I sat on the train recently between Airdrie and Edinburgh admiring the cyclists on the lovely, new cycle track which runs partly alongside the train tracks.
It was a smashing day, fishermen lined the banks of the loch, birds soared, there was not a cloud in the sky and of course I thought I’d like to cycle that!
So, in true Angie style, that is, forward planning promptly replaced by enthusiasm and unbounded excitement, I got my mountain bike out of the garage, pumped up its flat tyres, had a look at the gears and brakes (I’ve never understood how they worked anyway and there is a train line nearby so what can go wrong?), donned my old Ronhill trousers, nipped up to Halfords and bought a chain and at 10am I set off.
I started at Caldercruix (pronounded Caldercrooks for non-locals) as I was keen to avoid the glass which, sadly, seems to line the track in and around my town.
From here the route runs alongside the Hillend Reservoir which was originally created in the 1790s by damning the North Calder Water. At the time of its creation, it was the largest man made reservoir in the world.
When I passed by, lots of fishermen were happily passing the day.
My grandpa used to fish here. I think we used to call it the “rizer” (short for reservoir). We came here once, when I was young, on a family fishing trip. I hated it. It seemed so boring just sitting there all the time waiting for a tweak on a line. I hated the box filled with some sort of live things (maggots perhaps) which the fishermen used. The whole thing just seemed somehow unappealing to me.
I doubt I’d enjoy it more now, though I wonder whether the joy of fishing lies in the escape from the couch, the comradeship of mates and the tranquillity of the surroundings. I got a nice couple of “hiyas” from some fishermen as I passed by.
From there, there is rolling countryside, and nice trees to admire. And very, very few people. A few joggers wearing bright sweaters and unhappy faces and a few dog walkers.
I was intrigued by some graffiti along the way. I pondered as to what there was to forgive and whether love had conquered whatever had gone wrong?
At points I could have been anywhere. Just after Harthill the track winds through forest land which would have been as at home in the forests of Rothiemurchus.
There is a pretty sculpture of some iron tubes.
And at one point a dog walker stopped me to point out a very big cat. I think he thought he had seen one of the legendary wild cats but alas the zoom on my camera showed it to be nothing other than a very large, black, domestic cat.
I passed a lot of new housing estates and wondered where all the people came from or was this just part of the new age…with houses being on average 30% larger than they had been some years ago. I came up behind the Pyramids with their pink sheep. The wind changed direction and I battered hard to keep up any speed at all. The Pyramids look somehow different from the bike. They tower up above you, and seem somehow unreal. From the M8 motorway you just whizz past and hardly give them a second glance. I suppose this is one of the joys of travelling by bike, the slowness allows enjoyment of things that would just be a passing glance otherwise.
From there I entered into a small national park where yet again I lost my inner bearings as I wound through trees and passed more runners. A runner pointed me in the right direction. I think she was secretly happy for the excuse to stop and take a breather. I then passed some industrial estates and then into what can only be described as the incredible labyrinthe of paths around Livingston. I have to admire the creators of the route around here which winds round housing estates, sports centres, some woods, some standing stones…my only advice is keep looking for the blue and red number 75 !
I took lunch at what I think is Livingston Village.
From Mid Calder I headed on the road through Kirknewton and rejoined the 75 at Balerno to cycle along the canal. It is only on this part of the trip that the track is pretty busy. And even then it thinned out as I got a mile or two out of Balerno.
You pass through a cool tunnel just before the Dell.
I temporarily lost my bearings again as there were two signs to Edinburgh.
But asked some nice locals who pointed me in the direction I wanted to go which was along the Union Canal.
I got off to push my bike along the amazingly high aquaduct and kinda wished a canal boat had been coming along as I thought it would be pretty cool to almost touch it as it passed! This part is seemingly a bit busy during commuter hours with folks heading in and out of the city. I heard a tale of a smartly dressed commuter who tried to pass some kids, whilst on his bike on this narrow section. Gravity got the better of him and he landed into the canal, laptop and all…a cautionary tale !
My journey ended at the Harrison Park moorings where a few canal boats were tied up. One had been turned into a small cafe, the others were homes for folks. I rested here and chatted to a canal boat owner who showed me inside his boat.
He made me a coffee. The table he painted himself using a book on canal boat painting he found on ebay.
I’d had a great day which somehow felt so filled with variety that it seemed like several days crammed into one!
Now to plan (well not too much planning got to leave space for spontaneity!) my next adventure!