Cycle Rides from 2016
Great cycling tours, routes, cafés and anecdotes
Sunday 6th November
Ken Maskell ride 2016
Four hardy souls turned up for the ride at 8.30am from the Peebles car park by the river. The rain came on very soon after the start, but eased off as we reached Dawyck. We had a lovely coffee in the cafe in Broughton, which warmed us up for the next stretch, up the Tweed to Tweedsmuir.
We paused at the Crook Inn, but sadly there has been no progress since this time last year, and the cause seems to have been lost.
Then along the Talla Reservoir, and the big climb to the summit and back into heavy cloud. We were going well at the St Mary's Loch junction, Cappercleuch, so decided to carry on and hope the Gordon Arms was open.
It was! And they didn't mind us eating our piece so long as we bought drinks. It was great to get warm again! We didn't spend too long, as time was marching on.
Then the climb to Paddy's Slacks and the long downhill to Traquair Cross, where we had to decide whether to take the back road, or go into Innerleithen to pick up the railway path. We chose the latter. At this point the rain came on again, and kept us company all the way back to Peebles.
The path unexpectedly peters out about half a mile before the town, so we took the main road for a short way before turning into the riverside park and crossing the footbridge to the south side of the river, and thence to the car park.
It was still only 3.45pm so we'd made it before dark, and we all managed to keep together!
We thanked Sandy for organising this 'last ride of the season' and it was a fitting end.
Saturday 29th October
An unusually large group of eleven participated this year, encouraged by a weather forecast more favourable than usual. We didn't face driving rain as has happened so often but rode through mist or drizzle for much of the ride and ended up fairly clammy despite the better conditions.
The forest track was officially shut for harvesting operations so most people took the road over the Duke's Pass, although an intrepid pair ignored the closure and found that the track was not obstructed after all. A coach party was booked into the the cafe on Loch Katrine but there was plenty of room for us and we were able to have lunch as planned. It was so murky as we rode along the loch that we could barely see the other side. The cafe at Stronachlachar was unusually quiet and we spread out for cakes, which we hardly deserved after the short ride since lunch! The weather brightened up and the autumn colours across Loch Chon were picturesque. We didn't encounter any tour buses on the road back to Aberfoyle, thank goodness, and returned to the start after a trouble-free 32 miles.
Thanks as always to the drivers who offered lifts, without which this ride could not take place.
10th - 11th September
Seven people were going on this trip when I sent out the instructions but that caused the numbers to start growing and we had twelve on the day! Yvonne had to start late and leave early so she rode by herself but joined us in Slaidburn. The main party met at Lancaster station: Alec, Anna, Barbara, Eibhlin, Euan, Jan, Jenny, John, Pat, Paul and Tiana.
The cycle path led directly from platform 1, perhaps the best connected station I know. Saturday's route was straightforward, NCN69 followed by NCN90. It was well signposted except within Lancaster, where the cycle path did the usual unpredictable meanderings. An old railway track led out of the city to a bridge with a pretty view of the River Lune. A short ride on a busy road led to quiet side roads that we followed for the rest of the day. Lunch was at the Bridge House Farm Tea Room in Wray, which set us up for the hilly afternoon.
The first stop was the Great Stone of Fourstones. It is a glacial deposit, about 12ft high, with steps cut into it. The view from the top was brilliant, with the Yorkshire Three Peaks (Pen-Y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside) on the horizon.
This was followed by the major climb of the day up to Cross of Greet (1400ft). It was a long slog, not helped by getting steeper near the summit, but most people had been so scared by the warning about the hill that the actual climb was easier than expected! Pat told us to look out for hen harriers but they did not oblige. An exhilirating descent was followed by another hill before we arrived in Slaidburn.
The village is built of stone and highly picturesque. The YHA Kings House hostel was formerly the Black Bull pub and still has some of the fittings, including an open fire. It was run by a couple of voluntary wardens who made us welcome despite the complexity of the YHA's paperwork for the prebooked party. We squeezed around a table for dinner at the Hark to Bounty pub opposite, which was busy with people from the local agricultural show. Upstairs is the former courtroom, which was used until the mid 1930s. With a few more people we could have booked it for a ceilidh!
