A Spring breeze through East Lothian

A Spring breeze through East Lothian

It is the start of spring, so what to do? Head out for a bike ride of course. Last week we nipped out to Balerno and back. This week we wanted something more, so to make the most of the day we took the train to Longniddry. From the station we headed west a short way along the A198, then ducked under the railway line along the B6363 and, as soon as we could, turned left onto a minor road to enjoy cycling traffic free, not that there was much traffic about anyway. After a kilometre or so we turned right and cycled on past Elvingston through open farm land. Being early spring, the sun was still weak and so I stopped several times, jacket on, jacket off, jacket on, jacket off, before deciding that it was a jacket off day. We crossed over the A1 (thankfully by a bridge) and continued southwards, crossing the A199 and A6093, both these main roads were really quiet. Past Samuelston the road passed though fields bounded by low stone walls. Over one wall we cold see march hares chasing across a field, as we approached a gate in the wall, a female hare ran out from under the gate into the road, saw us and dived back under the gate into the field. We stopped to watch, but they were too fast for the camera.

A couple of kilometres further on, the road passed through a line of trees which gave us some relief from the wind. Although the wind didn’t go much above 15mph all day, it was tiring to cycle across or into. The trees also give a tunnel like effect, even before they have their leaves on, focusing your view forward to the Lammermuir Hills ahead. The road ended at a T junction where we turned left on to the B6355 which we followed into Gifford. At Gifford we stopped for food in a wee café called “Love Coffee… …and Food?”. This gave me the opportunity to have my second cooked breakfast of the day, while Ulli had a bowl of soup. The food was freshly cooked and portions large and filling. One of the great things about cycling is that you don’t have to worry about having large portions as you soon burn it off again. While we were eating, a couple came in who were on a motorcycle tour, the contrast with us was noticeable. They were heavily swathed in warm clothing, whereas we were lightly dressed, with me in cycle shorts and both of us in short sleeves (ok, so I did have a T-shirt underneath). On a motorbike you don’t get any exercise, you just sit there getting cold and uncomfortable.

We weren’t the only cyclists out and about, as we left the café another couple of cyclists came in, we had a look at their bikes as we went back to ours. Then, as we sat by the church looking at the map deciding where to go next, a couple on a tandem rode past. Setting out from Gifford, we retraced our path along the B6355, then turned left towards Yester. We were both curious to see the place, as when we were living in Gorgie one of the local shops sold milk from Yester Farm Dairies. So now we know where our milk used to come from, the local shops where we are now only sell milk from Wiseman Dairies and so it could come from anywhere in Scotland. Then onwards to Longyester, where we dodged some very large farm machinery cleaning the winter build up from the cattle byres. We saw several farmers out working as we rode past, all of them smiled and waved, giving us the feeling they regarded the sight of cyclists on the road rather like the sight of the first swallows, a sure sign that summer is on its way.

We decided to get a little closer to the Lammermuir Hills and took a right towards East Hopes, but then realised that it was tucked away deep in a glen below the hills and turned back. We retraced our route to Longyester, through fields of spring lambs running around in the sun shine full of the joys of spring. Then we headed westwards, into the wind, passing the splendidly named Pishwanton Wood. As we passed we saw what looked like a hobbit house in the wood, this turned out to be a biodynamic study centre. This section of road was also notable for the billiard smooth surface of newly laid tarmac which made for very easy cycling. To the south of us along the edge of the Lammermuir Hills there is a string of old hill forts. Then as we came round a corner towards Long Newton, there is a line of terraced houses all painted in pastel colours, reminiscent of Tobermory.

From Long Newton, we worked our way along back lanes until we found our selves on the B6369, which we followed on towards Humbie, between high dome shaped hedges which gave us shelter against the wind. Just before Humbie we turned north west along the B6371, just past the appropriately named Old Windy Mains (we were cycling uphill directly into the wind at this stage) we forked right and followed a wee road down to the village of Peastonbank which sits astride the Kinchie Burn. This wee burn originally provided the water supply of the Glenkinchie Distillery (it now gets it water from reservoirs in the Lammermuir Hills), the producer of the only lowland malt whisky in Scotland. The visitor centre was closed as the tourist season doesn’t start until Easter.

After leaving the distillery we headed uphill and turned right at a T junction, then after crossing an old railway bridge we decided to drop down to the old railway line (now a cycle path), with hindsight we would have been better off staying on the road. The cycle path took us around the edge of Pencaitland, and we could have followed it all the way to Musselburgh, but wind had taken its toll of us and we decided to head back to Longniddry. We followed the main road into Pencaitland, then turned left on to the B6363 and followed its zigzag path back to Longniddry, arriving just in time to catch a train back to Edinburgh.

As an experiment, throughout the day I was running the DiNotte 400L rear light on a slow flash and it was noticeable that I did not get a single close pass by a motorist. I checked the battery strength when got home and was surprised to find that, using a two cell Lithium ion battery after nearly 3 hours of use, the battery was still showing nearly 75% charge!

If you would like to follow this route, there is a map here or use a Google Earth KML file. The stats for the day for anyone who is interested:

  • Distance cycled – 59.7 Km
  • Time spent riding – 02:54:44
  • Max Speed – 53.0 Km/h
  • Ave Speed – 20.5 Km/h

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