Do you have a penchant for hills and history? If you’re looking for a challenging bikepacking route that’ll test your climbing legs while indulging you in the rich history of the Scottish Borderlands, the Borders 350 could be the one for you.
Hill bagging and ancient roads aside, this meandering 350 mile (563 km) route also takes in some of the most quaint and characterful towns and villages across Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, which contrast perfectly to the remote expanses of moorland, hill summits and isolated stream valleys you’ll ride.
Ideally you’ll need a mountain bike to tackle the Borders 350 route, although it can be done on a gravel or adventure bike with good tread on wide tyres if you are happy to walk a fair bit. There are some steep gradients on loose terrain too, so inevitably there will be some hike-a-bike no matter what bike you’re on!
Open Access Legislation in Scotland makes this route possible, so make sure you’re respectful of the environment and follow the Outdoor Access Code (outdooraccess-scotland.scot).
There are a number of free-to-use bothies, youth hostels, hotels, and guesthouses along the route if you’d rather not camp or if the weather is rough. Remember that this does not apply when you cross the border into England.
The best time of year to ride the Borders 350 is either side of the midge season, either late spring to early summer, or in September/October. It’s not recommended for the winter season due to potential severe weather and difficult terrain with the extra water on the ground.
Travel to Peebles, the start and finish point of the circular route, can be a little tricky as there is not a functioning railway station in Peebles. The nearest is in Galashiels, which is a 20 mile (32 km) ride away. Alternatively you could leave a car in or near Peebles for the duration of your trip. Find out more and plan your journey at scotrail.co.uk.
The first stage of the official Borders 350 route will lead you out of the bustling Scottish Borders town of Peebles to the tiny Broughton village, a wonderfully indirect route covering 45.4 miles (73.1 km) which is a real sign of how this route will go on over the following stages.
You’ll head down to the Ettrick Forest and touch …
Stage 2 leads south to the spa town of Moffat, famous for its unique toffee and for being the former hub of the wool trade.
The route will cover 30.6 miles (49.3 km) and take you over Common Law, through Tweeddale, past Fruid Reservoir and down into Annandale.
It’s a gentle start to the stage with a flat section on …
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It’s a tough start to stage 3, only a short distance to the river before the gradient ramps up pretty sharply. Make your way up Big Hill on the Southern Upland Way and complete your greatest ascent of the stage just after breakfast!
In total on this stage you’ll cover no less than 61.5 miles (98.8 km), the longest of …
After the mammoth third stage, this 30.9 mile (49.7 km) ride will be quite a relief, no doubt! This stage takes you to the little village of Kielder at the north shores of Kielder Water in Northumberland National Park, having passed by the Newcastleton trails and crossed the English border.
The doubletrack out of Arkleton will be a heavy start, …
Another big stage is on the menu today, stretching 53.5 miles (86.1 km) across the northern borderlands of Northumberland. Start by climbing out of the village and onto Forest Drive, a long gravel road summiting at Blakehope Nick Overlook. Do take a minute or two to explore here!
Follow Forest Drive down Blakehope Burn and into Redesdale, then turn left …
Phew, stage 6 is the shortest of them all! At just 28 miles (45 km), you can use this day as a bit of a rest for your tired legs before tackling the final two stages. You’ll stay south of the border on this ride before returning to Scotland for stages 7 and 8.
This route generally heads south, albeit …
Rejoin the Pennine Cycleway to start the penultimate stage of the Borders 350, where you’ll be riding 54.8 miles (88.2 km) to the Scottish Borders town of Hawick. It’s a pretty hilly day, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time.
Start by climbing into Kidland Forest on fire roads, joining the Border Country Ride up Clennell Street gravel …
With breathtaking views and stunning singletrack sections, this final stage makes for an awesome conclusion to the Borders 350.
Covering a modest 32.8 miles (52.8 km), you should have enough time at the end of this stage to celebrate completing this challenging long distance bikepacking route, and arrange your overnight stay or onward travel. You’ll leave the town of Hawick …
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