20th Anniversary Year

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Tuesday 25 December 2018

A seasonal saunter

Photo op on the esplanade

For the first time in several years, the gods of Christmas weather were good to us for today's ride. There was none of last year's torrential rain, nor anything resembling the ferocious Storm Conor of 2016. Christmas morning this year was mild, dry and almost free of wind. True, the skies were decidedly overcast, but when it comes to cycling, a grey Christmas is better than a white one.

Fourteen riders turned up for this, our eighth Christmas morning run. About half the group were 20-Milers regulars; the rest were mainly folk we tend to see once a year. We were also joined by a couple of visitors from Thailand. All very welcome.

Under David's leadership, we started out along George IV Bridge and up the Royal Mile to the castle. We did a circuit of the esplanade, taking in some of the monuments and statues, and pausing for a photo opportunity in front of the Scottish Horse Monument (commemorating the men of the Scottish Horse Regiment who fell in the Boer War). The Pentland Hills were just about visible through the murky cloud but the Fife coast had gone AWOL.

After leaving the castle, we freewheeled down Johnston Terrace, then round the back of the Usher Hall into Lothian Road. We crossed Festival Square and took the footbridge into Rutland Square. Next came a bit of weaving through the West End, across Queensferry Street and into Charlotte Square. Passing the First Minister's residence (no coffee invitation was forthcoming), we headed into the Street of Light.

The Street of Light is a section of George Street which, in recent weeks, has been lit up with a spectacular light display, synchronised with music played through silent disco headphones. But this morning the lights were out and the place was even more silent than usual. For no good reason, we did an extra lap or two under the extinguished lights before turning into Castle Street and out onto Princes Street.

The Street of Light
Cycling along an almost traffic-free Princes Street is a traditional part of our Christmas morning rides. This year there seemed to be a few more buses and taxis than previously, but not enough to spoil the run. After crossing the Leith Street / North Bridge junction, we tackled our only serious climb of the day – to the summit of Calton Hill. Although steep, the road up the hill is reasonably short, and we all made it to the top without difficulty. The last time we were here was on our summer solstice ride, when our visit had been marred somewhat by the extensive building work. Fortunately, this has now finished.

We left Calton Hill by the same road that we had used for the ascent, and then headed along Regent Road to another of our traditional stopping places: the Stones of Scotland Monument. Breaking with tradition, we then continued east to Abbeyhill, and then down to Horse Wynd and into Holyrood Park. We were pleased to see that the road through the park was closed to cars for the day, so we took advantage of that to occupy the full width of the road rather than keeping to the narrow shared-use pavement.

Calton Hill
After leaving the park by the Commonwealth Pool exit, we cut along the track that leads into St Leonard's Bank. This little-known back street provides an excellent view of Salisbury Crags. We have occasionally used it when heading out of town, but this was the first time I recall taking it in the other direction. We finished the ride by crossing St. Leonard's Street and taking the familiar bike route back to the Meadows, arriving there at 12:30. Our total distance was a mere six and half miles, but it was a most interesting route, in good company and in tolerable weather. In other words, an excellent start to Christmas Day.

Leader: David
Report and photos: Mike
Map: David

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