Breakfast included not just one but two offerings of home-made bread, soda-bread from Yvonne and a conventional yeast loaf from John. The hostel stocked tins of complete cooked breakfast but nobody succumbed!
The energy was needed because we started by going straight up a steep hill. Every road out of Slaidburn has a stiff gradient so it seemed a good idea to get this behind us. Puddleducks Tea Room in Dunsop Bridge claims to be at the centre of the UK and we spent some time discussing the definition but didn't go inside! Instead we continued to the Cobbled Corner Café in Chipping, which was already full of cyclists. Fortified, we continued around the southern edge of the Forest of Bowland, with frequent steep descents into valleys followed by sharp climbs out.
The planned lunch stop was in Scorton but we heard good reports of the Apple Store Café in Wyresdale Park so we diverted there, taking some lovely narrow lanes with yet more hills. It was worth the trip but was so busy that we had to wait half an hour to be served. A ride through the park took us to NCN6, which leads to Lancaster. Time was running out for people on the earlier trains so they took a more direct route back to the station, using the cycle path from the University into the city.
The main party followed the attractive route along the River Lune, which didn't take a lot longer.
We were lucky with the weather in the best MV tradition, enjoying sunshine on both days between storms on Friday and Monday. Most of the roads were delightful, with upland on Saturday and more pastoral scenery on Sunday. Northern Lancashire is excellent cycling country. We covered about 31 + 37 miles and had a wonderful time.
Photos Anna and Tiana
Saturday 3rd September
Not every ride starts with participants being given a linear plan giving cafes and path surfaces!
A nice, flat, gentle trundle along good canal tow path (almost all tarred / hard pack) with a pub lunch at The Stables Inn. Fortunately the forecast rain held off until 5.30pm so the four of us (Keith, Tiana, Alec and Jane) got to the Falkirk Wheel café in the dry.
Unfortunately the rain came down as we cycled onto see the Kelpies and River Carron canal terminus. This trip (and the slightly rougher path from Falkirk to Edinburgh) can be done in stages using the train to take you out/back again.
The Falkirk – Edinburgh section on Sunday was shelved courtesy of Scotrail withdrawing the trains!
Sat 6th August
Nine of us set off from Kings Buildings and up Kirkbrae /out of Edinburgh to join the new section of cycle path that leads out to Bilston. Then onto the Dalkeith-Penicuik cycle path where we picked up Harry and Elaine. We stopped for cake and coffee at the Penicuik Town Hall (Penicuik Community Development Trust). Lynne, John and Peter met us here. When Lynne warned the Penicuik ladies about the group’s impending arrival/ penchant for cakes, one ran home to get more cakes out of her freezer! The coffee and walnut cake was superb.
We headed up the B6372, and via a small gated road, past Gladhouse Mains to the Gladhouse reservoir. We picnicked by the reservoir, and savoured the wild raspberries. After lunch we took a route, via Yorkston, past the Rosebery reservoir, turned off by the saw mill at Rosebery hamlet to take a rough track past Edgelaw reservoir. A straight route from there met up with route 1 just outside Bonnyrigg. Seven of us cycled back into Edinburgh, stopping at Dalkeith Country Park’s new posh cafe for a well deserved scone. There was no charge to cycle through the park. The day was sunny with a light breeze until halfway through our scones when the heavens opened. The staff were very helpful, ushering us into the restaurant, whereupon herb flavoured water was served (delicious). Definitely worth a return trip.
Overall distance 39 miles.
23rd - 24th July
Having all (12) mustered at Berwick Station, we were soon on NCN1, the cliff-path towards Beal. It was somewhat hard-going but we were not deterred by the rough surface or the cattle. We chose to stick to the coastal path all the way to Goswick and the sluice. Joining St Cuthbert’s Way, across the causeway and against a head wind, we arrived at Lindisfarne at about 1 p.m.
