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Southern Upland Way

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Days 1-4 5-8 9-12 13-15 16-19 24-25

Day 20. Innerleithen to Galashiels - 15 miles

It is a drizzly morning. We have to walk the 1.5 miles back to Traquair and then ascend a steep stony track. Here, the rain gets so heavy, we shelter under a tree for five minutes until it eases a little.

around Minchmoor Bothy We soon reach the Minchmoor Bothy and duck inside for breakfast. This bothy is unusual as we cannot see any water nearby, apart from that falling from the sky - no tea! Inside the bothy are two sleeping cyclists. We eat as quietly as possible, in the dark as the windows are covered and sneak off again with mumbled apologies.

summit of Brown Knowe The way skirts the summit of Minch Moor and then heads downhill and where the path divides continues to the summit of Brown Knowe. The weather has improved and. although dull, there are wide views. This is fine, open moorland walking. We cross a stile and continue walking along the old drove road. descent of Brown Knowe We now head downhill and then uphill again by a tree lined wall. tree lined wall We skirt the flanks of Broomy Law and can now see the summit cairns of The Three Brethren toward The Three Brethren ascent to The Three Brethren on the horizon. The path now runs alongside the woods and up to the summit.  to the summit summit of The Three Brethren from cairn on descent of The Three Brethren toward the Eildon Hills on descent of The Three Brethren Eildon Hills The summit cairns are something special and are a tribute to cairn building.

We cross the stile and then proceed steeply downhill. We arrive at another cairn, this one not half so auspicious, and then turn left into a wood and continue downhill. The Eildon Hills can now be seen clearly. After just over a mile we reach the Tweed once more and cross on a road bridge.

beyond Fairnilea Farm We have another three to four miles to complete today but we really could do with a cup of tea. At Fairnilea Farm, I see someone hosing down the yard and ask for our water bottles to be filled. We climb into the wood above the farm and stop for tea and, once refreshed, move on. After a brief walk through woodland, we enter farming country, and soon the town of Galashiels comes into view.

Galashiels From the first sighting of Galashiels until actually entering the town centre seems to take a very long while. Mainly because we are so hungry. The first thing we do is buy a bag of chips each. We ask where the campsite is and, as usual, it is on the other side of town. - Galashiels is a big town! - We sit and eat our chips on a bench in the town centre. They are delicious. We contemplate navigating our way across town or calling a taxi. Charl suggests that if we are going to spend money on a taxi, there and back again in the morning, we may just as well have a B & B, especially as we have just passed a suitable place near the fish and chip shop.

This we do. We have a nice little en suite room (with ash tray!) and the gentleman of the house even carries my rucksack up the stairs. We settle ourselves in and, as the chips were so nice, return to the fish & chip shop spurning the other culinary delights that Galashiels may have to offer. We even return to our bench. We discuss going to a pub but, kill joys as we are, return to the B & B for a cup of tea! We catch up on “Big Brother” and recharge the camera and phone batteries.

Day21. Galashiels to Lauder - 13.5 miles

We leave Galashiels after a hearty breakfast.

The walk through the woods on Gala Hill is very pleasant. We meet a resident of Galashiels while we are having a smoke break at the top and chat for a while. Galashiels is a beautiful town and it’s residents friendly and warm.

Abbotsford We soon meet up with the Tweed again and have a fine view of Abbotsford on the opposite bank. There follows a very leisurely walk along the river. I am rather taken with a small, decorative tree and am admiring it when we are joined by the “New Yorkers”. They take our photograph and we take theirs.

lunch on the Tweed We have a leisurely lunch by the river and watch anglers patiently casting their lines. We continue and leave the river for a while where we meet a dismantled railway track. This is obviously used for constitutionals and dog walking and is quite busy.

We see one amusing episode when a dog walker is trying to persuade his dog to take a side track off down to the river. The dog absolutely refuses and plants his bottome firmly on the tarmac. No amount of coaxing will move him and eventually the owner gives up and carries on along the track with the dog trotting jauntily beside him wagging his tail.

suspension bridge across the Tweed white water We join the river bank, The Tweed once more, and continue to a suspension bridge, suspension bridge where we cross. At this point I become rather obsessed with herons.

heron another heron yet another heron

On the bridge, I take more pictures of said herons whilst Charl is talking to an old lady with a Zimmer frame. We chat to her for a while. She has an interest in wild flowers. Her eyesight is failing and she is unable to get about like she once could. She is interested in a particular wild flower we can see growing on the bank. I send Charl down for a specimen. We leave her clutching her Zimmer frame in one hand and her wild flowers in the other. We now go back the way we have come but on the opposite bank for nearly a mile!

gull colony We turn away from the river on a track which climbs steeply uphill. This track continues, in one form or another, for about five miles. Along this track we pass some marshy ground to our left which seems a popular breeding place for gulls.

We sit down for a tea break and are joined by a dry stone waller who comes over to talk to us. He informs us that the round sheep shelters we have seen along the way are called “skells”. From here on the path starts to switchback like a roller coaster. It is very exhilarating walking. rollercoaster

We are very tired when we arrive in Lauder. approaching Lauder It hasn’t been a particularly tough day but the paths have been undulating and more importantly, stony and hard. It is this, we think, that has made the difference.

We are to camp at Thirlstane Castle. There seems to be a way in to the campsite but it isn’t signposted. I make Charl walk all the way round the boundary wall to the main entrance and, of course, it transpires we could have used the other entrance. I can hardly put one foot in front of the other at this point!

We decide to have a day off in Lauder tomorrow. There is no camp shop and we need to restock. We also need camping gas, which we are not sure we can buy in Lauder. We may need to get a bus to Melrose.

Day 22. Lauder

We manage to buy all our supplies, including gas in Lauder and return to the campsite armed with bags of goodies.

Day 23. Lauder to Twin Law Ford - 10.75 miles

We pack up leisurely and have an extra cup of tea before leaving at 8.30 am

Thirlestane Castle above Lauder The day is quite overcast and we are soon above Lauder and the castle. After a few miles of pasture and dipping in and out of woodland we are back into open country. family photo foxgloves We stop briefly, before striking out, for a cup of tea and admire the foxgloves. This demonstrates the difference in seasons between north and south. In Suffolk, the foxgloves had finished blooming before we left.

cornfields break in trees We continue uphill and, for the first time in a long while, notice corn fields. Arable land is soon foresaken for open moor and, on springy turf, we set off toward a squared off plantation. heading for plantation We meet a farm track that heads straight for a break in the trees. We pass through the trees and back onto open moor. back to the plantation Soon the track reaches a farm house where we leave it and turn sharp right up the valley.

We are now on bleak, featureless open moorland. The cairns on Twin Law can be seen on the horizon. The walking is easy and exhilerating. Twin Law on the horizon approaching Twin Law nearing cairns cairn on Twin Law The cairns gradually get nearer and nearer until we finally reach the summit. Black clouds have been chasing us all day but, miraculously, we have reached Twin Law without a spit of rain. If I thought the cairns of the Three Brethren were works of art, these are absolute masterpieces. You can even sit inside one of them but, unfortunately, it is not big enough for the both of us. It is pretty windy and exposed here, so we don't hang around for long. from Twin Law

descent Twin Law We begin the descent and can soon see the Watch Water Reservoir. In the valley, we find the ideal camping position at Twin Law ford. We put up the tent, have a cup of tea and watch a pair of buzzards. The tent is like a bird hide. Twin Law Ford