Thankfully after the tribulations of yesterday with transport I was back at Longformacus before 9am and heading quickly east. While it was only 17 miles to Cockburnspath I had to be there before the bus left in order to get to the B&B for the evening in Dunbar.
The path twisted and turned its way through farmland, then moorland, on its way to Abbey St Bathans and another suspension bridge over a river. It then continued passing several large farms until it reached the A1 and the East Coast Mainline Railway which both snaked through a deep valley. After crossing both it was then a long slow walk up hill through the final stretch of plantation forest before I caught my first glimpse of the North Sea.
The route was very twisting and turning on leaving Lauder, the straight Roman Roads of yesterday seem to have vanished. The views back towards Thirlstone Castle were also a bit disappointing due to the trees that surrounded it, so I turned to the east and headed uphill amongst the pasture and small patches of woodland.
To the south the sky looked blue with a few ranks of fluffy white clouds stretching out into the distance. Unfortunately overhead and to the east the sky was slate grey and occasional heavy drops of rain were getting more frequent.
The sky looked heavy with big lumps of dark black clouds, though with a few lighter patches and a positive forecast gave a bit of hope for a dry day – so I took my time over breakfast.
As I left the B&B in Melrose I had a brief thought of rejoining the Southern Upland Way here, but as the sky was brightening fast I caught the bus back to Galashiels. After a few twists and turns through the streets of the town I was back on track and heading around the town and back to Melrose.
I half opened my eyes, and focused concentration on my hearing – no rain, excellent! The forecast suggested once it started it would be set in for the day, hopefully it has not made its way this far north… As I stepped out of the Inn it started to rain – soft, wet rain, the sort that really soaks in.
The first bit of walking was really easy along the edge of the loch, and half way along and I was soon passing an interesting sculpture – Shinglehook.
I decided not to use the main road to get back on the Southern Upland Way, and took the alternate route out of town using minor roads. It was then a long slow walk up hill into the forest. At the gate a notice warned if forestry operations were being undertaken to use the high level route – thankfully they did not.
The clouds that looked threatening overhead had thankfully continued on their way, as I had headed in the other direction, it was good to see the sky was brightening up. While I continued along the lower route it did not mean that it did not head up hill, and it had taken some time to reach the far edge of the forest.
I was glad I was starting from Britain’s highest village, but there were still some long climbs today that would take me over the highest point on the walk on a day that was almost 25 miles long. Thankfully it was cool and cloudy as I started out from Wanlockhead, really good walking weather, though it was not to last with some early rain and then heavier showers in the afternoon.
The first objective was to make it to the ‘Golf Ball’ radar station at the top of Lowther Hill (the highest point on the walk at 725 metres), but as I made my way over the first ridge it was nowhere to be seen, shrouded in low cloud which was clinging to the tops of the hills on the route ahead.
It was thinking about the 7.5 miles to do today that got me through yesterday’s mammoth 28 mile stage, though even after a good rest overnight my legs probably never actually stopped moving as I slept. My wish for a late breakfast almost backfired by a power cut, though it came back just in time as I tucked into the large bowl of porridge I had been given to keep me occupied.
After a quick trip to the ruins of Sanquhar Castle (unfortunately surrounded by a high fence with signs warning of dangerous building, though it hardly seemed fair to cage it in) and Britain’s oldest Post Office (which is still operational), it was just after 11am before I really got going and headed out of town.
I knew it was going to be a long day of walking, but perhaps I had not appreciated just how long it would be crossing the range of hills that stretched out ahead of me today. It was Sunday and while everyone else seemed to be having a lazy start to the day I wanted to be up and out as soon as possible – though 9 o’clock drifted by before I was heading uphill out of the village.
Whereas yesterday was long it was dominated by long stretches of tarmac or forest roads – today those easy walking sections were few and far between, and moorland was the order of the day.
As I sat and ate breakfast the first shower of rain started – and while I knew I had over 25 miles to cover the prompt start I had tried to plan the previous evening was being fritted away as I faffed around getting ready…
Due to previous forestry operations the official route headed south out of the village for quite a way before following the Water of Trool river towards the loch. With the rain descending I decided to head north to follow the road to the Glentrool visitor centre (hoping the café would be open – it was not, I was too early) before heading down to the Water of Trool and picking up the official route.
After a little while, with glimpses of the river, I was close to the Martyr’s Tomb and rested a while in the shelter of the trees. The tomb is in memory of 6 martyrs who suffered at this spot for their attachment to the covenanted cause in Scotland in 1685.
The weather was cool and clear, and the sun was trying its best to shine through the cloud, as I left the B&B and headed back towards the Southern Upland Way. The windfarm that was on the horizon yesterday was starting to get closer.