A grey, chilly day in beautiful Melrose, perfect for a rest afternoon tucked up in bed with a cuppa prior to an evening at the Borders Book Festival, which happens to have coincided with our rest day stop in this stunning Borders village. Andi has just laid aside her book and snuggled down for a snooze and it’s very tempting to join her, especially as we scampered up the nearby Eildon Hill this morning just for the hell of it. That being said, my body is tired from the long walks. Andi, damn her, is like a young
colt with endless energy. She said this morning that her legs felt like springs, full of energy to get going. It was tempting to hold a pillow over her face.
We’re well into the eastern half of the walk now, having crossed out of Dumfries & Galloway (the shire spanning the western section) and into the Scottish Borders. The weather is milder, the bogs are drier, the paths are more clearly marked and at last we are encountering other walkers on the trails, having seen almost no one in the first half. We bumped into the Galashiels Boys Brigade yesterday and a group of dykes who hike this morning.
We had a heat wave! Two long hot sunny days, temperatures well into the twenties, walking in shorts and t-shirts, slathering on sunscreen, breaking out the sun hats and glasses. Today it’s reverted to clouds and about 13 degrees, but for a moment there! Wow. And the opportunity for lovely photos, particularly as we walked out of St Mary’s Loch, having spent a night at
the historic Tibbie Shiels Inn, which has been running in one form or another since 1825 and has entertained the likes of authors Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stephenson, and (it is rumoured) Wordsworth.
What has remained the same are the huge horizons. Walking over the rounded tops of the Southern Uplands feels like being on top of the world. They are like Australian hills – old and eroded, meaning you can just walk along ridge lines and saddles from one gentle summit to the next, seeing for miles in every direction. It’s impossible not to soar with the experience. As long as it’s in the first half of the day before the soreness sets in.
We’re into lands steeped in history and literature, with place names familiar to me from researching The Raven’s Heart. Melrose is on the Tweed River, one of the top salmon rivers in the world. It’s a beautiful town nestled below the three Eildon Hills, which are covered in gold blooming gorse at this time of the year. Stopping here is a great chance for me to check out the locations for my week long writing course next year – Castles Cloisters and Quests running in Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders May 2016. Check out Bookshop Travel if you want more information.
Tomorrow we walk into the Lammermuir Hills and I will try to find the spot where the Blackadder River (a tributary of the Tweed) rises. We have three more days of walking north east through the Borders before we meet the coast, and a final two days of coastal walking before finishing up on Friday in Berwick-upon-Tweed.
I thought I’d be superwoman by now – but it’s still hard and I’m still pretty exhausted at the end of the big days (anything 25km+). But some miracle of recovery happens overnight and I wake up ready to go again. The landscapes are so beautiful in all weathers and the experience of walking with Andi so lovely – it’s an adventure I’ll never forget.
It’s possible I won’t have a chance to write again until we finish walking, though I’ll post a few pix on Facebook. Wish us luck and see you at the other end.