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Cycle Rides from 2013

Great cycling tours, routes, cafés and anecdotes

Loch Katrine

Saturday 26th October

Outside the cafe at Loch KatrineThis ride is always dominated by the weather and the forecast was spot on: a cloudy morning turning to heavy rain mid-afternoon.

Barbara, Jan, Jan (x2), John, Moray, Paul, Richard, Rona, Tiana and Kaye met at the cafe in the Scottish Wool Centre in Aberfoyle. Departure was delayed because the scones were still cooking! (Mellow Velo has its priorities.)

Eventually we set off in two groups, one on road and the other on forest tracks. Morag was not feeling well and had to return, which left only four in the forest. We enjoyed the views of Loch Drunkie set off by the autumn leaves before reaching the cafe on Loch Katrine, where the road party had been waiting three-quarters of an hour.

Cycling off road over Duke's PassThe ride around Loch Katrine is delightful but was marred by Rona taking a tumble on a patch of wet leaves. Luckily she was not badly hurt and was able to carry on. We broke with tradition at Stronachlachar by going inside the cafe for afternoon tea or lunch, depending on what people had eaten at the other end of the Loch. Usually we sit outside, even if it is raining!

We had arrived in the dry but the rain had set in by the time that we left and continued solidly for the rest of the afternoon. The narrow road to Aberfoyle carries far more coaches than in the past and is barely wide enough for them, let alone for a bicycle as well. Nobody showed any enthusiasm to prolong the ride with a further stop at the Wee Blether cafe so we rode straight back to the cars and went home for a hot shower and to put soggy clothes in the spin drier.

Thanks as usual to the drivers who offered lifts, without which this ride could not take place. Let's hope that we will be back to sunshine next year (but the weather on the following day was much worse). It's such beautiful scenery when you can see it!

Photos: Richard and Tiana

5 Ferries

12th-13th October

Peter cyclingThe weekend followed the usual route and timings, i.e. catch 12.30pm ferry from Ardrossan to Brodick, buying 'Hopscotch 4' and 'Hopscotch 5' tickets to get the cheapest prices for the crossings.

There is now a supermarket (Co-op) in Brodick, so it's no longer necessary to race to the Asda in Ardrossan to get the wine before the ferry leaves (I'll take a long time to live that one down!).

There were 6 on the ride, but Simon had a bad ankle and was only able to do a day trip. After Brodick we split up, three of us going over The String' to Machrie and then up the west coast; the rest took the main road.

The weather was excellent both days. While the east of the country endured cloud and drizzle (tee-hee!), the west was sunny and even warm, except for a cool east wind.

The cafe/restaurant in Pirnmill was closed because of recent road works, but the shop was open and we had a chat with the shop keeper, since we've been there before. The shop was all new and refurbished, after a big fire.

Deer at LochranzaFor the communal meal, the cooking was shared; we had soup, then pasta with cheese, tuna, broccoli, and leeks in a delicious sauce improvised by Jude.

On Sunday we started with Ferry 2, the 9.30 to Claonaig; the wind helped us up the hill. Lots of cyclists going the other way – we discovered later that this was a 70-mile charity ride; which also explained why a car driver unexpectedly stopped at the top of the hill to hand out sweeties to us!

Morning coffee in Tarbert – we always just miss the 11.15 ferry and have to wait an hour – then Ferry 3 to Portavadie – which has a spanking new hotel and looks much smarter than before. Over a few hills to Tighnabruich, where we intended going to a cafe, but we all had food with us, and made a picnic – still warm enough for that! I had to eat there and then; the rest did the big hill climb, and stopped at the view point, with Bute opposite across the Kyles, and the long view down the water past Arran and the Holy Isle, to the Ayrshire coast in the hazy distance.

Tarbart loch FyneTiming the last two ferries and the train from Wemyss Bay is tricky, to make the best connections and get back to Edinburgh before 9pm. I decided to go flat out, for 8 miles, to get the 3.30 from Colintraive, which crosses to Bute in 5 mins (Ferry 4). I made it with 3 mins to spare – puff, pant! Then a more leisurely 8 miles to Rothesay for the 4.45 crossing to Wemyss Bay (Ferry 5, and last), which connects with the 5.50 train. The others were either not relying on train back, or weren't in such a hurry!

The countryside was just beautiful. Not full autumn colours yet, but lots of green, brown and russet, and red berries. We saw red squirrels (alive and, sadly, dead – roadkill), herons, and – off the north coast of Arran – basking sharks! And the roaring of the stags was a constant aural background!

Autumn can be a great time for cycle trips – and no midges!

Photos: Judith


5th - 6th October

Edrom ChurchOnly three of us on the weekend, but our numbers were made up – indeed, doubled, on Sunday - by members of the local Berwick CTC Group, Tony, Gill and Sarah, who were wonderful in offering their local knowledge (of cafes as well as lanes!), and leading us on two excellent rides.

On Saturday, Tony met us at the station, and took us, by quiet roads and lanes, to Duns. We had coffee and scones at the Honey Farm at Horncliffe, which also acts as an informal transport museum – the cafe itself is in an old double-decker bus, though the weather was warm enough for us to sit outside, among an old steam engine and vintage tractors.

For lunch we stopped at a baguette cafe in the main square of Duns, again sitting outside in the pleasant sunshine. A climb out of the town, then a very exciting descent, on a narrow winding lane, into the Whitadder valley.

Tweed ValleyTony stopped at intervals and gave us 'gobbits' of local history, including a run-down on the battle of Flodden, and interesting churches at Edrom and Hutton. We also had quite a feast of old railways (Alec, where were you?!), which at one time honeycombed the Borders and north Northumberland.

Saturday evening, my partner Jane, (who came walking as she couldn't get a bike reservation), organised a communal meal of curried veg and rice in the Hostel.

On Sunday, our three 'hosts' took us a ride to Cornhill and Coldstream. They know the good cafes, as well as the roads! We had coffee at Etal, and lunch at the village shop/cafe in Cornhill, before returning on the other side of the Tweed, from Coldstream, via Ladykirk and Paxton, to Berwick.

Our grateful thanks to our 'hosts', for giving up their weekend to look after us!

Photos: Tiana


14th - 15th September

Carron BridgeFor most of us the journey started at Haymarket and Waverley stations. -Nothing unusual in that except we somehow managed to get 5 bikes on at each end of the train! On arrival at Falkirk High we proceeded to the Wheel admiring and tasting the brambles as we went before indulging in a leisurely pre-ride coffee.  

Nine of us then set off along the Forth and Clyde canal to Banknock where we headed North then East past Drumbowie reservoir through scenic single track roads before pausing at the Carronbridge Hotel. Unfortunately due to lack of trains on the Stirling line at this point our three day riders had to leave us and plan their own route back.

near ThornhillThe rest then cracked on uphill past Loch Coulter and North Third reservoirs with beautiful views all around before descending into Cambusbarron then the busy A811 for a short stretch and the scenic village of Gargunnock for a pub lunch. Afterwards we carried on to Thornhill where we had a short breather in the sun at the war memorial before heading up yet more hills to Callander.

After settling into our comfortable B&B accommodation we headed for the Crown Hotel where a pleasant meal was slightly marred by an overly loud live singer! With only minimal conversation possible we settled our bills and headed for the Dreadnought where we found a comfortable and “quiet” place to sit and relax for a while.

The prospects for Sunday were not looking good with the most weather warnings I’ve heard in a long time and to cap it all plan B was also knocked on the head with the closure of the Stirling line. We decided to spend a few hours in Callander at a local art exhibition being held in a private house. We found all sorts of paintings and sculptures for sale as well as being made extremely welcome with the offer of coffee and cakes. Some even turned these down blaming it on the huge breakfasts recently consumed!

near KippenEventually the rain abated slightly and we set off around 12pm heading for Thornhill then Kippen where we had soup, tea and cakes. The stretch after Kippen was fairly tough going but we did get some lovely views during sunny intervals. By good fortune the forecast proved to be right and a gusty tail wind helped us on our way back up the hill and along the Carron reservoir (no ospreys to be seen this time) to Carronbridge Hotel where we sat near the open fire and had yet more tea and coffee.

Plan A had been to ascend over “Tak Ma Doon” road to the viewpoint and descend through Colzium House grounds. Due to continuing strong winds this was abandoned in favour of a backtrack past the waterworks and Drumbowie reservoir but this time taking a shortcut through Denny. This is of course if you don’t take a wrong turning. Soon rectified, we headed for the canal again and actually made it to the Wheel by around 6 pm where some of us headed on for the 6.22 from Falkirk High.

Thanks to all the brave souls who completed the ride and made it another great weekend.

Photos: Tiana and Jenny

Sunny day ride to Craigie Farm and Ratho

31st August

To alleviate Festival fatigue, 8 of us set off on a sunny day ride to Craigie Farm.
Cycle paths from Canonmills Tunnel to D’mains and Cramond, then on to Craigie Farm for coffee and cake on the patio, with those stunning views to the Firth of Forth, and the Pentlands - and counting the planes heading to the airport!

After coffee’n’chat we proceeded on to Boat Green for a closer look at the planes landing on the runway! – then on towards Kirkliston. There we took a cycle path to Newbridge, as suggested by Lyn. This took slightly longer due to the bounty of brambles available!

At Newbridge roundabout we investigated the “standing stones” feature , while I surmised if the designer got the idea from the ancient site at Newbridge in Ireland, which I visited recently.
On over a little hill to Ratho, and a canal-side picnic lunch and feeding the ducks!
We all managed to squash into one picnic table!

A leisurely cycle home along the towpath came to a satisfactory conclusion at Lochrin Basin.
Thanks to all who came along and made it such a pleasant day!


New Lanark

27th - 28th July

Tree balanced in WeirOn Saturday we took much the same route as my ride of 2011, and on Sunday the same way as my ride of 2009. 33 miles on Saturday, 42 on Sunday.

Seven of us met at Uddingston Station. We went by Bothwell Castle to Blantyre; just before the David Livingstone Centre, we crossed the Clyde by a splendid modern footbridge near a weir on top of which stood a huge dead tree waiting to be carried away by the next flood.


Pause to adjust the saddleAfter Quarter we took an ever-narrowing lane towards Millheugh. At the start of the narrowest bit we met a tractor whose driver had been cutting the vegetation both sides of the road and warned us about thorns, so we decided to walk the next half-mile. We didn't get any punctures, and after a bit of road closed to motor traffic as it was falling into the river, we emerged at a picturesque part of the Avon valley, which would have been a lovely spot for a picnic had we brought one. We hadn't, so we went on towards Stonehouse, under the disused but intact Larkhall railway viaduct (at 174 feet, the highest in Scotland) and the piers of another large viaduct. We lunched at Stonehouse at the Cross Keys Inn: good service, but disappointing sandwiches.

Craignethan Castle from the car parkCompared to the previous run, we went surprisingly quickly to Craignethan Castle. Last time we sheltered from the rain in the shop/ticket office: this time we stood in the sun in the car park admiring the castle from above - and, a little further on, from below as we crossed the gorge in which it sits.

The views round here are dominated by wind turbines, many stationary in the calm. I am sure there were a lot fewer two years ago.

At Black Hill viewpoint it rained enough for us to put waterproofs on, but as soon as we got to the bottom of the hill it stopped.

Falls of Clyde at New LanarkBetween Kirkfieldbank and Lanark we took the Clyde Walkway to avoid a stretch of A-road. Two years ago it was OK, but now it was partly washed away and repaired with bricks and other unsuitable material: at one point some of us decided to carry their bikes and return for the panniers (aided by two helpful foreign tourists).

Two of the party left us to go to Lanark Station to catch trains home. The rest of the group went on to New Lanark Hostel where Jenny joined us for dinner and the Sunday ride.

On Saturday evening it rained. On Sunday morning it rained, and the forecast wasn't promising. We spent most of the morning in New Lanark, mainly in the Visitor Centre, but by 11.30 the rain had eased a bit, and we set off. Full waterproofs, but not soaking.

Outside the Last Shift InnWe got a warm welcome at the Last Shift Inn at Braehead where we had a good lunch. (The proprietor remembered me from four years before.) As we left the inn it stopped raining and the sun came out. At the summit at Pearie Law a 7-turbine wind farm is being developed as a nature reserve and tourist attraction.

The next stretch was gently downhill with a following wind. Half-way along, Catriona left for West Calder to catch a train for Glasgow - possible now that Sunday trains work the whole route - and the rest continued on to Livingston, which we crossed using the path network.

St Alphonsa procession In Livingston we were held up by a procession celebrating the feast day of St Alphonsa, the first Indian female saint. Her statue was being paraded under an ornamental canopy, accompanied by ladies in saris, other people in exotic costumes, sunshades, music, drums and bagpipes - an unexpected and colourful sight.

The rest of the trip was an anti-climax, going through familiar territory via Heriot-Watt and the canal.


Photos: Tiana

Western Dales and Ingleton

18th - 20th May

At Clapham FallsOnce again MV riders avoid bad weather! With that keen sense of self preservation and ability to fiddle while Oxenholme pours, we had only an hour and a half of moderate rain the whole weekend!

The reconnoitred route was thrown out into the downpour and we decided to cycle on the B road to Kirkby Lonsdale where we could assess how wet we were and what we’d like to tackle in the afternoon. By the time we arrived, the rain had almost stopped and so we busily planned a low level route winding along the myriad of unclassified roads in the area. This included a stop at the great wee café at Hornby where we managed to force down some coffee and scones. We set off through Wray and followed the Hindburn valley to Burn Moor stopping to view the great stone of Fourstones (an erratic boulder) on the way to the somewhat treeless forest of Mewith and then to Ingleton.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that an allegedly full hostel put the three of us, who had booked a four-bed room, in a six-bed room, but we didn’t complain!

Stainforth ForceBecause we weren’t as tired as we would have been had we come the ‘correct’ route on Saturday, we decided we’d go for a ride on Sunday too. We met a cyclist who had gone 18 miles by 10am! – he was in training for a ‘400 miles across Scotland in 5 days’ charity ride in aid of Alzheimer’s UK. After a coffee together in Ingleton we (not he) set off to Clapham and joined the cycle route to Austwick and Stainforth. After some trouble we found the waterfall that is Stainforth’s claim to fame, where we pottered about taking photos.

In Giggleswick we found a nice pub with outside tables where we enjoyed a relaxing hour or two in the sunshine. We then returned by a more southerly route.

KeasdonMonday brought the parting of the ways, Jenny decided to go to Ribbleshead and enjoy a scenic trip to Carlisle on the train, whereas Barbara and I took on the challenge of trying the reconnoitred return route but not repeating roads we’d travelled on Saturday. Naturally we failed at Hornby (well there are a limited number of crossing points to a river!) but then it got out of hand and at Borwick this reconnoitred route went the way of Saturday’s and we went to the pleasant village of Warton where we picnicked in the grounds of a ruined Rectory. We then decided to visit the bird reserve at Leighton Moss. This took longer to reach that we’d envisaged so we didn’t have time to go round the reserve - which is free for cyclists!

black headed gulls nestingThe café has 20% off for bike/public transport users and you can watch nesting bearded tits on camera. There is a public hide, but you need your own binoculars of course, so you don’t see much other than the swans and black headed gulls. However, the cacophony of bird song in the reeds is truly wonderful.

Now we had to concentrate on heading back to Kendal. We followed the NCN6 for much of the way (Beetham, Milnthorpe, Woodhouse) diverting to Hincaster and Sedgewick then moving onto the NCN68 at Natland to go to Oxenholme where we had time for a quick drink before catching the train home.

All in all a great time was had by everyone.


Spring in Perthshire

27th - 28th April

queens view, Loch TummelAfter meeting up for coffee in Pitlochry and leaving overnight baggage at the hostel, six of us set off north, soon after 11 a.m. We hoped the clear skies and fair forecast would hold and the wind would help us later in the day. At the bridge over the River Garry, we turned left for Tummel Bridge and climbed up to Queens View no bother, stopping there to admire the view up Loch Tummel to snowy peaks further west. Throughout the day we got stunning views of Schiehallion, often in sunshine.

We arrived in Kinloch Rannoch (20 miles) for an excellent late lunch (soup/stovies) at Treats in the Square. We decided to return by cycling south east, climbing to Braes of Foss to join B846 at Limekilns. One person found he had a loose spoke and had to continue using only one brake. Turning north, we enjoyed a spectacular descent to the T-junction with signpost for Foss. The wind behind us, we sped along Lochs Tummel and Faskally, latterly joining NCR7 as far as the Festival Theatre. We arrived in Pitlochry at 6.30. (Total ride 45 miles.)

Schiehallion in the sunshineTiana had planned the main course, Sheelagh had done the shopping and made the pudding, thanks to you both, so we were soon enjoying a veggie stew, followed by strawberries and home-baked chocolate brownies. The hostel was welcoming; the rooms comfortable. John had brought homemade bread which we enjoyed at breakfast. The owner of the bike with the loose spoke decided to go home rather than risk bigger problems during the Sunday ride.

Sunday dawned fair, with a strong wind from the west as we hoped. This enabled us to climb and climb, from the hostel, up the beautiful A824 to Moulin and Kirkmichael (380m above sea level) where we stopped for coffee. (12 miles). We continued on the A924, now south to Blairgowrie for lunch (at 25 miles). Cargill’s Bistro offered an excellent lunch deal which set us up for the ride against a strong wind and in two heavy showers towards Dunkeld.

river Tay at DunkeldWe left Blairgowrie on B947 then took unclassified roads via Loch of Clunie and Loch of the Lowes. Just before Dunkeld, we joined A923 and very soon turned right into the grounds of the Dunkeld Hilton for tea (38 miles). The heavens opened but after ten minutes we set off on the cycle tracks to cross rail, river and A9 all at once to take B898, a delightful road, to Logierait. There we joined NCR7 and climbing a few more hills, arrived in Pitlochry at 5.45. (Total ride 51 miles).

With helpful winds, excellent company and good food, the weekend was very enjoyable, marred only by a loose spoke preventing one rider from enjoying the Sunday adventure.

Photos: Tiana


Tour of Midlothian

14th April

Firstly – welcome to our newcomer Tomasz who had the long haul up from Pilton to join us, the weather isn't always this bad – I hope.

Secondly – thank you to Simon for the route trail off his phone, this will save me drawing it in Bikeroutetoaster, and for the photo of a patient spectator group.

midlothian rideThe forecast was bad and the reality matched it as we nearly got blown off the bikes going in Causewayside. The wind stayed with us all day but the rain which dampened enthusiasm at the start died out by Musselburgh and never returned thankfully, unlike the Tour of the Borders – flooded roads with water up to the bottom brackets! (See Facebook CTC Scotland for comments)

After a short diversion to avoid the half marathon, we followed the Innocent Railway to Milton Link, Daichies path to Brunstane, (the improvements of this path are very welcome but may be sometime in being completed), then a circuit of Musselburgh to join the Eskside path which we followed to Whitecraig then to Dalkeith town centre.

Here we avoided the diversions on the section to Eskbank, (for those of you who don't yet know the SherriffHall to Hardengreen section is permanently closed for the Borders railway link work), and followed the road to Hardengreen roundabout where "The Best Place to eat in Midlothian 2012" winner Orchard Café provided superb, very reasonably priced and much needed lunch.

We then re-joined the Penicuik path behind Tesco and discovered how exposed the sections with no trees on the south side were, it was hard but warm and sunbathed all the way to Penicuik. The last section was wind assisted (at last) to Roslin, at one point I was doing close to 20mph past Beeslack without pedalling, then via the old railway to Loanhead and back over Straiton to Kaimes lights where Cathie & I bade the rest farewell knowing their trip into town should be rapid.

The only mechanical was a front wheel puncture of mine near Rosslynlee Station but at least the track was dry and we were sheltered in a cutting – I reckon the group needed the rest by then.

Thanks to Jan, Jenny, Tomasz & Simon for turning out and obliging Cathie and I to do the run - excellent company & it was good to be out. If you feel deprived – fear not. I now see it as a challenge to do the designed route later in the year as an additional day run – just watch yahoo for a date, the weather gremlin has to take a holiday sometime.

Photo: Simon

West Lothian

30th March

cycling in the Bathgate hillsIt had been snowing slightly when we left Edinburgh but putting our faith in BBC Weather (dry, sunny, 3˚ with little wind), we arrived in Bathgate for the planned coffee. Turning left onto B7002 we soon found NCN75, the off-road route to Blackridge (7 miles). Turning north there, onto B718, we climbed to Gowanbank Barn and stopped to admire the fabulous views to the west. The sun came out and stayed with us all day.

Joining B8028 into Avonbridge, we forked right at the second church, B825, then right for Candie-end and left to cross A801. There we took the muddy track into Muiravonside Country Park. We were soon at the Steading Café (01506 671290) for lunch. (15 miles.)

climbing up out of LinlithgowWe left the Park intending to rejoin B825, cross the Union Canal and take the towpath, via the Avon Viaduct to Linlithgow. However, access to the towpath was blocked off, so we had to go north-east on B8029, crossing M9, and right onto A706 into Linlithgow.

Dropping into low gears, we climbed steeply south to Beecraigs, enjoying more excellent views to the north-west, the Ochils and Trossachs. At the Monument to the Korean War, we took a short break to look around and then began our well-deserved descent into Bathgate. (27 miles total.)

A satisfying ride, with stunning views and all-day sunshine. 7 cyclists.

Photos: Tiana and John

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