“You shouldn’t really get on with that”
This wasn’t an auspicious start to our microadventure, but not entirely surprising given the recent media attention on ScotRail’s lack of bike love. Grumbling loudly, the conductor allowed us onto the almost empty 10.50 from Dunbar and closed the doors halfway through my speech on the benefits of cycling touring to the Scottish economy.
Our microadventure wasn’t supposed to start like this; we were going to cycle from home to Glasgow over the Easter holidays, joyfully handing #walkcyclevote leaflets and Pedal on Parliament flyers out to passing cyclists in the spring sunshine. The plan was to test our camping and cycling mettle in the safety of the back gardens of friends, where we could creep into the house if our ageing tent collapsed and then eat any Easter Eggs left lying around. Heavy rain and an ear infection reduced our aspirations down to getting from Musselburgh to Edinburgh in one piece by nightfall..
Deposited safely in Musselburgh we got our flags in order and set off to find our way onto National Cycle Network Route 1 – the long distance route running from Dover to the Shetland Isles that forms part of the North Sea Cycle Route.
We found NCN1 with alarming ease and cycled side by side on the wide cycle path running by the University. It unfortunately reduces in size and quality quite quickly but it still provided us with the opportunity to talk about the snails decorating the damp path. It took some time to persuade the mini-campaigner not to cheat evolution by moving every snail from the path, so we were able to fully enjoy this rural part of the network.
At the end of the path we were back on the road, so the mini-campaigner settled down in the trailer and I summoned my thigh muscles to get us safely onto the next section of path. We negotiated our way through the horror of Newcraighall Road, having decided that I didn’t want to find out if the ‘ramped steps over bridge’ at Brunstane on NCN1 was (im)passable with a heavy trailer.
We then lost some time as my 25 year old Duke of Edinburgh map reading skills failed me (yet again) and we had to backtrack to find the cycle path behind the Fort Kinnaird shopping centre.
Back on track, we followed the path as it wriggled through parks, housing estates and into Holyrood Park. Even in the rain this is a truly lovely ride and it’s easy to forget that you are coming into a capital city.
In the city we got back on mission and started to flag down passing cyclists and hand out Pedal on Parliament flyers. I’ve found that having a small child does increase the number of people prepared to talk to you in the street, possibly because they are assessing if they should call the statutory services. Thankfully lovely Jez here didn’t seem to think mini-campaigner was at risk and even agreed to take a batch of flyers to work and distribute them for us.
After admiring some of the new cycling infrastructure, eating excessive quantities of ‘naughty snacks’ (that’s chocolate coins at the moment) and some lunch we headed along the canal, pressing slowly on towards Corstorphine and our first night of camping with CTC Scotland committee member Claire.
The rain continued throughout the night, but the combination of excitement and exhaustion ensured that we both got a good night’s sleep. Determined to start the day the campaigning way, the mini-campaigner handed over one of our batch of #walkcyclevote flags to a delighted Claire..
Heartened by our successful first day we decided to continue onto Fife, where another CTC Scotland committee member, Gary, had offered their garden as our next staging post.
Neither Googlemaps or CycleStreets suggested a route that impressed Claire so she lead us back to the NCN1. As we followed Claire out of the residential maze of west Edinburgh, then through the Cammo Estate, I wondered how long it would have taken us to do this if we’d not been guided by a local expert route planner.
Once on NCN1 our route difficulties were not over, as I was easily confused into crossing this terrifying road by the cycle path sign. Some passing cyclists helped us realise my mistake and took a couple of Pedal on Parliament leaflets away with them as a reward.
Once free of the roadworks, we made our way to Inverkeithing were I dispatched mini-campaigner into Sandy Wallace Cycles with an armful of leaflets and a poster.
From there on the signage was excellent; the maps were put away and we enjoyed NCN 76 all the way to Aberdour. The path was rutted and muddy and steep in places but access gates and the sunshine kept me in high spirits and helped mini-campaigner catch up with some serious napping.
After a restorative lemonade in the Aberdour Hotel, Gary rode out to lead us the last couple of miles to Burntisland to ensure we were all pitched as the rain started again.
Next morning the wind had got up, the trailer was punctured and more rain was forecast. Call me a southern softy, but my thighs told me it was time to go home. The question was, would ScotRail let us on – trailer and all – at Burntisland?
Our short story ends happily as the lovely Laura on the 10.10 from Burntisland helped us onto her train with no grumbling, just kindness. Already loaded with a bike and a wheelchair, and another wheelchair to come, she swept us all into the carriage with no fuss, difficulty or grumbling. If only everything in life was more like Laura..