|Location Map ( geo)|
|Via:||Tibbie Shiels Inn|
|Distance:||33.4 miles (53.8 km)|
|Meets:||A701, B709, B7039, A707|
|Old route now:||A701|
|Route outline (key)|
The A708 – following a roughly WSW-ENE alignment through the historic counties of Dumfriesshire (for 11 miles) and Selkirkshire (22 miles) – provides a dramatic route across the Southern Uplands of Scotland. For most of its length it follows rivers, from the west successively the Moffat Water in Dumfriesshire and the Little Yarrow, the Yarrow Water and the Ettrick Water in Selkirkshire. The Yarrow Water is the outflow from St Mary's Loch, which the road runs beside for several miles. When not beside water the route is through its highest ground, the summit being over 1000 feet above sea level at the county boundary.
At the western end, the A708 starts from the A701 as it passes through the double-width main street of Moffat. After leaving the town, the next mile is through unexceptional open country, but then the Moffat Water is reached and the road stays with it into its valley. At Craigieburn the road narrows to cross the eponymous burn and then takes some time to widen again. The section is controlled by traffic lights but there are a couple of private drives on this section, with their own sets of lights, so there could be some wait. The direction is now north east for several miles, climbing gently between high hills on either side, until a spectacular waterfall is seen to the left, a mile before the summit. This is the Grey Mare's Tail, feeding the Moffat Water from Loch Skeen in the hills to the north.
The summit is the watershed (and also the county boundary), and from now our road is continually beside water flowing towards the east. In a couple of miles the short Loch of the Lowes is reached on the right, followed immediately by the much longer St Mary's Loch. On the narrow tongue of land separating them is the Tibbie Shiels Inn, one of the most famous in Scotland.
About a third of the way along St Mary's Loch at Cappercleuch, an unclassified road on the left leads to the large Megget Reservoir, then by a spectacular route through the hills to the smaller Talla Reservoir and the A701 at Tweedsmuir 14 miles north of Moffat.
After St Mary's Loch, the road changes direction, now generally heading only slightly north of east, though with innumerable twists and turns before its end. Shortly, there is the first classified road junction since leaving Moffat, when the B709 crosses at the Gordon Arms, left for Innerleithen and right for Eskdalemuir and Langholm. We are now in fertile pastureland with countless livestock in the farms beside the Yarrow Water, which is always to the south apart from a short stretch between two bridges where the road cuts off a corner at Yarrowford.
The A708 is now only three miles from its end. About halfway, the B7039 to the right links to the roughly parallel B7009 from Selkirk up the valley of the Ettrick Water. It is this river that we now follow, the Yarrow Water having joined it.
Right at its end, the A708 once had a quirk - it split into two branches, the one on the left joining the A707 where that road has a TOTSO to the right for the A72 west of Galashiels, the one on the right coming to a T junction with the A707 closer to Selkirk. Nowadays, of course, spurs aren't much of a quirk - but this is unusual in that it dates right back to classification in 1922 when they were almost unheard of, the A4200 in London being another example.