Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Minchmoor - Another Borders bike ride

The Minchmoor is a high moorland track in the Border hills between Innerleithen and Selkirk. Said to be one of the oldest paths in the country, it possibly dates back to Pictish times and was a main east-west crossing into medieval times. Befitting of its ancient heritage, it's a place of atmosphere and mystery, and a place of puffing and sweating, as I discovered traversing it by bike.

The track begins with a steep cycle above Traquair and passes through a gap in an old drystane dyke where there are mysterious plaques covered with random words and unfathomable sayings. The track tops out from the climb at the Point of Resolution where a modern art feature has created patterns in the heather that look like the crop circles of an alien landing.

From here the old route undulates eastwards along the spine of the ridge, at times on a good cyclable surface and at other times on a rutted, muddy, narrow trail. It stays high for miles and it felt like I was on the roof of the Borders up here with views stretching across green, rolling hills. The old route soon passes the mysterious Cheese Well, a mountain spring where in days gone by travellers would make an offering of cheese to the fairies to ensure a safe passage. These days the offerings are made in coins - times are harder for fairies.

The climax of the Minchmoor comes as it nears it's high point at the eastern end above Selkirk. Three tall, stone cairns dating from the 16th century dominate the skyline ahead. They're called the Three Brethren and traditionally mark the boundaries of the three burghs that meet at this point. 

It's a magical spot up here with big open skies and a real sense of the age and significance of the place. It makes your skin tingle and on a fine day you're not want to move on. But what goes up, comes down and the steep descent can't be resisted for long.

Fact File
Start: Innerleithen accessible from the Borders railway at Galashiels.
Finish: Selkirk, also accessible for the Borders railway at Galashiels.
Route: Cross the bridge over the Tweed to the south side and turn left towards Traquair. At a four way road split with a cross turn left uphill and follow the signs for the Minchmoor which is also the Southern Upland Way. Keep on the main track east until reaching the Three Brethren. We took the trail southwards from the cairns then turned left at a split to follow the Long Philip Burn and then the road into Selkirk.

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