There were several attractions, including Lindisfarne Castle and Priory, shops, restaurants, etc. so we dispersed until 2.45p.m.
Setting off back across the causeway, we headed south to Fenwick. Six people decided to take the B6353 to Lowick then south to West Horton and on to Wooler. The rest continued on NCN1 to Detchant and Belford where we decided to stop for tea. We left on the B6349, then an unclassified road and B6348 into Chatton. We continued west and north west arriving in Wooler at 7 p.m. This proved to be a very enjoyable route. We agreed there was not enough time to include a visit to Bamburgh.
The hostel warden was very welcoming. He’d reserved three rooms for us and offered a cooked breakfast for those who wanted it.
Dinner was booked in the Black Bull – we had pre-ordered from the menu – and everyone seemed very satisfied.
On Sunday we set off for Doddington’s famous ice-cream but found the farmer no longer sells the famous double choc and ginger tubs from his freezer with an honesty box. Knowing there’d be coffee at Heatherslaw, we took NCN68 on a delightful road via Fenton and Kimmerston.
From Heatherslaw, six people headed direct to Berwick on B6354 – getting very wet at about 1 p.m. The rest enjoyed the Heatherslaw Light Railway round-trip to Etal and back. After lunch in Etal, whilst it rained, we set off for Noreham Castle – such an impressive ruin – and then got drenched at 4 p.m. Via Horncliffe and the Honey Farm (tea) we crossed the Union Bridge and continued to Berwick arriving at about 6 p.m.
We were lucky to escape the worst of the rail disruption. Northumberland was a delight as on previous visits.
Photos Barbara and Tiana
9th - 10th July 2016
Six of us (Barbara, Alastair, Sandie, Lynn, Jan and me) met up at Alnmouth Station a little later than planned, courtesy of a late train. The weather forecast was not too good but we hoped to at least get a dry morning. We went on the NCN1 as far as Warkworth where we posed on the old bridge and admired the castle. We took the road to Aklington and Felton where we stopped at the Running Fox for an early lunch cum elevenses. The booked table was spurned in favour of sitting outside. John who was on a later train caught us up to find us discussing route changes.
The impending rain had brought out two (nameless!) members in a severe allergic reaction to ‘roads with arrows’. The road out of Pauperhaugh had one of these aberrations so we followed the road south of the Coquet turning south to Netherwitton. From here we headed west in the worsening drizzle gradually uphill to Winter’s Gibbet where three of us paused to take photos and admire what would be long views to the north if the cloud wasn’t in the way.
The front group had not paused as they were desperate to get to Elsdon before the tearoom closed. The idea of a damp picnic in the company of midges being more abhorrent than arrows - they overcame the arrow down into Elsdon (no map 80 perhaps?) only to find that the café had closed early for lack of custom. While they were sitting disconsolately outside, the proprietor came out and opened up for them! Pots of tea and slices of gibbet cake were on the table when the gibbet group arrived.
The final leg of some 13 miles to Alwinton was likewise completed in two groups – the gibbet group, now renamed the Bastle house group, paused a while to climb through a field to look and one of the best preserved Bastle (fortified) houses in the area. Photos taken, views admired, we set off in good weather only to be caught in a deluge some two miles off our destination. Still, the drying room was excellent!
The speedies, needless to say, were dry.
We stayed in the bunkrooms at Clennell Hall, a quirky but friendly hotel in the middle of nowhere. It is a grand country house with a large lawn used for events and / or camping. As the rain was steady the band (not mentioned on the website) were playing in the front reception area while the locals held a folk session in the bar the other end of the building. Whereas the folk music was gentle upon the ears, the e-cigarettes were not upon the nose and everyone retired early.
Next morning, Sandie left early to be sure of catching the lunchtime train so she could watch a certain tennis match. The rest of us set off northwards on the NCN68 (skipping the rough bits) to Powburn. John left us just before to catch his early train while the rest of us tucked into coffee and scones at the tearoom.
