Tour of the Borders

By Nigel Hood 

Day 0.

Day 0 because it should never have happened, covid-19 sorted this one out. Paul Vanderkamp and I put our bikes in my car and we drove to the start point where hopefully the car will still be in a week’s time.

This could have been a tough ride, no big hills to do but loads of little ones, one after the other. Luckily we had a tail wind. Instead of taking most of the day we were back at the beach for lunch.

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Day One

Relaxing in bed with a cup of tea and a message comes through on my phones from Paul, Caroline is here! Ok, it’s an hour early but I know the rain is here to stay so I start getting ready.

I ride from the caravan where I’ve been staying to where Paul and Adele have parked up. It’s raining but it’s the kind of rain that sounds worse than it is and I can tell we are going to have a tail wind when we set off. We manage about 200m before our first stop. Surely some kind of record. Our first proper stop is Alnwick (Ann uk) where, after coffee and cake, we do a bit of a detour to ride round the outside of the grounds of the castle that was used in the early Harry Potter movies.

The route we’re following is the course of the 600km audax that I rode last year. All I did was chop it into roughly six sections so I’m a bit vague on the finer details. As we are riding along we keep seeing signs for Wooler, where Caroline and Nick had stayed, and Caroline mentions a good ice cream place. I can see we still have to travel North for a while before we head inland so an ice cream stop looks possible. My Sprint for the Wooler sign is met by a shake of the head by Paul. Sprinting for village signs is a bit of a cycling tradition but not something that often gets done in Bury Clarion so Paul and Caroline didn’t know what was happening until I rode past the sign with my hands up !

Ice cream in the rain tastes just as good as on a sunny day. We left Wooler not only with a tail wind but now buzzing with a sugar rush. Just before the end of the ride I could feel the last of that sugar being used up and I was ready for a rest. A short but enjoyable day.

Day Two

With the forecast for 20 mph headwinds all morning building to 40 mph gusts for three hours in the afternoon. Paul decided to break his bike and have a days rest so it was just me and the wife that set off from Kirk Yetholm. The day was an unwelcome reminder of why, when planning a tour, 60 miles is enough for a days riding. It was a really tough day to be heading West. Thankfully, apart from the wind, the weather was ok and the scenery as spectacular as I remembered it. We just missed out on one coffee stop at st Mary’s loch as all three businesses there were shut. This turned into a positive as when we arrived in Moffat the coffee shop we found was excellent.

Paul and Adele arrived in Moffat in the evening after a grueling round trip to pick up a part for Paul’s bike.

Day Three.

Moffat to Moffat. At least today we would get a mixture of head and tail winds. We also had our first proper detour, to visit a nice cafe that had been used on last year’s lejog, and a gravel short cut. Note! On last year’s 600km audax at this point I hadn’t reached the end of day one yet and would continue till near Dumfries before stopping for the night.

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Day Four

The best days weather and the best of Galloway scenery. Our first cafe stop was due to be fairly early in the ride but nothing was open so we resorted to the snacks that we had been carrying for a few days.

Lunch was a shop stop but at least they had coffee. Our one and only cafe stop was a mere 12 miles from the end.

Always forecast to be a wet one so we were thankful when the wind speed halved. A great bit of road took us in to Dumfries with us hitting speeds in excess of 50kph. After our cafe stop it was onto the Solway coast with great views across to the lake district. The ride ended in the dry and the early rain was mostly forgotten.

Day Six

Tired legs were cancelled out by a strong tailwind. Our second visit to Dumfries and once again the approach was rapid, making full use of a gently descending road.

After lunch we added a bit to our journey by following the route 7 signs through a caravan site and were treated to our best views of the Solway coast line. The end of the ride was back in the hills and we crossed the village sign to Gilsland together.