The Union Canal and others

I had another trip through the Central Belt planned, a stay in Falkirk for a few days.

The run through was dependent on the weather which looked a bit hit and miss but after having a run down to Elderslie,  up high over into Paisley but avoiding Gleniffer Braes although I’d a look and thought ‘No’, I travelled down into the centre of Paisley, past St Mirren Park, through Ferguslie and my regular escape route along Candren Road to Linwood and a food break. The home run was via NCN 75.

Falkirk I intended the next day BUT after checking the latest forecast which said rain AM, I decided to just head through.

I got ready to leave, checking the bike over before heading down the hill and my route through Langbank, Bishopton out to the Erskine Bridge. Up over and down Lusset Glen and I joined the Forth & Clyde Canal and headed east. A busy track before I dropped down to join the opposite track and the canal path towards Falkirk, I’d a slight breeze occasionally at my back but with the added weight I still made a good time and arrived at the entrance to Falkirk Wheel Basin. I carried on up at the start of the Union Canal, I resisted the Dark Tunnel this time so up to a short rise and I’d reached my destination.

A 75-mile day and I felt fresh.

The following day? it rained heavily most of the day, handy for watching the Le Tour and baseball, I looked at the tablet OS maps and thought tomorrow, aye, that’ll do me.

Union Canal to Edinburgh

The intended route loaded into the Polar, if, I headed off track.

Canal stretch east of Falkirk

Canal stretch east of Falkirk

Scran, water loaded and on my way, I was soon skirting up over Glen Village and the drop down to the canal towpath, the canal builders denied to use their original route so they tunnelled 620-metre through solid rock (see the earlier post), I joined not long after the east entrance to the tunnel. I rode along a leafy path but not too far from a built up area. I soon passed the high walls of HM Polmont and before long, I was into open countryside. I wondered as I rode east how many bridges I would pass under as it seemed one after another, over 60 apparently so with the return a reverse, well over 120, a few, eh? I soon found out, that you had to warn those coming in the opposite direction of your approach as there is not much room under the bridge (see image).

I slowly cycled over the odd overflow uneven cobbled sections, innovative in their day, I can’t remember seeing anything like this on the Forth & Clyde.

Narrow!

Narrow!

Next was the impressive Avon Aqueduct crossing high over the River Avon with its rough cobbled towpath so I took the decision to walk the 250 metres across, just in case.. The aqueduct stands over 90 feet above the river, a fine piece of architecture, more HERE.

Avon Aqueduct

Avon Aqueduct

Next landmark was the ‘stables’ at Woodcockdale, now sectioned off with wire barriers and not long after I was passing through Linlithgow Basin which was a hive of activity with boats heading mostly west. I stopped as I spotted an OS NBM Bolt, took a photo, position logging.

St Michael's Church tower

St Michael’s Church tower

Linlithgow Basin

Linlithgow Basin

St Michael’s Church with its ‘metal’ sculptured tower was prominent along the skyline, interesting as it is timber coated with aluminium, erected in the 1960s., more info HERE. Not long before more open countryside and still a fair bit to Edinburgh.

I was making a good time even with all these bridges, old and numbered, I met the occasional cyclist, all coming towards me, I assume a regular out for Edinburgh folk. I glimpsed my first view of the new Forth Road Bridge just before Philpstoun, all three occasionally came into view at varying points as I headed East.

Near Winchburgh, I could see Niddry Castle, info HERE. with its backdrop of a now ubiquitous shale bing. A cooling breeze was welcome as the middle of the day neared.  The canal at this points snakes through Broxburn, Ratho before entering the urban sprawl of Edinburgh’s suburbs, the track was clean and free from the usual debris you meet in some built areas, one overfilled litter bin but at this point the track was quiet as I headed towards the eastern terminus of the canal at Fountainbridge, the canal originally carried on towards Port Hopetown. The canal has a variable history, read the timeline HERE with a more potted history HERE

The last couple of miles were busy with people out enjoying what I assumed was a lunch break, a wide track at this point. The basins were busy with boats either starting their journey west or on a few, sun worshippers. I’d travelled 31 miles along the canal back, the canal is 32 miles in length and I had enjoyed the run east.

