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B709

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B709
Location Map ( geo)
Cameraicon.png View gallery (22)
From:  Heriot (NT403545)
To:  Langholm (NY363846)
Distance:  57.6 miles (92.7 km)
Meets:  A7, B7007, A72, B7062, A708, B7009, B711, B723, B7068
Former Number(s):  A709
Highway Authorities

Dumfries and Galloway • Scottish Borders

Traditional Counties

Dumfriesshire • Midlothian • Peeblesshire • Selkirkshire

Route outline (key)
B709 Heriot - Langholm

The B709 is Britain's second longest B-Road, second only to the B6318, which it nearly meets at its southern end at Langholm. The route loops to the west of the A7 for the majority of its route from Edinburgh to Carlisle.

Route

Heriot - Innerleithen

Passing through Heriot

The route starts on the A7 deep in the Moorfoot Hills. Until 2014 it branched off the A7 at the long-gone Heriot Station; however, this junction and the adjacent former level crossing were both closed in June that year when a new section opened 300 yards to the south at Sandyknowe in connection with the reinstatement of the railway. The route therefore now crosses over both the Gala Water and the railway on a new-build alignment. At a crossroads, the route rejoins its original line, with the former section to the right now a cul-de-sac providing local access to Heriot Station. The road then loses the centre line as it narrows from a full S2 to being a wide single track, without passing places. Most of the time the road is wide enough for two cars to pass with care, and sometimes for larger vehicles to pass, but every now and then it is pinched down to less than four metres between the verges and hedges to either side, forcing traffic to pause and give way.

The route contours round the edge of a hill to reach the valley of the Heriot Water, which is followed upstream. The village school, church and a few more buildings are passed, with the road crossing the stream twice in quick succession. After running along below a forestry plantation, the route curves round to head south as the valley gets narrower. At times the road is right on the river bank, before one of them meanders away again within the tight confines of the narrow valley floor. The road then curves westwards above a confluence and soon crosses the Blackhope Water, one of the tributaries, before a T-junction is reached on a small patch of flat moorland, with hills rising up on every side. To the right is the B7007; while the B709 TOTSOs to the left. The next section of the road is wider, with a white line carrying on from the B7007. A sharp right kink takes the road past a lonely house as it climbs past the 300m contour, following the valley of the Dewar Burn.

On the moors

The road climbs steadily, with the base of the hills to the left and the burn meandering back and forth across the narrow valley floor to the right. As the valley narrows further, the burn is crossed and then a farm is passed on the right, the way ahead looking increasingly closed in by the folds of the hills. So far the valley has been remarkably straight, but as the hillside slopes close in on either side, the road has to snake through the narrow mountain pass of Dewar Gill, with a summit of around 360m. Suddenly the landscape ahead opens out, and the steep slopes peel back to reveal low, undulating moorland hills stretching out ahead. The road can be seen snaking this way and that across the moors, and while it has narrowed again, it is still generally wide enough for two cars to pass. Valleys and streams meet each other as the B709 continues downstream, with the Glentress Water building in strength down to the right. In summer this can be a lush, green landscape, but as winter approaches it becomes a desolate sea of yellow-brown, with a few patches of trees around the farms.

After a brief run westwards, the route curves around Dod Hill to head south again, now in the larger valley of the Leithen Water. The river meanders back and forth, as the valley becomes wider, and the road passes a couple of farms before passing below a much larger forestry plantation. Eventually Innerleithen Golf Course is reached, the road cutting through the middle of the greens, before turning to cross the river with a sharp left bend off the bridge. A short distance later, the road widens as it enters Innerleithen itself on Leithen Road, passing some modern housing estates and a scattering of older houses. Old stone terraces then stand on the right, looking across at the steeply wooded hillside to the left, before the route reaches a T-junction on the A72. There is a short multiplex west along the A72 High Street before the B709 regains its number by turning left.

