After years of exploring dead ends and epic climbs in the Tweed Valley, here are five awesome gravel rides in the local area. I’ve shared them via Komoot as I quite like it as a platform and so you can explore and download the GPX if needed.
These routes all explore deeper into the ‘secret’ southern uplands taking you into some remote and wonderful places, where if you see another rider you’ll be pretty taken surprised!
All 5 routes have been done on my Tripster ATR with 40-45mm tyres, but with some sections certainly pusjhing the gravel bike limits and benefiting from the Lauf forks and wider 650b wheels more than others! Some of you may prefer a few of teh routes on an XC bike but either way they’re designed to be ridden fast with a mix of track, road and the odd singletrack section.
These are just some loops that work well as decent day loops in length but there are more options for overnight trips for 100s of kilometres headed further afield in this area. Also don’t forget to look at the elevation profiles because it’s fair to say a love of type 2 fun is needed when following some of our routes….
Route 1 Drove roads and castles
So route 1 is a mere warm up at 36 miles, maybe do 2 laps or ride down from Edinburgh via the Pentland hills for it!! It starts with the nice little loop through Glentress forest on smooth tracks and then via the infamous ‘hole in the wall’ it leaves the MTB trails behind and heads for the hills down towards the village of Eddleston.
The section of drove road from Eddleston over to Romano Bridge is a wild highlight with a couple of river crossings, but as a caution this track isn’t shown as a track on the opensource map below but is gravel! After the farm and onto the road again there’s a climb up through Ladyurd Forest before a non-highlight which is a 400m pathless hike a bike section where you just head towards a bothy looking building (FYI It’s not a bothy) this isn’t a great part to be fair but shoulder the bike, run and treat it like the 3 Peaks or CX race training and it’s fun. Then it’s a crazy fast gravel blast back to Stobo castle where you could stop for a visit to the fancy spa if you so desire. That actually sounds like a rather nice winter trip, I might do that if they let me in…
In dry summer conditions you can detour via the John Buchan Way to Manor valley but this is usually super muddy and take a map for this one as it can be hard to follow…..
Either way this is a good loop taking in places that no one seems to ever go by bike!
Tweed Valley Gravel Route 2 – Peebles to Innerleithen with extra gravel
This 55 mile route is a bit beefier and is takes in an unusual combinations of tracks close by but suitably different to the classic Tweed Valley wind farm gravel loop in loop 3. It first heads along the river cycle path to the fire roads of Traquair forest and Caberston in Innerleithen before ascending the locally renown brutal Leithen Water climb straight up to near the Glentress Mast. Before the mast is reached this route heads off into the forest to find a vague but rideable path into a hidden valley.
These wild old forest tracks ocassionally involve some fallen trees to navigate and sweeping through an overhead tunnel of trees (that as of 2020 might have been cut down) out to a wonky gate and the vague but just about rideable on drop bars path, this takes you into a superb hidden valley. This bit needs careful navigation as it is hard to follow the path, beware of a muddy stream crossing in the middle. It is uphill through a field and then down past a farm to the main Edinburgh road. The final section avoids the main road to Peebles by using the Meldons back road and the gravel tracks of another section of old Borders drove road in the Meldon hills. An awesome route that avoids the normal Glentress forest tracks and I bet no-one else has ever ridden this combination or direction!
TV Gravel Route 3 – Ed’s go-to classic Tweed Valley Gravel loop
If there was any coherent ordering of these routes this would be number 1 because this is a simply awesome route that turns out about the 100km mark with climbs, descents, views and even drop bar friendly singletrack, oh and a massive kick in the ass climb just as you’re feeling super knackered – perfect type 2 Sunday afternoon fun. You can even see the seaside from the top.
It might be getting dark for this descent;
The route takes in the Glentress direct climb to the mast before detouring to the Bowbeat Windfarm. This is a maze of tracks and very remote so go prepared. Once up there you can see Edinburgh and the sea, that’s how high it goes! There are turbine numbered maps at junctions to help if you get lost as it is confusing and mist can drop in quick.
The track then traverses Leithen Water valley high up with epic views. Now you could just do a loop in Caberston or Traquair forests if feeling tired, if not carry on up and up to the southern upland way and Minch Moor. From here a bumpy but drop bar rideable singletrack descent (I recommend a pair of Lauf forks) that takes you down to the Yarrow valley road.
A glorious road ride along the valley is the precursor to a new and stunning section of forest and moorland track back over to Peebles. The climb here needs food and energy it is relentless, the Gordon Arms pub serves tray bake (and beer) before you leave the road if needed….
Tweed Valley Gravel Route 4 – What’SUP to Bowhill and beyond!
Another great variation on route 3 that takes in the full Innerleithen to 3 Brethren section of the Southern Upland Way.
A rough-ish rocky descent towards Selkirk can be varied on number of tracks. From here it is into Bowhill Estate’s great tracks after a stop at the cafe.
The track along the tops here is one of my favourites with views over the flatter land to the east and great at sunset too.
The road through Ettrick valley is another classic section of riding before gravel goodness from Berry Bush down to St Mary’s Loch. Then back on the epic climb up and over to Manor valley and Peebles. All rideable but hardwork, as you’ll see on the map there are numerous options to shorten the route. Although when I say shorten it’s still a good 70km day out.
Route 5 The warm down loop – Hidden Innerleithen and Cardrona
This short loop takes in some steep climbs and can easily be extended in any direction on the network of forest fire roads it links into at Elibank, Traquair and Cardrona forests but this route uses the more ‘secret’ access and connecting tracks between the forests. If you’re on an XC bike you can add in the Gypsy Glen descent back to Peebles from the top of Cardrona Forest or add the Southern upland way instead of the road if fancy something longer.
Essentially this is a nice flat out blast with a variety of trails and a good section of quiet road too. It has great views and the climb up to Cardrona is a challenge to do without dabbing, in the wet you’ll struggle for traction but it’s good fun! The Elibank switchback climb can be added but this doesn’t appear on open source mapping and finally the descent out of Traquair Forest can be a bit muddy but the track along the valley is pure Paris-Roubaix cobbles!
A great final route to tick off!
Once you ride a few of these you’ll see the combinations for different loops is absolutely endless there’s so much to explore.
Cheers for this Ed, will look into trying some of these out
thanks Ed, these will keep me busy for a while
I’ll maybe have the multi day routes in a blog by the time you’re done!
Great looking routes. Will add to the 2019 bucket list.
Thanks! There’s so many longer options too!