|Day 50 – May 28||Melrose to Innerleithen|
|Weather: Sun and Cloud||B&B: Osmond B&B (Galasheils) (£23)|
|Departed: 10:15 Arrived: 16:00||Walked: 5h 10m Rested: 0 hr 40m|
|Distance Today: 17.7 mi / 28.49 km||Total Distance: 783.0 mi / 1260.12 km|
|% Complete: ~ 68.15%||Pint of the Day: Abbot Ale|
|GPS Track for: Day 50|
Dunfermline House is another top-notch and very friendly b&b. I didn’t get away from Melrose until 10:15 because I was burning up the phone lines looking for accommodation on the West Highland Way (but more on that later). Before beginning my walk I posted my old OS maps home and picked up a bus schedule in the Tourist Information office. Finally I was off and it was full speed ahead.
I followed the Southern Uplands Way along the River Tweed for a mile or two before it veered away from the river to follow a very efficient and extremely well-marked trail that would take me through the outskirts of Galasheils. This path was also shared by National Cycle Route #1 and although I didn’t realize it at the time I would end up following it for most of the day.
The SUW headed up into the hills but I was keen to follow the River Tweed as much as possible. Although it wasn’t immediately obvious on my maps, Cycle Route #1 did just that. It was a beautiful trail that weaved its way in and out of woodlands, paralleling both the river and the A7. Further on I had planned to follow the cycle route along a B-road but when I arrived at old Tweed Bridge I noticed a “Riverside Walk” footpath sign. Only a portion of this footpath appeared on my map but I decided to follow it anyway and I’m glad I did. A beautiful riverside footpath that avoids traffic and saves mileage gets two thumbs up from me.
I rejoined the SUW at the next bridge and followed it briefly until it headed back into the hills. I stuck to the Cycle route as it weaved its way through the valley for the next 10 miles. The track spent much of its time passing through leafy woodland, pine plantations and old estates full of mature gardens.
The weather had been sunny but the clouds were building and the forecast was for showers in the afternoon. At one point it looked like it was going to really open up and so I donned my jacket and put on my pack cover. I felt a few sprinkles but that was it and within half an hour the sun was shining again.
I marched along at a record pace and just as my aching feet were about to protest Walkerburn came into view. This was my alternate destination if the weather was poor but the weather was holding and so on I went. The road to Innerleithen was “closed” but I had no interest in adding extra miles by taking an alternate route. Last time I ignored a closed road I ended up walking through a landslide in Nepal but that’s another story. No landslides this time and after a wee trespass I found myself crossing the River Tweed via an old railway bridge and walking into Innerleithen. A local lady gave me directions to the nearest bus stop and within one minute of arriving a #62 bus whisked me away to Galasheils. It happened so quick I was a bit late turning off my GPS (which accounts for the big spike in average speed!). Galasheils is one of, if not the largest town in the Borders and it will be my home for the next three nights. My b&b is pretty basic but it provides reasonable value for money and it beats sleeping under a bridge for the bank holiday weekend.
Bridges might come in handy if you’re planning on walking the West Highland Way in June. This trek is extremely popular even in the worst of times let alone in Midge-free June (fingers crossed). This time next week I’ll be on the WHW and so I decided last night I’d better start looking for accommodation. Several hours and a few dozen phone calls later I finally had accommodation in Drymen, Rowardennan, Inverarnan, Bridge of Orchy and Kinlochlevan. Most places, even the hostels, are booked well in advance and so I had to modify my itinerary and dates. In the end I’m going to have much longer days than I would like and worse of all I have to be in Drymen by Thursday night which means I have to get there from Uphall in just two days. There’s a good chance my 26.5 mile day in Clovelly may not be the longest day after all.
If you are planning your own LEJOG and you are not camping you might want to fix your WHW dates well in advance and then work towards those dates as you move north. With the growing popularity of walking, and LEJOG in particular, the carefree days of sorting out your accommodation a day or so before you arrive is becoming increasingly risky. The WHW is particularly difficult because there are so few options and all it takes is one destination with no beds to screw up your plans. Also be aware that there are several large tour companies and walking clubs that book large blocks of space months or even a year in advance.