Redford to Lunan Bay

Route out – Redford to Leysmill to Braehead of Lunan to Lunan Bay. For route map click here.

Route back – Lunan Bay to Inverkeilor to Letham Grange to St Vigeans to Woodville to Guynd to Redford. For route map click here.

See route on Strava here.

  • Weather – mainly bright and warm with sunny intervals but 1 horrible heavy shower just before we finished the route.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 29.2 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 2 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.1 mph
  • Average speed – 14.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 1257 feet

Annoyingly, I had to go back to school this week after the summer holidays. The school holidays are far too short I think. Never mind, it will soon be Christmas… Anyway, a few weeks ago we went to stay with my Granny and Granda for a few days and we took our bikes with us, hoping that there would be at least one decent day to go cycling and luckily there was…

We left Granny’s house in the village of Redford in Angus just after breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning. First we headed north along the B961 road for a mile or 2. This is a fairly quiet road with a nice surface for cycling on. It’s also downhill for a long straight section, and we flew past farms and fields with the Grampian hills far away in the distance. We also passed by a self-service potato shop/shed thing called the Spud Hut along the way. We didn’t stop to buy any tatties though… Soon we came to a crossroads and turned right on to a quiet narrow road, passing more farms and the no.36 bus, crossing over the busy A933 road before coming to the village of Leysmill. After Leysmill, it was mostly a flat ride for a mile or so to the Chapelton crossroads. Here we turned left onto the B965 for a short distance but instead of following this road into Friockheim, we went straight on up a short hill, over a bridge to the other side of the Lunan Water and then turned right onto another very narrow and deserted back road which took us right past Boysack Quarry.

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Shortly after the quarry, we came to a junction with the option of going downhill to rejoin the B965 or to head up a steep hill. We chose the difficult way (obviously) and it was worth it because, after the long slog to the top, we got great views across to our destination Lunan Bay as well as fine views back towards the hills in the west. There is a long flattish section to this road along the top which is fun to cycle on and we actually saw quite a lot of other cyclists heading in the opposite direction to us. Eventually, we came to the junction with the busy A92 road which goes from Montrose to Arbroath. I spotted some wild raspberries so we stopped here to stuff our faces for a wee while before braving the main road. Luckily we only had a few yards on the A92 before turning left into Braehead of Lunan where we got amazing views down the hill to the beach below. It was downhill from here all the way to Lunan Bay and soon we turned off into the beach parking area (the road goes through a farm yard and it is very bumpy and has lots of speed bumps too so watch out here…). We had said to Granny that we’d be there by 10am and they (Granny, Granda, Mum and Isla) could meet us if they liked to have a walk along the beach. It turned out that they had only just arrived seconds before us so that was well timed!

After a quick stop at the cafe for a drink, we chained up the bikes and headed for the beach. Lunan Bay is a brilliant beach with amazing sand dunes and when the tide is out far enough, you can go and explore some caves in the cliffs at the north end of the beach. Today the tide was out so that’s what we did. You can also see the East Coast railway line from the beach and I spotted a Virgin train and several Scotrail trains in the hour or so we spent there.

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We said goodbye to everyone and headed back onto the road, going left this time past the ruins of Red Castle, up a steepish hill and then turning right to head mostly downhill along a rather narrow but smooth road to the village of Inverkeilor. Here we came to another junction with the A92 but we managed to cross straight over safely enough to join the B965 for around 5 miles of pleasant and fairly flat cycling along the quiet country road. We passed lots of farms along the way and got a good view of the quarry we’d passed earlier on. Soon enough we arrived back at the Chapelton crossroads again but instead of heading straight on to go back the same way, we turned left onto the Arbroath road. This road seemed relatively busy compared to the other roads we’d been on but after only a short distance, we turned right onto a quieter road that led us around the side of Letham Grange golf course. We didn’t see much of the course from the road but there was a lovely old archway so we stopped to photograph it.

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Next we turned left onto yet another nice quiet road in the middle of nowhere. This road was really flat and took us around the back of the Condor army base before we eventually arrived at the outskirts of Arbroath at a place called St Vigeans. Here we turned right and although the road was fairly busy, there was a cycle lane to keep us safe. At the junction with the A933 we had to wait ages before there was a suitable break in the traffic before we could turn right. Luckily we turned left almost immediately off the busy road and onto a more suitable single track road through a tiny place Millfield (which used to a have a bike shop where Dad got a mountain bike when he was about 15) and then right onto a lovely smooth and straight road for a mile or so, up and over a large hump to another tiny place called Woodville. Dad spotted some early brambles so we stopped to forage of course.

A few yards after Woodville, we turned left at the crossroads onto a narrow and very straight road which Granda calls the “diagonal road”. If you look at the map you’ll see why he calls it this… It’s a mile or 2 of gradually uphill cycling past endless field until you come to the Guynd at the junction with the B9127. Annoyingly, it came on a very heavy shower at this point so we got rather wet despite putting our waterproof jackets on. At the Guynd, you go sharply down into a dip and then back up the other side before you are rewarded with another long, straight and flat section. This road goes past a solar energy farm which is something you don’t see very often. Where we live, you see fields full of wind turbines all the time but here, there were fields full of solar panels…

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After that, we turned right onto the B961 to head the last mile or so back to Redford. First we had to climb the steep hill that takes you past the old war memorial and then just after that, you can see the very distinctive Carmyllie Hall on the left. We stopped to photograph it before speeding back down the hill into the village to arrive at Granny’s just in time for lunch – home-made minestrone soup and Aberdeen rowies!

