Cycle Rides from 2017
Great cycling tours, routes, cafés and anecdotes
Friday 19th - Sunday 21st May
Based at the Highlander Hostel for three nights, we set out to explore the local area of gently rolling farmland with plenty of quiet minor roads.
Getting a bike to Huntly is reasonably easy by train, but as usual the number per train is limited so we spread out our arrival over the day and did some cycling on the Friday from local stations.
In typical MV fashion we were very flexible. On the Saturday steady rainfall and worse forecast, saw us heading for a trip on the Keith – Dufftown preserved railway. All visited the café and some even made Dufftown town!
Sunday was much more active – a ride out to the coast via the pretty historic village of Fordyce. After an alfresco lunch at Portsoy’s harbour tea room (and for Keith and Tiana an hour in the interesting maritime museum) we took a more direct route back to Huntly.
On Monday we headed back towards Dyce, calling first at the Picardy stone near Insch. In Incsh we visited the Churchyard and said farewell to Jan who was catching an early train. Not far from Insch on the Inverurie road is, or more accurately was, the Archeolink park. Sadly this museum of prehistory closed some years ago but the remains are still interesting to walk around.
Sue and Alec then took a more diect route to Inverurie while Keith and Tiana took an off-road path through Bennachie (famed for a particular granite called Macaulayite), past the Maiden Stone any bumped into Sue and Alec exiting a cafe in order to catch their train in Inverurie.
Keith and Tiana went on to visit the ancient fort at Inverurie Kirkyard and the ruins of Kinkell Church, then completing our history tooour at the Dyce symbol stones. We arrived at Dyce station minutes before the heavens opened - brillant timing and a brilliant day!
In summary the area is good for quiet B & C road cycling but hostels are very limited in number.
Keith & Tiana
Saturday 6th - Sunday 7th May
Six of us met at Falkirk High Station for a weekend's cycling to Callander and back. The route, except for the first section, was the same as my ride last year but in reverse. The weather was lovely: two days of sunshine, tempered by a strong breeze that stopped us being sweaty.
We headed along the Union Canal, then dropped down to the Forth and Clyde Canal which we followed to the Kelpies. Here we had coffee at the new visitor centre: a bit early, but there are no cafés in the seventeen miles between there and Stirling. We continued along the canal to meet NCN 76 which runs through the flat lands by the Forth with fine views of the Ochils, then a detour through Airth to visit The Pineapple, re-joining the NCN at Cowie. The section of 76 east of Cowie is very rough, so we took the B road instead. After Cowie, route 76 takes a lane that isn't marked on either the 2007 OS map or the Stirling City Cycle map of 2013, but it's all signed and tarred. One locked gate posed a problem, but we got round it.
At Stirling, John met us for lunch after cycling from Milngavie; he would cycle back afterwards. The centre of Stirling isn't very good for cafés or access by cycle; those who brought packed lunches went to a park, but the others had to tolerate a café in the city centre.
We then went via Bridge of Allan to Kippenrait Glen. NCN 765 takes a peculiar route via busy roads and the University, so we took a shared-path route through Cornton, and in Bridge of Allan took a more easterly and higher route that avoided going along the main street and had good views over the Allan valley.
At Dunblane, tempting cycle route signs led us to the New Doune Road (A820) instead of my target, the Old Doune Road (white). Rather than risk a maze through the suburbs to find the right road - we had already briefly lost two of the group - we continued on the A road and joined the NCN on the railway path to Doune. At Doune we had excellent cakes and Bakewell tarts at the Buttercup Café, but there is no cycle parking anywhere in the town centre.
The last stretch followed the south bank of the Teith. The trees and hedges had a beautiful palette of spring colours, almost autumnal in their variety. At the end of the road a cuckoo was calling.
We stayed overnight at the community-run Callander Hostel. One of the group hadn't booked, but was lucky: he got the last available bed.
On Sunday, we ventured south to the B822 which we followed all the way to Lennoxtown. A stiff climb through Kippen was rewarded by a superb view of the peaks of the southern Highlands. After coffee at the Courtyard Café near Fintry we tackled the Crow Road over the Campsie Fells, two miles mostly at 1 in 16 and another mile of gentler gradients: most of us managed to pedal to the top, and the one that didn't only walked a short distance. There were a lot of other cyclists going in both directions. The verges were coloured with dandelions and late daffodils, but also with dozens of discarded cans and bottles. Half-way down the other side we stopped at a viewpoint where one can see for miles over much of Strathclyde.
We had a cheap but substantial lunch at the Café Barga in Lennoxtown. By the time we got there, about a quarter to two, they had run out of baked potatoes and most of the sandwich fillings. It closed at 2.30.
The rest of the route was along canal towpaths. Last year some bits were rough and puddly, but now the whole stretch from Kirkintilloch to Falkirk is tarred, and the resurfacing of the entire length of the towpaths of both canals is due to be finished by the end of June.
At Dullatur Bog there is a long straight stretch of canal that is open and exposed. I planned the route in this direction to take advantage of the prevailing winds, but that day the wind was from the east. Such is life...
At Bonnybridge we were told that the towpath was blocked and we would have to make a diversion. We did, down to a roundabout, along a busy bit of road, then a walk up a steep path through a park back to the towpath - in sight of the point where we left it, and no sign of a blockage. As people were coming the other way without comment, we went on, and then, near a well-tended canal-side garden, met a digger coming the other way. We pulled in to let it pass. In its shovel was a young cow that had fallen into the canal and had been fished out. The rest of the herd was standing by the far canal bank, after watching their companion being rescued.
