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…?

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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…

The Lothians Loop

Route out – Gorebridge to Carrington to Roslin Glen to Auchendinny to Flotterstone to Balerno to Kirknewton to East Calder to Broxburn to Winchburgh to Abercorn. For route map click here.

Route back – Abercorn to Queensferry to Dalmeny to Edinburgh (Barnton to Haymarket to City Centre to Leith to Portobello) to Musselburgh to Whitecraig to Dalkeith to Newbattle to Newtongrange to Gorebridge. For route map click here then here. Note that Google maps doesn’t show the correct route through Newbattle. When you reach a bridge over the River South Esk, turn off the main path and follow the path marked “Lord Ancrum’s Wood” on the South-East side of the river until you reach the B703.

  • Weather – mostly sunny, quite windy and reasonably warm (but freezing cold along the east coast from Portobello to Musselburgh).
  • Distance travelled – 66.6 miles
  • Riding time – 6 hours 42 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 35.6 mph
  • Average speed – 9.9 mph
  • Height climbed – 3300 feet

When cycling through the Scottish Borders, Dad and I often end up following the “Borders Loop” cycle route signs so I decided to investigate whether there was a such a thing as a “Lothians Loop” cycle route. It appears that there isn’t, so I made up my own one. It’s one of our longest and most adventurous routes so far, visiting the Mid, West and East Lothian, as well as Edinburgh City. Hope you like it…

After leaving Gorebridge at 7:30am, we were soon heading down the deserted minor road through Gore Glen to the village of Carrington. The low sun was just starting to emerge from the clouds and Dad thought it made some of the trees look really nice so he kept stopping to take photos. I suppose he was right enough. From Carrington, we took the road signposted for Rosewell. The first half mile is one of the best cycling roads ever as it is very smooth and fast. Then, after turning left at a crossroads, the surface becomes rather more bumpy and worn out. Soon we reached another crossroads and headed straight across the A6094 and onto a quiet back road with views of the Pentlands hills in the distance. After a mile or so, we came to a signpost pointing to Roslin Glen so we went that way, downhill on a farm track for a wee bit and then, as the track turned sharply left, we turned right and headed down some steps (scaredy cat Dad pushed his bike but I cycled) into the picturesque Roslin Glen. There, we followed the Dalkeith to Penicuik railway walk for a pleasant mile or so of deer-spotting, cycling along the good path through the woods until we arrived at the village of Auchendinny.

At Auchedinny, we left the track and turned right onto the road. We immediately came to some traffic lights but they refused to change to green for us so we had to press the button on the pedestrian crossing and then cheekily cycle through the green man to get onto Graham Road which heads uphill past the Glencorse army barracks on the outskirts of Penicuik. Soon we cam to another set of lights but these ones did change to green so we headed straight over the A701 and headed uphill again along Bellwood Road, through some houses and then some trees until the junction with the A702. This is normally a busy road that we avoid but we were there nice and early and there were basically no cars around so we turned right onto the main road and speeded down the hill at 30 mph for a few hundred yards before turning off at the Flotterstone Inn and the entrance to the Pentland Hills.

The Pentland Hills are a lovely place to visit but they do tend to get rather busy. However, at 8:30am, it was still relatively quiet and very pleasant to cycle along the minor road, past the Glencorse Reservoir with hills on all sides. Further along the road, deep amongst the hills, we came to Loganlee Reservoir where we stopped for a snack. We saw quite a few other cyclists and people out running as we sat in the sun munching away on our carrot sticks and celery. After a while the road ended and at a signpost, we turned right and headed for Balerno. The path varied from short, bumpy grass to horrible, loose and large stones, to nice smooth dirt so it was hard going at times, though it did seem to be mostly downhill so we still enjoyed it. The views were very nice all the way. At one point, we had to cross a stream and we both ended up with wet feet but they soon dried off. After a while, we said goodbye to Midlothian and said hello to what is technically Edinburgh City. It didn’t look much like a city to me though as we emerged from the hills into a field of sheep and a gate with a sign warning cyclists not to go too fast on the road ahead. The road turned out to be incredibly straight, lined with trees and steeply downhill so we ignored the warning and freewheeled as fast as possible down the hill. It was great fun! In fact, we almost didn’t need to pedal at all for the 2 miles from there to Balerno, which appears to be a nice little town by the way.

