcome visitors from far and wide. Home to the VisitScotland visitor information centre you can find out what's on in the area, explore your roots at the Heritage Hub and seated on a glass floor with the river flowing beneath us we tucked into some delicious spicy soup.
I am relieved to say that was my lowest point and we powered on to St Mary's Loch. Forgetting these were pure cyclists I requested a stop for a swim but was denied. The local triathlon club have regular swim training sessions in the loch and there are various boating activities available if you are that way inclined. Meggethead was the highest point and lucky it was so beautiful and the sun was shining to welcome us down a very scary descent into Tweedsmuir. At the cake stop in Broughton we had some good chat with the owner who in his former life ran around with a pack on his back which made cycling a few miles seem quite easy. Despite this Ian suggested I looked more exhausted than he had ever seen me. Taking this badly I quickly downed my coke (a bit of caffeine works wonders!) and made sure we upped the pace to prove him wrong. Maybe it was the smell of the chips welcoming us in Innerleithen! Now I normally never pass through Innerleithen without stopping for delicious homemade ice cream from Caldwell
's but apparently we needed protein (fish) and carbohydrate (chips). Despite it's small size Innerleithen was also home to world famous Ballantyne Cashmere. In 1986 Ballantyne's was the biggest cashmere producer in Scotland employing 470 and producing 4500 sweaters per week. Sadly like many of the Border textile miles due to international competition this is no longer the case.
By now we were on familiar territory taking the same route as the Tour de Lauder cycle which takes place in April every year up through Heriot, Fountainhall and back to Stow. We had a good discussion about the potential impact of the new Borders Railway
line due to open in September running from Edinburgh Waverley to Galashiels. The new station looked almost operational and the signal lights were on as we pedalled beside the railway line again between Galashiels and Melrose. Local residents have been nominating unsung local heroes, family members or friends who have faced difficult times recently or someone with a vivid memory of the previous old Waverley line, or a former Waverley line worker to win Golden tickets to ride on 3 special trains which will leave Tweedbank, Galashiels and Stow.
Duncan, club member and local farmer made the point that "This was a daft idea but a really good day out." Not sure we will be repeating it any time soon but apparently I am the first lady to complete this route in one day. So while I am feeling proud of this accolade at least you all know that if I can do it so can you!
We might have welcomed a train ride home but instead darkness fell and the lights came back on as we pedaled over the swing bridge at Dryburgh (no time to stop at the Abbey), over Scott's View and on to Smailholm. This ride certainly gave us an appreciation of all the beautiful little villages and hamlets the Borders is home to! It was getting tough and Neil was the only one with a decent light to guide us round the potholes. Ian and Duncan had to do a bit of singing to keep us going. Finally we crossed Gavinton ford and cruised into Duns Square just after midnight. Patiently waiting to cheer us in was probably the nuttiest person of all, ScotlandShop Ali, with her hand painted "250 today" sign!