Bathgate to Glasgow (via the Falkirk Wheel)

Route out – Bathgate to Linlithgow to Falkirk Wheel to Kirkintilloch to Bishopbriggs to Glasgow. For route map click here.

Route back – Glasgow to Uddingston to Coatbridge to Airdie to Plains to Caldercruix to Blackridge to Bathgate. For route map click here.

See route on Strava.

  • Weather – dull at first then much brighter but with 1 horrible heavy shower around midday. Mainly sunny and warm later in the afternoon.
  • Bike type – road bike
  • Distance travelled – 80.62 miles
  • Riding time – 6 hours 42 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.6 mph
  • Average speed – 11.9 mph
  • Height climbed – 1958 feet

It seems like Dad and I have cycled everywhere in the south of Scotland. But last Saturday I woke up and suddenly realised that we’ve never been to the largest city in Scotland – Glagow. So I decided at 6:30am that morning that that was where we’d be cycling to that day. Unfortunately, to get to Glasgow and back from Gorebridge in a day would be basically impossible so we loaded up the car and travelled to the West Lothian town of Bathgate and by about 9:15am we were on our bikes…

We left the car on Kirkton Avenue in Bathgate and started by cycling straight up a really steep and long hill (14% gradient according to the sign) heading north for Linlithgow. It didn’t actually seem that hard a climb and soon we were out into the countryside going up and down (mostly up) for a while until we reached the top of the narrow road near Cairnpapple Hill where, despite the grey and overcast sky, we got a fine view across to the 3 bridges crossing the Firth of Forth away in the distance. From there, it was mainly downhill all the way for the few miles to Linlithgow on a relatively busy “C” class road which passes by Beecraigs Country Park on the way. The is road has a lovely smooth surface but has lots of very sharp bends on the steepest downhill sections so be careful…

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Not far into the town of Linlithgow, we turned left off the main road onto the Union Canal, cycle route 754. We’ve cycled on the canal before from Edinburgh to Linlithgow but had never gone further until today. The surface of the path was much better than I remembered, fairly smooth and with a hard-packed covering of fine stone chips, so it was perfectly OK for the road bikes. The gradient is totally flat so you have to keep pedaling pretty much constantly so it is a bit of a slog at times. You have to pass beneath many bridges and the turns here are very tight and bumpy so you have to slow to a crawl at times. You’ll also find that the path is used by millions of dog walkers (we even passed someone skiing on rollerblades!) so you have to pay attention and slow down a lot – we didn’t notice much in the way of dog dirt on the path though amazingly! Don’t expect many good views from the path either because you are always low down. The exception to this is when you cross the Avon Aqueduct (you have to push along here in case you fall in…) which gives you a stunning view down into the Avon Gorge.

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Before too long, we had reached the Falkirk Tunnel. I normally like tunnels but this one was very dark, bumpy and wet, with water leaking down from above in many places. It was too dangerous to cycle through it so we pushed our bikes for what seemed like about a mile in the darkness. It wasn’t much fun and really ruined our average speed. Thankfully, we made it safely to the other side and were greeted by a much more pleasant sight – the Falkirk Wheel. It is a rather clever mechanical contraption which joins onto the end of the Union Canal and lowers a barge down into the Forth and Clyde Canal about 50m below and at the same time raises a barge up into the Union Canal. We stopped here for an early lunch of boiled eggs, Parma Ham, cheese and oatcakes whilst we watched the barges move slowly from one canal to the other. Luckily, we didn’t require the assistance of the Falkirk Wheel to reach the Forth and Clyde Canal – we just freewheeled down the hill and turned left onto our second canal path of the day.

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Compared to the Union Canal, the Forth and Clyde Canal seemed much more “open” and you get much better views all along the way, especially of the Hills on the right hand side. The path surface is similarly decent, though perhaps a bit more gravelly in places. We saw fewer pedestrians and dogs on this path but many more cyclists, most heading the opposite way than us. Perhaps they were escaping Glasgow…? Interestingly, unlike the Union Canal, you don’t pass under many bridges on this canal, you tend to have to cycle up the slope until you meet the road and then cross over and down to the canal path again. This was quite annoying as there never seemed to be any pedestrian crossings and most of the roads were busy and hard to get across. On the plus side, there were loads of brambles growing along the canal-side so we managed to stop and fill our faces a couple of times. By about 1:30pm Dad spotted some high-rise flats on the other side of the water so he said we must be nearly there. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we came upon a signpost pointing to Firhill Stadium 1 mile away. This is Partick Thistle’s football stadium and funnily enough Dad’s favourite team Aberdeen (OK, I quite like them too) was playing there today with a 3pm kick off. We could have stopped for a few hours to watch the game but we’d never have had enough time to cycle back to Bathgate in daylight so we cycled on. Luckily, the path took us right around the edge of the stadium and we were able to sneak a photo of the Aberdeen FC team bus. We also made note of the fact that because Firhill only has 3 stands, you get a great view of around 90% of the pitch if you are standing on the cycle path. That bit of knowledge will save you £25 next time your team are playing Partick Thistle…

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From Firhill it was a short ride along the riverside path, down a steep hill, under the M8 motorway and then right into Glasgow city centre at Cowcaddens. We thought it would be sensible to push our bikes along the pavement in the city centre but as it turned out, pushing along the crowded pedestrianised Sauchiehall Street was the worst (and slowest) thing in the world. So we decided it would be best to brave the bus lanes and one way streets, cycling around George Square and then south towards the River Clyde. It was actually easy enough, and relatively safe, and soon we were on the pavement again, heading east along the river side path of Cycle Route no.75.

