Distance: 39 miles
Ascent: 2750 feet
Summary: A nice 2 or 3 hour cycle with plenty of climbing. A variety of scenery with some beautiful forest miles and some more barren hill top views too.
Strava Route Link
This is a loop so you can start anywhere – another good start point is Innerleithen itself, where you will find a large car park just across the river where the MTB crowd are based for the downhill tracks at Innerleithen.
I recommend doing this loop clockwise. Most people go the other way for some reason. On average though, the wind blows from the south west and you get more shelter through the trees and hills going clockwise. Going the other way you often have to pedal down the 7 mile descent to Innerleithen into the teeth of a howling wind which is very demoralising!
Starting at Stow train station, go over the line by the bridge and turn left at the top of the hill. There’s a few miles of easy pedalling down to Ferniehirst, where you hit Windydoors hill. This has a couple of fairly steep pitches – the first right at the bottom at about 10% and then the second near the top where it gets up to about 14%.
From the top you get a nice descent down to Blackhaugh Farm, and then it’s up and down to Clovenfords. At Clovenfords, take the third roundabout exit and then immediate left to get onto a nice fast slightly downhill section to Caddonfoot. From there you turn right towards Innerleithen, and about half a mile up the road, turn left to get onto the back road to Traquair. You now have a beautiful ride up the valley to Innerleithen. Most of it is through forest although there is a short section in more exposed countryside up towards Walkerburn.
The last mile or so before Innerleithen is used heavily by the mountain bike uplift service for the Innerleithen downhill tracks, so be prepared to meet a couple of long trucks full of bikes. Most of the drivers are very nice and will give you plenty space. The road can be quite muddy here. Just before Innerleithen you ride past the exit point for the downhill tracks so watch out for MTBers coming out onto the road from the left.
Turn right at the junction and head towards Innerleithen. You will get stopped at the traffic lights at the bridge – in years of cycling, I have only ever had 1 immediate green light. I’m not sure how that works out statistically! Into Innerleithen and turn right again. Along the high street and then left up the long B709 climb. This is a gentle pull up some beautiful valley scenery. You go out of Innerleithen, then through the golf course. The land gets more barren as you climb and 7 miles later you get to the highest point of the loop. You then have a nice descent down to the junction for Heriot, where you take a right. More fairly fast descending down to Heriot from here, with one little climb just before the village.
Just before you hit the A7, turn right and take the old coach road back down to Stow. This is very hilly with lots of short, sharp rollers but is fun to ride. Be careful on the bad cattle grid at the bottom of the Brockhouses descent, and just beyond Brockhouses farm is a corner in the trees where the road has basically fallen apart. Take it easy on skinny tyres.
You pass through Fountainhall, and a few more rollers and miles brings you back to your start point in Stow. This is one of my favourite quick routes and I ride it all the time.
If you want to extend the route by another 30-45 minutes, don’t turn right for Heriot after the climb and descent from Innerleithen, but keep going straight on instead. You then get another nice climb and very fast descent down to Middleton. You then turn right onto the A7 and come back to Heriot. This is 4 miles on the main road which isn’t ideal but in general is OK. At Heriot, turn right again, and just across the bridge is the turn off for the old coach road to Stow on the left and it’s the same route as described above to get back to Stow.
Cafe stops: 2 decent bike friendly cafes in Innerleithen and the excellent Cloudhouse Cafe in Stow, where you can get a nice coffee and cake and browse some of the work created by local artists in the gallery.