Edinburgh

The end, Edinburgh

I sat and enjoyed a scran break, plenty of options for food though in the area. I decided and not let the old bones stiffen I’d head back.

The return journey I interspersed with breaks every so often to enjoy the solitude, I spoke with a couple of anglers but nothing was happening for them. I headed up the approach over to Falkirk but took a diversion to explore more of the area.

60 odd miles which were most enjoyable, I’ll do it again.

The next afternoon saw me being lazy and watching Le Tour, it had to have inspired me as I decided a run late afternoon, I headed south passing through Slamannan, Limeriggs, Avonbridge and a visit to California, no sun, no sand just a rural village. I decided to head back via Shieldhill and a welcome descent toward Glen Village where I traced my steps over into Falkirk.

California

California

I treated myself to a takeout meal, I’d deserved it.

Over 20 mile of an up and down, a circular route but an excellent leg stretch.

The next day was run back home…

A 200-mile plus week.

I could get used to this.

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Aye, it’s been a week………..

Monday was a day off the bike, parcel duty plus other stuff took priority. The legs would be rested for the following day with its forecasted high temperature.
I’d decided a run down NCN 75, turn right down NCN 7 to Glengarnock then decide the next move, it would be down to the conditions.

Tuesday AM, it was hot and humid.

Ben Lomond from Balloch Pier

Ben Lomond from Balloch Pier

I put ice cubes into the bidon, spare SIS tabs in the bar bag as I’d have to get a refill or two en route on such a hot day.

After a quick climb up to NCN 75, it was downhill literally the way ’till Linwood. The track was surprisingly quiet considering the WX conditions, too hot for folk?

22 miles later, I arrived at Glengarnock and mulled over the options, up to Beith, over Caplaw, followed by a swift descent down the Gleniffer Braes into Paisley?. Back to Lochwinnoch, up over Clochodrick, Kilbarchan? Nah, it was a return up the track, I reached the high point at Port Glasgow and thought, ach, why not back down but 5 miles later, at the ‘Lost Legion’ I decided just to turn back, it was getting a bit stifling.

Wednesday was another day taken up odds and ends, I’d decided a run to Loch Lomond the next day. The usual drop down to sea level and out east through Langbank, up the Hatton Brae, Bishopton, over the Erskine Bridge down Lusset Glen then head west to Dumbarton, up along the river Leven path to Balloch. I’d thought I’d have a lunchtime special fish and chips, I arrived outside the chippy to a road and pavement all dug up, no hot food here, ah, well.

I grabbed a baguette and coffee down at the services on the A82 at Dumbarton whilst mulling over my next move.

Home over the bridge or Glasgow?, but I decided Yoker, the ferry across to Renfrew and head back home on familiar roads down past Glasgow Airport.

Passing through Clydebank, I met a fox, I slowed, he looked at me, me at him and he nonchalantly headed on his way, me too.

I dropped down to the ferry slip at Yoker where a big notice informed me that due to technical difficulties the ferry was off, a minibus was in place.

Back to Erskine then home.

XVII Legion

XVII Legion

It was frustrating but I’d logged the first metric century of ’17.

114 miles on the past two runs, no bad.

I got home and found out we got an invite to a BBQ the next evening

It was in Falkirk, aye, the computer quickly switched on, yes, Bob checked the WX, aye, looking good I thought.

‘I’m going to cycle through, okay?’ I asked……

Falkirk Wheel in operation

Falkirk Wheel in operation

Friday lunchtime arrived,

The wee rucksack packed and off I headed, over past Clydebank then not far up after the usual escape point down the Kelvin Walkway, I met the canal junction which heads to the East or Spiers Wharf.

I dropped down on the road and 100 meters away I cycled up the track along the east branch of the canal, I’ve been previously as far as Twechar Bridge but today I’d be on ground I didn’t know. I stopped at Twechar Bridge where a barge was heading west through the bridge, interesting to see how the bridge lifts and how quickly the barge gets through and everything get back to normal. I carried on past Auchenstarry Quarry, I was now in an area I’d done some fishing. I’d a feeling it wouldn’t be long until I was at the spot where I caught my smallest ever pike, it must have been 9 inches at the most, a red maggot if I remember rightly. A day remembered for one of the lads suffering a hangover falling asleep in the pouring rain whilst we sat dry under our brollies.