The last stage of the journey took us past the Falkirk Wheel, which was turning as we passed it, and then along the Union Canal back to Falkirk High.
All told, an excellent weekend. May the other rides this year be as good.
Photos Tiana, Barbara and Euan
Saturday 8th April
The overall idea was to take a train direct from Edinburgh to Vale of Leven, cycle to Stirling along the north side of the Fintry and Gargunnock Hills with a west wind behind us, then take a train direct back to Edinburgh.
Seven folk assembled by 10:02 at Dalreoch station (west of Dumbarton). Most had come by direct trains from Edinburgh, though two had changed at Glasgow Queen Street from high to low level. The weather was ideal for cycling, dry but cloudy, about 8 to 10 degrees, and with the intended moderate wind from the south-west behind us all the way. Thanks to this wind, and the smoothness of the cycle path which follows the River Leven, it seemed like no time before we were at Balloch, where we stopped for elevenses at Corries Café. Some of us sampled their speciality: apple crumble – delicious!
From here, after a brief glimpse of Loch Lomond, we cycled north-east, by NCR7, on quiet roads in low but not flat terrain, with the gentle Kilpatrick Hills visible on our right. At one point we crossed the Endrick Water by a ‘pipe bridge‘, where the way was so narrow that we had to dismount. A pleasant surprise was waiting for us where NCR 7 meets the West Highland Way: a stall had been set up where tea and cakes were offered in return for a donation to a local charity. We could hardly refuse, even though it was only a few miles to Doyle’s café in Balfron where we had reserved space for lunch.
Balfron is built on a hill facing south, and so, when heading east from the top end of the town, we got what was probably the most impressive view of the day, looking south across the Endrick valley to the imposing northern wall of the Campsie Hills extending from Dumgoyne past Earl’s Seat to the Corrie of Balglass. We headed ENE on a minor road, not passing through any villages, crossing B822 near Craigend Farm, and continuing as a gated and sometimes unfenced and potholed road along the foot of the precipitous northern slopes of the Fintry and Gargunnock Hills. The highest point reached is only 522 feet, but when we looked at the escarpment above us, we felt we were really in the hills.
There followed a long unbroken descent towards Gargunnock, but the problem of this run was how to get to that village without being diverted onto the busy A811. The solution was to use 1.2 km of the ‘Old Military Road’ which is not tarred, to Old Leckie, and then another 0.4 km of gravel track, to reach a tarred road into Gargunnock. Here they were expecting us for tea at the Inn. My reconnaissance had concluded that their scones are good but too dainty for cyclists, who should specify a large scone or two dainty scones!
It seemed that the only way to Stirling from here involved cycling on the A811 for 1.3 miles, but forewarned is forearmed! We were equipped with high vis clothing, various flashing lights, and used a cycling formation which allowed vehicles to overtake us without too much difficulty, so we survived. With a sigh of relief, we took the minor road towards Cambusbarron. This involved a climb to a high point where we stopped for a while to admire the view over Stirling towards the Wallace Monument, before entering the built-up area and following the signposted cycling route which crosses the A9 motorway by a footbridge, and leads to the city centre and station, making a total of 38 miles from Dalreoch.
I was impressed by the way that my companions, more experienced in cycling by train than I, avoided the problem which would have arisen if all 7 of us wished to take the same train which might have only 2 cycle spaces. One had volunteered to forego her dainty scones and go on ahead to get an earlier train. Two, after tea, wished to visit the gardens of Gargunnock House, before heading for Stirling and a later train. In Stirling, one decided to explore the town before taking a later train. That left only 3 candidates for the 2 cycle spaces on the first train, one of which turned out to be occupied already, but we were all allowed on!
Photos Tiana and Barbara
Saturday 18th March 2017
Eleven folk (Alec, Anna, Barbara, Eibhlin, Ezequiel, Jan M, Peter Ha, Peter He, Sheelagh, Tiana and Yvonne) turned up at the Burgh Café in Musselburgh to go on what the weather forecast promised to be a dry ride. So, we set off in a gentle smurr to the Esk cycleway…it changed to a noticeable drizzle by the Pencaitland railway path and some were rather wet by Humbie. We were so keen to get there that we were twenty minutes early! Five of us decided to go and visit Humbie Kirk while the rest started ordering their soup.
It was the first time that we have used the Hub for this ride. It is a small café and one queues for service at the counter, so eleven would have been a large number to cope with in one swoop. Everyone appeared enthusiastic about the food and the view – and of course the fellow company.
It took the donning of full waterproofs to scare the rain away after lunch. The ride back took us along an undulating route through Fala, Crichton, Gorebridge, Carrington and Polton. It was more demanding than the ride out, Polton Bank providing the finishing touch! There was a greater variety of scenery too, and the challenge of fitting new roads to an old map…
There was a ‘get out’ clause at Gorebridge that two took advantage of, the rest made home without assistance.
Our first ride of the year is usually nearer 35 miles so at 47+ this was a tough ‘un. I think most were glad to sink into their sofas with seconds of arriving home – two called it "the steepest ride Tiana could find"!
I shall take that as a complement and wear the badge with pride – particularly when pushing my bike up some wall of a Cumbrian fell!
Photos: Yvonne, Peter,Tiana and Ezequiel
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