Tuesday 22 May 2018

Peebles via the Pentland and Cloich Hills.

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.
The path leads up past the camping pods of the Hilly Cow. There are fine views over to the Firth of Forth.
It was tempting to snuck in to the woods and have a stealthy camp. However I pressed on.
. The way on from Little Vantage down to the Water of Leith was hard going. The ground was boggy and very wet.
 A rather optimistic sign. Carefully measured on the map, I would suggest adding a couple of more miles if following the drove road route.
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.
After a chilly night, the warmth of the early morning sun was most welcome. It was a fine morning too, however, a north easterly breeze kept things on the cool side. It was a long, steady push up the Cauldstane Slap. As is often the case, from a distance, the way up looked daunting. However, the path  gently eased its way  up and around the contours and nowhere was it really difficult.
Taking it slow and easy, apart from a few odd moments, I managed the climb not too badly, with a few stops to admire the views!
A steady path leading ever upwards.
An unusual marker made of metal, possibly marking a boundary, another could be seen not far off.
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.
A lovely undulating path led over open moorland. These are managed grouse moorlands but at the moment lapwings and curlews were in abundance. Skylarks in full song,soared overhead. All to soon the track began to descend out of the Pentland Hills pasing Baddinsgill Reservoir.
Below lay the broad Tweeddale valley and beyond stood the outline of the Cloich hills. That, probably would be my destination for the night! It looked a long way off! There was though, no indication of anywhere else where I might find a spot to camp.
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!
A steady plod up through the forestry and finally, with a great sense of relief, open ground lay before me. It was then a case of dropping down the hill, finding a place for the tent and setting up camp. The day had been a long one, I had been on the go for some nine hours, had walked some thirteen or fourteen miles and was exhausted.
Again, another chilly night, nipping out in the early hours I found ice on the tent flysheet. Originally I had considered walking as far as Hawick. The problem was that I would not arrive there until Friday at the earliest. From what I could find out, there were no bus services over the weekend and I wanted to be back by Sunday. Considering everything, the best choice seemed to finish at Peebles. With that decision made, there was no rush to get away early in the morning.
There was good walking over to Peebles. An eye had to be kept on the map but there where no real difficulties.
Some of the route passed through forestry. Fortunately Much had been cleared, offering wide open  vistas. The only section I was really glad to get through was from Courhope through to Upper Stewarton. Here the right of way passed through mature forestry. Thick, dense stands of trees, the sunlight shut out, dark, brooding and much colder too.
Meet the locals.
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.
Two campsites in Peebles where marked on the map. From high on Hamilton hill I could see one of them. Serried ranks of static caravans meant that I would give that site a miss.
It was tempting to find a place to wild camp, especially given the fine weather. However, I wanted a shower and a decent meal, not having had much in the way of supper the previous evening.
Thus I began the descent down to Peebles.
The second campsite was more scary than the first. Holiday chalets, static and touring caravans, camper vans and manicured lawns. All very nice, for those who enjoy such things, but sorry, not for me! Finally I opted for B&B in a pub. Not the easiest trip but it turned out ok.


  1. Well done Dawn, especially dealing with all those cattle. Looked like pleasant weather too.

  2. Thank you Geoff. The weather was good, despite a chill north east breeze.

  3. In general, anyone who puts up a sign about a right of way in Scotland is trying to distract you from a perfectly good right of access that they don't want you to notice.

  4. Lovely trip but not without some navigational challenges. Loved the story a bout the encounter with the Hare. I remember sitting near a bridge in Glen Muick near Lochnagar watching a small group of them crossing the bridge one by one, watching out for the group as they crossed, magical moment

  5. Thanks Jen, usually if a path is marked on the map, I will follow it.
    Hi Andy, yes, despite a few difficulties it was a good wee trip.

  6. Ah, so THAT'S where you went!
    Looks good - you do take some good photos.
    I wonder if that marker 'stone' was a water company marker....?

  7. The metal marker could well be a water company one John. There is a reservoir close by.