Friday, 22 July 2016


Scotland just had summer recently. It was on Tuesday this past week! Not wanting to miss the season, I set out on my bike, in 26 degree heat and light winds, to the nearby Pentland Hills.

I've cycled this route many times, but this was the first on the bike I brought back from the States last year. Due to its great hill-climbing gear ratios, very light frame and 700-size tyres, it breezed along, eating up the miles. Even the several steep hills passed almost unnoticed.

The down side of this route is that the first 15 miles or so are on busy roads, as it picks its way gradually out of the city. There are still impressive sights to witness though, even within the first couple of miles, one such being Craigmillar Castle ruins. Built by the Preston family way back in the 14th century it took 200 years to complete to its current size, as progressive owners added to it. It is most famous for, you probably guessed, it's Mary Queen of Scots connection (it seems every fortification in Scotland is). Following the birth of her son, James VI, she was gravely ill and convalesced at the castle for a month at the end of 1566. Before she left the "Craigmillar Bond" was made, a pact to get rid of her husband Lord Darnley, Henry Stuart.

In a little over an hour I was grateful to be turning off the busy roads at Flotterstone Inn, to begin the gradual climb through the Pentland Hills. It has been two years since I cycled this route, and back then the first of the two reservoirs, Glencorse, was practically empty due to work on the dam. It was pleasing then to see it full to the brim, and small boats were out with fisherman casting their lines.

With one final steep climb of the day, I was following the edge of the second reservoir, Loganlea, which brought me to my favourite spot to stop for a snack and rest, just beyond the end of the reservoir, at a small waterfall.

As I approached I could see that a new wooden bridge had been built since I was last there, making crossing the stream a little easier, though to be honest it was never that difficult, and I reached my halfway point for lunch, beside an array of vibrant wild flowers.

I had no sooner sat down than I spotted a Kestrel fly overhead toward the small waterfall. Almost immediately I thought I saw it again, on the same flight path. Intrigued I silently scrambled up the hill behind me to take a closer look, and my suspicions were confirmed as I could see it was a pair. I couldn't be absolutely sure, but on the small rocky ledge they were perched upon, the clump of heather behind them was rustling about. It could well have been a late brood for the pair. This was a first for me in the Pentlands, and it was pleasing to have seen something new on a trail I have cycled often. Satisfied I left them in peace and returned to my lunch.

As I emerged from the hills, just a mile or two on, high above the city of Edinburgh, I could just make out in the far distance the new bridge under construction crossing the Forth. It was quite hazy, and I took the best photograph my little camera could manage to record the view.

From this vantage point the existing road bridge and historic rail bridge looked tiny in comparison.

A short distance on and I was into the outskirts of the city again, through the small village of Balerno and onto the Water of Leith path. Embedded in the ground at the start of the path is a stainless steel representation of the course of the river, which was glinting in the bright sunshine, mimicking the silver water itself. From here I new I could stay off roads for about 90% of the 18 miles home.

I love this path as it winds along, following the twists and turns of the river, past quaint riverside houses, through old railway tunnels,

and through the historic Dean Village in the centre of the city.

Several miles on it joins the canal for a short distance and crosses a huge viaduct. This is where I left the canal to rejoin the Water of Leith and the final push home via the local Figgate Park to see the wildflower meadow.

1 comment:

impossiblevoices said...

Great to see you back on the bike Graham.