Waterways C2C (West coast)

Possibly the shortest and easiest C2C route in the country starting at Bowling to the west of Glasgow and stretching across Central Scotland to Leith this is a relitively flat route almost exclusively on Canal or cycle paths.

I alighted from the train on a bright and dry morning to begin the exploration of the route from Bowling to Leith.  Today I was stopping at Falkirk as I have already done the Falkirk to Leith leg before.  At the basin in Bowling there is a bike shop and a cafe and the start of the route.​

​The surface is tarmaced and in good condition and makes for pleasent cycling.  The first points of interest on the route are the Dalmuir drop lock, the first in the UK and the Beardmore sculpture.

The canal winds it’s way through Knightswood, Kelvnside and Bishopbriggs finally leaving Glasgow and heading for Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth.  Wildlife is rife along the canal I saw these two just lazing around by the bank!

I made my way past Auchinstarry Basin the surface still in great condition towards Bonnybridge and Falkirk.   I stopped for lunch at the wheel and made my way to the station and back to Fife.

A great ride this part of the C2C. Was 31 miles with 1000 ft of climb.

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SBT does the Great Glen Way

This is the first in a series of posts about the areas that SBT tour in.

The Great Glen (GG) is a geological fault between Fort William and Inverness.  At one end of the GG lies Loch Linnhe and the Atlantic Ocean and to the other the Moray Firth and the North Sea making it an ideal off road Coast to Coast (C2C).

The original fault was created about 380 million years ago then a mere 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age the fault as we know it was formed.

Traversing the GG way there is 22 miles of man made Caledonian Canal and 38 miles comprising 3 lochs that of Lochy, Oich and Ness.  The Caledonian Canal was oened in 1822 almost 49 years after first being proposed.

There are ten hill forts along the GG testifying to it’s strategic importance.  Torr Dhuin and Craig Phadrig are the most accessible from the GG Way and are worth visiting if only for the views.  Craig Phadrig is thought to date from 350BC and be on the site that eventually became Inverness.

The GG runs through the three main types of habitat water side, woodland and moorland and you can expect to see oystercatchers, heron, kittiwakes and even ospreys.  Landward red squirrels, pine marten and red deer.

The GG Way passes through Gairlochy, Laggan locks, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit.

We shall take a look at some of these settlements as well as Fort William and Inverness in another post.

 

Touring with SBT

Once a booking has been made I am often asked what do I need?  Will there be time to take photographs?  What speed do I need to maintain?

Lets try and answer some questions you might have.

So you have decided where and when you want to go.  You have made arrangements to get to the start point and you have checked the bike over.  Everything is ready to go except you haven’t packed!  Yes you should check the weather forecast to get some idea of what you are likely to encounter.  Some clothing will depend on your own preference but its always better to stay warm and dry so pack accordingly and then just put a light waterproof in anyway!  Almost all the routes have shops or cafes so you do not need to carry food with you.  Small snacks for on the bike are advisable.  You should always have water.

What might you encounter in Scotland that you will not elsewhere?  The dreaded midge!  Insect repellent between May and September is a must.

Scotland is a wonderful country great in the sunshine sometimes even better under moody grey clouds or snow.  Not to photograph it would be a travesty.  There will be ample chances to stop and record your journey.

Your guide will have an array of tools and the knowledge to carry out roadside repairs but carrying spare tubes and a chain link is recommended.  Once more most of the routes will have access to cycle shops.

SBT want you to enjoy the journey the only time there will be speed requirements is if we need to catch a ferry but you will find that the itinerary is more likely to have you miss a ferry to allow you to get food or relax than push the pace!

Prior to departure you will be sent an info sheet which will contain …….info!  On clothing, terrain, mileage and attractions.

 

I hope this has helped if not try the FAQ page on http://www.scottishbiketouring.com

 

Coast 2 Coast day 3. 

The previous two days had been really good weather just great for biking in today was rather colder and duller almost everyone had at least one extra layer on.

As no one fancied the Travellodge’s version of a continental breakfast we headed into Musselburgh and the Burgh Cafe.  All weekend I had been amazed at the amount of food this crew could down but they surpass themselves at breakfast with quite a few opting for a full Scottish I just can’t eat that much then jump on a bike!

After leaving Musselburgh we headed along Portobello Prom to be confronted with three police vehicles and a Bomb disposal van suffice to say the full Scottish delayed no one as we zipped Doon Porty Prom as fast as our wheels and good manners would permit.  

Leaving Porty behind us we travelled through Leith and onto some of the Capital’s excellent cycle paths unfortunately they were full of kilted walkers doing the Kilt Walk and as we were headed in the same direction that meant we were constantly bell ringing or in some cases whistling to let people know we were approaching.   However a few “want to hire a tandem” or “anyone needing a backy” cheered the walkers up.  As you could imagine we got fairly well spaced out and the front group missed a crucial turning which meant we had to do a U turn and go back through the walkers.  We soon got on the right path and headed out to Dalmeny and South Queensferry.  South Queensferry is the traditional wheel dipping stop and the end of the C2C but as Dalgety Bay is the home of the group we headed across the bridge and onwards to Dalgety Bay for lunch and the wheel dipping ceremony.