Gorebridge to Ormiston (the long way)

Route out – Gorebridge to Edgehead to Elphinstone to Tranent to Ormiston. For route map click here.

Route back – Ormiston to Pathhead to Crichton to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – mostly bright and sunny and quite warm with hardly any wind.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 25.9 miles
  • Riding time – 1 hour 47 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.4 mph
  • Average speed – 14.4 mph
  • Height climbed – 1440 feet

Last week when Dad was off work we went for an early morning ride to East Lothian to take in some roads we hadn’t cycled on before as well as some we’d been on millions of times. We left the house not long after 7am and it was quite chilly at this point so I had to put my jacket on despite the sunshine breaking through the clouds. From the house it was straight up a steep hill to get out of Gorebridge, but once at the top of hill we got onto the B6372 and raced quickly along the smooth road slightly downhill for 2 or 3 miles. This is usually quite a busy road but at this time in the morning we saw very few cars as we passed by the beautiful Vogrie Country Park on our way to the village of Edgehead.

Edgehead is a lovely quiet village which would be a nice place to live I think. My favourite bus (Borders Buses 51/52) passes through here several times each day but we didn’t see it today. The village is also on the side of a steep hill but on our new road bikes, we made it to the top of the hill more quickly than usual. From the top you get a nice fast section of straight road for a bit and then the road heads steeply downhill heading for Whitehill. Just before Whitehill, we turned off onto a narrow and rather bumpy road that leads to Fordel Mains Farm. Halfway along the road you get one of the best views in Midlothian as the road is high up, overlooking Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat, The Pentland Hills, Fife and East Lothian. We stopped here for a quick drink and to enjoy the view.

After Fordel mains Farm we crossed a bridge that took us to the other side of the main A68 road and then turned left onto the A6124. This is a fairly quiet road despite being an “A” road. This section is also very fast and all downhill for half a mile or so. Soon we passed the sign welcoming us to East Lothian and arrived at the traffic lights at the Crossgatehall junction. Here we turned right onto the B6414 to head for Tranent. We’d never been on this road before but found it reasonably pleasant to cycle on, not too busy and quite a good surface. It goes gradually uphill for a short while and on the way up, we found a large patch of early brambles so we stopped to stuff our faces before carrying on. Soon enough we were heading gradually downhill again, speeding through Elphinstone village and not long after that, arriving at the town of Tranent. We cycled through the town centre and this was quite busy with traffic but soon we were cycling out into the East Lothian countryside once more on the B6371. This is a lovely wide and smooth road (slightly downhill too) which passes by the Hibernian FC training ground just before we came to the village of Ormiston.

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Ormiston was very peaceful this morning and we decided to stop at a bench have a bag of crisps and a drink before heading home. We left Ormiston along a very quiet, narrow road, passing a new housing development that is being built before entering the countryside again. When we passed a house along the way, some stupid-looking dogs decided to run up to the fence and bark their heads off at us for some reason. Maybe they could smell cheese and onion crisps on my fingers or something… After about a mile of easy, flat cycling, we came upon the junction with the A6093¬† road. This is a lovely smooth road but also quite busy with traffic and we had to wait for a while before turning left onto it. Straight away, we passed an East Lothian sign again which means that at some point after leaving Ormiston we had actually gone back into Midlothian. I didn’t see any Midlothian signs though… Anyway, after a few yards, we turned off the main road and onto the B6367, heading uphill for a wee bit until we actually did come to a sign telling us we were back in Midlothian. After the sign it was a nice long, straight and flattish ride through the trees and fields until we came to Pathhead. Just before the village there’s a house on the right that has a vintage Shell petrol pump in the garden so keep your eyes open for that. Dad forgot to stop for a photo of it though.

In Pathhead we had to wait for a minute before crossing over the busy A68 road but we were soon back onto the mainly traffic-free B6367, heading gradually uphill to Crichton, which is basically a couple of houses, a church and a ruined castle. It’s worth heading off the “main” road to visit the church and castle, but today we didn’t bother and cycled straight down the Colegate Road hill. This is a very steep hill which takes you through the Beech trees, down into a gorge and then back up another steep hill on a very narrow but smooth road. There’s a quite a few corners on the way down and it was on one of these that Dad couldn’t slow down enough and his back wheel skidded on the damp surface causing him to crash into the muddy grass verge (luckily for him there were no nettles at that point). Amazingly, his bike suffered no damage but he did get quite a few cuts on his legs and elbow and (so he says) an amazingly huge black bruise on his “upper hip”. I was in the lead at this point so missed everything. I did wonder why it took Dad so long to reach the top of the next steep hill though as I had to wait there for a few minutes before he appeared…

After that excitement, we had an easy mile of so of cycling through deserted Midlothian countryside until we came to a crossroads. We went straight on, up to the high point of the route where we got some amazing views over to the Moorfoot and Pentland Hills before speeding back down another very steep hill (Dad was more careful this time) and then a nice gentle cycle for the last mile or so back to Gorebridge along Vogrie Road. We made it home long before 10am and it turned out to be our fastest average speed ever!

