12 September 2023 – Newcastleton and Tinnis Hill


With a spot of nice weather in the forecast, it looked like a good time to go and bag another one of Simon Warren’s top Scottish climbs. This time, Tinnis Hill, starting from Newcastleton.

When planning the route, I noticed it was really quite hilly in the general area, so a ride of a shade under 30 miles would be plenty, as I wanted to make sure Colette would remember the experience fondly afterwards!

We drove down the A7 to Langholm and parked in the practically empty car park next to the river, then headed off south through the town and out as far as the traffic lights, where we went straight ahead onto a minor and quite bumpy road. A significant tail wind helped us initially, as we played postie piggyback along the undulating rural road. After a few miles, the postie reached the end of his round and turned back, but we carried on south, till we stopped to look at the view from a high bridge over the River Esk.

From there, we headed towards the A7, but cut off left just before onto a minor road that runs parallel, as far as the village of Canonbie. Our plan was then to follow the B6357 all the way to Newcastleton, but we had to stop and re-evaluate when we were faced with a Road Closed Ahead sign, with no suggested detour other than a vague instruction to “use the A7”.

A bit of checking on the Roadworks Scotland website showed where the closure was, so we were able to follow the B6357 as far as the crossroads at Harelaw, then take a detour to the right. The road as far as Harelaw included a couple of fairly steep climbs, but our detour started promisingly with a fast downhill, taking us over the border into Cumbira.  Then the road turned sharply onto a steep uphill, which finished with a stiff 16% gradient before levelling off a bit.

Our detour then took us left onto a single track road, with a bit more traffic than you might have expected, most likely due to similarly re-routed locals. The road was very undulating, but despite that, was delightful to ride along. The sun was shining and the views were superb, and we felt lucky to have been diverted along this way, which we would most probably not have chosen otherwise.

After a few miles, we caught sight of the roadwords on the other side of the valley. There were loads of vehicles working along quite a long stretch of road, meaning we’d have had no chance of being let through if we had decided to risk it. Beyond that, we could see the conical shape of Tinnis Hill: our after-lunch destination.

Here was me thinking it was all either up or down

Our fun detour road packed a little surprise in the shape of a couple of hairpin bends before we came to the final descent into Newcastleton. We turned right at the T-junction with the B6357 then on into the town until we reached the Olive Tree cafe. The cafe looked very busy, but luckily there were a couple of small tables free, so we were able to stop for a nice lunch with very enthusiastic service.

Once we got going again, we only needed to go a hundred yards or so before turning left onto Langholm Street. This is where the Tinnis Hill climb began, very quickly getting up to 12% gradient, taking us up and right, past the entrance to the local golf course. After that it eased a bit to something like 4-6% until about a mile in, where the road turned SW and then it flattened off a bit more. With a bit of a tailwind now, I went into the big ring and started to pick up a bit of speed.

It was a little frustrating to have to slow down and briefly stop a few times to let cars past on the very narrow road, but I did my best to put in a decent time (for me) on the segment, and stopped for a rest once I’d passed the end point at the cattle grid at the Borders / Dumfries & Galloway border. Tinnis Hill loomed large from this high vantage point, where over to the south, I could clearly see the Solway Firth opening to the west.

Once Colette caught up, we carried on downhill for a while across the moor, down to a small bridge, where the road began a final climb split up into two ramps totalling about 500 feet. This was a bit of a blow to Colette, who thought we were over after the Tinnis Hill climb!

At the end of the final ramp, we came to various memorials to the local poet, Hugh MacDiarmid, who loved the wildlife of the moors. The info board mentioned wild goats, which I might have noticed if I’d been looking around more. Luckily Colette saw them and stopped for photos before we joined up again.

Next, there was a fast descent which had to be taken carefully due to the blind corners, which brought us out on the A7 just north of Langholm. A quick pedal on the flat took us back to the car park, which was now busy and where an ice cream van was now in residence.

We quickly packed away and made for the van for a couple of cones. Unfortunately, this was the poorest ice cream I’d had in years, but still vaguely edible, and I was definitely ready for some, so I wasn’t going to chuck it away. We didn’t let that spoil the vibe, as it had been a superb day of slow cycling on undulating terrain through glorious countryside. We must explore this area further in the future.

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