Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Across the Scottish border

Last Friday morning we rode the 18km from Carlisle to Gretna, just across the Scottish border.  While in Gretna over lunchtime we quickly became aware of the change in culture: as well as the lovely Scottish accent of those who served us in shops, we saw a kilt wearer (who appeared to be the groom at a wedding) and heard bagpipes when riding through backstreets on the way out of town.  A great welcome to Scotland !

On the way into Gretna we were intrigued to see a suburban street called "Canberra Road". We later learned that Gretna had been built from scratch in 1915-1916 to house 30,000 inhabitants, near a munitions and cordite factory established at the same time. We read that Gretna is regarded as a landmark in the history of British town planning, including because it was the first township to have running water and electricity in each house.

We followed a B road on Sustrans' NCN route 74.   There was mostly no traffic, the road has a good view of the hills to the east and there were a couple of points of interest.

These included passing through Ecclefechan (the birthplace of the author Thomas Carlyle, commemorated by a statue), afternoon tea at Lockerbie (a small town famous for the 1988 aircraft crash caused by terrorists) and our stay overnight at the unique Star Hotel in the pretty town of Moffat, which is surrounded by hills. The hotel dates from the 1700s and is striking because it is only 6.1 m wide  49.4 m long, which gave it an entry in the Guinness Book of records as the narroweast hotel in the world. [Friday 1/7: distance 71 km; climbing 462 m]      

We also followed NCN route 74 north west on Saturday morning, this time as it (& the nearby Motorway) weaved through attractive hill country. there was an odd sculppture next to one section of bike path.  After lunch we cut a more direct path north via minor roads in undulating country to Bathgate, about 30 km southwest of Edinburgh, on the way to which we passed near an unusual collection of hills. [Saturday 2/7: distance 100 km; climbing 950 m]

On Sunday morning we rode across another major bridge - the Forth Road Bridge over the wide Firth of Forth estuary west of Edinburgh. The photos below taken from the shore to the west give the impression of one ornate bridge when there are in fact two - a railway bridge to the east and a more modern road bridge to the west of it.

After the Forth Bridge we rode through Dunfermline, where we were fortunate to cross paths with a local named Linda while we were resting in a park.  Two weeks before she had completed a LEJOG ride raising funds for charity. Her group had followed a route similar to ours, and she had ridden most of the distance (including countless hills !) on a tandem with a vision-impaired person as 'stoker'. We had a nice chat about experiences on our respective rides and Linda also gave us some helpful tips about the rest of the route to Perth that day and the next day's intended course.

The route we then took to Perth through Kingseat (which has lots of coalmining history) and Kinross was very scenic, and we rode into Perth next to the wide River Tay. We passed lots of cyclists going the other way, some out for a Sunday ride and others with panniers like us who may have been doing doing a 'JOGLE' - an 'end to end' ride in the opposite direction to ours, ie, starting at John O'Groats instead of Land's End.

The centre of Perth is impressive, laid out on a grid next to the river with most of the buildings, old & new, made of similar coloured stone. [Sunday 3/7: distance 83 km; climbing 616 m]

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