Innerleithen - Ettrick

The High Street is lined with shops and businesses, but as the B709 resumes by heading south on Traquair Road, it is once more passing housing, mostly older but with some modern blocks. Industrial units then mark the old station site, and soon after the route is at the edge of the town. Fields and woodland line the banks of the wide River Tweed, with car parks both before and after the narrow Innerleithen Bridge, which is controlled by traffic lights. Innerleithen sits in a particularly wide part of the Tweed Valley, with the Leithen flowing in from the north and the Quair from the south. As the road climbs a little away from the river, it curves hard right at a T junction to follow the Quair Water upstream, through the small village of Traquair, with Traquair House standing near the confluence. The B7062 comes in from the right in the village and then the road narrows as it winds into the small valley of the Newhall Burn.

Following the Mountbenger burn downstream

The road runs in the limited space between the valley side and the edge of a wood for a few miles before reaching a summit of over 350m. As it climbs, the road seems to wiggle almost relentlessly, with a couple of short straights lower down. There are a couple of farms on the climb, Newhall sits on the roadside, but Glenlude lies down in a hollow near the head of the glen. A short straight runs past the farm and then the road returns to wiggling through the bracken to find another narrow pass between the forestry plantations. This leads into another narrow valley, and while it is not so wooded, the hills seem to close in ahead. The road slowly curves around the steep lower slopes of Mountbenger Law, with gentler hills on the far side of the widening valley. A farm appears ahead, and as the road slowly turns south again, the valley opens up a little ahead, but hills still seem to close across it lower down.

Near the summit, below The Wiss

A long snaking descent follows, as the valley floor narrows until there is only just room for the road and the small Mountbenger Burn. This pinch point is brief, and as the valley widens once more a white line reappears. The road then curves back on itself at a wide hairpin bend around the edge of a hill, dropping down to reach a crossroads on the A708 next to the Gordon Arms Hotel. The scattered community of Yarrow lies away downstream to the left, but the B709 continues ahead. On the far side of the A708, the B709 narrows again almost immediately before crossing a bridge over the Yarrow Water, with a sharp right hand bend on the south bank. The bridge is S1 - but then the road is as well, and now there really isn't room for two cars to pass comfortably as the very muddy verges testify. The road then passes through a small strip of woodland on the riverbank before continuing to climb, this time following the Altreive Burn upstream. After crossing some moorland fields, the road enters a wood and bends sharply to the left, crossing its overall summit at 376m between The Wiss and Turner Cleuch Law.

After emerging from the trees, it follows the small Tushielaw Burn downstream below the steep slopes of Crosslee Rigg, eventually reaching Crosslee / Tushielaw and a T-junction. Left is the B7009 and the B709 TOTSOs right. A few hundred yards further on it reaches the Tushielaw Inn and the B711. This is an area where 'villages' only have around a dozen properties spread along the roadside for maybe half a mile, making Tushielaw a larger village! The road runs downstream along the relatively wide valley of the Ettrick Water, passing through the small 'village' of Hopehouse and continuing to Ettrick itself. There are a few properties along the B709 here, but most of the village sits along the minor road which winds up the glen for six or seven miles. Just after the junction the road bends sharply to the left to cross the Ettrick Water on Ramseycleuch Bridge.

Ettrick - Langholm

Now climbing along the valley of a tributary, the Tima Water, the road winds across fields, past a small holiday park and into the woods. Interestingly, the Ordnance Survey only now decide to map the road as being single track, even though it has been narrow for most of its journey, and is still almost wide enough for two cars to pass. The stream is followed closely along the narrow valley floor, although because of all the trees it is often hidden. Gentle slopes rise up above the road, with steeper ones on the opposite bank, all cloaked in forestry, although some of it is only recently planted following felling. The valley itself is not a steep climb, and as the road passes the lonely farm of Glenkerry, and crosses the Glenkerry Burn, it is almost level. A mile or so, and several bends further on, the farm of Gair stands on the opposite bank. A little higher again, and the road crosses the Nether and Over Dalgleish Burns in quick succession, all on old stone bridges, and then a wide clearing, fringed with trees is reached with views across to the surrounding hills.

