|From:||Hillend, south of Edinburgh (NT251667)|
|Distance:||17.9 miles (28.8 km)|
|Meets:||A702, A701, A6094, A72|
|Old route now:||A701|
|Route outline (key)|
About 18 miles long on a largely north-south alignment, the A703 lies in the historic counties of Midlothian and Peeblesshire. Apart from Peebles at the southern end, the only other built-up area of any significance is the town of Penicuik. The rest of the route is a mixture of open countryside and rolling hills, the scenery getting steadily better the further south one goes.
Hillend – Peebles
At its northern end, the A703 starts just south of the Hillend Ski Centre near Lothianburn on the A702, about half a mile south of the A720 Edinburgh City Bypass and the city boundary. The first couple of miles provide a link between the A702 and A701, coming respectively from the west and east of Edinburgh city centre, and carry a fair amount of traffic using the western part of the city bypass and the M8 and M9. There is a roundabout junction with the A701 about half a mile south of Bilston, the two roads now multiplexing for 6 miles until they separate again well beyond Penicuik, although until 1935 the A703 was only a couple of miles long and ended in Bilston, with the southern part of its route being the original route of the A701.
Shortly after the start of the multiplex the B7003 for Rosewell is to the left at a roundabout, then at the start of a short D2 stretch the B7026 for Auchendinny continues ahead (the start of an unofficial Penicuik eastern bypass) and we bear right and soon reach the outskirts of the town. It is an undistinguished place – the paper mills which used to be its main industry have long gone, and its role now is to be a commuter town for Edinburgh, with a rather run-down centre. After the Glencorse Barracks on the left and a long sprawl of houses and shops the A766 forks to the right, this joining the A702 further south than where our road started, and we continue into the town centre. The main streets are now pedestrianised, with the road sweeping round in a short easterly loop then turning south again where the B6372 continues westwards to join the A766 at the other side of the town centre. The B6372 multiplexes with us briefly before leaving on the left for Gorebridge just after a bridge over the River North Esk.
The river marks the end of Penicuik, and now we have a winding climb into open countryside with distant views of the Pentlands to the right, which we traverse for a couple of miles before coming to the tiny village of Leadburn. Here we leave Midlothian and enter Peeblesshire, and also leave the A701 as it makes a TOTSO half right for Moffat and we continue south as the A703 reappears. The junction has another classified road, the A6094 for Dalkeith which has the same northeast–southwest alignment as the departing A701, the whole forming a scissors crossroads. Leadburn also is the place where the long-closed railway between Edinburgh and Peebles joined our route, and from now on there are occasional glimpses of trackbed, station buildings and signal posts along the way.
There is now a splendid driving road to Peebles 10 miles away, with gentle bends and good sight-lines as the road traverses the narrow valley of the Eddleston Water in the enclosing hills. About halfway there is the small village of Eddleston, then after another pleasant drive we see the spires of Peebles set against the high hills behind and in due course enter the town. Among its claims to fame is being the birthplace of the brothers William and Robert Chambers in the early 1800s, who founded the publishing company of that name. The A703 used to go straight into the town centre, but as the streets that were used are on the narrow side, a new stretch 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.