Coast and Castles South – Day 2
Day 2 of our Coast and Castles adventure took us from St Boswells in the Scottish Borders along the Tweed valley to Berwick and then south hugging the Northumbrian coast to Seahouses. Following the monsoon-like conditions of Day 1, the weather gods proved much more benevolant – there was blue sky, there was sunshine and at times there was even the hint of a tailwind....it proved to be a very pleasant 68 mile day.
Norham Bridge over the Tweed – border controls having ceased some time previously.
The early miles were along undulating country lanes, which gave everyone in the group the opportunity to spin the overnight stiffness out of their legs. We soon encountered the first castle of the day – Floors Castle on the outskirts of Kelso. It was too early to stop, so resisting the call of the coffee shop, we cycled on. There are two alternate routes offered for both Kelso and Coldstream – one (longer) route through the respective town and a (shorter) 'by-pass'. As we had no need of provisions in either town, we avoided both – a pity really as both have interesting town centres. We skirted around a very soggy and forlorn looking Kelso racecourse on narrow lanes before a stop in the small village of Eccles. Here we crossed our first 'Coast and Castlers' of the day coming in the other direction – inevitably we traded war stories regarding the previous day's weather.
And then onwards along narrow single-track lanes and through woodland towards Ladykirk.
Impressive driveway to Ladykirk House. I am unsure whether the lion is guarding against Sassenach invaders or pointing the way home.
Then a quick race downhill through woodland before emerging onto a stone bridge over the wide River Tweed into England and to our lunch stop in Norham village. A lovely little village sporting a couple of pubs, a grocers, a traditional butchers (that sold sunglasses, obviously!), a bakery and a gunmaker.... As we sunbathed on the village green over lunch, admiring the castle ruins at the end of the street, it was hard to imagine that it had once been described as 'the most dangerous and adventurous place in the country'. Apparently the castle has been besieged no less than 13 times, once for over a year by Robert the Bruce.
Norham Castle – given it's history, we thought it safest to stay as a bunch until clear of the village!
After only a few miles cycling in England, we re-crossed the Tweed over the Union Bridge and back into Scotland. The Union Bridge is a fantastic wrought-iron suspension bridge. When it opened in 1820, it was the longest such bridge in the world with a span of 137m. Reputedly, it is now the oldest still carrying traffic. I should have stopped for a photo... Then more country lanes, before a brief flirtation with the A1 dual-carriageway and the descent into Berwick-on-Tweed. Urban traffic, a street market and pedestrians provided a slight shock to the system as we navigated our way down through the High Street, emerging onto the old narrow road bridge at the bottom of town.
The bridges over the Tweed in Berwick – the famous railway viaduct at the rear.
From Berwick, the route hugged the coastline, at times immediately adjacent to the East Coast railway line. It became 'interesting' with a couple of relatively off-road sections, across fields and through a nature reserve. I was grateful I wasn't riding the road bike – I'm not sure how 700x23C tyres would have coped.
Coast and Castles – offroad!
Holy Island gradually came into view – it was a pity that the tide was too far in for us to contemplate a ride over the causeway. Instead the route took us back inland, over the A1 again and up a couple of sharp climbs. Then a drop back down towards the sea and into Bamburgh and it's castle – surely, alongside Holy Island, one of the highlights of the entire ride.
Bamburgh Castle – a brooding presence at one end of the village. Ice cream shop just out of picture on the right.
And then the final few miles through large sand dunes to Seahouses, unsuccessfully racing a rain shower and so finishing slightly soggy for the second day in succession. Find the hotel, lock the bikes away, sort things out, a quick shower and out to sample the delights of Seahouses' nightlife – a fish and chip supper seemingly obligatory.