Day 22. Innerleithen to Hawick. 18 miles.
Updated: Feb 5
A shorter day today, and a shorter blog entry too - not just due to the decreased mileage, but also because very little of interest happened today. Whilst the Cross Border Drove Road is not without its charm, today it was curiously bereft of most of it. Also there was no cooked breakfast today, so there's even less to discuss than usual.
Well I left Innerleithen via the Coop - the only proper shop available in quite literally every town I had been through so far, picked up a generous portion of carbohydrates, and was on my merry way. It was a faltering start, first the road to the hamlet of Traquair was much longer than envisaged, and then the climb out of Traquair was truly barbaric. But before I moan about that, I should really mention the war memorial at Traquair which genuinely struck me. There was nothing special or particularly significant about this specific memorial when compared to others, but the size of the town itself left a definite impression. Traquair consisted of barely ten houses in total, surrounded entirely by hills and farmland, whereas the memorial contained at least twelve or fourteen inscriptions, all young men who had fallen in the Great War. It was sobering to think that this tiny village in the middle of nowhere had sacrificed the vast majority of its youth in a singular effort over one hundred years ago, for a cause that greatly benefits all of us living today. I have always found war memorials to be emotionally profound monuments, but there was something about this small inscribed piece of stone in a forgotten village in southern Scotland that struck a deep sentimental chord with me. So much so that I forgot entirely to get a picture, but it was one of those 'had to be there' moments in any case.
After welling up on my own at 10am, I found myself facing an unexpected climb that went on, and on, and on. False peak followed misleading summit as the path ceaselessly climbed through the hills. I must have made at least 500 metres in sheer altitude which isn't so bad, but when you assumed you had an easy horizontal morning, a climb like this really knocks you for 6. Well the path eventually peaked and slid unerringly back down the slopes. Interestingly a plaque advised that Edward I bought his armies via this very path way back in the 13th century to subdue the North, as the hills themselves and the path will have remained relatively unchanged since those days I began to imagine myself as a southern warrior on a long march far from home, here to plunder the north and bring all the black pudding and Irn Bru back home as soils of war, at least when people weren't around that is. Mild insanity aside the early afternoon flew by with fantastic weather and good time made towards Hawick (bizarrely pronounced 'Hoick'), passing by a wonderful ruined keep that now stood alone, silently guarding over the sheep and cattle that grazed nearby.
The Drove Road soon joined more established B-roads and I wandered the concrete, avoiding traffic and therapeutically thrashing at dandelion heads as I ambled by. Hawick was very bland indeed when compared with other recent towns and my budget accommodation was very much in keeping with the grey and gloomy settlement. Still, my landlady was born in Catford, mere meters down the road from where I live, what a small island it is. I got an early night and looked towards tomorrow with some apprehension as I had nothing but 20 miles of solid road walking to enjoy - though a more positive note I would finally be crossing the border into England and would soon be joining the divisive Pennine Way. Thus, today marked the final day of my walk to be spent entirely within Scotland. I had seen off the midges, freezing cold camping conditions, infected insect bites, an Achilles injury, the wind, rain and sleet that would no doubt follow me south of the border, and I had enjoyed it all. Just a few more road miles and I would only have all of England to walk. Bring it on.