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (Volume 5): The 4 Abbeys

Route out – Tweedbank to Gattonside to Newstead to Newtown St Boswells to Dryburgh to Clintmains to Kelso to Heiton. For route map click here. Note that Google Maps tells you to go onto the A68 at Leaderfoot but you don’t need to – just use the pedestrian bridge next to the viaduct to cross the river.

Route back – Heiton to Cessford to Jedburgh to Nisbet to Ancrum to Melrose to Tweedbank. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – bright and reasonably sunny in the morning but lots of heavy showers in the afternoon and very windy too.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 62.7 miles
  • Riding time – 4 hours 46 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 33.7 mph
  • Average speed – 13.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 2815 feet

Last Saturday, Dad and I took our bikes on the train to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders to try out a route I’d been thinking about doing for a while – the 4 Abbeys cycle route. This is a signposted circular route though as we found out, the signage is at times vague or even invisible so make sure you bring a map with you so you don’t get lost in the middle of nowhere. Our route is also slightly different in places but 90% of it is the same as the normal route.

After leaving the station we crossed the old bridge to the other side of the River Tweed and headed along the B6360 through Gattonside. This is a nice cycling road – quite quiet, good surface, relatively flat and nice views across to Melrose and the Eildon Hills. Before long we arrived at the Leaderfoot viaduct and immediately after passing underneath it, we nipped off the road on the right and joined a pedestrian bridge which crosses the

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River Tweed. Here you get amazing views of the viaduct. We then crossed the river and followed the narrow road (closed to traffic) for the mile or so to the village of Newstead with the Eildon Hills getting closer all the time. After cycling up a steep hill to leave the village we came to the junction with the A6091. This road is very busy so be very careful here. Luckily we only had to go on it for 30 yards and then there’s a right turn lane which we used to cross over onto the mainly traffic-free road that goes along the side of the hills and is actually part of Cycle Route no.1. This is a lovely stretch of road for cycling and has great views along the way of the Borders countryside. There’s also a brilliant fast downhill stretch for the last wee bit as you reach the town of Newtown St Boswells.

We zoomed through Newtown and then up a steep hill to the junction with the main A68 road. We only had to cross over and onto a narrow side road but the A68 is busy so we had to be very careful here. Soon we arrived at an old pedestrian bridge with a wooden floor which crosses the River Tweed and we stopped here to photograph the nice views. On the other side of the water we cycled up a steep hill and and arrived at our first abbey of the day – Dryburgh Abbey. You can’t really see anything of the abbey from the road and unless you pay loads of money at the visitor centre you are stuffed – or so we thought. Dad went in and asked the man if we could sneak in and take a quick photo but he wasn’t too keen on the idea. He was though kind enough to direct us to a spot in the grounds of the hotel next door where we could see the abbey over a high wall so we did get some photos after all.

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After Dryburgh we had a lovely ride through the countryside for quite a while, mostly slightly downhill and quite fast on a mix of quiet B roads and minor roads with lots of long straight sections. Eventually we arrived at a junction with the A6089 and we had to turn right onto this road for the last mile or so into the town of Kelso. This short section was not pleasant due lots of traffic and idiots overtaking when it wasn’t safe… However, we made it to the town centre in one piece and after stopping to photograph Kelso Abbey (no sneaking around and peaking over high walls required!) we ended up at Greggs the baker for an early lunch.

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Leaving Kelso turned out to be a complete nightmare. Our intended route (the signposted route) should have taken us along the A699 for a short way and then down a minor road to Roxburgh on the west side of the river. Unfortunately there was some event on down that road and the road was completely blocked with a traffic jam. Rather than sit in a queue of cars (and ruin our average speed!) we took a diversion along another main road instead, the A698, which would take us the same general direction but on the other side of the river. This turned out to be a bad idea as the road was busy, but even worse, it was straight into the strong wind so we struggled to go at a good speed. It was a lovely road surface though and quite flat too. After about 5 miles of this, passing a village called Heiton along the way, we came to a junction where we could turn off onto the B6401 to re-join the official 4 Abbeys route. Thank goodness for that… From there we had a lovely time cycling along deserted

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back roads (we saw only 2 cyclists and 2 walkers and no cars at all for a long time). We also had the chance to forage for wild raspberries at one point which is always nice. Just before Jedburgh, there’s a very long gradual hill to climb and then the road goes steeply downhill right into the town centre. On the outskirts of town Dad spotted a road called Rowan Road so we obviously stopped to photograph it before we quickly heading along to Jedburgh Abbey which is a very impressive ancient building overlooking the main road. It is impossible to miss as you cycle along.

