Lochs 'n' Trossachs Tour - Sterling to Edinburgh and Seahouses, Day 9, 18 May 2008
Back to pictures Day 10
18 May 2008 - The end is the beginning is the end

The tour is officially over but we still have quite a ways to go. There is most of the group left and they all have various plans about leaving and when and how. We still don't know exactly what we intend to do, but riding to Edinburgh is probably the best choice today. There are lots of options, take the train, ride part way, ride the whole way, etc. But Dave A has a train in Edinburgh (he has to go back to work tomorrow) a little before ours, we intend to take the train with Caroline to Seahouses in Northumberland so that we can go to the Farne Islands. It is all about the birds, you know.

In the hostel, things have quieted down a little. The girls hockey team seems to be clearing out pretty quickly and leaves us the kitchen in peace. There is a last batch of porridge to make and then some final packing (and of course a last morning check of the tires to see if they are still inflated).

A last walk through Stirling.

All of that works out, so we are ready to start heading out. Linda leaves, Gary follows a little bit after. We say goodbye to them and the rest of us take a short walk around town. At least I haven't really seen that much in Stirling yet, just the parts we have ridden through on the way to somewhere else. The castle it the obvious place to go, and it is just a short walk up and down some hills.

It is in a pretty spectacular location, on top of a hill and is pretty spectacular looking in of itself. There is a good view of the city from up there, even with a slight fog. There is a cemetery next door, the gigantic pyramid seems fascinating (and based on how many in the group took a picture of it, it seems to be universal). It looks like a grand cemetery, but we don't really have time for it or the castle. A few then decide to go see the castle, but five of us have to head out now.

Graveyard from up at Stirling Castle.

Stirling Castle.

Stirling with the Wallace monument in the distance.

Well, Owen (corrected, Dave T) has a later train from Stirling but wants to ride with us at least part of the way and will turn around and come back after a few miles. We take the Sustrans route out of town, part of it is pretty clear, there are a few turns which aren't exactly marked but just seem sort of where it would go, head into a cul-de-sac and there will be some path starting at the end of that.

The weather is like it has been all week, a little misty and atmospheric, slightly cold but otherwise nice weather for riding. At a large roundabout, Owen (corrected, Dave T) decides it is time for him to turn back and that leaves four of us. The pace is much quicker today than it has been for the last few days, less people and deadlines for trains to catch at the other end.

Preparing to leave.

Onto a rail track, which will be a quick straight line for like 10 miles of the journey. It is slightly windy against us and it is slightly uphill most of the way, but it is still fast. Or at least Dave is fast, wow, he can move. I do what I can to try and keep up, occasionally catching up for a few bits of conversation then dropping back for a little bit. The landscape is that mix of suburban urban and farm land. I'm still obsessed with trying to get the perfect picture of a field of rapeseed, that shock of yellow filling the entire frame, but I don't think I do, I'll have to keep trying.

Rail track towards Dunferlane.

By the time we get to Dunferlane, it isn't that far to Edinburgh, but we should probably eat something soon. We seem ok on time for the trains, so we have a little bit of time. We find a nice cafe, organic and everything. There is lots of different types of cafes, ranging from the basic hole in the wall greasy spoon ones to the hip trendy ones that serve much more exotic things than beans on toast.

This one is more of a trendy hip one. The message board features lots of ads for local practitioners of reiki and tarot and things like that. They also have nice quiches and tarts. The food is quite nice and I'm feeling better about the coming miles.

Our next highlight is the bridge. There had been a little bit of debate that day, how are we on time and how ambitious are we feeling, do we take the train part of the way or do we ride all the way. So, we are going to ride the whole thing and that includes going across the Forth Bridge, which is quite cool. It is a bit of a winding road getting to it, since bridge approaches usually have to go a little out of the way to get up to the start, and we have to circle around a bit to miss the main motorway.

It is a Sunday and there loads of people out on it too. The shared pedestrian/cycle lane on the side is fairly busy. What an amazing view, high over the water, boats passing under, just all the cool things about a really excellent bridge. We stop a few times on the way over to look and watch a train pulling across the bridge across the way.

Over the Forth Bridge.

The rest of the way into Edinburgh is that stuff through suburbs, lots of strange paths through back alleys and strangely constructed paths by the edge of busy roads. One stretch has an annoying bouncy surface which makes me feel slightly queasy. We have a mad cyclists nearly take out two of us as she bombs by as we are trying to get on the path from the road. Then annoyingly, we keep passing her a few times. She is just on a mountain bike and goes really fast down hill but slows down a lot on hills and even fully loaded with baggage, we make nice steady progress up hills and pass by her. But then stop and rest and sit around every so often and she zooms by again.

The last part of Edinburgh goes through park land for a few miles, quite busy with walkers and weekend cyclists. Then in Edinburgh proper, I really like how the cycle routes can end up taking you past most of the big highlights in towns. It was like that in Aberdeen too, it was annoying that it took you through the cobblestones in Old Aberdeen, but then it was nice that you went through Old Aberdeen and saw that. So, Edinburgh is sort of the same, you go past most of the big highlights and we end up down in the valley in front of the castle and sit there and regroup.

Dave and Caroline dash off to get Dave on his train and the two of us wander around in the park in the valley, struggling wheeling two heavy bikes up and down the steep paths, seeing what there is to see there, and eventually end up in the train station. We say goodbye to Dave and go and look for our train to Alnmouth.

In Edinburgh.

We don't particularly have a deadline at this point, just catch the train to Alnmouth and then ride the 16 miles or so to Seahouses, but it feels like a bit of pressure. It will get dark maybe at some point there and we have to find dinner and get to the B&B at a reasonable time. Calling the B&B, we promise a time and learn that the only restaurant in town open by the time we get there, well, will be closing shortly after our planned arrival time, so we can't really dawdle then on the way.

We are off the train and in riding formation and we make time. We barely stop, rush rush rush, and take a moment to take a call from the B&B about our arrival time, just 7 miles away now, won't be long. And then rush on again and do make it to Seahouses just fine. Our B&Bs turn out to be just a block away from each other and we drop our stuff off and head right to the restaurant, the Links one.

The food is nice but incredibly meaty. I order some pork thing which is just a huge hunk of meat, the lamb chops are also similar. I know I rode a lot today but it is even a bit too much for me. But the pressure is off now, a relaxing dinner and then back to the B&B for bed. 57 miles today, bed time is nice.

Back to pictures Day 10