It was soon under the busy M80 and it wouldn’t be long until Falkirk. Along with a quiet track at Bonnybridge, I soon saw my turning which took me into the Falkirk Wheel Basin.

Falkirk wheel

Falkirk wheel

An impressive piece of machinery, and a busy area with visitor buses in the car park, I cycled up the hill for a better view. I hung around waiting to see it in operation, I’d seen it on TV but surprised how quiet the operation was, it took roughly 5 mins from lift to finish.

Tunnel roof

Tunnel roof

Time to find the start of the Union Canal, I knew of a long tunnel in the area, a quick cycle through a smaller one and I came across the longer one, a 600-metre long tunnel impressively dug out of solid rock underneath Callander Park. I should have taken the off track to the left but couldn’t resist a trip through.Space is limited and with wet cobbles, I didn’t fancy a swim so I walked through. I just reached the end and heard a group of students speeding through on their bikes..brave lads.

Hmm, where do I go now? I left at the next off track, saw a bridge and was checking it for a CBM, I got asked if I was lost but I had seen a sign for Slamanan Rd so I knew that was where I had to go. I got further directions and 10 mins later, I had reached my destination.

A good run?

Aye, most enjoyable 44 miles plus.

The track from Old Kilpatrick through to Falkirk is an excellent mix of surfaces, tarmac, compressed dust with the odd dusting of surface dressing, the odd road crossing but generally all single track. I found it busy at Kirkintilloch and the usual traffic as I passed through Glasgow. A good run.

I’ll do this again.

Scottish Canals blurb HERE

Wikipedia on Falkirk Wheel HERE Forth & Clyde Canal HERE Union Canal HERE

To embiggen images, feel free to click for full size.

 

 

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Riding towards Dunblane

Another trip up East, I wrote about Monday’s, the first day run back over the country roads of Angus, then down to Carnoustie, finished by a dash into a strong breeze to Invergowrie in the last post.

The next day was taken up by the reason we headed E.

The first plan was to grab what I could and had only just the two days BUT a slight mistake WE made (I’m not taking the full blame).

We were to drop into my oldest daughter for a meal on the way home plus our Ailsa was to get a lift back home.

Nope, driver, passenger and a bike, no room for anyone else.

I offered to stay another night, I could finish the work and have a free day following, my options were a cycle, cycle and train home but after a quick check of the map, I’d meet Katie at halfway, Dunblane.

I created my route and downloaded to the Polar.

I woke early, opened the laptop and studied the route over and over, I wrote a crib sheet with towns and villages en route.

The forecast was for temperatures in the 20s, light breezes, not the best for a longer run but.

I arranged a meet-up time around 17.00 and I normally estimate a 10 mile per hour which gives me time for any hiccups etc.

I left slightly later.

I’d slathered my face in sunscreen, packed some scran in my top back pockets. I must remember not to put too much sunscreen on under my eyes as flying downhill along with it being a hot day meant the occasional nippy eye.

A check of the bike first, the Polar route screen on and it was off along Riverside Drive, Dundee first, a bit of diversion stuff before arriving at the lift on the north side of the Tay Road Bridge. This lift is fun. Rumbling across the raised platform that is a shared path which was busy this time across, I soon dropped down and I was in Newport on Tay. I pedalled up and through Newport on into Wormit. I spotted a CBM on a bridge so stopped to record and emailed myself the OS coords (I got another one later outside Bridge of Earn). I was following NCN route 777. I used OS Locate to email the location to me.

Tay Bridge cycle lane

Tay Bridge cycle lane

I was now enjoying the open countryside with occasional forays through cooler wooded areas.

I knew there was a big climb after Balermino but boy, my heart fell when I saw this as I rounded the bend, so it was down the gears, I pedalled steadily up and reached the bend, it looked even steeper now, oh boy. I finally topped out just under a mile at an average 8% gradient, tasty to have done that. I soon reached a junction, right and the Perth road, a quick sarnie then off again. I soon came out on  an open hillside with cracking views across the Tay Estuary, north, west and east. It was a slow descent to Newburgh, the route map was carefully watched to my next point, I passed by a new shopping development and I felt what felt like light rain, they had laid turf and were watering it with a sprinkler, I passed through this 3 times being laughed at by a couple of locals, it was cooling.

