11 May 2013
With Noah off to little ninjas club with Meredith, Hugh cooked up a fine cyclists breakfast of sausages, beans and fried potatoes, most excellent fare for a day on the road. I needed to get a few things done to the bike before leaving Edinburgh, and after a few false starts we found a bike shop that stocked what I needed. Hugh printed off a more detailed map with directions to the bike shop, and then on to the Union Canal which I intended to follow to Falkirk.
Bidding goodbye to my excellent hosts, with a snack pack, clean laundry and boosted Star Wars knowledge aded to my inventory, I set off cycling down Princes Street again, seeing the castle, and managed not to get lost or waylaid by Edinburgh drivers or buses, on my way to the shop. Bit of an overcast and dreary day, but no rain as yet.
I found Blackhall Cycles owned and run my Derek Laing, who turned out to be a real whizz on the bike front, as well as being very friendly and helpful. My brake blocks needing replacing before tackling the rest of Scotland, and my tyres had seen better days, so I got them all replaced – got some funky Aztec brake pads, and Schwalbe tyres which are much tougher so should cope with the sometimes rough cycle tracks better. Derek also straightened my wheels which had gone a little out of shape, and tweaked, cleaned and lubed various things, quite an education in bike maintenance. Glad to report everything is running a lot more smoothly again now, with far more responsive brakes which I think I’ll need. Hopefully won’t need to change anything else significant for the rest of the tour, touch wood. Would strongly recommend any tourers passing through Edinburgh stopping in at Blackhall Cycles (15 Marischal Place, Blackhall, Edinburgh)for a bike health check and chat, thanks Derek (and for the donation).
Post Blackhall Cycles, and again following Hugh’s map, I made my way through the city to the start of the Union Canal, stopping for a pizza lunch break on the way. The Union Canal runs all the way to the Falkirk Wheel, something I wanted to see, a distance of about 34 miles. I spent quite a few hours chugging along by the canal, passing various towns and villages, including Linlithgow and it’s palace. I passed over several aqueducts, and through some lovely countryside once out of Edinburgh. Unfortunately I still had the headwind from yesterday to contend with, and the track was pretty bumpy and muddy in places so was glad of he new tyres. At least it was flat being a canal track.
Also passed through a couple of old and mysterious tunnels, at least one of which was Goblin infested, but made it through unscathed.
There were a lot of other cyclists going the other way, on a charity ride from Glasgow for Guide Dogs for the blind. I stopped and chatted to a few of them who were comprehensively mud splattered, apparently there was a bad stretch near Glasgow but I wasn’t going that far. I helped one mend a puncture as his pump was broken, my good deed for the day, couldn’t help another with a broken pedal though, hope he made it okay.
I made it to the Falkirk Wheel about 5ish, and stopped for a look. It’s an amazing piece of engineering, which transports boats from the canal on high down to the next section of the route below, via a huge rotating device. Apparently it’s the only one like it in the world.
From Falkirk I rode north up the A9 to Stirling, passing Bannockburn but not stopping as it was getting late and would be closed. I stopped in Stirling for a bite to eat before heading off to find a place to camp. I’d been roughly tracking the Firth of the Forth all day, so was good to cross the River Forth.
I rode up past the William Wallace monument, an impressive structure that looks great up on the hilltop, and can be seen for miles, dominating the landscape, I’m sure Mel Gibson William Wallace would approve.
Rather than wild camp I opted to stay at the Witches Craig campsite. A lovely site although the midges had started to appear so I quickly applied Avon Lady skin so soft which worked a treat, and probably helped my wind chapped face too! A group of fellow campers had just finished their BBQ and had leftovers which they kindly offered me, plus a glass of wine, very kind of them and was great to have a chat. Never going to turn down more food on this tour! They live on the coast so might meet up with them again at some point.
Got to bed late due to starting late, but a great day. As I was settling down, in sight of the Wallace Monument, there were some very loud bangs in the distance. No idea what caused them, a quarry maybe, but seems weird late at night. Suspect more goblin activity!
Going to be a cold night as clear sky, hopefully better weather tomorrow.