We then went to Alnwick via Eglingham and had a late lunch in the Market Square. Jan and Alastair departed to take the scenic route to the Station through Longhoughton to the coast at Houdiemont Sands, giving a mile of coastal track to Boulmer, then on to Alnmouth in time to explore the High St, before heading for the station.
Meanwhile the remaining three tried to find the entrance to Hulne park, marked on the map with a road through and a ruined priory. However once there, we discovered that bikes were banned and we’d have to walk four miles or so to see it! So we gave up and cycled to Craster where we admired the view before heading south to Alnmouth. Lynn’s train was first, so Barbara and I had time to admire the view in Alnmouth as well.
Photos Tiana and waitress from Melvyn's
25th - 26th June 2016
Elaine, Harry, Tiana, Barbara, Sheelagh, Lynn, Richard, Bill
The group all managed to arrive in Oban on Friday and met up for an evening meal at Piazza restaurant. Three came by train, three shared car and two in a camper van. Three stayed at the SYHA and the rest at Backpackers Plus which provided singles and doubles at £24 with use of kitchen and simple breakfast. Weather forecast for weekend was a bit grim…..
Saturday - Oban to Corran 44m with detour to Port Appin
The day started really quite sunny and warm! Sustrans route 78 more or less follows the coast north from Oban. Our destination was Corran, south of Fort William where we were booked into the Corran Bunkhouse. Sustrans had however not quite managed to join up all bits of the route and the first section follows a pretty minor road over the hills north of Oban – needless to say involving a climb at the start. The views north towards Ben Cruachan were lovely and there was a good descent to Connel where you cross over the bridge.
Apart from 1m on the main carriageway, the next section of the route is on shared path or custom made cycle path. We charmed the young man at the Sea Life Sanctuary to let us into the café for a morning stop – a sensible move on his part as it was virtually empty! A lovely section follows – mature woodland and sea and mountain views. Three speedier and more energetic members of the group did the full Appin loop, the rest took a slightly shorter route to meet up at Port Appin, where the choice was a picnic on the beach or lunch at the Hotel. The ferry from Lismore comes across here and the views across Loch Linnhe across to Ardgour are spectacular. It is also famous for the Appin Murder of the Red Fox made famous in Stevenson’s Kidnapped.
Back on our way we retraced steps to Route 78 across the Jubilee Bridge over the mud flats of Loch Laich and a great view of Castle Stalker. A 2m section on the main road cannot be avoided between Dalnatrat and Duror but this was soon forgotten when you follow the lovely next section to Ballachulish, climbing up to the highest section where there is a geological information board. For the last hour we had been approaching a very black and large shower cloud so it was not surprising when the heavens opened and by the time we had cycled along the shared pathway between Ballachulish and Corran we were absolutely soaked. It was pleasing to say the least to arrive at the Bunkhouse, particularly for the organiser who thought we had to cross the Corran Ferry to reach it! This Bunkhouse has the best drying room imaginable. It is very new, very well equipped, very hospitable and only £20. We did cross the ferry that night to eat at the Ardgour Inn, making sure not to miss the last ferry back.
Sunday - Corran to Ardnamurchan to Mull to Oban 38m
Sunday dawned dull but dry. The first ferry was at 09.45. The moral here is not to believe the time on the Bunkhouse clock which can be 10 minutes slow as one of the group found out with 45 seconds to spare before the gangway was raised! On Ardnamurchan the roads are small, quiet and scenic – particularly the B8043 via Kingairloch which is really lovely. There are some hills but a lot of the way you follow the coast with good views across to the mainland. The weather eventually turned drizzly so we pushed on to Lochaline. In fact there were no obvious coffee stops en route but Jean is still running her snack bar at the ferry terminus. Hopefully it will not close when she retires. Some of the group tried the Lochaline Hotel up the road. On Mull, Sheelagh left us at the main road to head to Tobermory and greater things. The rest of us headed on to Craignure and the 3.15 ferry back to Oban.
