Thursday, 3 July 2014


Last weeks blog covered the first day of three that I was cycling the new John Muir Way Coast to Coast route.

First night was in a comfy bed courtesy of my own apartment, as the Way passes close by. On the Friday morning, now loaded up with a full kit including tent, stove, sleeping bag and so on, I rejoined the route where I had left it the day before.

I live in Edinburgh, so understanding the route across the city was fairly easy, but for others, using the map you can purchase of the route, it would be virtually impossible. The detail is so small and contains no street names or landmarks of any kind. However, the Way is marked well with it's own symbol, so it was fairly easy anyway.

From my home I took an almost straight route west into the centre of the city and the start of the Union Canal. At first I couldn't figure out why it then left the canal on a route that added ten miles, as the canal would be a quicker way to Linlithgow 24 miles away. However, after Linlithgow you also stay on the canal, so I guess it would be quite boring.

I was just about to head off north toward South Queensferry, when I thought I'd take a self-timer photograph. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the camera was broken! It had taken a tumble earlier in the day and was now not operating properly. I detoured to one of only three camera shops remaining in Scotland, and the only one that does repairs, called Camera Base in Morningside, not far from the canal. The good news was it could be fixed. The bad news was, not today, and it would cost £100. I was just about to leave to purchase disposable cameras, when another shop assistant asked me the make and model of my camera. I was puzzled at first but he then pulled out an identical one from under a magazine he had been reading. Exactly the same, like some sort of Harry Potter magic trick! He took mine for spares and we did a deal on £65. The replacement was in better condition than my own one! It also had a wee story of it's own: it had previously been found in the mountains of the Highlands and had been handed in to the Police. Six months on and no one had claimed it, so here it was, and now in a new home.

With the delay, and a strangled route across Edinburgh, past Dalmeny House, through the woods, and onto the picturesque village of South Queensferry and the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, it was pushing lunchtime and not many miles travelled. The day was far cloudier than the first day, and at times chilly on the coast. I'd left the house almost five hours ago and here I was, still on the east coast. Finally, not long after Boness, it turned south and along small paths between farmers fields, lined in large daisy flowers, which took me the three miles to Linlithgow and coffee and cake, naturally, followed by a quick photo outside the palace gates.

I was now travelling west and just eight miles later, having negotiated a narrow viaduct, I reached the Falkirk Wheel, an impressive piece of modern engineering in the form of a boat lift that connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde Canal. Together with Pauline, I have cycled these canals before and visited the Falkirk Wheel, but it never fails to impress.

Just a mile further on I picked a quiet spot to camp for the night, very close to the 2000 year old Roman Antonine Wall. Well, if it was good enough for the Romans for the night . . .

The following day was glorious, and, as on the previous two, the wind was still at my back. Roughly 12 miles on, having enjoyed very easy cycling along the canal towpath, and an "awwww" moment when I watched a family of swans and signets near one of the locks, I left the canal at Kirkintilloch. Not very well signposted, but I was about to encounter and even more annoying signage problem. Just a few kilometres up a well made cycle path I reached the small village of Lennoxtown. I had been religiously following the signs all the way so far, and when I spotted the next way-marker pointing left away from the cycle path, I continued to do so. An hour later I was back at the same spot. Someone had purposely changed the sign to point in the wrong direction.

The great cycle path continued for many more miles, all the way to the small village of Strathblane, where the John Muir Way joins the West Highland Way, a popular route that takes you from just outside Glasgow, over 100 miles to Fort William. But the path is narrow for the most part here, and busy with people, and quite rightly walkers were irritated by this cyclist, with his wide set of panniers, on the same path. To avoid cycling the A81, which is a very busy road, the route sticks with the West Highland Way, but unfortunately it takes you over a hill and through a wood on a very rocky and boulder strewn path, only really suitable for a strong mountain bike with cross country tyres.

I wasn't far from journeys end now, and a few miles after this hill I turned west and left the West Highland Way and headed for Balloch, at the south end of Loch Lomond. From here it was a short eight miles to Helensburgh, where John Muir and his family set sail for America in 1849 when he was aged just 11.

It had been a tougher route in sections than I had anticipated, but after a two-hour train journey home I once again curled up in a comfy bed and drifted off reminiscing about my three-day mini adventure along The John Muir Way.

Photos on FLICKR


Pauline said...

What a great wee trip. Not sure I would have risked the photo of the bike on its stand on the aqueduct!!!!!!

Graham Kitchener said...

Tee hee. You know me; I tend to do and think afterwards :-)
Thoroughly recommend the route. The organisation were grateful for the feedback and encourage others to dot eh same.