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Monday, 15 October 2012

October ride to South Queensferry (13th October)

One of the things we aim to do on our monthly runs is to explore lesser-known cycling routes: to introduce riders to places they might not discover on their own. On that basis, today's run was an undoubted success. Thanks to some careful map-reading and reconnaissance by Ken Roxburgh, we found a delightful place to cycle that was completely new to almost everyone on the ride.

About 20 of us set out from the Meadows, heading up the familiar NCN 1 route to Cramond Brig. There was some light rain at first, but this soon eased off, leaving a slightly damp and overcast day.

After Cramond Brig, we turned west on the minor road past the Craigiehall army base. A couple of miles later, we hauled our bikes up the steep slope to the railway path, which took us quickly into Kirkliston. We then headed north for a short stretch on the shared-use pavement alongside the busy A8000.

So far, so unremarkable. But things started to get interesting when Ken brought us to a halt by a narrow driveway leading into private grounds. A sign by the gate told us that this was one of the entrances to the Dundas Castle estate.

Dundas what? No, I'd never heard of it either. Dundas Castle, it seems, is the family home of Sir Jack Stewart-Clark. The magnficent fortified house, which is also used as a conference and wedding venue, was built in 1818, on the site of an earlier 15th Century castle. It's located in the middle of a 1,500-acre estate, and, despite its size, is completely hidden from the road. The sign by the gate made it clear that this was very much private property.

Fortunately, Ken had contacted the estate office in advance, and had obtained special permission for us to cycle through the grounds. Out of respect for the family's privacy, we had agreed not to go past the house itself, but instead took a delightful back road through a deep, secluded valley. We paused by a charming loch at the base of a craggy cliff, surrounded by mature trees. The only sign of human habitation was a former boat-house, now used as an up-market self-catering venue.

Another couple of miles of pedalling through these peaceful woods took us to the estate's north gate, from where we had a quick downhill run back to civilization, otherwise known as South Queensferry.

After lunch, we took a much better-known route: through the Dalmeny Estate on NCN 76, and so back to Cramond Brig. The last leg was through Barnton and along the Blackhall Path to the Sustrans marker by Craigleath, where we went our separate ways. The total distance to this point was 24 miles.

Thanks to Ken for devising and leading this excellent ride. Thanks also to Jim for back-marking and route-tracing, and, of course, to the staff at Dundas Castle for letting us discover their delightful and secluded corner of the world.

Leader: Ken
Report: Mike

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