The A68 & A7 from Scotch Corner
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
If you are wanting a good RIDE that takes you from England to Scotland and back in the day they don't get much better than this route!!
Having ridden this route 3 times in the last 3 years with a few slight variations it is safe to say that this is one of my favourite full day trips on the bike. I have a 50 mile journey to the start/end of the route which turns the full thing into a 300+ mile day, so it is a long ride but boy does it deliver!!
From Scotch Corner to Carter Bar (Scottish Border)
An initial short (9 mile) stint north on the A1 takes you to the A68 turn off near Darlington. The A68 will be your place of residence for the next glorious 70 miles.
The road is quick and flowing with plenty of opportunities for making progress and overtaking where necessary in the run up to West Aukland, here you enter the large village and follow the somewhat hidden signs for the A68 to Corbridge. Beyond West Aukland you head uphill to High Etherly where, if you are going to miss a turn it will be this one (from personal experience). At the crest of the hill you hang a left that feels like you are turning off of the A68 into a side road, you aren't, this is still the A68 and you are still heading in the right direction.
From this junction it is approximately 1 mile to The 68 Cafe which is the 1st place that's great for stopping at for a very decent breakfast on this ride as I aren't a fan of paying the prices for fast food at the Scotch Corner services (typical Yorkshireman).
Following the cafe stop you turn left and back onto the A68, heading down hill you can see the North Pennines Area of Outstanding National Beauty spanning the green, hilly horizon ahead, this is the first insight of what is to come as you go further north.
There are a number of petrol stations along the A68 but I tend to stop at the base of the hill after the cafe for fuel so that I don't have to stop again until the border.
Between the fuel station at Fir Tree and Corbridge is a mixture of open moor tops and rural farmland that can be quite blustery on a windy day, as well as a few small towns and villages that are little more than just a cluster of houses with a pub and maybe a Co-Op.
The road remains the same in this area, quick and flowing as you pass fields full of livestock and people enjoying a steadier pace of life. There is 1 notable exception to this and this is a steep valley named Allensford Bank which drops quickly from the tops with a few smooth bends down to the bridge over the River Derwent and then bending and climbing once again to the tops and onward to the roundabout junction with the A69.
Here you join the A69 for 3 miles, at the next junction you exit and turn right at the roundabout heading beneath the A69 following the sign for the A68 once again, this time the destination is Jedburgh on the road signs, this symbolises the start of one of my favourite sections of road in the UK - 34 miles to go to the border and almost every one is brilliant!!
From the outset coming off the roundabout you can tell you are heading into good riding country, and that is saying something coming from the roads you have just traveled along. The roads are a mixture of dead straight but with brilliant blind summit crests where you have no idea what is over them until you are over the top and on to the next. This pattern is cheekily broken up by a number of steep bends that come up pretty quickly as you've got used to the road being straight for the miles before.
The agricultural pasture and cropped fields are replaced by moorland as you approach Ridsdale up at over 300 meters above sea level. You descend from here through a scattering of tiny villages and then back out onto straight sections broken by quick bends with moorland rushing by either side until you reach a T junction.
Here you continue left on the A68 through the Northumberland National Park & Whitelee Moor National Nature Reserve which are a stunning mix of Moorland and woodland roads with a great section along the banks of the Catcleugh Reservoir before making the final ascent up the incline bends section that takes you through 5 alternate bends that climb 200 meters up to the England/Scotland Border and the welcomed tea/Coffee van at Carter Bar.
Carter Bar to Longtown
This part of the ride takes you from the centre of the border on some brilliant roads to its Western edge before crossing back into England.
One thing I would recommend that deviates slightly from the route, is to head towards Jedburgh but just for a mile or 2 before turning around and heading back up the hill and turning right towards Hawick on the A6088. This little section of bends is too much fun to miss while you are a mile away, so just do it twice - because, why he hell not!!
The A6088 between Carter Bar and the cross roads at Chesters is as quick and flowing as everything you have been used to on this ride. From the cross roads and into Hawick is slightly different though, here the road winds it's way into and beyond Bonchester Bridge and eventually into Hawick with the bends getting tighter and a lot more frequent. This is a pleasant and fun change of riding.
There's 2 options for fuel in Hawick, unfortunately both are supermarket garages so not ideal for those who are wanting premium fuel. The next fuel station is an Esso which is approximately 35 miles away in Longtown, as the independent fuel station in Langholm is often closed.
From Hawick you join the A7 and head south. The 30 mph zone runs quite far out of the town centre and is very frequently monitored by the local police within the 30 zone. Once out of the town you hit the national speed limit signs before a right bend followed instantly by a long sweeping left hand bend that gives you a taster of what is to come on this fantastic stretch of road between Hawick and Longtown. Most of the bends along this road can be taken with some speed as in general they are all of a radius that allows it, there are however a few that nip up somewhat; the first of these comes 7 miles south of Hawick at a bridge crossing over the River Teviot where it is quite a steep left hand bend across the bridge.
From here the road follows the valley up hill to the hilltop at Tevioyhead where there is a slight dogleg bend followed by a steep downhill through a steep "V" shaped valley. It is at the bottom of this downhill straight that the 2 further points that require some awareness are. This combination is a moderate right/left that is closely followed by a heavy right/left bend, they are great fun but it pays to be aware of these ahead of time as you can pick up a good amount of speed in the straight beforehand.
From the base of the hill you are following the valley bottom, traversing the hills to the west of the Ewes Water River along the same quick but slightly more winding A7 into Langholm.
You enter Langholm crossing a narrow stone bridge that is controlled by traffic lights. Here the hills are getting notably smaller around and you feel as though you are entering normality a little, from the stunning scenery that you have been riding through most of the day.
Before you get into the town centre of Langholm there is a great little cafe on the right hand side of the road, if you want a brew, a sandwich or to stretch your legs and use the facilities this is a good spot to do all of the above.
Langholm is a charming typical small Scottish town with a mixture of old stone built shop fronts and large stone bay window fronted buildings as well as a large dominating church and a beautiful clock tower topped town hall right in front of you as you ride through the town.
Heading out of the town you again cross the river via another traffic light controlled bridge before winding your way up a small hill through woodland covered roads to where the road really opens up between here and Cannonbie.
Just to the south of Cannonbie you will pass the less than obvious border sign stating you are crossing back into England.
From here the road is relatively mundane in comparison to previous miles. 3 miles from the border is Longtown where the Esso fuel station is on the right as you pass through the small town. Following a fill up it is a further 6 miles south on the A7 to the M6 motorway junction 44.
M6 & A66 back to the start
Whenever I have done this route I have jumped on the M6 and A66 as I have been low on time or am aching too much. While the A66 is actually a very scenic main road that takes in some great spots it isn't something to tell the world about too much.
Alternative route back to Scotch Corner
If anyone has done the following route, please shoot a message as I would love to get an insight into this ride which maybe something to try this year. It looks like it will be immense!!