After a quick bag of crisps, we left Balerno behind and followed Cycle Route no.75 out of the town, down another really steep hill (this road is a bit bumpy so be careful not to crash). It was then a few more miles through quiet, narrow country roads along Route 75 until we reached Kirknewton, just over the border into West Lothian. It’s quite a steep climb on the way into the village but the way out down the other side is great fun and very fast and you get to cycle over a level crossing, which I really liked. Didn’t see any trains though. We stayed on Route 75 for another mile or so, crossing over the main A71 road at the traffic lights and then heading down a bumpy track into East Calder. There we followed the nice path through the beautiful Almondell Country Park, dodging in between the dog walkers and little children, over a bridge across the River Almond and up a steep hill before rejoining a quiet minor road. This road took us underneath the railway line (where we did see a train) and underneath the M8 motorway, before taking us to the town of Broxburn.

At Broxburn, we spotted a Greggs so we made an unplanned early lunch stop (it was only 10:50am). Sausage, bean and cheese melt plus soup for me, sausage roll and soup for Dad. Very tasty. After lunch we cycled along the B8020 which took us around the side of what I like to call “The Volcano” but Dad says it is actually a giant bing. It’s rather impressive to look at anyway. Soon enough we reached Winchburgh, where we turned left onto the B9080 road. After a mile or so we saw a signpost for Hopetoun House and turned right onto a very quiet tree-lined back road which took us through some nice countryside and underneath the M9 motorway until the junction with the busy A904 road. We could have taken this road directly to Queensferry but took the scenic long cut instead. We went straight over the main road and onto a lovely quiet road for a couple of fast, downhill miles to a tiny place called Abercorn. We missed a turning and ended up in a church yard by mistake but the church was nice and had an impressive bell tower. After retreating 20 yards, I spotted a Route no.76 marker on a gate so we followed that path, down some steep bends into the woods. The track was a bit bumpy for a while but then became a narrow but proper road again as we cycled right past the biggest house I’ve ever seen – Hopetoun House. I bet the whole population of Gorebridge could live inside it… We the followed the quiet road alongside the Firth of Forth, under the new and old Forth bridges and into Queensferry.

I wanted to cycle over the Forth Bridge but Dad thought it was too windy today so we simply carried on past Dalmeny train station (where we saw another train) and then onto Cycle Route no.1, speeding down the hill to Crammond on the outskirts of Edinburgh. After stopping at another bridge over the River Almond for a quick Yorkie bar and boiled egg, we followed route no.1 mainly off road to Haymarket (where we saw a tram and a train) and then through some quietish residential streets until we got to the centre of town. George Street was fairly busy today but there’s a cycle lane to keep us safe. When we got to St Andrews Square, we joined Cycle Route no.75 which took us steeply down Dublin Street and eventually onto a cycle path which went right past one of my favourite places in Edinburgh – The Yard adventure centre. We followed the path for a couple more miles until we reached Leith. Then we followed a signposted cycle route (again mainly off road) for a few miles to Portobello. The weather had been brilliant all day up till then but it was really cold and windy at Portobello beach, so we quickly took a detour away from the coast and went along the busy high street instead. It wasn’t much warmer though and the 2 miles or so cycling along this road to Musselburgh in East Lothian were horrible – right into the strong wind and very cold. Thankfully, Musselburgh has a great ice cream shop called Luca’s so we joined the long queue and eventually got to fill our faces (I had Kit Kat ice cream which was rather good).

My original plan was to head a bit further into East Lothian but by this time I was starting to feel tired so decided I’d rather head the quickest way home instead. So we cycled through Inveresk and Whitecraig (via the interestingly named place called Cowpits) and then joined the cycle path of route no.1 once more for a short time. We then took a detour off the path and headed up past another “volcano” and onto the B6414, where we turned right to re-enter Midlothian and then zoomed down the hill at over the 30 mph speed limit into Dalkeith. We rejoined route no.1 again for another short section through Woodburn and then onto a cycle path as far as Newbattle Golf Course. Then, just next to the humped bridge, we cycled through a gap in the wall and into Lord Ancrum’s Wood. It’s not very long but this is an amazing path with lots of short ups and downs which follows the River South Esk past Newbattle Abbey. It’s a nice hard packed surface which is easy to cycle on. Lots of interesting and ancient trees to see and more wild garlic than even I could eat! There’s one really steep bit near the end that goes down some steps (I cycled down it but as usual, Dad had to push…). We then headed left onto the B703 for half a mile before heading onto the quieter road called The Beaches, uphill into Newtongrange. Then it was simply 2 miles of gradual uphill cycling to get home, first along the Bryans path and then up Stobhill Road into Gorebridge. We arrived home just in time for tea.