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After a pleasant cycle through Jedburgh town centre and then along a short riverside path, we came upon the main A68 road on the northern outskirts of town. Here the signpost for the 4 Abbeys route isn’t clear but Dad checked the map and we were able to miss out the busy road and take a minor road that runs mainly in the same direction but on the other side of a river. This road was very quiet apart from a recently killed badger which was lying in the middle of the narrow road. Soon enough we came upon the dreaded A698 again and there was no way to avoid it this time. Thankfully it seemed a lot more pleasant cycling on it with the wind at our backs this time. After less than a mile we turned left onto the B6400. We immediately came upon an unusual narrow metal bridge that took us over the river into the village of Nisbet. From the bridge we got amazing views down the river valley to the East and West. We stayed on the B6410 for a few miles, heading westwards and slightly uphill through pleasant and peaceful countryside until the peace ended at the junction with the A68. We just needed to cross over main road to rejoin the B6400 again on the over side but it was very busy so it took quite a while till there was a suitable break in the traffic. It was there that we spotted an unusual stone bench so we stopped for a short break and watched my favourite bus go by (the Borders Buses 51).

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After our bus stop we rejoined the B6400 and cycled through a village called Ancrum. At this point the rain really started to fall heavily so we put our jackets on and pedalled as fast as we could. We had been expecting some showers but it basically rained constantly for the rest of the journey back to Tweedbank. After what seemed like hours of slogging uphill in the wet through what was probably a very nice and scenic landscape (it was certainly quiet and we hardly saw any cars or cyclists), we finally turned off onto the B6359 heading even more steeply uphill, around the Western edge of the Eildon Hills before finally reaching Melrose with an extremely steep and scarily fast downhill section right to the town centre. In the rain, that downhill section wasn’t as much fun as it should have been… Anyway, we made it to our favourite ice cream shop safely enough and filled our faces with raspberry cone (me) and 2 scoop tub (Dad). Dad managed to sneak a photo of the Abbey through the fence too. We made it back to the station with a while to wait until the next train so we went for a quick cycle around Gun Knowe Loch to pass the time. When we got back, the train pulled into the station at exactly the same time as us.

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This was a very long and challenging route with lots of hills but apart from the last hour or 2 in the rain, it was very enjoyable. If it sounds too long for you though, you could easily split it up into shorter sections. Right, I’m now ready for Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders volume 6 – where will we go next…?

Gorebridge to North Berwick

Route out – Gorebridge to Crichton to Humbie to Longnewton to Garvald to East Linton to North Berwick. For route map click here.

Route back – 2 Scotrail trains (North Berwick to Edinburgh then Edinburgh to Gorebridge).

  • Weather – dry and mainly sunny, quite warm but rather windy.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 47.3 miles
  • Riding time – 3 hours 36 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 72.5 mph (not sure how that happened as it was a more believable 31.8 mph just before North Berwick…)
  • Average speed – 13.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 2064 feet

A few weeks ago we went on the train for a day out in North Berwick on the East Lothian coast. That day we climbed the Law Hill, went crab catching at the beach and had an ice cream. On the way home, the train conductor didn’t bother to check our tickets. Dad noticed that the return tickets were valid until the end of the month so we decided there was nothing to stop us using them a second time. Of course we’d need to find some way to get to North Berwick first…

So last Sunday, Dad and I left the house at around 8:30am on our new road bikes (so much faster than my old mountain bike!) with our train tickets in our pockets and headed for North Berwick again. We began by cycling along some of my favourite quiet Midlothian back roads, including the steep hill near Crichton. The roads are mostly very good smooth surfaces around here and there’s lots of nice scenery and wildlife to see. At one point a blackbird decided to fly right through the frame of Dad’s bike when he was travelling at over 20 mph! We stopped at a ford in the road at the border with East Lothian for our first snack of the day (banana for me and apple for Dad). This was about 9 miles in to the ride and we’d still seen no traffic at all.

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Soon after, we were on the B6371 heading for Humbie when a car finally drove past. I spotted some wild raspberries so we stopped to stuff our faces as another car and a whole load of cyclists sped by. At the junction in Humbie we turned left onto the B6368, crossing a river and up a very steep hill until the Lammermuir Hills appeared in the distance on the right hand side. This a great cycling road as it has a nice surface and lots of straight bits and interesting humps and hollows but we didn’t stay on it for long today as we turned onto a narrow road on the right, heading towards the hills. East Lothian has lots of amazing ancient road signs dotted around the countryside (with distances give to the nearest 1/8 of a mile!), and it was at one of these that Dad made a wrong turning and we ended up back at the B6368 by mistake. Rather than go back, we turned right onto this road again and then took the next proper road on the right to head uphill and into the middle of nowhere once again. At the top of the hill we got a great view of the Lammermuirs on one side and Traprain Law and North Berwick Law miles away in the distance.

