Pedal Power – A Tour of the Lothians

This trip covers a distance of 40 miles running from Currie in the west to Dunbar in the east. Bordered by the Pentland Hills, the Moorfoots and the Lammermuirs, the city of Edinburgh and the North Sea coast, it offers miles of varied countryside.

Depending where you start, you could take your bike by train to Currie as we did. From there, we headed right at the Post Office, past the Kirk and along Kirk Gate until we reached the cross-roads between Wester and Kinleith. From there, we continued to the top of the hill and onto a recognised mountain bike trail.

The Pentland Hills afford mountain bikers some excellent tops to conquer – the ridge from Caerketton to West Kip is superb and the scenery spectacular. Looking north, Edinburgh was spread out like a tapestry at the mouth of the Firth of Forth. To the east a fertile plain rolled gently to the coastal resort of Dunbar, our destination.

Pentlands walkingWe spent two hours pitting ourselves against the elements before the tricky descent to Glencorse reservoir and thence to Flotterstone and the Visitor Centre. After a well-earned cup of tea, we continued to Silverburn, beneath the highest of the Pentland tops, Scald Law at 1898 feet and the start of the Penicuik to Dalkeith cycleway.

The cycleway has been created from a former railway line which ceased to function in 1967. Most of the route is easy going with a whin dust finish while the more recent sections in the Bonnyrigg and Dalkeith area are asphalt. We dipped down towards the River North Esk and joined the cycleway at Valleyfield monument, where the sun made a rare appearance. It is worth mentioning that the cycleway makes use of several bridges and tunnels, some of which are up to 200 yards long, so a torch is advisable.

aquaduct copyAfter the first of the long tunnels we emerged onto the Firth viaduct, a huge, ten-span brick and masonry structure which straddles a 150 foot gorge above the swirling North Esk. The designer of this viaduct, Thomas Bouch, was the same man who designed the ill fated Tay Bridge.

At the other side, it was lights on again as we entered the mouth of what is known locally as the ‘Tin Tunnel’. This tunnel was built to stop the sparks from train and engine wheels igniting the gunpowder stores at Kirkkettle Mill. There were few glimpses of the pipistrelle bat in this secretive terrain and we were relieved to emerge into the sunshine once more.

A rough dirt trail took us to Roslin Glen Country Park. We resisted the temptation to take the main track out of the woodland and onto the Rosewell -Roslin Road, instead doubling back to cross the river and rejoin the cycleway. The trail twists and turns through various species of trees: oak, ash, gean, hazel and scots pine to name a few. We also glimpsed some roe deer who were out during the day.

We bypassed Rosewell, crossed the Hawthornden Crossing and continued through Dalhousie Chesters to Bonnyrigg. By now we felt that time might be against us but we still took in the views from the high single span of the Glenesk viaduct. Upriver, the tops of Melville Castle poked through the trees and to the south stood the tall water tower near Dalkeith’s Cemetary Road.

Perhaps it was the views that spurred us on towards Sherriffhall Doo-cot, Newton Church Tower and the coast at Musselburgh. Here we left the cycleway and took the minor road to Prestonpans. From here to Longniddry, the route alternated between cycleway and minor roads but from Longniddry to Haddington it was cycle path all the way.

We had a quick bite to eat here before crossing Victoria Bridge and taking the minor road past Stevenson House and Traprain Law. This impressive hill which stands alone on the flat, fertile plain was once a volcano and the site of an old hill fort. We spent an hour exploring the ruins of Hailes Castle before setting off again to Stenton. We were enthralled to find a few steep gradients on the way.

Pedal power took us along the B6370 and across the A1 where we picked up the cliff top trail into Dunbar.

Overall we had had an enjoyable grand tour of the Lothians, blessed with wonderful weather and views.

From Dunbar, you should be able to hop on another train back to Edinburgh if necessary.

One thought on “Pedal Power – A Tour of the Lothians”

  1. As cycling is a major past time of mine, I will certainly ensure that I will take a trip to the Lothian’s and spend time on this particle tour.

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