It had been a very long but enjoyable day – in fact, that was the longest cycle run I’ve ever done at over 66 miles – but we did manage to complete our Lothian Loop. It’s probably one of the most varied routes we’ve ever done with all sorts of different road surfaces and paths and travelling through such a huge variety of countryside and urban areas. Definitely one to repeat sometime.

Gorebridge to The Forth Road Bridge (the long way)

Route Out – Gorebridge to Mayfield to Carberry to Whitecraig to Newcraighall to Bruntstane to Holyrood Park to Edinburgh City Centre to Haymarket to Silverknowes to Dalmeny to South Queensferry to The Forth Road Bridge. For route map click here.

Route Back – The Forth Road Bridge to South Queensferry to Dalmeny Estate to Silverknowes to Leith to Portobello to Musselburgh to Inversesk to Whitecraig to Dalkeith to Newbattle to Newtongrange to Gorebridge. Google Maps decide to be annoying so this route had to be split over 2 maps: click here for map 1 and here for map 2.

  • Weather – mostly sunny and warm with almost no wind.
  • Distance travelled – 61.67 miles
  • Riding time – 6 hours 10 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 31.4 mph
  • Average speed – 10.0 mph

I had been thinking about trying to cycle to the Forth Road Bridge for ages but had thought it would be far too difficult and would be impossible to avoid all the busy roads. But then I discovered that National Cycle Route no.1 went the whole way there and almost all of the route through the city of Edinburgh is off road on cycle paths. So, early on saturday morning Dad and I set off for the bridge…

We left Gorebridge along the B6372 but for a change, took the first left turning onto the quiet road that takes you high up a hill and back down the other side to Mayfield. Along this road we got some lovely views over the Midlothian countryside and one of the best views of the Pentland Hills you will ever see (so Dad said). We then cycled through the outskirts of Mayfield and then back into the countryside up another steep hill on a single track road to d’Arcy. From here we went fast downhill for about half a mile until the the turn off for the bumpy road to Fordel Mains. We stopped in our usual scenic spot for a quick drink and a photo with Edinburgh in the distance. After that was a really fun, fast section, mostly downhill for about 3 miles. We zoomed past Carberry at over 30 mph and reached the village of Whitecraig in no time at all and it was here that we joined National Cycle Route no.1.

From there onwards we basically followed the blue cycle route signs all the way to the Forth Bridge. Most of the route is on really smooth cycle paths (that used to be railway lines Dad told me) and it is so well signposted, it would be impossible to get lost… After a short section along the river Esk, then skirting round the edge of Mussleburgh Golf Course and Queen Margaret University, we got to the Newcraighall area of Edinburgh. Here there’s a short section on the road but soon we were back on the path again leading to Bruntstane Train Station, where Dad had to push his bike up and over the railway bridge to reach the other side of the track. I managed to cycle up the steps and over the bridge on my mountain bike though!

After that it was easy going and we soon reached the Innocent Railway path that took us along the side of Holyrood Park and the mountain Arthur’s Seat and then out of a really long tunnel into some quiet residential streets in St Leonards. Next the route took us through The Meadows park. Here I spotted a bike counter that told us we were the 864th and 865th cyclists to go past today. After The Meadows, you have no choice but to cycle on the busy main road for about a mile along George IV Bridge and the down The Mound. There’s a cycle lane at the side of the road so it’s not too dangerous but you still have to be very careful. After crossing the tram tracks on Princes Street, we diverted slightly off Route 1, heading along the pedestrianised and 1-way Rose Street so that we could stop at Greggs and grab a sausage roll. We rejoined the route at Charlotte Square and soon we were cycling along the relatively quiet residential streets of the West End heading for Haymarket. After carefully crossing over the main road (and some more tram tracks), we went around the back of the train station, saw a tram and lots of trains and went back onto the cycle path once more. This path took us quickly from Roseburn to Silverknowes, at one point passing through a massive crossroads where about 6 different cycle paths all join up (there are loads of really good signpost at that junction…). From Silverknowes, the route takes you along some very quiet roads through some posh parts of Edinburgh where there are massive houses, before taking you over the Cramond Brig Toll to the other side of the River Almond.

