A runners perspective

I hope this blog is of use/interest to walkers, runners and cyclists living in or intending to visit Scotland. Most of my entries below are described as long-distance runs - just because that's currently what I enjoy doing...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Southern Upland Way: Lauder - St. Marys Loch

Distance: 39 miles (62km) Ascent/Descent: 2200m/2100m
Start/Finish: Lauder to Tibbie Sheils Inn
Excellent mix with sustained high-level running on good trails, heather/grass, some forest track, some riverside/lochside, only a couple of road miles!
Transport: First Buses serves Lauder (start), Innerleithen (for Traquair, 27mile fm start), and Gala/Melrose (14/10mile fm start). No regular service for St. Mary's Loch (see note below)
Route: Route Map/Profile | Garmin Course

Southern Upland Way Stages: Prev [1] 2 [3] [4] [5] [6] Next

A delightful and again varied run with extensive views (on the right day of course). It is a long day though, so a better option (esp. if trying to use public transport) might be to finish at Traquair (27miles) and jog down to Innerleithen for a pint and a bus back to Edinburgh. That means you can come back another day by bus and run Traquair - Beatock/Moffat (regular buses both start/end).

Another perfect Winter's day for a run along the Southern Upland Way. I'm lucky in that my dad shares my passion for the outdoors, so we tend to set off on these adventures together, he'll go walking and geocaching whilst I go running, and we each have a set of keys for the car.

Today we had an early start from Lauder - the days are short at this time of year! The route climbs immediately up onto high grazing with nice views back over town. Then a more Southerly course through fields, along tracks and views of the Eildon Hills ahead.

I saw a lot of other runners this morning - certainly a great location for it. After about 8 miles of easy running the route drops down into the Tweed valley.

On reaching the river bank, the S.U.W. takes you downstream for 3/4 mile to a footbridge before returning back up the other bank beside Melrose.

Then folows some flat cycle-path running along an old railway line almost as far as Galashiels, so its almost a relief when the way markers take you up a sharp hill providing a great vantage point of the surrounding countryside (bench included!) before dropping you into the top of town.

At Galashiels I took a short detour down to a Retail Park, feeling just a tad out-of-place in my mud-caked legs, shorts and running-top walking through the isles in search of sugary food and drink. It was a nice to escape back out onto the hillsides, greeted by a few dogs and shortly after their owners, the trail then returning back down to the Tweed and crossing an old bridge before adopting a more W bearing.

The scenery continues to change, now climbing on good runnable paths into Forest and then above onto moorland, eventually climbing up to the summit of the Three Brethens. The view is worthy of the effort to get up there.

And so continues this high-level (arguably one of the best) sections of the Way, just a couple of short boggy patches but all very runnable as it gently turns by a succession of hilltops, including the shoulder of 560m Minch Moor, before descending steeply down to a carpark at Traquair.

It started to snow as I ran along the near-deserted B-road, and with only 12 miles to go I didn't mind. Fueled by smarties and pepsi I enjoyed the next section as much as the first, climbing back onto moorland and wondering which way the path would take me.

There's a long descent into forest, where I caught my first glimpse of the destination - St. Marys Loch. Having now done nearly 70miles of the Way I knew there would always be one-last-rise before any chosen destination! The route drops to a pleasant Glen/Farm setting before crossing a footbridge then climbing back up the otherside, over a wee dell, then gradually heading for the last pass of the day with St. Marys Loch now immediately afore.

I knew the final 3 miles were flat, so decided to pick the pace up and finish strong, visualizing a nice pint of beer in Tibbie Shiels, and staying the night. Neither happened as the rooms were shut for Winter renovations, what a pity!

Icy reflections on St. Mary's Loch

Southern Upland Way Stages: Prev [1] 2 [3] [4] [5] [6] Next

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Southern Upland Way: Cockburnspath - Lauder

Distance: 32.3 miles (52km) Ascent/Descent: 1870m/1780m
Start/Finish: Cockburnspath to Lauder
Terrain: Nice variation, mostly easy running
Transport: Perrymans Buses serve Cockburnspath from Edinburgh, and there's a good service back to Edinburgh from Lauder (First Buses)
Route: Route Map | Garmin Course

Southern Upland Way Stages: 1 [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] next

This section of the way is packed with variety - from coast to moor, roads, fields, but always easy running and nice open views of a very pleasant part of the country. Note: route is totally rural - no shops.

Until now I've made the mistake of assuming the trail-running season lasts from about March to October. The crazy December of 2010 would back this up! However it is now clear to me that some of the best days of the year to be out on the trails can occur in the midst of Winter - I'm thinking bright, frosty, still, yet no midgies (!) and the boggy bits are rock solid. That's almost how it was when Lucy and I ran this section of the Southern Upland Way.

Cockburnspath - now there's a place I'd never been to. Well I have now, that's the starting point (or the end of the Southern Upland Way for most). We made good use of the local shop before heading off towards the coast.
It was nice to take in a couple of miles along the cliff-tops before descending to Peas Bay and starting to head inland up a nice den, all very pleasant running. We did have to cross over the main east-coast line and the busy A1, then up a lane onto higher ground and grazing country, views opening out of the surrounding rolling hills. Lots of running through fields, hopping styles, and waymarker spotting (the route is very well signposted). Dropped down to Whiteadder Water and the hamlet of Abbey St. Bathans where a hunting party was getting ready to set off.
From here there's a very pleasant run up a glen and through the trees before more rolling hillsides and views. Although the route is always at modest altitude it does have its fair share of ups and downs along the way - which was fine for us, we didn't come here for a boring flat run.

After Longformacus, another small hamlet, there's a couple of miles of road-running along a lane which gains height easily up to the Watch Reservior, and so the scenery changes yet again as we climb up into moorland with extensive views of the Chieviots and border hills.

The highest point of the run (shown) is the Twinlaw Cairns at 447m, followed by a nice prolonged and gentle descent. But there's still plenty more to see as the route drops down into hidden, shallow dells of Blythe Water. Be prepared for a few cheeky climbs towards the end of this run before reaching Lauder. Also be prepared for the temptation of a few cheeky pints on arrival to this great wee place, or just settle for coffee and cake like we did.

Other Southern Upland Way Stages: 1 [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] next