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Saturday, 27 May 2023

On the high road to Hopetoun

 Today saw the first of our Extra rides of the summer season. And what a lovely day it was, with clear skies and temperatures eventually reaching the high teens. Unfortunately, the wind speed in mph was also in the high teens. Not that that put off the 22 riders – including a couple of newcomers – who gathered at our Craigleith meeting point.

Under Alan's leadership, we set off along a familiar route, following the Blackhall Path towards Davidson's Mains, and then through Barnton to Cramond Brig. We crossed the main Queensferry road  by the Burnshot Bridge, then continued west along the Carlowrie Road. At the point where the road swings round to the left, we joined the cycle path that runs along the old South Queensferry - Ratho railway line. Access to this path is via a steep, narrow ramp. A couple of the members of the group managed to cycle up it, but most of us found it necessary to get off and push.

Once on the path, we enjoyed an agreeable mile or so before re-joining the road just east of Kirkliston. After passing through the village, we stopped for our customary toilet break at the leisure centre, then continued west a little further before turning off on to the quiet back road that runs past Overton Farm to Niddry Castle. We often join the canal towpath at this point, heading either towards Broxburn for Almondell Country Park or to Philpstoun for Blackness or Bo'ness. Today, however, we stayed on the road, continuing westward for a short distance before turning right towards Winchburgh and then left to Faucheldean. 

Climbing steadily

For the next couple of miles the road climbed steadily, soon  giving us lovely views to the right and left, including to the Ochil Hills way over to the north. Although there were more hills to come, these were not particularly steep and we would normally have taken them in our stride. But combined with the strong headwind, they were proving more of a struggle than might otherwise have been the case. Fortunately, that didn't last long. On reaching the B8046, we turned to the north, and were soon freewheeling down to Threemiletown, and then, still downhill, over the canal and the main railway line to the hamlet of Old Philpstoun.

If we had continued a little further on the road, we would have hit the very busy A904 at a point where there is no pavement or bike lane. Happily, our leader had planned for that difficulty. Passing a "No through road" sign, he led us along a farm track, taking us past East Philpstoun Farm and then through a short tunnel under the motorway. We then joined the aforementioned A-road, but at a point where there was a shared-use pavement that took us for the next half mile or so. After leaving that path, we had to make our way through a very rough patch where we were forced to dismount and lift our bikes over fallen branches, overgrown vegetation and other obstacles. But we were soon back on a firm surface, this being a driveway that took us to our lunch stop at the New Hopetoun Garden Centre.

With 20-odd hungry and thirsty cyclists all arriving at the same time, there was inevitably a long queue at the centre's café. Despite that, the staff served us cheerfully and efficiently, and we all managed to get fed and watered within the hour that had been allocated. Lunch over, we were quickly on our way again, initially retracing our steps though the overgrown vegetation before turning north for a nice downhill stretch towards Abercorn Church.

We then entered the grounds of Hopetoun House. This is a particularly scenic area with delightful countryside and fine views. It is familiar ground for many of us as it forms part of our usual homeward route from the Blackness / Bo'ness area. With the wind now behind us, the going was very easy. And we had an additional treat, as the ride coincided with the annual Hopetoun Horse Driving Trials. We were able to watch a series of decorated horse-drawn carriages, most of them driven by individuals in colourful costumes. 

Good progress

We continued to make good progress through the Hopetoun grounds and then along the road towards South Queensferry. We had a short pause on the observation platform at the Forth Road Bridge, then headed back to town along NCN 1 via  Dalmeny, Burnshot and Cramond Brig, reaching Craigleith a little before 4 pm. At that point, the ride was officially declared over.

Thanks to Alan for resurrecting this splendid route which we had not done since 2018. At 32 miles, and with pleasant scenery, a good lunch stop and (apart from the wind) excellent weather, it was a promising start to the 2023 Extra season.

Leader: Alan

Report and photos: Mike

Monday, 22 May 2023

This coming Saturday: our first Extra of the summer

I'm pleased to announce that the first of this year's Extra rides will take place this coming Saturday (27th). For this ride, Alan has resurrected a route that we have only done once before, back in 2018. It promises to be a very pleasant run through a mixture of open countryside and quiet woodland.

