|Location Map ( geo)
|Hillend, south of Edinburgh (NT251667)
|17.9 miles (28.8 km)
|A702, A701, A6094, A72
|Old route now:
|Route outline (key)
Hillend – Bilston
At its northern end, the A703 starts just south of the Midlothian Snowsports Centre at the nearly blind, forked Hillend Junction on the A702. This lies about half a mile south of the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass and the city boundary, which means there can be long city-bound queues at peak times. The junction is actually the second of two narrow forks which are located in immediate proximity to one another, making them both difficult and dangerous for turning traffic to negotiate when busy; indeed, it is quite surprising that they both retain such an antiquated format well into the 21st century. Once safely accessed, the A703's first couple of miles provide a link between the A702 and A701, as they head respectively from the west and east of Edinburgh city centre into the countryside of the Scottish Borders. Both roads also carry a fair amount of traffic from the city bypass and the motorways of Scotland's central belt.
The route climbs a little away from the junction, with the steeper A701 climbing above, then levels out as it winds with the contours through a patchwork of small fields dotted with houses and farms. Many of these properties have been developed into businesses, so there is a Garden Centre, Timber Yard, Stables and so on, all adding to the traffic on the route. After the initial wiggles, the route straightens out, and then kinks to the left onto a longer straight. A signalised crossroads gives access to Bilston and the Innovation park, after which it is a straight run down to the A701, where the route comes to a temporary end at a signalised T junction just north of Gowkley Moss Roundabout. From here the two routes multiplex for 6 miles until they separate again beyond Penicuik, although through traffic may be tempted to use the B7026 and A6094 route to bypass the town.
Leadburn - Peebles
The route resumes at Leadburn, a skewed TOTSO crossroads with the A701 and A6094, which can be busy, but remains a give way junction, despite many discussions about improvements over the years. Leadburn is also the place where the long-closed railway between Edinburgh and Peebles crosses the A703, and from now on there are occasional glimpses of trackbed, station buildings and signal posts along the way. Just beyond the junction, the route leaves Midlothian and enters Peeblesshire and the Scottish Borders. Continuing south, the route climbs a little to reach its summit at around 280m as it winds past Craigburn to find the headwaters of the Eddleston Water. It then begins the long, gentle descent of the valley, the upper reaches of which are a mixture of flat green fields along the banks of the stream with rougher grazings on the slopes above.
As the road descends the narrow valley of the Eddleston Water between the enclosing hills, it has seen many upgrades, leading to a wide, well aligned route with long straights and sweeping bends. Patches of woodland sit haphazardly between the fields, with a scattering of houses and farms as well. About halfway down to Peebles lies the small village of Eddleston, with the route quickly passing through on Edinburgh Road. A couple of miles to the south, at Redscarhead, the view ahead opens up with the Tweed Valley and before long the spires of Peebles set against the high hills behind come in to view. A couple of long straights make the final descent into the town, following Edinburgh Road which is quickly lined with interwar housing. Among its claims to fame, Peebles was the birthplace in the early 1800s of the brothers William and Robert Chambers, who founded the publishing company of that name. The A703 used to go straight into the town centre on Northgate, but as the streets that were used are on the narrow side, a new stretch of Edinburgh Road was built slightly to the east using the trackbed of the old railway. The end comes at a roundabout on the A72: left for Galashiels via Innerleithen Road with its substantial houses, right for Biggar via the busy Eastgate and High Street through the town centre.
Until 1935, the A703 was only a couple of miles long, comprising the northern section from the A702 at Hillend to the A701 at Bilston. The southern section of the present-day road from Leadburn to Peebles follows the original route of the A701. An interesting feature of the extended section of the route is the existence of several well-preserved milestones, indicating the distance to Peebles in one direction from the Edinburgh General Post Office in the other.
The original, northern section of the route has perhaps seen some online widening over the years, but is otherwise more or less unchanged since it was first classified in 1922. However, the southern section has seen some substantial improvements over the years, perhaps as a result of having been a primary route and former trunk route. However, other Primary / Trunk routes in the area do not seem to have benefitted to the same extent. The first notable improvements are through the bends at Craigburn, just south of Leadburn, where two laybys show the most obvious signs of a program of widening and straightening. Further down the hill at Nether Falla, the old road can be traced staying closer to the Eddleston Water, curving through the trees and around the small hill. This section, however, has been almost completely reclaimed by nature and is barely visible as it crosses the entrance to Cowieslinn Quarry. The old road continued to wind, but has been lost under the new alignment as far as the Gorebridge Junction at Silverdean, where it can again be traced, this time to the east of the new road, old and new routes rejoining at a big layby.
A little further south, a layby on the west side of the road marks another realignment, and then as the route runs down the long straight into Eddleston, the old road line can be found in the trees to the east of the new line. This soon becomes the entrance drive to Harcus, running past a row of cottages opposite the new link with the new road, before becoming Old Edinburgh Road as it enters the village. South of the village, the route appears to have been straightened a little when compared with old maps, but through the trees there seems little scope for realignment, and a crop mark in a field doesn't quite match the old map. The layby at Milkieston, however, is clearly a loop of the old road. Just after the Kidston junction, a stub of tarmac forks right into a field, and this may be the old road line, although now grassed over and half buried by the earthworks of the current alignment.
Just before Winkston, a layby on the northbound side of the road is probably formed from part of the old road, and just to the south, the old road has been retained as property access for a couple of houses. The route into Peebles is initially the historic route, but as noted above, the old road used to fork right and follow Northgate into the town centre. Subsequent development has changed the junction, but old maps confirm that the route followed the small cul-de-sac of Dean Park at first, crossing the old railway line just to the north of the houses. This railway line has since been converted into the new road through the town.