Day 19 - Byrness to Melrose

48km, 4 hikers

Forest roads, hill tracks, drove roads, farm roads and metalled roads: a bit of everything.

Map for day 19 

I was away at eight o’clock to walk to Jedburgh. I took my usual route up the forest road past Hart’s Toe and briefly dallied with the Pennine Way before heading north and downhill over the grazed and rounded hills. A keen wind blew cold drizzle out of England, and I was glad of the shelter in the valley.
Dere Street is the old Roman Road from York to Scotland, though its origins may be even more ancient. It manifests itself as a green lane or drove road. As the weather improved I could see The Cheviot, The Schil and Black Hag, which constitute the northern end of the Pennine Way.

Southern Scotland near Jedburgh

Gradually the sheep pastures gave way to mixed farming, and the austere aspect of the previous day’s hills slipped from my immediate memory. In the distance I saw just one moving vehicle and one horsewoman, but until three o’clock when I met walkers on the Border Abbeys Way near Jedburgh I hiked in ‘mobile solitary’.
Three o’clock seemed too early to stop for the night so I bypassed the town. Straightaway I became embroiled in a tedious and lengthy zigzag round Monteviot House, a large estate north of the River Teviot. Andy Robinson’s recommendation seemed convoluted, and I took it upon myself to find a better route.

I failed, and instead of retracing my steps I made the further mistake of taking to the tarmac. I marched parallel to Dere Street on a quiet lane all the way to St Boswells. It wasn’t enjoyable. I was battling the landscape rather than engaging with it. Needing somewhere to sleep, I pushed on to Newtown St Boswells. There I had no luck, so I continued on a cycle route, mercifully traffic-free, over the flank of the beautiful Eildon Hills, and on the outskirts of Melrose I entered with relief the red sandstone mansion that is now the youth hostel.

Rarely has a resting place been so welcome. I took a shower, brewed tea, and walked to the nearby shops for a sandwich. I steered clear of the pubs, because all I wanted to do was rest. I settled into my bunk with eyeshade and earplugs. The three cyclists sharing the room didn’t disturb my slumber, though I learned next morning that one of them was evicted by his mates because of snoring offences.

The Eildon Hills from south of St Boswells

In retrospect, I know I should have stopped near Jedburgh. I made the miles to Melrose, but I didn’t enjoy them. It would have been better to take things easy and follow Dere Street and the paths beside the Tweed and over the Eildon Hills the next day. I’d failed to adjust to the twists and turns of southern Scotland after the long straight lines of the Pennine Way across the plainer landscape south of the border. I’d then let my frustration at Monteviot provoke me into a bad judgment.

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