Day 21. West Linton to Innerleithen. 20 miles.
Having slept wonderfully in the warm and dry, courtesy of the unexpected generosity of Mark and Veronika I was back on the trail early with one simple goal in mind, make the town of Peebles by 12.15 so I could see that rarest of occurrences, Leyton Orient on television. Heading East out of the town I searched for signs pointing me to the Cross Borders Drove Road, an old cattle path that a local had recommended to me way back on the Great Glen way. I eventually found a tiny picture of a cow stuck to a gate, assumed this was the path I needed, and cracked on with little time to waste. The path went directly through every single sheep in every field, but it was at least dry and relatively good going underfoot. To be perfectly honest, I was paying very little attention to the scenery of the border counties, much more interested instead in simply making any pub on Peebles so I could whip out my phone and see the game, however the sights I did occasionally glimpse were very pleasing.
The 13 miles to Peebles passed by quickly as I took nothing in, didn't stop once, and was essentially running towards the end. I got caught in a short but intense shower, had to navigate a field of cows and nearly fell numerous times but eventually made it into the legitimately beautiful town of Peebles just in time for kick off. I bounded into the wonderfully empty Neidpath Inn and realised I could actually watch the game in the pub. I could hardly believe my luck. The very helpful Kyron put the game on, and in return for his kind act was treated to the spectacle of seeing Leyton Orient nil, Braintree Town nil, a must see for any purist. By the full time whistle we were promoted as champions and the four or five Scots who had wandered in during the game had all been converted to firm Os fans. It was heartwarming to see a bunch of strangers who had never heard of Orient genuinely cheering at the final whistle, spurred on by my (hopefully) enthusiastic and contagious joy, so I bought a round for the pub, had a celebratory whiskey myself, and set off on the roads to Innerleithen.
My 3 pints and cheeky dram had served me very well for wringing every last drop of enjoyment from a banal 0-0 non league encounter, but when faced with the relatively short march to Innerleithen I found my legs a touch wobbly. As luck would have it, I saw a sign for a cycle path which went directly to my destination, I had planned on a 23 mile day today but the short, straight and flat tarmac path was just too tempting, so I bounded down the empty way, occasionally bursting into loud solo chants about the Os and the vague wonders of East London, whilst dreaming of true glory league ties next year, like Forest Green away, and Mansfield at home.
As the miles melted away, so too did the blue skies, to be replaced with a brisk wind and some very menacing looking clouds. As luck would have it, I managed to stay just ahead of the rain and as soon as I arrived in my decidedly average pub lodgings, the rain lashed down in earnest. God I love it when that happens. I'd been on the road for a while at this point and had picked up a very useful trick: stay in the cheap hotel, eat in the fancy one. The Traquair Hotel was a little too rich for my tastes when it came to accommodation, but I comfortably mopped up another few local pints there, as well as a gargantuan burger before tucking in for the night and dreaming dreams of Red and White. Up the Os.