Travelling up on the Monday, things did not start that well. Even before starting out I was feeling out of sorts. On the odd occasion, I have a peculiar bit of a wobble where I tend to slightly veer off to one side. Normally easily corrected. Heading across a car park to catch the Newcastle bus, I experienced a rather more significant wobble, almost side swiping a parked car. Also felt a little light headed. Not a good start!. Getting off the train at Kirknewton I was still not feeling right.
Although not marked on the map, there is a well marked footpath over to Little Vantage and the start of the Thieves road and the Cross Borders drove road.
Negotiating a way through the quivering bogs and wet ground was tedious.. Arriving down at Gala ford it was an easy decision to find a spot for the tent and camp for the night. Technically speaking wild camping is permissible in Scotland. However, with a farm not that far off, I preferred to to be discreetly tucked away out of sight. A bit of casting around and the tent was soon tucked away among the blossoming gorse bushes, their heady scent wafting on the afternoon breeze. Bumble bees buzzed and bustled from bush to bush.
Coming over the top it was noticeably windier and quite chilly. Although the Pentlands are in reality a small range of hills, the tops offer a suggestion of much larger wide open spaces than there actually is.
The village of West Linton offered quite a few amenities. There was a pub, several shops and even a tea room. Handy to know for any long distance backpacker. My immediate concern was making my way across the valley. The marked path on the map looked odd. It appeared to dog leg all over the place. In reality it was even worse. The road out of the village was a busy one. Once the pavement ended, traffic whizzed past at speed and offered little room for someone on foot. A sign indicating the right of way pointed up a track leading up to the radio mast on Broomlee Hill. the road in to Kaimes was clearly marked, 'Private, Keep out!' Another sign warned 'Keep to right of way!' It was a frustrating bit of navigation that made no sense. Follow the track up to the radio mast, staying within the field, bear right, follow the fence line and bear right again down the edge of the field. Three sides of a square? To add to the fun I was escorted by a frisky herd of young cattle. They where no problem though. Worse was to follow, according to the map, the bridleway followed the edge of Kaimhouse Wood and descened around by Woodend quarry. There was nothing on the ground to indicate the bridleway. Heading down and around by the quarry I did find a sign. Also though I ran in to a herd of cows with very young calves. Not a good situation. One or two of the cows where clearly unhappy by my presence. There was little choice but to press on. Adopting a passive, submissive posture, head down and avoiding eye contact, I shuffled on, talking to the beasts softly. Fortunately the way on from the field was clearly marked and it was straightforward walking over to Halmyre. More private, keep out signs, another dogleg through a housing estate and finally the last hill of the day was in front of me. It looked steep and it was. A padlocked five bar gate made things that wee bit more difficult. This is on a public bridleway and probably illegal? the average horse rider would have a few problems there!
Stopping for a break by a stand of old pines, I found a spot out of the chilly breeze and settled down with my back against a gnarly old tree. Almost dozing off, a movement caught my eye. Not far off to my left a hare was foraging through the undergrowth. He paused, looking in my direction, nose and ears twitching. Not perceiving me as a threat, he carried on about his business. Keeping as still as possible, I became part of the tree as the hare went about his business. It was only when was within a few feet of me that he paused, studying me more closely. Finally, unhurriedly and without concern, he turned and loped off.
Thus I began the descent down to Peebles.