Looking for an accessible, yet spectacular route through the heart of the Scottish Borderlands, following in the steps of the border raiders (known as reivers) from as far back as the 13th century?
Put together by legendary bikepacker Markus Stitz, known for riding around the world on a single-speed bike and for his numerous long distance bikepacking trails in Scotland, this is one of his shorter and more intermediate-level routes. Don’t let that put you off if you’re an accomplished rider though, you can still challenge yourself by attempting it in a shorter time frame like a weekend.
Expect endless morlands, country estates, gleaming lochs and enchanting forests, punctuated by quaint towns and villages and the lure of a pub log fire. The 110 mile (175 km) route is the perfect mix of more challenging off road sections and faster rolling quiet roads and lanes.
Due to the amount of grassy and potentially boggy terrain on this route, it is not recommended during wetter conditions, i.e. the winter and much of the spring and autumn. Having said this, you’ll probably want to avoid the height of the midge season in some of the summer months too, so make sure you take repellent and nets with you if you plan on sleeping outside. Fatter tyres are also recommended for this route; either a mountain bike or gravel bike with 40mm tyres plus are best.
Take as long or as little time as you like. If the whole route seems a bit daunting or you’re short on time, you’ll be glad to see that it’s essentially made up of three loops centred around Selkirk so you can easily cut off some of the whole route to suit your appetite.
In Scotland you can wild camp legally thanks to the Right To Roam act (see more at scotways.com/faq/law-on-statutory-access-rights). If you’re choosing from the hotels, guesthouses and campsites along the route, make sure you do book ahead, especially in peak season during the summer months.
Accessibility is one of the highlights of the Reiver Raid, both starting and finishing at Tweedbank Railway Station. This is the end of the Borders Railway line, which links up to Edinburgh Waverley station where you can change for other services across the UK. This makes travel at either end of your trip super simple, and you can also leave a car nearby for a few days if you choose to travel by that method.
Check out more at bikepackingscotland.com/reiverraid
From the end of the Borders Railway line, you’ll start your journey into the great hills of the Scottish Borderlands with a 34 mile (54.5 km) stage to Longnewton. Just like the rest of this bikepacking route, the way is anything but linear as you ride the western part of the first loop and half of the second. Loop through central Tweedbank to start (a great chance to pick up any last minute trail snacks) and take the river path along the Tweed to the west, following the water to Melrose. Make sure you stop a while to take in the beauty of Melrose Abbey. Soon you’ll be atop the Eildon Hills in the distance looking down on this place.Take the road onto the cycleway past Rhymer's Stone, gradually climbing now. Turn east to head directly toward the three peaks of the Eildon hills, a mixture of gravel tracks and quiet tarmac lanes past Eildon Hall to meet St Cuthbert’s Way, which cuts between the Mid and North hills. These summits are iconic in the Borders, popular with hikers and cyclists alike. Drop down to Dick Road from the hills, following back roads through Holydean and Whitmuir Hall. Start to descend through the next few villages, until you turn off the road at Midlem for some fun singletrack to Millrighall. After some more lanes, the next off road section is a dead straight singletrack way from near St Boswells heading south-east to the village of Ancrum, a place with a rich and bloody history, and more latterly a very good pub. Take the chance here to refuel and rest a while if you wish at the Cross Keys.The last leg of the stage is a gentle climb, somewhat undulating. The road is almost dead-straight to Longnewton where this stage ends. There are some great places here to wild camp, but if you’d rather sleep under a roof, you’ll need to head for nearby St Boswells, Bowden or Newton Farmhouse B&B.
You’ll cover 33.3 miles (53.6 km) on this second stage, finishing the second loop and starting on the third after Selkirk.Start on the road out of Longnewton, before taking back road unpaved tracks to Belses. You’ll rejoin roads to Minto Kames, where you’ll take the doubletrack toward the marshy Grinding Burn, cutting across this wild land of the Minto Hills to rejoin the road at Hassendean.After taking the road to Muirfield, another unpaved doubletrack road which leads onto a small track across the hill, taking you back to the road at Hermiston and Dimpleknowe. Enjoy more gravel roads from Syntonmill and Clerklands, passing through the Riddell House ruins and Lilliesleaf before turning back to head for Selkirk.You’ll enter the town after passing Whitmuirhall Loch and passing over Selkirk Common. Head to Three Hills Coffee Roastery for a warm welcome, warm beverage and something to eat in the centre of this pretty Borders town.When you’re ready to take on the last leg of the stage, exit the town through The Haining estate, skirting around the spectacular Haining Loch. Heading south-west into the heart of Ettrick Forest, you’ll join the same route as the Great North Trail (komoot.com/collection/904449/britain-s-newest-long-distance-challenge-great-north-trail) and the Borders Abbeys Way.There’s a big climb to finish off the stage to where this trail meets the road and exits Hartwoodmyers Forest. From there you’ll whizz down into Ashkirk, the village marking the end of the stage. You’ll find a couple of holiday cottages and guesthouses here, and of course many gorgeous places to camp.
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The final stage of the Reiver Raid will complete the third loop, and then trace the western edge of the first loop to bring you back to your starting point in Tweedbank. You’ll cover a total of 39.3 miles (63.2 km). It’s the largest by distance of the three stages, so you might need to bear that in mind if you have a train to catch at the other end! Trace the same route as the Great North Trail to start your stage, a mix of single and doubletrack sharply up onto Ashkirk Hill in the forest. Take these fire roads south-west toward Moss Knowe and Cringie Law, then on broken roads to Borthwickshiels Horn, through the wood and back onto lanes from Roberton.Enjoy the easy progress of the smooth tarmac as you pass over Alemoor Reservoir, now back onto gravel roads past Hellmoor Loch and heading back in the direction of Selkirk. Pass through the forestry land to cross Ettrick Water and take the B7009 to Ettrickbridge. Take the parallel backroad and gravel roads to the B7009 on the other side of the river back into the Bowhill House Estate, passing through the beautiful Beech woodland and the two tranquil lochs. You then ride from one country estate into the next, back through Haining and into Selkirk once again. If you enjoyed your coffee at Three Hills before, you know where to head back to! The third loop completed now, you now link Selkirk to your finish point back in Tweedbank, partly following the Borders Abbeys Way. Ride out of the town and onto this well-known hiking route to pass by Lindean Loch, then start your last climb of the trip nearly to the summit of White Law. Enjoy this rocky doubletrack trail off the peak, then onto lanes past Cauldshiels Loch and then back into Tweedbank via the roundabout and small trails alongside the main road. You’ll skirt the industrial estate to get back to the terminal station of Tweedbank, but of course you can always celebrate in the cafes or pubs of Tweedbank first, or even enjoy another night here to extend your trip.