A short sharp climb lifts the road past Loch Tima and eventually the road reaches a summit at 334m, emerging from the forest soon after, with excellent scenery ahead. A valley is visible slightly down to the right but the road prefers to stay higher up, contouring halfway up the valley side, and widening to a narrow S2 not long afterwards. A long gentle descent across moorland fields leads to Fingland farm, where the White Esk is crossed on Fingland Bridge. The white line reappears just before the bridge, and although somewhat faded, it remains as the road winds across the fields. The British Geological Society's Eskdalemuir Observatory sits up on the right, and then the road crosses a tributary as it continues south past a couple of farms and some forestry. Another stream is crossed and the road then runs past the Tibetan Centre, whose oriental buildings look odd in the Scottish landscape. The Himalayas may have mountains and valleys but not Scottish wildlife!

Eskdalemuir

A mile or so further on the road reaches the small, scattered village of Eskdalemuir. The B723 comes in from the right by the church, after which the B709 bends sharply left to cross the River White Esk on Eskdalemuir Bridge. The valley is followed downstream for another couple of miles past forestry and a scattering of houses before the road bears to the left and climbs up into the hills and forest once more. This climb is purely to avoid a long meander to the southwest, and after a comparatively low summit of around 260m, the route drops down around long, easy bends to emerge from the trees. By the time the river is met again it is simply called the Esk (having merged with the Black Esk en route). It is soon crossed at the narrow, arched Enzieholm Bridge, with junctions at either end. The river is now followed south east for a few more miles downstream, detouring once or twice along straighter - but hillier - routes to avoid the larger meanders. The small 'village' of Bentpath sits astride the river, the two parts connected by a bridge on a side road. A mile or so further on, another minor road crosses the river and climbs a little through a narrow pass to meet the A7.

The road climbs here, over the shoulder of Little Hill, and then stays above the riverbank when it meanders back. Heading south, the road climbs again at Craigcleuch, around the back of Clarks Hill before plunging into a band of woodland above the riverbank. Eventually, after travelling for the best part of 60 miles, the road emerges from the trees as it reaches Langholm. The B709 enters town along Thomas Telford Road, named after the famous Engineer who was born in Eskdale. The B7068 comes in from the right in the town square, which marks the original southern end of the B709 before the A709 was downgraded to the east of Lockerbie in the 1970s. The B709 therefore now continues a short distance further on, crossing the River Esk on Langholm Bridge. Almost immediately on the east bank, the route comes to an end at a T-junction on the A7 in the town centre. The A7 has taken roughly the same distance to get here - but is both wider, faster and passes through more towns.

History

Apart from minor adjustments to the two ends, as noted above, the B709 has survived almost unchanged for over a century. There have undoubtedly been widening projects, bridges replaced and a couple of junctions have been improved, but there is very little evidence that the road has been substantially realigned at any point. The OS maps intriguingly mark 'old road' against a track in a few places, particularly north of Innerleithen, but neither the old maps available nor the evidence on the ground suggests that these grassy tracks were ever part of the B709, especially those sections on the opposite side of burns. Instead they are probably much older road lines from the days of cattle droving, which have remained in use as farm tracks.

The 1922 MOT Road List defines this route as: Heriot Station - Innerleithen - Ettrick - Langholm





B709
Crossings
Roads
Related Pictures
View gallery (22)
Gordon Arms Hotel - Geograph - 1447161.jpgB709 passing Heriot Mill - Geograph - 1122016.jpgB709 TOTSO - Coppermine - 20082.jpgInnerleithen1.jpg8D71625C-F190-4205-952F-2225B763278B.jpeg
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B780 • B781 • B782 • B783 • B784 • B785 • B786 • B787 • B788 • B789 • B790 • B791 • B792 • B793 • B794 • B795 • B796 • B797 • B798 • B799
Earlier versions: B705 • B706 • B707 • B708 • B713(E) • B713(W) • B714 • B715 • B716 • B724 • B727 • B730 • B734
B735 • B736 • B739 (S) • B739 (N) • B743 • B744 • B746 • B752 • B761 • B762 • B763 • B765 • B773 • B783 • B785 • B789 • B791 • B795
Anomalous numbers: B77

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