Melrose to Broadmeadows
The Kings Arms Hotel in Melrose was a lovely place to stay last night. The room was clean, the bed was comfortable, it had a bath, the beer was good – what more could you need after a day’s walking? Ok, I didn’t try the food there but there were enough people eating throughout the evening it couldn’t have been too bad. The breakfast was a lot better, although the sausages were still a bit funny – must be these strange Scottish sausages. Compared to the Royal Hotel the night before…well, there is no comparison.
I slept a little later this morning as I knew I had a shorter day, having changed my plans from a 25 mile slog to two shorter days. Even when I started to get myself ready I didn’t rush. I made it down to breakfast on time at 8am but I’d not packed my gear up yet so by the time I’d eaten and got everything ready I was checking out and heading off at 9:15am.
It was raining a little bit so I put my coat on – with my shorts – and headed off up the high street and past the abbey, ultimately picking up the path along the River Tweed.
I passed a few people out walking their dogs and at one point I spotted a heron stood on a rock, looking for breakfast maybe? Even though it was raining this was a lovely way to start the day’s walk and besides, it certainly beat the scorching heat of late that’s for sure.
After a mile or so I the path headed through a built up area and I ended up walking along a road for a bit, followed by a cycle path. This was ok but after the river walk it didn’t really appeal and there certainly wasn’t anything to look at that’s for sure. This went on for a couple of miles until I finally crossed the A7 and headed out on to open land, making my way out to Galashiels.
The rain was beginning to really come down now so I found a sheltered spot and put my new waterproof trousers on, knowing that I wasn’t going to have any cover for a bit. This was the first time I’d put them on since buying them so I was hopeful that the recommendation by the chap in the shop was worth it.
Now dressed properly for the conditions I headed on up the track but soon came across a bunch of cows waiting right by the gate I had to go through. As I got closer they just stood there and looked at me. Were they wondering what sort of idiot would be out walking today? I’d had the same thought myself already this morning but I had to make it to Broadmeadows what ever the weather. Fortunately, as I opened the gate they all decided to move, but unlike a lot of the cows I’ve had to deal with on this walk they only took a step or two out of the way, and as soon as I’d passed through the gate they moved back pretty much exactly how they’d been before. Weird.
It wasn’t long before I was skirting round Galashiels and I was tempted to see if I could find a pub to get a good sized lunch seeing as the hostel I’d be staying at didn’t do food. Alas I was way too early to consider going to a pub and I just couldn’t convince myself that hanging around for at least an hour was a good idea; I always like to get to where I’m going sooner rather than later so I can start to relax, get myself sorted and be ready to phone the girls on time.
The path out of Galashiels took me through some lovely woods and then it was out into the wild open and hills. As soon as I got out of the cover of the woods the wind was terrible. It made walking extremely difficult and every step was laboured.
I took a break at the top of the first hill climb on a bench under some trees. It wasn’t completely covered from the rain and wind but it was better than nothing. Knowing that spots like this would be hard to find for the rest of the walk I had a light lunch and rested my feet for a bit.
Again, as soon as I came out of the cover of the trees the wind battled against me and I really did find it hard going to get up the hills. Those two and half miles were slow and exhausting!
I came down off the hills at Fairnilee Farm and crossed the River Tweed again using Yair Bridge. This was a lovely spot and had it not been raining I may have hung around a little longer and soaked up the atmosphere. As it was, I took a couple of photos and carried on up the road.
My original route through Ettrick Forest showed a very direct path, all marked as being part of the Southern Upland Way, the path I was following for the day. I entered the woods where I thought the path started – it certainly looked right on my GPS – and headed up the path by the side of a pretty little stream.
It wasn’t that much further up the path when I had to cross the stream, which wasn’t hard, and then the path turned back on itself, heading upwards. This didn’t look right but there was no path heading off in the direction I expected it to go. Confused I certainly was, but not letting it get to me I carried along the path hoping that it’d wind back round and eventually take me in the right direction. My map showed a number of tracks through the forest so as long as I could pick up one of those I knew I’d be ok.
It did indeed head back round and I pick up a track that, on my map, joined up with the path I should have been taking. As I walked along the track I spotted the path I should have been on over on my right but I could get across to it as there was a deep gully between me and it, but knowing that the track would eventually meet it I wasn’t too bothered.