Please keep in mind that our Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual 20-mile outings. They have an earlier start and a later finish, although we still aim for the same friendly atmosphere. You won't need to be super fit to join these rides, but if you haven't cycled for a while, or if you feel that you are below your normal fitness, you may prefer to give this one a miss, and to stick with our usual "second Saturday" runs instead.


For this week's ride, we'll start by heading west to Kirkliston (where there will be a toilet break) and then to Winchburgh before turning north towards Abercorn and the coast. The return leg will take us through the Hopetoun Deer Park and South Queensferry.

The total distance will be about 32 miles. There will be more than a few moderate hills, especially in the morning, but nothing too onerous. There will be two rough stretches where we might have to dismount, but these will be quite short. The rest of the route will mainly follow paths and roads with reasonably good surfaces. But there will also be about a mile and a half on a main road that might be busy with traffic.

Lunch stop

For our lunch break, we'll stop at the New Hopetoun Garden Centre. This has a self-service café which offers a range of sandwiches, soup and other snacks, plus home-made cakes. It also has a terrace with picnic tables.

Time and place

Note that this ride will start at our alternative meeting place at Craigleith, not at Middle Meadow Walk. The meeting point is at the junction of the Roseburn, Blackhall and Telford Paths, next to the Craigleith Retail Park. If you need directions, see this page.

Note also that we will set out 15 minutes earlier than usual, at 10:15. I can't say for sure what time the ride will finish, but I think it's unlikely that we'll be back at Craigleith much before 16:00.

What if the weather's bad?

The ride will go ahead whatever the weather. Light rain or a chilly breeze won't put us off. But if conditions are particularly bad, we might opt for a shorter route, perhaps with a longer café stop, but with the same meeting time and place as above.

Finally, please remember to bring a spare inner tube if at all possible, plus whatever tools might be needed (if any) to remove your wheel in the event of a puncture.

Whether or not we see you on Saturday, our next standard ride will be on 10 June. I'll post more details of that event nearer the time.

Saturday, 13 May 2023

Gogarburn and the case of the missing keys

Today's ride had a new leader, new destination, the largest turnout for several years, the best weather so far this year and some drama thrown in for good measure. The weather clearly helped, but a turnout of 32 riders was impressive. From those that remembered the days when large numbers of riders were the norm, there was even talk of having to split into two groups to keep the ride manageable. Fortunately, that wasn't necessary on this occasion. An interesting and unusual route through the west of the city led us to our lunch stop at Gogarburn Golf Club near the airport.

Beneath blue skies and with warm sunshine, we left The Meadows and headed to the Russell Road zig-zags via the Leamington Bridge, Fountain Park and the Telfer Subway. At the Craigleith junction we headed towards Barnton and on to Cramond Brig where we had the obligatory stop. Turning left to take the subway under the A90, we were soon riding through the eerie abandoned housing estate once used for the military and their families at Craigiehall. After a stop at Grotto Bridge when Iain went round the group with homemade cakes, we continued through the woods before joining the road that took us to the Edinburgh Airport perimeter. Heading towards Maybury, a rider towards the back of the group suffered a puncture. Fortunately, Alan was on hand to assist. But when it was realised that the tyre was tubeless, he declared it, "game over!" Philip kindly agreed to accompany the unfortunate rider. The tyre was pumped up, fingers were crossed and the two abandoned the ride and headed off in search of a taxi or bike shop. The delay meant that half a dozen riders were now a considerable distance behind the rest of the group who were unaware of what had happened, and had continued on towards the lunch stop. From Maybury the group continued alongside the A8, crossed the bridge beside the Royal Bank of Scotland HQ and arrived at the Gogarburn Golf Club to find the rest of the group already tucking into lunch.

The golf club did us proud. A really good lunch stop. With lunch over, we were beginning to get ourselves ready to depart when the main drama of the day occurred. A rider had lost their keys. On the bunch was the key to unlock their bike which was fastened to another. Collectively we all searched high and low for the keys without success. Someone suggested we all checked pockets and bags in case they had been picked up by mistake - still nothing. Time was getting on. The hapless rider made a phone call and was going to have to wait for someone to arrive with a spare key. The rest of the group was just about to leave when a rider rather sheepishly said, "are these the keys?" retrieving them from their bag. Fortunately they were. The group gave a sigh of relief and we were soon on our way home. We headed towards Gogarbank Farm, turning off onto a track past Kellerstain. We had a long wait for the traffic lights at a bridge over the railway. It was then that we realised that half a dozen riders at the back were missing. We cut through by the chicken farm to emerge at Edinburgh Park. Despite waiting and sending a rider back to investigate, there was no sign of the others. As Alan was one of those missing, we knew if there was a mechanical issue or they had to make their own way back, they were in capable hands. As a result, we reluctantly pressed on without them. It turned out that the second puncture of the day explained their delay. We made our way back to The Meadows via Sighthill, Broomhouse, Murrayfield, Russell Road and the route we had taken out in the morning. Back at The Meadows, the leader declared [to the depleted field] that the ride was officially over.