The next section of cycle path follows the main road (but is separate from the road) so it’s noisy and not too pleasant until the turn off for Dalmeny. Along this quiet road, just before the village, we got an amazing view over to the 3 Forth Bridges and soon enough, we’d gone through South Queensferry and were actually cycling on The Forth Road Bridge itself. I really liked cycling on the bridge and we got amazing views of the Forth Railway Bridge and saw loads of trains. When we stopped to take photos, we could feel the road bouncing under out feet because of all the traffic speeding past. The first half of the bridge is fairly uphill but once you reach the top it’s really fast all the way to the end (and Fife). Just make sure that, unlike us, you don’t go over the 15 mph speed limit… When we reached Fife we turned around and headed back to South Queensferry, where we ate an early lunch of cheese sandwiches at the waterfront, survived a wasp attack and then began our long journey home.

Leaving South Queensferry, we took Cycle Route no.76 through the Dalmeny Estate. This is a much bumpier path so not really suitable for road bikes but it’s very scenic. At first it follows the coast and you get great views of the bridges. There’s also several places where you can stop and go to the beach, one of which gives you an unusual view of Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat in the distance. This beach also had an incredible amount of shells on it… The route then heads away from the sea and goes past Dalmeny House (which is probably the biggest house in the world!) before you head back through the countryside until you reach the Cramond Brig and Route no.1 once more.

We followed Route no.1 again until the massive cycle route interchange I mentioned earlier. At this point we chose the path (no.11) signposted for Leith and after a few miles of easy cycling we reached the Water of Leith, which is not a particularly nice looking river I thought. We then cycled through some quiet back streets and along the side of Leith Links and joined Route no.10. This route took us off road again for a few miles to Portobello Beach. The signposted route takes you right along the promenade and this should have been a lovely ride but today it was absolutely mobbed. There were musicians and bands playing every few yards and crowds of people kept getting in the way and making it unsafe and almost impossible to cycle. Luckily one of the bands we saw were quite good (they had about 20 guitarists and were playing The Beatles) so we watched them for a bit before taking a detour away from the beach and back onto the main road. If we’d managed to make it to the end of the promenade we would have joined onto this road anyway so it was fine. After about a mile or so, we made it to Musselburgh where we cycled past the harbour and along a much quieter promenade before heading for the town centre, where we stopped at Luca’s for an ice cream. We left Mussleburgh on the Inveresk road and it was here that Dad spotted his brother and family walking along the street. We stopped to chat to Uncle Andrew, Auntie Jill and my cousins Ella and Angus for a minute but unfortunately forgot to make them pose for a photo… This road took us back to Whitecraig once again and here we rejojned another part of Route no.1, heading along the cycle path to Dalkeith. This path goes through the woods in Newbattle and this is some of my favourite foraging country: there’s so many raspberries here! There’s even a lot of yellow raspberries here and nobody else seems to bother eating them – that suits me fine as they are the tastiest ones ever.

After a quick photo at Newbattle Abbey, we cycled uphill to Newtongrange where we stopped in the lovely park for our final rest of the day. There’s loads of really quiet back streets in Newtongrange that all look identical and can all end up taking you basically the right way, so you can choose your own route here. We decided to go past Square (not The Square or Charlotte Square or anything like that, just Square) because it’s one of the nicest parts of the village. After that, it was only about 1 mile further, all uphill to Gorebridge and home just in time for tea of scampi and roast potatoes. It was the furthest I’d ever cycled in a day but most of the route was quite flat so it wasn’t all that tiring. Even if 62 miles is too far for you, I would really recommend the many amazing cycle paths in Edinburgh. They can take you all over the city without having to worry about traffic and you hardly even realise that you are in the middle of a busy city at all. The paths are nicely surfaced, really well signposted and a real pleasure to cycle on so I’ll definitely be going back there.