7th - 8th May 2016
John had set up the trip and B&B but at the last minute wasn’t able to come so I agreed to see all went well. The forecast was good and some of us had done this route before. Memories (from 2014) of Sunday’s descent in heavy, heavy rain were all too real.
We were aware that the Etape road ride (81 miles) would take place on the Sunday but expected no problems.
Six of us set off from Grandtully after coffee and scones at Legends in the village. The sun was shining. Cherry blossom everywhere. On the road to Weem, two people thought they spied a mink. We were soon in Kenmore for our picnic lunch – coffee available in the newsagent.
We set off along the south side of Loch Tay – great views across the loch, primroses and bluebells. There were very few cars so we could attack the hilly portions with gusto – especially the surprise climb after a rest at Ardeonaig Hotel (now closed).
After a quick visit to the Co-op for wine ++ then a pleasant wander round the outdoor shop, we tackled the four-mile ascent to Kiltyrie Farmhouse, our B&B, where Jane had strawberries and an orange and almond cake waiting for us in the conservatory. (35 miles done.) This offers a panoramic view over Loch Tay – where an hour previously we had been hurtling down and maybe up west to Killin. There was a woodpecker and yellowhammers in the garden.
We did not rush our departure. In the morning sunshine, going west along Loch Lochay was delightful and to compress a long ride/walk to into one sentence, we each reached the top in one piece, ready to snack on whatever we had and then continue to the dam. That’s when the descent of Glen Lyon begins and, to quote one of the group: ‘it makes it all worthwhile’. The views just got bigger and bigger – snow on the tops, lambs at our feet. We stopped in the sunshine to celebrate and eat.
We’d been talking to Jane about Heritage Trees and as we continued east, we found the Glen Lyon Ash at Slatich Farm, 10 miles before Fortingall where we visited the Yew tree.
Very pleased with ourselves, we continued back to Grandtully. (50 miles done)
Jan, Lynn, Paul, Peter, Simon and Barbara
Photos: Barbara and Lynn
9th - 10th April 2016
Five of us met at Falkirk High station for the start of a circular route to Callander and back.
On Saturday morning the route was almost entirely flat and off-road. We left the station by the path that leads directly to the Union Canal, took the towpath to the Falkirk Wheel, and then down to the Forth and Clyde Canal which we followed to Kirkintilloch. A lot of the Forth and Clyde towpath has recently been tarred: the un-tarred bits had a lot of puddles but the newly surfaced ones have none. The canal is quite exposed in places, and going into the west wind meant using middle gear in some places despite being on the level.
At Kirkintilloch we took the Strathkelvin Railway Path along the wooded banks of the Glazert Water to Lennoxtown. We had lunch at the Café Barga: I ordered a sandwich - and was given two huge and well-filled sandwiches with crisps and lots of salad: great value, but rather too much for the next stage of the journey.
After Lennoxtown there is a continuous climb of 900 feet to the top of the Campsie Fells. It took its toll; one of the group struggled to get up the first bit, decided that he wasn't fit for the hills, and turned back for home. The rest of us made it to the top without problems.
At the top we entered Stirlingshire, whose roads are not too well maintained: even some B roads are rough and patchy in places. After dropping down to Fintry, we went round the Fintry Hills to another summit where there was a wonderful view of the southern Highlands, the higher mountains still capped with snow. Then down to a tea stop at Kippen, a flat stretch across the Forth Valley to Thornhill, and a final up and down into Callander.
At Callander we stayed at the independent Callander Hostel, opened a year or two ago: it is well-equipped and comfortable. We dined and slept well.
On Sunday. early morning sun shining through the windows got us up and out early: we left soon after 8.30.
I had hoped to go to Doune along the north bank of the river following either the old railway or the minor road through Drumloist. The railway path stops short in the middle of a forest, and the minor road ends up on the narrow and busy A84. So instead we took roads south of the river through Torrie; some sections of the verges were bright yellow with daffodils.