Thanks to Graham for leading such a drama-filled ride. A baptism of fire for his first as leader. Also, thanks to him for an interesting route and arranging the great lunch stop. Thanks also to Alan for back marking and dealing with the two punctures.

Leader: Graham (Thompson)

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Monday, 8 May 2023

Two rides for May

 We've got two rides coning up this month: our usual monthly outing this coming Saturday; and the first of this year's Extra rides on the 27th. Here are the details:

May 20-Milers : 13 May

For our "second Saturday" ride this month, Graham (Thompson) has devised an interesting and unusual route through the west of the city. It will link up a few familiar paths and roads with some sections that will, I think, be new to most of us. There will be a variety of surfaces and gradients but I don't expect any serious difficulties. The total distance will be between 22 and 24 miles.

Our lunch stop will be at a venue that will also be new to most of us: the Gogarburn Golf Club. There is a friendly café there that serves a variety of sandwiches, wraps, baked potatoes, etc., all at reasonable prices. There are also picnic tables for those who prefer to bring a packed lunch.

The arrangements are the same as always. We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will end at or near the Meadows around the middle of the afternoon.

20-Milers Extra: 27 May

This will be our first Extra of 2023. These Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual monthly runs, with an earlier start and a later finish, but with the same sociable and unpressured pace. They generally appeal to riders who find our normal rides well within their capabilities and would now like to try something slightly more demanding.

Look out for another post here later in the month with details of the route, destination and meeting time and place for this ride. In the meantime, note the date.

More rides

As summer approaches, other local cycling groups - including EasyCycle, Mellow Velo, CTC and others - will be organising their usual full programmes of rides. These rides, which are of varying distances and levels, are mostly free and open to all. You can find a full list on my website

And, finally, you might like to know about a new cycling map of our area that has recently been issued. It is Sheet 24 of a series published by Cycle Maps UK.  It has less detail than the familiar Spokes maps, but it covers a much wider area, including nearly all of the Lothians, most of the Borders as well as the southern part of Fife. Here's a link to the relevant page on Amazon.

That's all for now. I hope to see you on one or both of the above rides. In the meantime, happy cycling.

Saturday, 8 April 2023

Sunny Easter Saturday in Dalkeith

For today's Easter Saturday ride we headed to Dalkeith where we were blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine, blue skies and didn't see a drop of rain. Whilst it wasn't overly warm, it did begin to feel as if spring had finally sprung. No doubt the weather helped, as we mustered a respectable 22 riders. Looking at the weather, the backmarker wondered if we would have such a large turnout as to have to split into two groups. Alas, it wasn't to be on this occasion. It is several years since that was necessary.

Following the customary route and safety briefing, the leader headed off towards the Innocent Tunnel with the group in tow. This well used route saw us head along the Innocent Railway, through Gilbertstoun to the busy Newcraighall Road. It took a few minutes to get the whole group across the busy road; but we soon left it behind as we took the path to Musselburgh Station. From there, quiet residential streets, a path beside a golf course and a bridge over the river took us to the River Esk Path, or the Grove as it's known locally. We followed the path towards Whitecraig. There is a stiff little climb as the path finishes at Cowpits; so we paused there for a short rest and the leader offered round cake. Onwards to the main road, through Whitecraig and we were soon on the cycle path towards Dalkeith. We had a slight delay on this section as a rider suffered a mechanical problem. Rolling again, we remained on the cycle path until it ended abruptly forcing us onto the busy Musselburgh Road for a short stretch. We threaded through the streets of Dalkeith to arrive at Kings Park which was to be our lunch stop. There was plenty of room for us all to spread out for a picnic lunch in the sunshine. There was a Morrison's store across the road, so all needs were catered for.