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The next while was spent in some very remote parts of the region, going up and down a lot, skirting along the edge of the hills. When you think of East Lothian you think of the coast and beaches and golf courses and tourists and this area really felt a million miles removed from that. It was fantastic cycling territory though and we saw loads of road cyclists when we were there and basically no cars. At one point Dad also saw a ferret scuttling across the road in front of us but I missed it… The only real village we passed through was Garvald and after that we had to climb a mammoth hill at Papple before we finally started to get some good views over to the East Lothian coast with the impressive Traprain Law not far away now. We took a rather round-about route which took us up quite high and then down a long fast hill before going right round to the other side of the Law, where we joined up with Cycle Route 76. This took us onto a tiny road past the ruined Hailes Castle where we stopped for lunch of oatcakes with crab and cheese. Tasty. Note that this road may be very narrow but does have a fair amount of cars using it to get to the castle so be careful. After that, it was mostly downhill to the picturesque village of East Linton where we stopped in to say hello to my cousins Ella and Angus. Oh, and to eat their biscuits and use their toilet too…

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In East Linton, dad spotted an incredibly stupid signpost which pointed to North Berwick in two completely different directions. We chose left and headed uphill on the B1377 for a short distance before turning left onto the first road we came to. This quiet road gave nice views to the west and after a couple of miles of pleasant cycling, we came to the junction with the B1347 which took us past the Museum of Flight. Immediately we noticed that this road was very very busy. It might have been because it was a sunday and the weather was nice but it wasn’t much fun to cycle on. It’s also mainly uphill and there’s a lot of bad corners on it (some right angled bends too) which make it hard for cars to overtake safely. We witnessed some rather dangerous overtaking today by an idiot in a BMW. Thankfully the driver failed to kill himself or anybody else… If we ever come this way again, we’ll certainly try and find a quieter road from East Linton to North Berwick. Eventually, we got to the top of the long, gradual hill and got some stunning views of North Berwick Law with the Bass Rock in the distance.

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Dad actually spent too long taking photos that we got to the train station 1 minute after the train had left! That left us with¬† an hour to kill before the next train so we cycled down the hill into the town centre and bought come ice creams… The train journey back to Edinburgh was rather interesting as there were only 2 bike spaces but at least 12 bikes managed to cram their way into the carriages. Luckily the ticket conductor didn’t seem to be too bothered and everyone made it back to Edinburgh OK. We’d made it this far without having our tickets checked again so we were already planning an alternative route to North Berwick to re-use the tickets once more. Most annoyingly though, on the train back to Gorebridge, this conductor actually bothered to check our tickets, so those plans have had to be postponed – for now.

Foraging in Midlothian

Route out – Gorebridge to Mayfield to Whitehill to Dalkeith to Eskbank to Bonnyrigg. For route map click here.

Route back – Bonnyrigg to Dalhousie to Carrington to North Middleton to Borthwick to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mainly cool and cloudy with some brightness and not much wind.
  • Distance travelled – 22.53 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 33.4 mph
  • Average speed – 10.3 mph
  • Height climbed – 1663 feet

It is wild raspberry season at the moment so for our latest cycle run, I decided to take Dad on a rather up and down and winding route past most of my favourite local foraging spots. And I certainly filled my face along the way…

We had an early lunch of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and then headed out of Gorebridge along Stobhill Road and then turned right onto the Crawlees Road which took us the mile or so to Mayfield. As I’ve mentioned before, Crawlees Road is to be avoided during the week because it is always very busy with lorries and vans using the industrial estate. However, at the weekend it is very pleasant to cycle on, with a smooth surface and because it is quite high up, you get brilliant views of Edinburgh, the Pentland Hills and most of Midlothian down below. At the junction, we turned right onto the B6982 into Mayfield. It’s not the most scenic place in the world – it’s basically one giant housing estate – but we cycled through the residential streets which took us steeply uphill until we eventually emerged from the houses and onto a narrow road which took us into the countryside and to a tiny place called D’Arcy at the top of the hill. It was here that we spotted an interesting signpost where the signs appeared to indicate that it was 2 miles and slightly downhill to Edgehead or 3 miles and much more downhill to Dalkeith. We chose Dalkeith and it was great fun free-wheeling at around 30 mph all the way to there in only a few minutes. We passed through the village of Whitehill on the way and briefly enjoyed the amazing view over Edinburgh and across the water to Fife as we sped through.

In Dalkeith we passed through some more residential streets and then joined the cycle path of cycle route no.1 which we have written about lots of times before. The path is very nice to cycle on and takes you through the Newbattle Estate and past the golf course. Most importantly though, there are millions of wild raspberries to eat along the way – including lots of delicious yellow ones. We had to keep stopping every few yards to stuff our faces so this really slowed down our average speed today. Oh well…

We basically followed route no.1 cycle path for a while after that, passing through Eskbank station (where we saw a train) and then into Bonnyrigg (more foraging along the way). At Bonnyrigg, we headed off the path but stayed with route no.1 and turned left onto the B704 in the direction of home – but we weren’t going home just yet. At the crossroads next to a church, route no.1 turns right in the direction of Carrington. We were going there but decided to take a long cut so headed straight on up the hill to Dalhousie Castle. We stopped near the castle, just before the bridge with traffic lights, to forage once again at another large patch of raspberries at the roadside. From here Dad got a great photo of Newtongrange with the old coal mine (now the mining museum) in the background. Then we crossed the bridge at the green light and headed uphill for a short distance. Just before the Lothian Cat Rescue place on the right, we turned off the road and onto a path that we know. It’s rather narrow at first and very overgrown but we managed to cycle on it reasonably OK as we passed fields of sheep and cows. The track ended at a gate which we discovered was padlocked. It tried to lift my bike over but it was too hard so Dad had to do it. It was rather annoying and given that the path is actually a signposted walking route, we thought it was rather strange that the gate was locked. Anyway, back on tarmac again, we turned right and headed down the quiet, narrow road into Gore Glen and then steeply back up the other side, passing the fields and trees that make up some of the nicest parts of Midlothian. At Carrington Barns Farm, we turned right onto a very narrow and very bumpy road, lined with trees on both sides and after half a mile or so we came to a junction with a much smoother road where we turned left, back onto cycle route no.1 once more.