The obvious route through Doune was one-way so we had to walk for a bit. We left Doune on the Doune Trail, a bit of the old railway towards Dunblane, now part of the NCN network. The NCN path continues to Dunblane along the Old Doune Road, but that can be a mudbath so we took the A-road to the edge of Dunblane where we re-joined the NCN route down to the river and past the cathedral where the bells were being pealed.
The route from Dunblane to Bridge of Allan climbs up Glen Road and down through the spectacular Kippenrait Glen where the road has been closed to motor traffic for several years because of landslips. At one point the road has almost disappeared, so if you want to explore it, do so soon while it's still there.
Between Bridge of Allan and Stirling the NCN route follows stretches of the busy A9, so we took another route through Cornton: here there are signed stretches of cycle routes, but very sub-standard: we avoided some of the worst bits by going through a housing estate. Then we entered Stirling by the Old Bridge and subways under a roundabout to reach the station, stopping at the Cycle Hub there, chatting with the manager, and picking up some advice and cycling maps.
From Stirling we followed NCN 76 to Cowie. After going through an industrial estate it follows an old railway to Fallin. As there were unlikely to be any cafés open on the next part of the route we decided to have a picnic lunch. We found a shop open at Fallin, bought something for lunch, and as we left the village it started to rain - but it turned out to be just a short shower, the only rain of the weekend.
East of Cowie, NCN 76 is another soggy track so instead we took the B road through the village and past a large and smoky fibreboard factory. We had our picnic lunch by The Pineapple, a bizarre summer house and greenhouse built by the Earl of Dunmore in 1761 for growing pineapples, with a stone cupola in the shape of a pineapple. The building with its walled garden (but not the greenhouses) survives and is now cared for by the National Trust and used as holiday apartments.
The final part of our route was through Stenhousemuir and on to Falkirk. Alastair's local knowledge took us along a route mostly off-road through parks and along canal towpaths to Falkirk High station, where we all managed to get on the same train for home.
Although it was dry for most of the weekend, it was quite cold, needing windproofs and gloves for most of the time. But everyone enjoyed it.
Photos: Tiana (archive).
If anyone has photos that are more 'on route' and would like them shown, please email them to Tiana.
Saturday 19th March 2016
Meeting as planned at the Burgh Café in Musselburgh, we shared ideas for a suitable route, and set off at 10.30a.m. There were 9 of us. This included 3 newcomers – who had come from Linlithgow, The Borders and Mexico City! One other person was late but with impressive determination, she caught up with us at Gifford. (Later, the newcomers all said they enjoyed the ride and hope to participate in the MV rides recently confirmed on the website.)
Taking the Esk Path we were soon at Whitecraig and set off south on the Pillars track climbing to Smeaton Shaw and continuing to Crossgatehall. Here there was a steward waiting for a Triathlon event coming through. Someone claimed it could be for us as we were try-athletes! The Pencaitland Railway Path, NCR 196, looked reasonably dry so we took it all the way to West Saltoun (15 miles so far). Continuing to East Saltoun we then took B6355 arriving in Gifford for 1 p.m.
The weather had been OK all morning but suddenly the sun came out, the sky was blue and we were enthusiastic to head north via Bolton and Samuelston to Gladsmuir. We turned left on A199 then sped fast downhill on B6363.
In Longniddry, we decided to take the coast road as the views across the water were a delight and in Port Seaton we had a celebratory cup of tea at the Thorntree Pub.
Approaching Musselburgh, three alternative routes to Edinburgh were suggested so we bad one another farewell and headed home. There was a stunning sunset to round off an excellent day launching MV 2016.
Thanks to Sheelagh for publicising the ride and setting up lunch and to everyone for being such a cheery, flexible un-hurried group.
Distance: 37 miles approx. start/finish Musselburgh. (51 to/from Edinburgh.)
Photos: Ezequiel, Tiana and the waitress at the Goblin Ha'
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