My feet were aching a bit by now, not having been able to take off my boots because of the weather, and looking for somewhere to park my backside for a bit I spotted a pile of logs. That’d do so I headed over to them, took off my pack and relaxed for five minutes, still not being able to take my boots off as it was raining still.
Rested I headed up the track and finally met up with my original path. I don’t think the detour added too much to the day’s route and it wasn’t as if it had been too tough a walk up the track. I’d like to know where the path actually went and how I should have got on to it but I certainly wasn’t going to walk back and find out that’s for sure!
I was almost on the home stretch to Broadmeadows but ahead of me was a climb out of the woods. It wasn’t like this was a climb of which I’d not conquered before but this time the wind was coming right at me and every step I took forward was as if someone was standing in front of me trying to push me back. I only had about 600 yards to get to the top but it took me quite some time. I made it though but it had definitely taken quite a bit out of me.
This was where the fun started. On my map there is a path clearly marked that I was intending on taking to Broadmeadows. Could I find it? Could I heck! I found a very nice looking path that went in completely the wrong direction that wasn’t marked on my map but the one I wanted, nothing. There was nothing else for it but to head off in the direction the path should have taken me – keeping a close eye on my GPS to make sure I’d taken the right bearing – hoping that I’d eventually meet something that looked path-lake.
After about 600 yards I came to a gate in a fence and there on the other side was the path I needed to take. What happened to the first part of the path is anyone’s guess but I was feeling happier by virtue of the fact that I had a proper path to follow now as stomping through the heather and grass hadn’t been the easiest.
I say I was happier but as ever there was one last climb of the day to go. This was over Foulshiels Hill and my GPS told me that it was 1322ft high, of which I had a good 500ft to do. Why is it always like this?
Determined to make it to the hostel in an ok time I headed up the track but it wasn’t long before the wind had other ideas. At one point it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, almost doubled over in my effort to move. I’d not walked in winds like this for a very long time and I swear it was doing its utmost to stop me from reaching the top.
I visualised everything I hate in this world and directed that at the wind, making myself angry in the process. This seemed to do the trick and after a long, slow, laboured climb I reached the top almost being blown off my feet when I did eventually get there.
I could see Broadmeadows below me so I pressed on down the track. To give you some idea of how strong the wind was, you know when you’re on a roller coaster and you mouth and cheeks all wobble about? That’s exactly what my cheeks were doing because of the wind coming directly at me!
When I finally reached the Youth Hostel, the first Scottish Youth Hostel ever to be opened back on the 2nd May 1931, there was a sign on the door telling me that it wouldn’t be open until 5pm and it was now 3:20pm – doh! I spotted a bench round the front of the hostel which wasn’t too badly exposed to the weather, dropped my gear and sat there trying not to get too cold. Walking in the wind and rain is fine, the effort to keep myself moving warmed me up a treat, but just sitting there was a different matter. Gloves, wooly hat, scarf, they all went on to try and not make my cold any worse.
Luckily, at just gone 4pm Donald, the chap managing the hostel returned and let me in. We had a quick chat before I went and had a nice hot shower and got changed out of my slightly damp clothes – the rain coming directly at me had done a great job of shooting up my coat sleeves, making my fleece quite wet.
One thing Donald did tell me was Stephen, the chap I walked with the other day walking End to End, left here this morning on his way to Peebles. I guess he overtook me when I had my day off in Jedburgh? I thought he was cutting across to Glasgow before now? Clearly not.
This short day actually turned out to be quite a tough one with the weather and the terrain. I’m so glad I decided to split the mad 25 mile day up in to two shorter days as I can quite honestly say, if I’d had 25 miles to do today I wouldn’t have made it! The wind was just too ridiculously strong to make any decent time and I would have been out for twelve or thirteen hours trying to cover such a long distance.
Peebles tomorrow – about 14 miles I think it is. From the sounds of things the weather’s supposed to be improving so it’ll only be the terrain to contend with hopefully.
Oh, one question: why are all the walking sign posts marked in kilometres in Scotland? Every one I’ve seen so far has been whereas all the walking signs in England were marked in miles. Is this some mad EU directive or is it just the Scottish doing it to be different to the English? It’s even more strange when you consider that all the road signs are marked in miles – I don’t get it!