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Saturday, 10 May 2014

Into the depths of East Lothian

Today's run was a very pleasant 27-mile excursion into East Lothian. It included a section of route which was completely new to me - and to most of the others in the group as well.

Twenty-one riders turned up at the start. That was a pretty good turnout, considering that the forecast had promised a day of solid rain. (In the event, we just had some light drizzle in the morning and one short heavy shower while we were in the pub.) Glenn Brearly led the first group, with Peter Bennet in charge of the second.

Heading out of town, we avoided the well-worn route along the Innocent Path. Instead, we wiggled through St Leonard's (with excellent views of Salisbury Crags from the little-known St. Leonard's Bank), Duddingston Village and Calvary Park. At Bingham, we picked up NCN 1, which took us through Newcraighall and Whitecraig, and on to the Pencaitland Railway Path.

This path offers excellent cycling. It is wide, well-surfaced and almost completely flat. But after a couple of miles, we made an abrupt left turn, leaving the main path and heading up a short flight of steps and onto a diminutive track. I had never noticed this un-signposted turn-off before, although I must have cycled past it a dozen times.

The next two miles or so were narrow and somewhat muddy. But we only had to dismount a couple of times. At one point, we passed a tiny cemetery, completely surrounded by fields, with no human habitation or road access in sight. We then crossed a main road, and continued along the path, eventually emerging onto tarmac close to a familiar site: Falside Castle.

This was a bit of a surprise. The castle (which is in fact a private house) is near the summit of Falside Hill. At 144 metres, this is the highest point in the area. Approaching it by road (which is what we have done in the past) involves a grindingly steep ascent. This time, we had somehow managed to get there without the difficult climb, which I thought was pretty good.

So, now we had a delightful mile or so of free-wheeling off the hill. This took us quickly to our lunch stop, which was the Premier Inn near Whitecraig. This hotel has a large eating area and bar, and was able to feed and water us without any problem.

For the homeward leg, we followed the River Esk Walkway (one of my favourite routes) right up to the waterfront path in Musselburgh. We then took the Brunstane Burn path to Brunstane Station, and so back to our starting point via the Innocent Tunnel and East Parkside.

By this time, the rain had completely cleared. Most of us went for a coffee in Peter's Yard, where we were able to sit at an outside table in bright sunshine: a pleasant end to another successful ride. Thanks to those who led and back-marked - and kudos to Glenn for devising such an interesting route.

Leaders: Glenn and Peter
Report and map: Mike

View East Lothian ride - 10 May 2014 in a larger map

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Advanced Notice: Weekend away in July

Alloa and the Ochil Hills
Photo: Peter Gordon

From Glenn Brearley:

I am organising a weekend away for the 20-Milers in July - the first time we have done this as a group. The plan is to cycle the Round the Forth route, starting and ending in Edinburgh, with an overnight stop in Stirling.

The details are as follows:

Dates: 19 - 20 July

Route: We will leave Edinburgh on the Saturday, to cycle over the Forth Road Bridge and along the Fife coast path, via Culross and Alloa. On the Sunday, the return route to Edinburgh will be along the south shore of the Forth, via Bo'ness. The distance will be about 40 miles each day, which we will take at our usual moderate, unpressured pace (but just a bit faster than our usual monthly runs).

Accommodation: I have reserved six twin-bedded hotel rooms in the Stirling city centre Premier Inn, at a cost of approximately £50 per person (including full breakfast). These will be available on a first-come-first-saved basis. If you would like to take advantage of this, I will ask you for a deposit at the time of your booking, with the full amount payable about two weeks before the ride. Of course, you may arrange your own accommodation if you prefer.

Meals: The plan is for us all to go out for dinner together on the Saturday evening.

Single-day alternative: If you prefer not to stay overnight, you are welcome to cycle with us for one or both days, using the train to travel to or from Stirling.

For further information or to make a booking, please email me at Glenn.BrearleyATTforestry.gsi.gov.uk (replace ATT by the usual at-sign).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

John Muir Way Inaugural Ride

About thirty one riders turned up for the John Muir Way inaugural ride on Saturday (3rd May). The weather forecast had promised it would warm up as the day went on, but it never did. But at least it stayed dry for the most part.

We split into two groups: the first led by Julia and the second by Glenn with help from Dave (which kept the number of wrong-slots in single figures). After a trouble-free start, the second group caught up with the first at the toilet stop at the Co-op at South Queensferry. The route then took us along the shores of the Forth, past the construction site of the third Forth bridge, and then through the Hopetoun Estate. A quick detour to look at the house resulted in someone from the estate informing us we would have to pay if we wanted to look at the house, even though we were about a quarter of a mile away. Needless to say, we declined.

We then followed the shoreline to our lunch stop in the grounds of Blackness Castle, where we were welcomed by the inquisitive castle cat. Many of the group found a spot out of the wind to enjoy their picnic. But a few bagged a picnic table which was in the coldest and draughtiest part of the grounds. Trying to offset the cold with ice cream didn't work,

Just as the second group were ready to leave, mechanical gremlins struck one of the rider's bikes. It took quite a while to fix (especially given that chief engineer Alan Orr was not present); this proved to be a further opportunity to get cold before starting the journey home. But after a couple of stiff climbs, we were soon warmed up.

Our return route to town took us along the canal from Philpstoun to Niddrie Castle. This was followed by some quiet roads and paths through Kirkliston. The first group had their first puncture of the day on the home stretch just before Cramond Brig, but we all eventually arrived safely home.

Leaders: Julia and Glenn, assisted by Alan (Stalker), Dave (Gilchrist) and Holly.

Report: Julia and Glenn