We soon passed through Carrington Village and then sped along the quiet and smooth road for a mile or 2 to the junction with the B6372. We turned left here following the route no.1 signs again, soon turning off the main road onto another narrow back road which took us up a short but steep hill to Castleton farm. At the farm, we turned left onto the quietest road in the world. We cycle on it quite often but I can’t remember having ever seen a car on it and only 1 other bike. We like to call it our secret road. Anyway, it heads gradually uphill for a quite a long time. You get some of the best views along the way over to the Pentland Hills, Edinburgh and even Gorebridge! (Gorebridge even looks nice from a distance…) At the top of the hill you can even see North Berwick Law which is probably over 30 miles away in East Lothian. We then sped down the other side of the hill as fast as we could, trying not to crash at all the sharp corners. We managed thankfully. Then we turned right and soon after (just before the Limeworks) turned left into the village of North Middleton (via a handy underpass which allows you to avoid crossing over the busy A7 road). We scooted our way over the North Middleton speed bumps and out of the village on the quiet narrow road and down the steep hill to Borthwick, enjoying the views of the castle and the Borders Railway along the way. After that we had a killer climb up the other side, probably 2 miles of constant steepness. Dad couldn’t keep up with me! Eventually, at the top of the hill, just half a mile or so from home, we got amazing views of Gorebridge, the Pentland and Moorfoot Hills so all the hard work was worth it. From there it was then another simple free-wheel the rest of the way home.

It may have been only 22 miles but that route climbed over 1600 feet which really does prove just how hilly Midlothian really is. Oh, and if you like wild raspberries, Midlothian is also a great place to visit in summer…

Gorebridge to Blackhope Scar (nearly…)

Route out – Gorebridge to Fushiebridge to Middleton to Gladhouse Reservoir to Moorfoot to Moorfoot Hills. For route map click here.

Route back – Moorfoot Hills to Moorfoot to Carrington to Gore Glen to Gorebridge. For route map click here.

  • Weather – mainly sunny and very warm but cloudy in the hills. Very little wind.
  • Distance travelled – 24.05 miles
  • Riding time – 2 hours 13 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.7 mph
  • Average speed – 10.7 mph
  • Height climbed – 1099 feet

Saturday was Gorebridge gala day. It’s a great day out if you enjoy bagpipes, junk food, expensive rides and even more expensive bouncy castles, surrounded by hundreds of noisy drunk people and screaming kids… It’s actually really not that bad but this year Dad and I decided to give it a miss because the weather was nice, so we went cycling instead. My sister Isla (who is only 7 years old) came with us too. It turned out to be her longest ever bike ride. It also turned out to be a bit of an adventure so read on…

After an early lunch of boiled eggs and soldiers, we took a familiar route out of Gorebridge along Vogrie Road and out into the Midlothian countryside. The narrow road took us through some Beech trees, high up above the Borders Railway line and soon we were at the lovely place called Fushiebridge where we stopped to look for trains as we crossed over the bridge to the other side of the train track. Sadly no trains to be seen today. We then sped down the hill until reached the junction with the main A7 road where we saw our first cars of the day. Rather than cycle on the busy road, we turned left and took the pavement along the side and cycled for a few hundred yards until we reached the Midlothian Council gritter depot. At that point we (very safely) pushed our bikes across the A7 and took another very quiet, narrow and very smooth road for about a mile or so (passing the Middleton Limeworks and climbing a massive hill) before we came to the crossroads at Middleton where we stopped for our first snack of the day (apple, orange and banana for me, Isla and dad). From Middleton, we got an amazing view back through the trees to Gorebridge which looked surprisingly nice in the sunshine with Arthur’s Seat in the background.

Next we followed the signpost for Bonnyrigg and cycled around the back of the limeworks quarries. You get some of the best views of the Pentland Hills, Edinburgh and even East Lothian along this road as it’s very high up. It’s also almost traffic-free but it is part of Cycle Route no.1 so you normally see lots of cyclists. Not today though strangely enough, despite the good weather. We turned left at the next proper junction, speeding past Outerston Farm and fields of sheep as we headed in the direction of the Mootfoot Hills. At the end of this road, we turned left again and up a steep hill and a mile or so of deserted back road later, we had arrived at Gladhouse Reservoir which looked nice in the sunshine with the Moorfoot Hills behind it. We stopped here for another snack (Yorkie buttons for Isla and oatcakes for me and dad) before heading along the smooth, mainly flat narrow road around the side of the reservoir.