The Tay north west

The Tay north-west

Passing through the town, I headed along busy roads towards Abernethy, Aberargie then on to Bridge of Earn.

At Bridge of Earn, a break to take on some milk, sandwiches and a bag of Haribo.

Heading out the B935, my next port of call would be Dunning, it was now hot, very hot. I was glad of the odd woody area, passing Forgandenny, pedalling through the farming country I’d met more than my share of tractors on the road. About half a mile outside Dunning I stopped to ask a cyclist who was having gearing problems if all was okay, we headed towards the village, I asked him where the local shop was, I said I needed some water. We stopped at the start of the village, he took my bidon, filled it with ice cubes and water, an act of kindness I appreciated.

Dunning

Dunning

Passing the centre of Dunning it was out the B8062 and a stop to check out the site of Maggie Wall’s burning before heading for Auchterarder, this isn’t as it seems apparently see HERE and HERE. I placed an item on the stones, just for when. I was soon on the old main road heading into Auchterarder, boy, I never remembered how much of a drag uphill it was plus I knew Orchill Road, my next branch off point would be the same. The town was busy, I resisted a stop for fish and chips. I soon spotted Orchill Road on my right, it would take me up behind Gleneagles Hotel, funny, eh, in my last two ‘outs’ I’ve passed two championship golf courses, my next stop would be Braco, the road was a bit of a rollercoaster, strangely quiet with only a couple of cyclists passing but after Braco, I’d be within touching distance of Dunblane with the last part a downhill run. Braco was reached and out the B8033 I would head. I was surprised by how quiet these roads were especially as it was now late afternoon.

Gleneagles

Gleneagles

I stopped for a water break at the highest point of the road before dropping down through Dunbuck, a windy road. I soon could see the main A9 in the distance. I passed along a tree-lined road, welcome cooling run among a tree-lined road, I soon reached the top part of Dunblane, a downhill finish.

A quick run around M&S car park, I was early so a quick run out to the roundabout, back then up the hill out past the tennis courts, I wonder who learned his trade there?

Another clip downhill and I saw Katie was waiting.

The bike dismantled and soon I was in M&S getting cooled by the air conditioning which blasts you. Lovely!

A tub of fresh-cut pineapple and ginger beer for the journey home.

I made another boo-boo, I missed the first 100 km of the year by meters, I never thought to check the distance and just stopped the ride, ces’t la vie!!

I’ll be honest, due to the heat and the need to get to Dunblane on time, I never took as many photos as I would have liked.

I enjoyed the run even up over Balmerino, though next time I’ll take the main road through Gauldry.

I’ve another run planned along some of these roads but that will be for another day, I hope to explore some of the roads to the N of the A9.

 

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Mmm, Where Today?

Arbroath, I think.

Polly was sitting all nice and cosy in a dry garage recovering after her Monday tea time run from Newtyle up over Collace, Abernyte, whizzing down The Braes, Inchture and another run along the Carse. An enjoyable leg stretch followed by a swift descent to almost sea level and a race for dinner.

I’d a day off so the legs would be fresh for an explore. I’d preplanned this one and the Polar had the route in its memory. I’d probably and wing it even as I had studied the route well, or so I thought, more on this bit later.

Invergowrie Bay

Invergowrie Bay

The sun was shining and a light SW breeze was at my back as I left Invergowrie on NCN 77, I took a detour down through Riverside Country Park which was busy with pets and their owners. I could see both Tay Bridges and the hills of Fife to the south of me.

Passing Dundee Airport I’d a quick look through the boundary fence to see mostly private small planes and one prop plane. One or two small planes took off while I was there.

Onward along to Riverside Drive but I’d a few diversions due to sea defence work going on. I stopped to look at the stone memorial to those lost in the Tay Bridge Disaster HERE, I’d earlier passed the scene of another major rail accident at Invergowrie HERE.

