Scottish Borders: A cyclist's paradise

A maze of minor roads that are almost traffic-free

The Borders have been fought over since Roman times. And no wonder. Wild uplands and fast-flowing rivers make this one of the most beautiful landscapes in Britain. Tie into that a maze of minor roads that are almost traffic-free and you have a road cyclist’s paradise.

Read on to find three recommended routes, plus a host of insider tips. One word of warning though: there are very few flat bits. You’ll spend your time either going up or going down. Few are real killer climbs but there’s a hill at every turn.

Route one: Jedburgh - Melrose - Dryburgh - Kelso - Jedburgh, 51 miles

Only just over 50 miles, but tough. There’s 3500ft of climbing to contend with as your route takes you over historic bridges crossing the Tweed, Teviot and Ale. Starting from Jedburgh, there are good stopping points in Kelso and Melrose and breathtaking views in every direction. There’s even pavé in Kelso.

Get the route: tinyurl.com/cplustweed

Route two: Jedburgh - Cessford - Kelso - St Boswells - Bonjedward - Jedburgh, 36 miles

A bit of a leg-tester, but the views make it a real stunner too. As you leave Jedburgh, the climbing starts immediately with some nasty ascents towards Shibden Hill. The first part takes you within a few miles of the English border and you’ll get stunning views into neighbouring Northumbria. After testing your climbing legs with a mammoth 2500ft of climbing in just 36 miles, you can enjoy a fast return down the rollercoaster A68.

Get the route: tinyurl.com/cplusraid

Route three: Jedburgh - Bonchester Bridge - Kirkton - Denholm - Ale Water - Jedburgh, 26 miles

Endure the headwind and early climbing and you’ll have a twisty, turny downhill reward The climb up to Bonchester Hill is a bit of a grueller and you’ll inevitably have a westerly wind in your face. But once you turn right onto the A6088 your fatigue will vanish as you twist and turn your way down one of the best descents you’ll ever experience. And on the outskirts of Hawick you follow the River Teviot on another great downhill blast.

Get the route: tinyurl.com/cplusbonchester

Five insider tips

Have breakfast here: The Cookie Jar Cafe. Gutbusting breakfasts from 8am as well as cracking sandwiches, paninis and snacks. Turns into a Mexican restaurant at weekends. Where: 35 High Street, Jedburgh.

Stop for cake here: Russells of Melrose. Dedicated to using the finest local ingredients, it’s posh nosh at not-too-bad prices. Incredible scones and coffee is topped up without asking. Where: 28 Market Square, Melrose. Tel: 01896 822335.

Get spare tubes here: Simon Porteous Cycles. Traditional bike shop that you’ll have to ride across real cobbles to get to. Bits, bobs and bling. Where: 30 Bridge Street, Kelso, TD5 7JD. Tel: 01573 223692.

Fancy a pint? The Buccleuch Arms. Signature dishes are fish and chips, and crumble with custard, plus a range of locally brewed ales. Where: The Green, St Boswells, TD6 0EW. Tel: 01835 822243.

Dump the family here: Philiphaugh Salmon Viewing Centre. Not just salmon but otters, red squirrel, deer, badgers, bats, owls, foxes, hares… Where: Old Mill Farm, Philiphaugh, Selkirk, TD7 5LX.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.

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