It’s hard to believe nowadays, but Peebles once had two railway stations. The Caledonian Railway from Symington (1864) terminated on the south bank of the Tweed – Peebles West.
The North British Railway from Edinburgh (1855), originally The Peebles Railway Company, ran to Peebles East (now a car park on the north bank), and was extended by a single track line to Galashiels in 1864. Passenger services from Peebles West ended in 1950. The final passenger service from Edinburgh Waverley to Peebles and on to Galashiels was in 1962; a sad farewell still remembered by some.
Officially opened on 20 August, the Peebles to Innerleithen section of the Galashiels track bed now carries a Tarmac path; a traffic-free route ideal for wheelchair users, walkers, horse riders and cyclists. The path is part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network (NCN) signed routes which use a mix of off-road paths and quiet roads, and which links to the Newcastle to Edinburgh section of NCN1 (the M1 of cycle routes) at Innerleithen. Sustrans has plans to construct a path from Midlothian to Peebles to avoid the busy A703. Its website (www.sustrans.org.uk) is appealing for Volunteer Rangers to look after the new path.
Recently the Mountain Maid, Hare and I cycled along the Peebles/Innerleithen path, but also explored the initial section of the railway line which is not part of the new path. The line is lost though there are still traces, with a tunnel leading to the grounds of Peebles Hydro.
From the car park, just north of the roundabout junction of the A703 and the A72, follow the pavement by the A72 to the Hydro east entrance, just short of the speed restriction sign, map ref 261403. Turn left, pass by the former bridge over the line, then right on the signposted Tweed Valley Railway Path which later merges with the old track bed. The path goes parallel to the A72, then by a short tunnel under the road heading towards the Tweed.
On the left is the original site of the town’s gasworks, coal served by rail, and on the right are sewage works. Pass through the Eshiels Community Woodland to reach a junction; Glentress ½ mile to the left, but straight on for Cardrona one mile and Innerleithen three. The path goes through Cardrona golf course and by the bow-sided girder bridge across the Tweed to reach the site of Cardrona Station. The wooden building on the single platform is now the village shop and tearoom. The café has been much busier since the opening of the Peebles/Innerleithen path.
Innerleithen is now two miles distant. At the immediate roundabout keep left along Cardrona Way and through Cardrona village. Later note the sharp turn left, as signposted, to cross the track bed, then right on a path which leads to a new footbridge across the river. (All traces of the old railway bridge have been removed.) Note pedestrians have priority on the footbridge; horse riders please dismount. Ignore a junction on the left (Innerleithen by Caerleebank) and carry straight on to the site of Innerleithen Station now converted into a private house on the far side of Traquair Road.
Return by retracing steps, 14 miles in all, or by pre-placed car or the regular bus service, 62 or 62A.
Map Ordnance Survey map 73, Peebles, Galashiels & Selkirk
Distance 14 miles
Terrain Mostly Tarmac path on old railway line
Start point Peebles car park, map ref 254406, just north of roundabout junction of A703 and A72
Time 5 hours
Nearest town Peebles
Refreshment spot Cardrona Village Store Tearoom