I carried on, avoiding the ongoing works and arriving at the Tay Road Bridge, I couldn’t resist the chance of a quick dip of my feet in Fife then back across. You access the footpath by using a lift, I like that and I headed across and back on a shared path running along the middle of the bridge,

Tay estuary

Tay estuary

On the return, I could see the waterfront of Dundee back west to Invergowrie and beyond, I’d head east after I descended the lift and looked for signage to get me on my way, the signs now said NCN 1, It carried me along the back streets of the dock and arrived a what I thought was a dead-end fence, I saw a button and pressed it and the gate opened and I was on my way thinking ‘Mmm, am I allowed in here?’ A blue ‘1’ sign let me know I was, I reached the other end and an automatic gate let me out, a quick wave to security and I was on my way.

I didn’t have time this visit but I must make time and visit both the Dundee Heritage ships, the ‘Discovery’ and ‘Frigate Unicorn’, I passed the RRS Discovery Point Centre and the boat in its dry dock with scaffolding around the stern of the ship, history of the boat HERE. The Frigate Unicorn is not too far away at its berth in nearby City Quay, history and info HERE

Looking to Broughty Ferry

Looking to Broughty Ferry

It was now onto a quiet stretch of road before reaching a shore path into Broughty Ferry, I could see Broughty Castle ahead. I stopped to have a drink and have a quick look around. It was now to head NE, the Esplanade was busy with mid-morning walkers, I kept a careful eye for signage, I’d been known to miss plenty in the past.

A steady breeze blew across me which was welcome as the day was warming up, the track so far was flat although that would change on my return journey over the back country roads of Angus. The track now took me past Monifieth with the golf course between me and the town, plenty of golfers were out taking advantage of the fine weather.

Carnoustie

Carnoustie

I stopped at the entrance of the military area at Barry Buddon, my ‘squeaky’ brake bought out the sentry. I could hear rapid gunfire in the distance. I had a quick chat before heading on my way through wooded areas until I reached Carnoustie. I’d a blip as I never noticed the sign, a quick ask for directions and it was on my way, I missed an obvious sign, Doh!

I entered the track which would take me along through the hallowed links of Carnoustie Golf Links, famous as one of the Open venues.

I soon made my way past and headed up and along a shore path with views out into the North Sea,  I met the odd dog walker and passed by West Haven taking a quiet path until East Haven, I spotted a CBM under the bridge so a quick log, photo and the next stop was Arbroath.

B10202 East Haven, Railway Bridge

B10202 East Haven, Railway Bridge

This part of the path gave the sense of remoteness but still an excellent surface to pedal along, I occasionally could see the remains of concrete anti-tank cubes placed along the shore during WW2 HERE.

It wasn’t long before I could see the town of Arbroath in the distance, I headed along Eliot Links, where I’d my first holiday away from home a half century ago, a 2-week camp. It hasn’t changed much, the burn I tried to catch small fish had a bridge now.

Looking to Arbroath

Looking to Arbroath

I wouldn’t be heading into town but a cut back along a busy main road before heading northwards up past a retail park before winding through country roads to first Forfar (although this wasn’t the original plan), I reached RM Condor high above the town before heading through Woodville and onwards to Carmyllie, this is where I messed up, I blame the lack of road and direction signs, honest!  I should have carried on the west but no, I headed along quiet roads until I reached Redford, west this time joining the B9128, Forfar it was. I passed through Craichie,  soon after I was enjoying a swift descent into Forfar, I reached a junction, a quick look and I recognised where I was, not too far from the local football ground. I stopped for a bite to eat from a supermarket, I also bought a bar of chocolate. I intended to ration it a small piece a mile but it never works out that way, does it?

I was now almost on the homeward stretch (or back to Newtyle), I headed out towards Glamis, I joined a rough pavement for most of the ride but soon reached and bypassed the village and took a country road passing through Eassie, Balkeerie then past the entrance to the Den (see earlier blog post), Newtyle was only minutes away.

56 mile logged, I had to look and I could see where I’d gone wrong but hey, that’s what life is all about.

I headed the opposite journey a week later almost the original route but via Glamis, back roads through Charleston, Gateside, Inverarity, Whigstreet then a downhill run into Carnoustie then a reverse on NCN 1 and 77 to Invergowrie, there was a strong headwind this time which made it a bit less fun but It was well worth the visit, I’ll be back? you bet!

40 odd this time.

Thanks go to Wikipedia and any site I have linked to, all photos can be embiggened with a click.

 

 

 

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