Kirk Yetholm to Traquair on St Cuthbert’s Way and Southern Upland Way
Follow my progress as I attempt to walk the length of the UK, from Dover to Cape Wrath, wild camping every night. This chapter is the first part of my walk along the Scottish National Trail, from Kirk Yetholm to Traquair. I follow St Cuthbert’s Way to Melrose, and then join the Southern Upland Way to Traquair.
Day 28 continued (day 1 of Scottish National Trail): Kirk Yethom to Crailing
I’d stopped at the Border Hotel for some lunch, after starting my walk up in the Cheviots this morning. It had started to rain hard when I walked into the pub, and it was still raining when I left at 2.30pm to begin the Scottish National Trail on St Cuthbert’s Way.
As I walked along the road from Town Yetholm, I had a decision to make – do I stay on the road for easy walking and to save a few miles? Or do I follow the official Scottish National Trail over Crookedshaws Hill and Wideopen Hill, and a climb of 400 metres or so? In the rain, I was ready to choose the easy route along the road, and then I thought of the young lady I had met earlier in the day. She would be struggling over the Cheviots right about now in much worse weather. So for her sake, I headed over the top and I was very glad I did.
As I reached the top of Wideopen Hill, the rain stopped and the sun came out for a few minutes. It was enough to give me some great views of the borders.
I came off the hill on a nice grassy path to join the road into Morebattle.
By this time, I had made a new rule for Scotland – never pass an open pub or hotel without stopping for at least a drink. So, to prevent me breaking my rule on day 1, I had to stop at the Templehall Hotel in Morebattle.
Already I was liking my new rule. The pint I’d had in the Border Hotel was only £3.60 which is good for Scotland, but the pint in the Templehall Hotel was only £1.80! This was because they give a free half-pint to walkers completing St Cuthbert’s Way, and they thought I qualified even though I wasn’t walking all of it.
It was a funny feeling, ending the Pennine Way and starting the Scottish National Trail. I was starting to adjust slowly, and will probably feel better once I have covered some distance on the map. Sitting in Morebattle, it just looked like a formidable distance. One thing I learned walking LEJOG was to break the walk into sections rather than think about it as a whole, so that’s what I decided to do. My first target point was Edinburgh.
From Morebattle I headed along the B6401 for a mile or so, but I only saw 4 cars. They all gave me loads of room. I then moved on to smaller roads and tracks, passing Cessford Castle. The castle was definitely looking past its best, but still looked interesting.
I had to walk further than I intended today – past lots of lovely wild camping spots – because I’d forgotten to fill up my water bottles again. It was 8pm before I arrived at a little stream I could filter water from. I camped right by it, which would normally be midge hell but there wasn’t a single one in sight. Very strange.
As I had plenty of water (I could practically filter from my sleeping bag), I decided on a 2-pack dehydrated meal for my dinner. I normally avoid these as they require more water. This one was minced beef with mashed potato. The mashed potato was in a separate bag and was very sticky. Trying to get it out and into the mince was a bit of a job. After picking a dollop of potato out of the holes in my sleeping mat, I gave up and ate the mash on its own. I suppose I still got the calories though! I commiserated with a chocolate bar and a coffee, then spent the evening worrying about what would happen to the potato powder I had dropped in my tent. What if it got wet?
By 9pm there were still no midges, which was very strange. Maybe mashed potato powder is the answer!
Day 29 (day 2 of Scottish National Trail): Crailing to Galashiels
In the morning I had the solution to the mystery of the missing midges. The many slugs I flicked off my inner tent this morning had probably eaten them all. I also think I upset the local deer population last night. I knew I had camped next to a path they had made, but I think this was a meeting spot for them too. They made a hell of a noise around my tent for a few hours after it got dark.
It was a funny morning. I was camped in still woods by a river, and so expected my tent to be soaked. It was bone dry. I also expected midgy hell, but there were still none at all. There were LOADS of slugs though, so perhaps there’s a link between that and the lack of midges. I wasn’t even sure that it was a raisin I just ate. It was a bit too chewy.
After packing up I followed a nice path through the woods and a lovely descent into Crailing. I got some great views of the surrounding farmland and the River Teviot.
The St Cuthbert’s Way then took me along Dere Street (an old Roman road). It was a bit overgrown, possibly due to the lack of walkers or maintenance during lockdown restrictions.
