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Sunday, 23 September 2012

20-Milers Extra ride to Aberdour (22nd September)

For our last Extra ride of the summer, we were lucky to have some of the best cycling weather of recent weeks: chilly at first but getting gradually warmer, with clear bright skies and virtually no wind. It was an ideal day for our trip into Fife.

Under the capable leadership of Julia Richardson, our 22-strong group headed up the familiar NCN1 route by way of Cramond Brig and Dalmeny. But when we reached the Forth Road Bridge, Julia took us on a less familiar turn-off, through a car park and the edges of a building site, to emerge at the back of the old toll offices. This hidden-from-view spot was where the Queen officially opened the bridge in 1964, and it provides one of the most spectacular views you'll find of both road and rail bridges (usefully, there are also public toilets there).

We lingered at this delightful spot for quarter of an hour, then continued across the bridge at a leisurely pace. It was unusual to cross the Forth on such a clear, wind-free day, and we couldn't resist the temptation to constantly stop, to take photos or to simply gaze across the water.

Once clear of the bridge, we got back to the serious cycling. We quickly headed up the main road into Inverkeithing, which was busy with Saturday shoppers and traffic. From the High Street, we took the cut-through by the Mercat Cross into Bank Street, then zoomed down the hill onto the bike path that skirts Inverkeithing Bay (see photo, top).

For the next five miles, we followed the coast, by St. David's Harbour, Downing Point and Donibristle Bay (famous for its radioactive waste), and on past the ruins of the 12th Century St. Bridget's Kirk. For most of this stretch, the route alternates between residential roads with modern housing and pleasant paths close to the water's edge. Navigation can be a little tricky in places, but Julia's local knowledge paid off, and she led us unerringly along the way.

After the kirk, we turned slightly inland, to follow a minor road across fields and a golf course, emerging into the centre of Aberdour. From here, it was only another mile or so to our lunch spot at Silver Sands beach.

According to an information board, this area is officially "Scotland's Riviera". Even on a sunny day like this was, I felt that was a bit of an exaggeration. Still, the beach is surely one of the best in Fife, with fabulous views across the Forth and round the coast (provided you close your eyes to the alumina plant in Burntisland). Most of our group chose to picnic on the beach, while others made for the recently-refurbished café.

For our return trip, we headed back the way we came. The only drawback was that the hill in Inverkeithing that we had earlier zoomed down now had to be climbed up. We didn't linger on the Forth Road Bridge this time, and we were soon heading back along NCN 1 to our starting point on the Roseburn Path. The total distance was 36 miles.

Thanks to Julia for planning and leading an excellent ride, to Alan and Jenny for back-marking, and to the weather gods for giving us the ideal day for it.

Leader: Julia
Report and photo: Mike
More photos from this ride

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