Route 75 starts off as a lovely path (watch out for dogs and children though) which follows the River Clyde for quite a long way, passing Glasgow Green and at one point giving us a glimpse of another football stadium, Celtic Park. Although the path has a mainly good surface, there are places where tree roots are growing close to the surface and this makes lots of mini speed bumps which are annoying (for Dad) or fun (for me) to cycle over. Near the outskirts of Glasgow we found a ginormous patch of brambles so stopped for quite a while to fill up. The outskirts of Glasgow basically never end as the city joins on to the fairly grim-looking towns of North Lanarkshire and around these parts there was a lot of broken glass on the path to try and avoid. At one point between Uddingston and Coatbridge, the cycle route directs you to go along a very narrow, muddy path that’s overgrown with nettles – not fun at all, especially on road bikes.

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There’s also quite a number of sections where cycle route no.75 makes you go on the pavement alongside some busy main roads – this does not make for a fun cycling experience. You keep having to stop and start again, cross over roads at junctions and traffic lights so it’s hard to go a decent speed. We would have been better just going on the road and braving the traffic. It also seems to take a rather long and winding route. I reckon there must be a more direct and/or pleasant route that takes you through the country roads instead of the town so I will need to check the map later. Anyway, when we reached Airdrie, the route took us right past our 3rd football stadium of the day, the Excelsior Stadium, home of Airdie FC, so that was quite nice. After Airdrie we came to another rather grim place called Plains, where again route no.75 suggest cycling on the pavement alongside the main A89 road. At one point, we had no choice but to divert onto the road as a McGills bus had crashed into car at a junction and was blocking the way. We found the road to be much nicer to cycle on so we stayed on it for a short distance until the cycle route sign pointed to the left and we left the grim towns behind…

The 12 mile section of cycle route 75 from just outside Plains all the way to Bathgate is one of the nicest cycling paths ever. If you ignore the brief visits to Caldercruix and Blackridge, this section is almost all on a very quiet path with an amazingly smooth surface which makes you speed along nicely, especially on the long, slightly downhill sections. The views of the countryside are remarkably good too, including the beautiful Hillend Loch which the path skirts right around the edge of. You also get some very close up views of a wind farm which Dad and I both liked. The path follows the same route as the railway line as well, so we were lucky enough to spot about 10 trains before we made it back to Bathgate…

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By the time we reached Bathgate it was about 6:30pm and we were both starving. Luckily, even though he doesn’t know the town at all, Dad has a strange homing instinct and somehow managed to direct us straight to a Dominoes Pizza. So we stopped there for tea, eating outside in the sun before cycling back to the car. It was our longest cycle route so far, our first ride over 80 miles, but it didn’t actually seem that hard as there were very few hills to climb all day. Both of us commented that we felt we could have gone for another 20 miles! Apart from cycling through the grim towns of North Lanarkshire for an hour or 2, we’d had a really great day.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, Aberdeen won 4-3 to go top of the league so Dad was happy…

Grand Tour of the Scottish Borders (vol. 3)

Route out – Tweedbank to Abbotsford to Lindean to Selkirk to Ashkirk to Hawick. For route map click here.

Route back – Hawick to Minto to Newtown St Boswells to Dryburgh to Leaderfoot to Newstead to Melrose to Darnick to Tweedbank. For route map click here. Note Google maps says to go onto the A68 at Leaderfoot but this isn’t necessary. Just head onto the B6360 and immediately pull off the road on the left and use the pedestrian bridge next to the viaduct to cross the river.

  • Weather – mainly sunny with some cloudy intervals, cool at first but warmer later and no wind at all.
  • Distance travelled – 52.40 miles
  • Riding time – 5 hours 11 minutes
  • Maximum speed – 32.2 mph
  • Average speed – 10.1 mph
  • Height climbed – 3346 feet

The weather forecast looked perfect for cycling on Easter Monday so Dad and I got up at some unbelievably stupid time in the morning and found ourselves (and our bikes) on the 6:49 train from Gorebridge to Tweedbank. Half an hour later we were on our bikes, cycling through a housing estate and then around the lovely Gun Knowe Loch in Tweedbank before crossing the main road and onto the quiet B6360 which goes past the home of Scots writer Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House. This road was follows the River Tweed and is lined with trees and has loads of wild garlic growing on the verges which made an amazing smell as we cycled along. After a few miles we had no choice but to turn left onto the main A7 road. It’s only 2 or 3 miles along the A7 to the town of Selkirk but the road was very busy and if you’ve read the blog before, you will know we prefer to stick to the back roads so after only half a mile or so we decided to turn left and take the long cut. The long cut took us onto a deserted single track road which straight away went steeply uphill. We cycled through a tiny place called Lindeen and then up and up and up for a long long long time until at the top of the hill, we came to an un-signposted junction on the right, heading sharply (almost backwards) at a reflex angle. From there it was a very fast and fun descent for a couple of miles down to Selkirk with some nice views of the Borders countryside all around us.