The walk around the bend of the River Tweed was really quite nice. Part way round I stopped and spread all my gear out to air. I had to peg the tent though, as the wind had really got up. I also changed my socks and aired my feet. This led me to wondering whether slugs had a sense of smell. Did the one I found in my shoe die having crawled in, or die once I put my foot in?
It was such a treat to put clean, dry socks on, thanks to my resupply crew at Hexham!
From here I had a lovely walk in the sunshine to Newtown St Boswells.
I arrived at Karen’s Tearoom just before they closed. I asked for a cup of tea, and a jug arrived with three cups. Perfect – this is exactly how it should be. Great service and brilliant value.
Once I left Newtown, the last climb over Eildon Hills gave me great views of Melrose and the surrounding area.
I arrived in Melrose at 6pm. It’s a lovely town and makes a really good resupply place or overnight top. Some places were still open even when I got there, and I will admit to getting a bit carried away. The first pub I stopped in was a bit too posh for my smelly shirt (and probably my price point). So I picked up supplies: water, breakfast, a drink and snacks. Then I walked back up the road for a Thai takeaway. On the way out of town, a shop called Simply Delicious was still open and I couldn’t resist a chocolate ice-cream.
From Melrose, I stopped following St Cuthbert’s Way and joined the Southern Upland Way. The part of St Cuthbert’s Way that I’d walked had been very enjoyable, and I would like to come back and walk the whole thing one day. It has been extremely well signposted.
The Southern Upland Way was a nice river walk out of Melrose for a while, then followed the train line and crossed the River Tweed. Then I headed inland and climbed Gala Hill, just outside Galashiels. I stopped and made camp at the top, as there was still a reasonable breeze to keep the midges away. I was confident my tent could handle it if the wind picked up any more.
At 8pm I was sat with my coffee, clear skies and a beautiful view of Melrose and beyond. I was thinking that life doesn’t get much better than this.
The temperature dropped with the sun, though, so I was glad of my microfleece and down jacket. I found a slug in my rubbish bag, which annoyed me. If this carries on I will need to start factoring slug weight in to my base weight. Anyone know how much protein is in a slug?
However, by 10.10pm I had found a new camp spot with far fewer energetic cows. I think I broke a record in packing my tent and gear up (less than a minute). It wasn’t tidy, but it was all in my pack! I walked a mile or so further on and camped in a different field. At least I’d got to finish my coffee, so it wasn’t all wasted.
Day 30 (day 3 of Scottish National Trail): Galashiels to Traquair
I had run out of dehydrated breakfasts, so it was coffee and chocolate brioche rolls this morning. This was quicker though, so I was packed and away by 7am. I deliberately didn’t carry many breakfast meals on this leg, as I knew I would be passing plenty of places to resupply. I was carrying a few main meals though, just in case and to save weight, as shop-bought food can be heavy and bulky for the calories.
The first part of the day was a descent from Gala Hill into the River Tweed valley, then a long but steady climb up to Three Brethren.
The walk along the top here was lovely – sunny spells, light wind and good views. I stopped for lunch here before the descent into Traquair, which is where I would leave the Southern Upland Way. It has been another well-signposted walk that I would like to come back and complete fully.
I was eating my lunch about 7 metres or so off the path, when a dog came over and started barking at me. The owner didn’t do anything or seem bothered, so I asked him to please call his dog off. He just walked past me and stuck his fingers up – nice. I quickly packed up and caught up with him, as I was interested to find out if he was a local or a tourist. All the locals I had met up to that point had been just so friendly. However, he turned off the path up a really steep hill so I carried on my way. I wasn’t going to let him ruin my day, and I needed all my energy to get to Peebles.
It was a fast descent into Traquair, which is where I left the Southern Upland Way. The Scottish National Trail route now follows the River Tweed up to Peebles before climbing over the Meldon Hills and then the Pentlands to reach Edinburgh – my first milestone of the trail.
Read the next section of my travels here: Dover to Cape Wrath Chapter 11: The Scottish National Trail (part 2)
Further reading and links:
Scotland End-to-End: Walking the Scottish National Trail by Mountain Media
Scotland End-to-End: Walking the Scottish National Trail – DVD by Mountain Media
St Cuthbert’s Way – Cicerone guide
Southern Upland Way – Cicerone guide
Scotland’s 100 Best Walks – Lomond Books
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