Lunch over, we exited the park and made our way through the new housing estate to the kissing gate. Getting all of the group through the gate one-at-a-time took a while. Thanks to Alan for dutifully taking on the role of gatekeeper. Through Benbught Woods, across the Maiden Bridge and we had to negotiate another cycle-unfriendly barrier on our way to Waterfall Park. Through there, and Riverside Park and we were back at the bridge beside Musselburgh Road where we had been earlier on our way into Dalkeith. After a short stretch on the busy road, we turned right and headed into Dalkeith Country Park. We sped down the hill and enjoyed whizzing past the queue of cars waiting to pay to park. Onwards past Go Ape and we were soon in the quieter part of the park with less people, and fields of horses. A lovely day to be out in the countryside. Leaving the park, a stretch on the busy A6094 followed. It was nice to leave that road behind as we headed to Cowpits and re-joined the River Esk Path. From there, the route back to the Meadows was the same as we had taken on our outward leg in the morning. Back at the Meadows, the leader declared the ride officially over. An enjoyable trouble-free ride in lovely weather through nice countryside in good company - what more could anyone ask for? Thanks to Alison for leading, Mike for back marking and Alan for his role as gatekeeper.

Leader: Alison

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Monday, 3 April 2023

April 20-Milers on Saturday

 Just a quick reminder of our ride this coming Saturday (8th April). Alison will be leading us on what looks like a very pleasant route to Dalkeith. The total distance will be about 24 miles. I don't foresee any difficulties apart from a couple of short stretches through the centre of Dalkeith that might be busy with traffic. There won't be any killer hills, and the paths will mostly have good surfaces.

For our lunch stop, we'll head to the King's Park, where there is plenty of space for picnicking. For those who prefer to eat indoors, there is a cafe in the Morrisons supermarket across the street (and also toilets). The cafe serves a range of snacks and light meals, or you can pick up a sandwich and take-away drink to take to the park.

We'll meet at 10.30, at our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. As always, the ride is free and open to all, with no advance booking.

Saturday, 11 March 2023

Roslin by an unfamiliar route

Today's ride saw us head out to Roslin by a route that was far from familiar to all except the leader. All week the weather forecast had carried warnings of snow. On Friday it was suggested we would miss the snow, but it would be bitterly cold. On the day we had bright sunshine and blue skies, hardly any wind, and whilst it wasn't warm, it was more pleasant than anyone had dared hope. That certainly helped muster a very respectable 21 riders.

Following the leader's customary briefing, we headed towards Holyrood Park. On this occasion, we didn't enter the Innocent Tunnel. Instead we took the road through the park and onwards to Duddingston village. Taking the path by Duddingston House and past the golf course, we continued to the bus terminus at Bingham Medway. Under the bridge, across Niddrie Mains Road, along Niddrie Marishal Road and we were soon passing the Jack Kane Centre. At this point most of the group were in unfamiliar territory. Following a brief stop whilst the leader offered around homemade cake, lightly used paths took us through Hunter's Hall Park to emerge beside a tower block in Greendykes. From there we made our way to Danderhall and cut through the new housing estate to arrive at the start of the Danderhall to Roslin cycleway. The cycleway was surprisingly busy with walkers with and without dogs, clearly making the most of the better than expected weather. After a pleasant, trouble-free ride we rolled into Roslin for our lunch stop. Most riders headed to the café, with the remainder heading to the pub or a picnic in the graveyard near the chapel. The picnickers found it reasonably mild as they enjoyed lunch in such a quiet and peaceful spot.

Lunch over, we regrouped in the village and headed back to the cycleway towards Danderhall. We left the path and made our way up the cycle path alongside Lasswade Road, before turning off to make our way through the backstreets of Gilmerton and Moredun. We skirted the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and rode past Craigmillar Castle and through Craigmillar Castle Park to emerge on Peffermill Road. Across the road, through the industrial estate and we were at the Innocent Railway. From there we headed back to the Meadows where the leader declared the ride officially over.

Thanks to Iain for managing to plot a route to a familiar destination that took us on roads and paths that were new to all of us. It's great when someone can do that as it keeps the rides fresh. And we mustn't forget to say how much the home baking was appreciated. Thanks to Neil for back marking, and thanks to the weather for being considerably better than anyone had dared to expect.

Leader: Iain

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn