Month: March 2014

A stunning cycle to South Queensferry

I’ve been out and about on my bike quite a bit these last few weeks. I’ve been out to East Lothian to do a fabulous route around farmland and quiet rural roads with the Belles on Bikes, looped down to Portobello and up to Morningside and been pootling down my regular paths around Roseburn, Drylaw, Corstorphine, Trinity and Davidson’s Mains.

Suffice to say there’s been plenty pedalling. Sadly, not so many photos. Being conscious of a lack of updates, I thought I would share a gorgeous route I did in November out to South Queensferry, complete with photies. This is a really good one.

View to Forth Bridge on way to South Queensferry NCN 76

It’s another road-free lovely, especially if you’re starting in the west of the city like me. Much of the north section of the ever-wonderful Innertube links to NCN 1 and 76, which is what you want to get onto for this cycle. So whatever way you choose, get your bike down to Cramond. I did it via the cut through path at the back of Barnton.

There’s a wee side street off the main road at Cramond, following NCN 1 and 76. Incredibly, there are Shetland ponies in a field, in Cramond, in the city, in Edinburgh. I had no idea these guys were even here and I only live up the road!

Shetland ponies in Cramond

Past the ponies there’s a stone bridge crossing the River Almond. It’s well worth stopping to take in the sound of the river and the views. It feels like Hobbiton. Very beautiful indeed, and it was doubly pretty with all the autumn colours in the trees on my last jaunt.

More of the River Almond

River Almond at Cramond

After the bridge, NCN 1 and 76 diverge. You pass the Cramond Brig, go through a wee metal gate and the NCN 76 is all yours. This route takes you through farmland to the Dalmeny Estate and eventually out into South Queensferry and it’s really quite a stunner.

It’s about 8 miles in total one way, mostly on unmade road or unmade path so ideal for the MTB, cyclocross or hybrid bike, but your skinny road tyres will definitely not appreciate the terrain! Also, as an added bonus, when I did the route I didn’t see a single car.

A road less travelled on the NCN 76

Farmland a stone's throw from Cramond

More autumn colours

After a couple of miles the route takes you through the Dalmeny Estate. By this time you’ll be able to see the Forth estuary, with the bridges peeking out now and again. The coast is juxtaposed by manicured lawns and plenty of woodland, with the estate’s house quite the impressive sight.

Dalmeny House in the Estate

Across the Dalmeny Estate to East Lothian

The route continues to be reasonably well sign-posted through woodlands and muddyish path, and you hug the coast until eventually coming out almost on top of the Forth Bridge!

Autumn colours in the Dalmeny Estate View to Forth Bridge on NCN 76

There are loads of places in South Queenferry to load up on tea and cake. There’s bike parking on the main street, with Sheffield stands to keep your trusty steed safe while you scoff. Ideal!

I believe there are a lot of routes from South Queensferry over the Forth Road Bridge and into Fife. So far I haven’t ventured across the bridge yet, but that is up for exploring now that spring is here. I will definitely do it when it’s not too windy!

If you fancy having a go at this cycle I’ve mapped the route for you starting from west Edinburgh, but you can add your own route in front to stretch it further. Check it out. It’s very easy, hardly any gradient and bursting full of views and perfect spots for picnics and pit stops. I heartily recommend it! 🙂

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A glimpse of Edinburgh’s many faces by bike path

Glorious weather in winter is reasonably rare in Edinburgh. We’re much more accustomed to driving rain, wind and the occasional dump of snow. So when I tweaked the curtains this morning to see the city squinting from solid, unrelenting sunshine there was only one thing to do. Go for a ride.

I plotted out a route with my trusty SPOKES Edinburgh cycle map (well worth the six quid price tag!) and set out in the late morning with a belly full of porridge and tea.

Starting at the Union Canal, I pootled along the towpath. There were loads of other folk out enjoying the weather, so the going was slow but idyllic. Anyway, the towpath is hardly the place to be tearing along at a rate of knots and is the perfect route to soak up the urban scenery. The house boats at Harrison Park are a particular highlight.

canal at Harrison Park Edinburgh

You can stop here at the Zazau house boat for a cuppa and cake.

boat house canal edinburgh

The boat house at Harrison Park, a local landmark.

Just past Longstone there’s a bridge connecting to the Water of Leith path that will eventually take you to Balerno. No cars, no junctions, no nonsense. Just straight up and over to the path.

view of Edinburgh canal from bridge

The view back to the canal from the bridge. You’d hardly think you were in a city!

I took the Water of Leith path up along the river, which was gurgling away in the sunshine quite the thing. There are a few paths and such that lead off the route, so still plenty to explore there for another day. Then there’s a fabulous railway tunnel, dark and exciting and echoey and old.

Tunnel on Water of Leith path to Balerno

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Just after the tunnel there’s a tiny wee pothole-laden road that takes you over another bridge and into Colinton. One right-turn onto Redford Road and then there’s another tucked away path that you’d go right past if you didn’t know it was there.

This took me through a part of the city I am very unfamiliar with and I got lost several times. In true tourist fashion I had to whip out my trusty map and make sure I was on the right track. Essentially, you follow the Braid Burn through Colinton Mains Park, then the Braidburn Valley Park and out into Greenbank. It’s all path the whole way. No traffic. Yippee!

Then on to the Hermitage of Braid. I only recently discovered the Hermitage and what a revelation it was. The route through makes you feel like you are in the middle of the wooded countryside, with a babbling burn and trees stretching to the sky. But you’re still in the city.

Braid Burn in Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Beautiful burn in the sunshine.

Hermitage of Braid Edinburgh

Stately homes since gifted to Edinburgh are plentiful on this route. One example in the Hermitage of Braid.

The Hermitage takes you out to the back of Blackford. As a west-of-the-city girl my knowledge of the south is pretty poor. Even so, you don’t expect to see a huge tract of farmland and fields. So many different views and landscapes and less than halfway around the route. Edinburgh really is an amazing place.

Fields and farmland on Blackford Glen Road Edinburgh

This is still the city. Just behind Blackford, on Blackford Glen Road.

A quick traffic-light-controlled junction later and I was back on path again, taking a gander through Inch Park and then up past Craigmillar Castle (sadly you can’t see it from the path). The views were stunning, so I tried my best to take a snap with my iPhone. But it doesn’t really capture the vista to be honest.

Arthurs Seat from Craigmillar Castle Edinburgh

Look at my stunning city!

I followed the path to its conclusion, took a right and (again all completely away from traffic) made my way down to the Brunstane burn to encounter more fields and countryside and wilderness… But still in the city.

Brunstane Burn path

This is an older photo of me on the same path. All the same fields and stuff!

Next stop was Portobello, where I filled up on lunch and had a cup of tea. Of course, after seeing extinct volcanoes, giant trees, rivers and burns, parks and fields I would have to take a snap of the beach.

portobello beach

Sun, sand and no sangria. But copious cups of tea in Portobello.

There was more path involved to leave Portobello and eventually come out at Granton. Path, path, path with only a small piece of road to negotiate before getting onto, yep you guessed it, path. You hug the coast all the way along to Cramond. It was glorious because of the views across the waters. Depending on where you are along the route, you can also see the Forth bridges in the distance.

View across to Fife from Silverknowes

What a great view to Fife from Edinburgh.

View to Cramond Edinburgh

The beach on the way to Cramond.

A wiggle through Barton via more path and residential streets and I eventually made it home, one fantastic Edinburgh adventure under my belt. Thank you so much lovely, glorious bike!

The trusty steed

The trusty steed triumphs again.

So there you have it. One 27 mile route from the Union Canal down to Cramond, taking in pretty much every type of environment or view you can think of. Desert and mountain didn’t feature, but a whole range of other sights did. Aren’t Edinburgh cyclists spoiled for some beautiful views?

Here is the route mapped. Try some of it for yourself.

It’s almost entirely off main roads. All those stunning views with no cars, no traffic, no impatient drivers or jams or engines revving. Absolute bliss for a pootler like myself. I’d say about 5% needs to be negotiated with a regular flow of traffic – namely Seaview Terrace (Porty), Lower Granton Road and Redford Road.

Route Pros

  • Views and a big range of environments
  • No major hills or exhausting climbs
  • Very little traffic to deal with
  • Never far from help in case of mechanical disaster
  • Did I mention the views?

Route cons

  • Very busy with dogs (sorry dog owners, but I fear dogs off the lead as they are unpredictable)
  • Route is quite muddy in places – not suitable for skinny tyres

Have you done any of this Edinburgh route? Got any favourite parts? Let me know in the comments 🙂