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…