Stats distance 27 miles with 1132 feet of climb in 2:38:11 an AV spd of 10.4 mph.

The trip from Annan to South Queensferry will be on Scottish Bike Tourings rides list for 2017.

C2C day 2 Moffat to Musselburgh

Being split over two hotels did have certain logistical problems but taken in the whole picture 5 tandems, 10 riders 5 of whom are blind it really was a minor point!  We were all sorted out and ready to pedal by 0945.  Those of you who haven’t been on a tandem might not appreciate that even getting started poses a challenge with a coordinated clipping in of one pedal and a 321go to get upright and start pedalling ensuring that there is plenty gaps in traffic!

Today is what is known in cyclists parlance as slightly lumpy starting almost immediately with the Devils Beeftub!  I was piloting for Louise and as this was my first time I was supposed to have a co pilot as well but due to call offs I ended up being Louise’s sole pilot quite a sobering thought.  When piloting a tandem communication with your stoker is all important especially when the stoker is visually impaired you literally have to think aloud warning the stoker of bends, climbs, junctions gear changes everything that effects the forward motion of the tandem.  After the climb of the Beeftub came the descent scary enough with sight but when you cant’t see positively terrifying!  

With two pairs of legs propelling the tandem the force exerted on the drive chain is doubled another reason for good communication as sloppy communication with mistimed gear changes can result in this.

The route comprised of a fairly good mix of quite roads and cycle paths with the occasional foray onto A roads  and busy main streets like our lunch break at Peebles.  Mix an organised lunch break with a disorganised community cafe and you end up with some unhappy and grumpy tandemers after a longer break than planned we headed off towards our stop for the evening Musselburgh.

Up until now route marking had been easy to follow and obvious but as we progressed it became harder to follow the route as we changed from C2C to NCN1.  We were booked into a Travelodge in a never quite made it retail park and 1 by 1 all the tandems turned up from every point of the compass.

We were collected by taxis for a trip to a nice Italian restaurant where stories of routes and damaged chain rings were exchanged!

Stats Distance 75 miles 35 ft of climbing in 5:51:33 av spd 11.9

A Scottish coast to coast.

One of the items on a cyclists tick list the coast to coast or C2C as it is generally known.   It has many variations I was tackling  one of the Scottish routes Annan  and in our case to Dalgety bay the home of Talking Tandems for whom I was piloting.  Talking Tandems is a charity that enables blind or partially sighted individuals to get out on a bike despite thier disability.

There was 5 tandems involved in the ride which was being staged over three days.  The group met at Dalgety Bay and after loading bikes and luggage headed down to Annan via Gretna services for lunch.  There was a couple of hiccups but the group was assembled ready for the off from Annan Harbour by about 14:30.

This first day we headed to Moffat following the clearly displayed C2C signs along quiet country roads till the final 4 miles when we had to take a busy A road.  The group was booked into two hotels and once we had all gathered at The Star keys were given out and  we dispersed to our hotels for a wash and change before dinner and convened in The Star for a pleasant evening meal.

Stats for the day Distance 31.4 miles 1282 feet climbed and a bike time of 2:34:49 AV spd 12.2

John Muir Way Dunbar to Edinburgh

Friday 4th March I loaded my tourer up with some food a flask and extra clothes and headed down to the station to catch the train to Dunbar birthplace of John Muir.

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After a stop outside his birthplace I headed out on the JMW.   Traditionally cycled West to East to take advantage of the prevailing wind I had decided to begin in the East as that is where John Muirs story began.  The JMW is a purpose built C2C route suitable for walkers and cyclists the path occasionally splits and the walkers and cyclists take a different path.  Surprisingly the walking and cycling routes are the same distance despite the splits along the way.

It was a grey windy day and the sea was choppy it all added up to an atmospheric ride out of Dunbar. The route makes use of NCN 76 and further on towards Edinburgh NCN 1 it also utilises roads when it needs to. After Dunbar which is left on the A199 Whitekirk is the next village then onto North Berwick.  Berwick Law (613ft 187m) dominates the skyline and the route takes you around the bottom of the Law although you can make a slight detour and climb up the hill and examine the stone watchtower at the top of this ancient volcano.

After North Berwick Dirleton with it’s castle and Gullane with it’s golf courses follow in quick succession.   Next village is Aberlady and your first glance of the Forth bridges Aberlady bay at 20 miles is a nice place to stop for food and a comfort break.

Although on a busy road now you are following the coast along to Cockenzie and Port Seton you pass in front of the now abandoned Cockenzie powerstation and back onto a cycle path.   You are now nearing Edinburgh and Arthurs seat is visible in the distance.  Still hugging the coast you carry on through Prestonpans the site of the famous battle and home to a not so famous microbrewery.  At the edge of Musselburgh the path leaves the shore and heads up Brunstane Burn and into the first suburb of Scotland’s capital city.

Edinburgh is blessed with miles of cycle paths, mainly old railways, and this path leads you onto the Innocent Railway which was used to transport goods and people between Edinburgh and Dalkeith.  The innocent railway via the Innocent tunnel leads you towards Holyrood park  and the Scottish Parliament building.

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So endeth my ride for the day!

The verdict a great route with views and terrain to keep it interesting and enough cafes, castles and Kirks to satisfy anyone!