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Sunday, 9 October 2011

8th October ride to Prestonpans

For today's ride, we were promised "three historic houses, some superb views, and a historic pub for lunch". We got the houses and the pub. The views were no doubt there too - somewhere behind the curtain of rain that accompanied us all day.

To my surprise, 17 riders turned up, which was impressive, given the poor weather. Our leader, Chris, conducted us through Newington and Holyrood Park, and then to our first test of the day: the long climb up Queen's Drive (the "behind Arthur's Seat" road). We cycled almost to the summit, before slipping through a gate into Paisley Terrace and the nice swoop down Meadowfield Drive to Duddingston.

Our first stop gave us a chance to view Duddingston House, built in the 1760s for the Earl of Abercorn, and now housing offices and a conference centre.

We then went on to Bingham, where we joined NCN 1 as far as Brunstane Station and the Brunstane Burn path, which has been partly paved since our last visit. This was followed by a muddy stretch to Newhailes House. This fine 18th Century building was home to the Dalrymple family for nearly three centuries. It was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1997.

From Newhailes, we took a path alongside the railway line to Musselburgh Station, and then back on NCN 1 to the River Esk. After a short stretch on main roads, we faced the real work of the day: Falside Hill. This killer hill, which seems longer and steeper every time I do it, took us to the 15th-Century Falside Castle and what would have been superb views if the weather had been better. Never mind. We all enjoyed the excellent freewheel down to our lunch stop at the Gothenburgh in Prestonpans.

By now, we were so wet and cold that even the hardy picnickers amongst us (of which I am one) decided to forego our usual al fresco meal in favour of the warm hostelry. The staff, who were friendly and welcoming, gave us a private dining room, which was fortunate because it had plenty of space for us to hang up our wet clothing. Unfortunately, when we set out to leave, we found that the aforementioned clothing was still as wet as ever. What can be worse then having to put on a soaking cycling jacket, gloves and helmet after a warm, comforting meal?

For the return journey, we followed the coast path into Musselburgh. This route includes a welcome new stretch of bike path that avoid the churned-up track used by lorries serving the ash lagoons. This part of the ride was interrupted by a puncture break - the only one of the day. Fortunately, the rider in question was well-equipped with tools and a spare tube, so the problem was quickly dealt with.

At Musselburgh, we decided to retrace our earlier route along the Brunstane Burn, and then onto the Innocent Railway for home. We split up at East Parkside, 25 miles from the start point, at the end of what turned out to be a very enjoyable ride (but perhaps not as enjoyable as the warming drinks, hot baths and dry clothing that were waiting at home).

Leader: Chris Pearson
Report by: Mike Lewis

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