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Saturday 13 July 2019

Picnic in the Pentlands

Who can explain Scottish weather? All week, the forecasters had been promising us a fine, dry day for our July ride. And the day did indeed start dry and sunny. But within a minute of my setting out for our meeting point, the temperature dropped and the rain came down, sending me scurrying back indoors to pick up my helmet cover and a warm jacket.

Despite the change in the weather, 28 cyclists turned out for our ride to the Harlaw Reservoir at the edge of the Pentland Hills. Such a high number often sees us splitting into two groups in order to keep things manageable, but, after some discussion, we decided to keep together this time.

And so we set off on what is now a familiar route: Whitehouse Loan, Hermitage Drive, Braidburn Valley Park, the path along the Braid Burn, and down Redford Road to Colinton, where we paused for snacks and sweeties.

From Colinton, there are basically two routes up to Harlaw. The first climbs up to the Torduff and Clubbiedean reservoirs and then along a rough track to Easter Kinleith. The other follows Woodhall Road to Blinkbonny, then up the killer Currie Kirkgate. This time, we opted for the latter, partly to avoid the difficult paths by the reservoirs, and partly to get the climbing over in one go. Inevitably, we were very spread out on the Kirkgate ascent, but we all made it to the top without too much suffering.

By now, the rain, which had been hovering all morning, was clearly not going to return. By the time most of us were battling up the hill, the sky had brightened and the sun had come out. A few minutes after that, it was hot enough to encourage us to strip off our outer layers. It stayed warm and dry for the rest of the day.

After a long breather at the top of the hill, we set off for the last mile or so to our lunch spot. The Harlaw Reservoir was at its best in the sunshine. Unusually, we had the place almost to ourselves, the earlier rain having presumably discouraged other visitors. Most of  us squeezed around the picnic tables behind the visitor centre, while others installed themselves on seats near the reservoir wall. Everyone had brought a packed lunch, which was fortunate given that the mobile snack bar that used to be parked here is no longer in business.

After a leisurely lunch break, we set off for the run back to town. This started with a somewhat rough ride alongside the Threipmuir Reservoir and through Redford Wood, followed by an exhilarating freewheel down the well-surfaced road to Balerno. After negotiating some unexpected road closures (which weren't there on the recce), we managed to get on to the Water of Leith path, and then on to the canal towpath to the Leamington Bridge.

On Bruntsfield Links the ride was officially terminated. At just over 20 miles, it wasn't as long as some of our recent outings, but it was not exactly a doddle either. Well done to everyone for making it up the big hill.

Leader, report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

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