After a few minutes we reached a junction and turned left onto another quiet and equally smooth road for only a few hundred yards before turning left at the sign for Moorfoot. Straightaway, we got an amazing view of the Moorfoot Hills as we cycled the half mile or so to Moorfoot Farm where the proper road ended. There, we followed a bumpy track, climbing gradually as we went, passing the ruins of Hirendean Castle and following a stream (which was actually the River South Esk) further and further into the hills. We’d never been along here before so weren’t sure what to expect and it was really quite hard to cycle on but we managed reasonably well. Even Isla didn’t complain too much… Eventually, with Bowbeat wind farm not too far ahead on top of the hill and just before reaching a small hut, the path forked in two. Dad checked the map and worked out that the left path would eventually take us to the top of the hill and to the highest point in the area called Blackhope Scar (651m high) which lies right on the border between Midlothian and the Borders. I’d always wanted to go there so we went that way. It was far too steep and bumpy to cycle on though so we left the bikes (and helmets) and decided to take a walk up to the top of the hill. It was a short and easy walk to the top and we got an amazing view of the wind farm as the sun came out from the clouds. Unfortunately, the path ran out about 100m below (and probably 20 minutes from) the summit and the grassy ground was very squelchy and boggy and we didn’t have walking boots on, so we decided (or rather Dad decided) it wasn’t worth getting wet feet for the sake of getting to the very top. So we headed back down the bumpy path to our bikes and we sped downhill along the bumpy track back to Moorfoot.

Leaving the hills and the Moorfoot road behind, we turned right and headed uphill on the quiet road until the junction with the B6372. We turned right and cycled for a mile or 2 along a very straight road, mostly downhill and with loads up humps and hollows to make it fun. Just outside Temple, we turned left and followed another quiet road for a mile or so to the village of Carrington where we turned right onto the very narrow back road to Gore Glen. This road is all downhill for about 2 miles and is great fun to cycle on. Just watch out you don’t go too fast down the very steep section just before the Glen as there’s a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and it would be easy to end up in the trees… Then there was another steep hill to get up from the Glen and back to the junction with the A7 main road. From there we turned left and headed up one last hill into Gorebridge through the new housing estate and then Arniston Park before heading home. It wasn’t the longest cycle route in the world (though it actually was a world record for Isla!) but it was certainly one of the most interesting, most scenic and most enjoyable.

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (vol.4: the 3 Valleys)

Route out – Innerleithen to Cardrona to Peebles to Cardrona (again) to Traquair to Mountbenger to Crosslee to Kirkhope to Yarrow to Yarrowford. For route map click here. Note that Google maps doesn’t seem to know about all of the cycle path from Innerleithen to Peebles. After Cardrona, do not take the A72 road but just stay on the signposted cycle path all the way to Peebles.

Route back – Yarrowford to Bowhill to Selkirk to Yair to Peel to Innerleithen. For route map click here.

  • Weather – cloudy and cool at first but sunny and warm later on with a gentle breeze.
  • Distance travelled – 65.1 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 46 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 30.6 mph
  • Average speed – 11.2 mph
  • Height climbed – 3157 feet

A few weeks ago Dad came up with a rather ambitious cycle route which visited 3 of the main river valleys in the Scottish Borders, the Tweed valley, the Yarrow Valley and the Ettrick valley. I liked his idea but there were lots of steep hills and I thought it may be too hard so I sent him to try it out first one weekend on his own. He came back and reported that it was brilliant fun, very scenic and mostly quite easy going with lots of fast sections. He even recorded his fastest ever average speed! So a week ago last Sunday, I decided to let him take me on a guided tour: the Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders volume 4.

We started in Innerleithen on a cool and cloudy morning with the hills all around the Tweed valley hidden by low clouds. We began our journey along the cycle path signposted for Peebles which basically follows the River Tweed, through Cardrona village and golf course and eventually coming into Peebles next to the A72 road close to Peebles Hydro. It’s a very flat and fast cycle on the smoothly surfaced path. Even at 8:30am it was quite busy with dog walkers, runners and other cyclists so you have to pay attention. At one point we spotted a Heron fishing in the river but Dad was too slow getting his camera out and it flew away with a fish in its beak before he could get a photo. In Peebles, we took a detour through some rugby pitches and then crossed the river via a pedestrian bridge, coming out onto the B7062 road. Here we turned left and cycled along the other side of the river on a nice quiet country road with plenty gentle ups and downs to keep it interesting, past Kailzie Gardens and then Cardrona village again. Yes, we were basically heading back the way we had come – but there’s a good reason for this long cut so read on to find out why. After passing the driveway to Traquair House, we soon arrived in the village of Traquair where we stopped for a snack of boiled eggs and crisps. As usual.

We were only a mile or so from our starting point even though we’d cycled 13 miles already. The reason for this rather long detour was my idea. I knew from a previous route that the road from Innerleithen to Mountbenger is a long and difficult climb and is especially hard to do when you are not warmed up. So my solution was to cycle to Peebles and back first to stretch the legs before attempting to cycle over the hill. And it was a good idea as the cycle along the mostly single track B709 was much easier than I remembered. On the way up the hill I spotted loads of wild blueberries growing at the side of the road so I will definitely be coming back here in the summer to feast on those…! From the high point, we basically free-wheeled down the other side, leaving the Tweed valley behind as we entered the Yarrow valley.

