Over Phawhope Bothy

Route:  Hawick – Buccleuch – Ettrick – Over Phawhope – Ettrick – Buccleuch – Hawick

Date: April 2017

Distance: 57 miles or 92 kilometres

Days: 2

GPX File link: https://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=sppnhgutrfqpxrtj

After the challenges faced on our Portugal trip I was keen to find a new way to carry our gear in a more lightweight way.  With the help of advice from the BearBones forum I kitted our bikes out with bikepacking luggage – designed to be lightweight and sit high on the bike to enable trips over more adventurous terrain. Having just received my copy of Geoff Allan’s excellent Bothy Bible book, I opted to put our new gear to the test on a wee overnighter to Over Phawhope bothy.

The first attempt to fit the new bags took me ages, so we didn’t manage to leave til 2.45pm.

Springtime in Hawick’s beautiful Wilton Park.  Joe is yawning here because he was sneakily up half the night on the computer.

The route follows very quiet single track back roads and gently climbs for most of its length.

Well, it had to be done…. (apologies to anyone easily offended).

A more wholesome sign to warm the heart of a weary cyclist. This is the menu outside the Tushielaw Inn…

Our newly bikepacked bikes outside Tushielaw Inn. We have since replaced Joe’s saddle bag for a more rigid one that keeps it away from the tyre better.

By the time we had eaten at the pub and left the light was a bit poor so I don’t have any more photos from that day. We got to the bothy at around 9pm to find three retired miners from Bonnyrigg in residence, very drunk, having been there all day. The conversation was a little odd, but they had the place lovely and warm and were very welcoming. Next day they cleared out and I wandered about taking photos while the boy slept in. The famous sofa is gone, but the bothy is a cosy wee bolthole none the less.

A few snow flurries arrived, so I got the boy up and moving. This is him climbing up the short (1km) gravel section of the road to meet the tarmac.  The bothy is behind him.

It’s a remote and beautiful part of the world, made slightly less beautiful for now by all the timber harvesting that has been going on.

The snow flurries stopped, the sun came out and our way home was nearly all downhill, with a strong tailwind on empty roads. We flew along at nearly 30 mph with big grins on our faces, in a very happy place.

Ettrick Water, along the route of the Southern Upland Way.

Half-way home in record time

Getting pushed uphill by a strong tailwind is a fantastic feeling.

Bonny Roberton ahead, but with big black clouds lurking above – we arrived home just seconds before a short-lived blizzard began. We got back in just 2.5 hours – less than half what it had taken on the way out.

It was a cracking trip, and a perfect distance to test out our new gear. It was insidiously uphill and into a headwind on the way out, but we reaped the benefits with an easy ride home the next day. The boy started out tired and grumpy and came home grinning and saying how much he had enjoyed it. An excellent result.

If anyone is thinking of giving this route a bash, then those of a campervan persuasion can find free overnight designated campervan parking (with water and Elsan point) in Hawick by the river. The town has lots of supermarkets for stocking up on supplies and also a Wetherspoon for cheap, cyclist-sized meals upon the return.

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