We left Selkirk along the B7009, heading into the stunning Ettrick Valley and following the Ettrick Water for a while. We turned off this road when we saw a sign for Ashkirk and this took us up another steep hilly single track road for quite a long time. It was nice and quiet though and the views of the hills and valleys got better and better the higher we went. Since it was Easter, we stopped halfway up the hill and rolled our eggs. Dad had painted his egg like Derek McInnes the Aberdeen FC manager but after I’d smashed it down the hill, it no longer looked like him! McInnes tasted fine though… At the top of the hill we crossed a cattle grid and then it was simply a case of zooming back down the other side to the village of Ashkirk. Just before the village, Dad spotted a very unusual road sign warning car drivers not to go down a certain road because their “sat-nav is wrong and the road isn’t suitable for cars” (see photo below). It was probably OK for bikes but we stuck to the proper road this time. Askirk seemed nice enough but beware that there’s a lot of misleading sign posts there pointing to various places and most of them seemed to be pointing in completely the wrong direction. We ignored the sign pointing left to the golf course and Roberton and instead headed right – in the direction of the golf course and Roberton…

After a few miles of easy cycling along a nice quiet road, we came to yet another uphill section as the narrow road took us up very high and into some really remote and hilly countryside. It was perfect for cycling as it was quite a gradual climb really and the views were amazing. We even saw some baby Highland cows in a field. After a short while cycling right along the top of the hills, the road then went downhill for a long time (maybe 4 or 5 miles) and we sped far too fast until we reached the junction with the B711 where we turned left and cycled along a much flatter and very smooth road for a couple of miles, following a river. Just before reaching the A7 again we turned left onto a minor road which took us to the park on the outskirts of Hawick so we cycled through the park and then over a bridge into the town centre where we stopped at Greggs for an early lunch (cheese and onion pasty for me, 2 sausage rolls for Dad).

We followed the Border Loop cycle route signs out of Hawick on a minor road and were soon in the countryside once more. This area is extremely quiet and scenic and the roads are nicely surfaced with lots of ups and downs so it is ideal for cycling. After a while we came to a crossroads with lots of signs on it so we chose Minto. This turned out to be a rather steep choice but we found that Minto is very pleasant place with a golf course and a nice church. We stopped there for a snack of oatcakes and Dad spotted 2 pheasants that were either fighting or mating – we didn’t stay long enough to find out… After Minto it was uphill again and we cycled around the side a rather distinctive dome-shaped hill (called Minto Hill funnily enough). Then it was basically another 6 miles of peaceful cycling on quiet roads with lots of ups and downs (mainly downs this time) heading closer and closer to the impressive Eildon Hills as we eventually reached Newtown St Boswells.

We quickly headed out of town, across the main A68 road and along a quiet road for less than a mile before crossing over a pedestrian bridge over the River Tweed to Dryburgh. There’s an abbey near there but we didn’t see it today and instead followed the road which would takes us the long was back to Melrose via the Leaderfoot viaduct. Before reaching the viaduct though, we had yet another hill to climb but it was well worth it as the views from the top were amazing. There’s a view point at the top called Scott’s View because it was Sir Walter Scott’s favourite view in the Borders. He was right enough as the view of the Eildon Hills and valley below was reasonably remarkable I thought. Then it was a short and fast downhill section to Leaderfoot and the amazing viaduct which came into view just as we cycled underneath the main A68 road. Just there, we turned left onto a pedestrian bridge which carried us over the Tweed once more and provided us with great views of the viaduct. After crossing the bridge we turned right onto a road that is not open to cars (there’s a locked gate at the end of it) but it’s good for bikes and it took us right under the viaduct and down to the village of Newstead. It was then just a mile along the B6394 to Melrose (where we stopped as usual for an ice cream) before heading back to the train station in Tweedbank following Cycle Route no.1 via Darnick. Oh, just outside Melrose on the B6394, Dad spotted a very large banner advertising a fencing company who claim to be the “Erection Specialists” (see picture below). He was basically in tears with laughter but I didn’t have a clue why. Dad says I will understand the joke in a few years time…

Today was really fun day out with lots of hills to climb, very little in the way of traffic and some of the best views we’ve had whilst out cycling. We love going to the Borders but it’s a big place and there’s still lots more of it to explore so stay tuned for Grand Tour vol.4 sometime soon…