At the crossroads next to the Gordon Arms hotel, we headed straight over, staying on the B709 and over a bridge to the other side of the Yarrow Water. The single track road then climbed uphill again but really quite gradually, and it was actually a very pleasant cycle as the sun also decided to come out. The views of the Yarrow valley behind and to the right of us were lovely. As we approached the top of the climb, we again noticed millions of blueberry bushes – a month or 2 from now and they will be loaded with berries. Yum yum. At the top, the road turns sharply to the left and here you see the Ettrick Valley for the first time. This is an amazingly fast section of road and we sped the last mile or 2 down the hill into the Ettrick valley at around 30 mph. Just make sure you watch out for sheep and cattle grids though…

At the bottom of the hill at Crosslee Farm, we turned left onto the B7009. This is a brilliant road to cycle on. It’s almost completely traffic-free, has amazing views as you cycle through the Ettrick Valley and it has lots of long, gradual downhill sections where you can go as fast as you like. We saw lots of other cyclists on this part of the route – no wonder, it’s one of the best cycling roads in the world. After many miles of fun, we eventually turned off this road at Kirkhope where we went left, onto a very narrow road which would take us over the hill to Yarrow. First though, we needed an energy boost before tackling the climb so we stopped for a lunch of oatcakes (with crab and cheese), salad from our garden and Dairy Milk.

This single track road turned out to be quite a hard climb and has lots of sharp bends on the way up. It climbs roughly 200m in less than 2 miles so it is pretty steep. The views down to the valley below are rather good though (so Dad says – I was too busy concentrating on plodding up and up and up that I forgot to look back…). Just after the top, we got an impressive view down into the Yarrow valley once again and we could see the road heading basically straight down the hill. It looked very steep – and it was – but it was very good fun and we got to Yarrow at the bottom of the hill in only a couple of minutes.

At Yarrow, we turned right and headed onto the A708 road that would take us right through the Yarrow valley. This is probably the quietest “A” road I’ve ever been on – it has less traffic on it than most B roads and it was a pleasure to cycle along it (apart from a short section where the road surface was very worn out and bumpy). It is also mostly slightly downhill in the direction we were going so we made very good time. As usual with the Scottish Borders, the views of the hills and river were very nice too. Soon we passed through Yarrowford and came to sign pointing for Ettrickbridge on the right so we turned here onto the B7039 which took us back over the Yarrow water, around the edge of the Bowhill Estate and into the Ettrick valley once more. After a mile or so we crossed a bridge over the Ettrick Water next to the junction with the B7009. It was here that Dad noticed that unlike the Tweed or Yarrow Water, the Ettrick Water looked rather brown and muddy. Dad reckoned that the thunderstorms and heavy rain of the previous day must have washed half a hillside and 3 fields into the river. You certainly wouldn’t have filled your water bottle up here anyway…

We then had a couple of miles of mainly gradual uphill cycling through some of the best scenery you’ll see anywhere until we reached the town of Selkirk. In the town we had to cycle up the steepest hill of the day as we headed up to the town centre. After a quick stop at the Spar shop to stock up on water, crisps and chocolate (oh, and 1 apple for me too), we cycled back down the other side of the hill and out of town on the Bridgelands Road. This is a tiny, deserted road which passes by some horse farms for a mile or so before taking us to the junction with the main A7 road. Here we turned right but didn’t have to cycle on the main road at all. There’s a convenient cycle/footpath alongside the road so we stayed on the this for about 1 mile until we reached a bridge over the river. It’s at this exact spot where the Ettrick Water joins up with the River Tweed and we could clearly see where the muddy brown Ettrick Water was merging in with the lovely clear and clean water of the Tweed. It was rather interesting to see.

It was here that we turned left onto the B7060 where we joined cycle route no.1, which we followed for the 12 or so miles back to the car. This section of the route through the Tweed Valley is beautiful and highly recommended. There’s very few cars as well so it’s pleasant to cycle on and ideal for children and inexperienced cyclists too. When we reached Yair Bridge, we turned left, crossed the bridge and then immediately turned right to follow cycle route 1 (alternative off road route) for the 3 miles to Peel. You could take the main signposted cycle route along the A707 instead (it’s quicker and suitable for road bikes, unlike the alternative route) but I prefer the off road section as it’s very peaceful and scenic. It is quite hilly and very bumpy in places though so you have been warned. Dad hates the bumpy track as he has no suspension on his bike but I don’t mind it too much. Soon we reached the village of Peel and joined another deserted single track road for the last 8 miles of gradual uphills and long, fast downhills, cycling in and out of the trees, high up above the River Tweed down below. In no time at all, we reached Innerleithen again after nearly 6 hours of cycling and having completed one of our longest and most challenging rides so far. This is definitely one to be repeated. I may do it the other way round next time but when I do, it will certainly coincide with wild blueberry season…