Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Into Scotland

It rained in the night and in the morning it was overcast.  The tops of the chimneys at Lynemouth power station were hidden in the low cloud as I made a big loop around them and then found a path beside the beach.  I cycled around the huge sweep of Druridge Bay and then on through Amble to Almouth, a tiny port with its village on the hillside above a bay and estuary.  When I reached Boulmer there was a choice of routes and I took to the beach path, which was a bit rough in places but very beautiful.

Sea mist rolling in

Almouth Bay

River Aln

Cycle Route 1
I could the the banks of sea mist rolling in now and it became obvious that the castles at Craster and Bamburgh were going to be invisible, so I decided to take a slightly more direct route towards Seahouses. I know this bit of the coast fairly well and I'd cycled it before, so I didn't feel the need to go into Seahouses either, though in clear weather Craster and Bamburgh and Seahouses are all well worth seeing.

I made for slightly higher ground further inland and I'm sure there would have been great views from here across to Holy Island and the Farne Islands if it hadn't been starting to rain.  I stopped at a petrol station for hot chocolate and then followed the coastal route to Berwick-upon-Tweed. The rain increased and it turned much colder. The path grew narrower, and then became grassy and almost invisible. In the rain and mist and wind it was a nightmare, though I'm sure it's lovely in the sunshine. I was very glad when I found myself back on a metalled track and shortly afterwards I came into Berwick.

The campsite was on the edge of town and it was starting to get dark when I arrived, and raining hard. The warden was closing up, but he couldn't have been more helpful, even giving me his mobile phone number in case I had a stroke or heart attack in the night. I couldn't believe it when he told me that there was a bath available. He took me and showed me the enormous bathroom and enormous bath, all included in the (admittedly quite pricey) campsite fee.  I put the tent up in the rain, had a bath, and then noticed that I had a puncture. I left it until the morning.

It was a very wet night, and in the morning the tent was as wet as it had been the whole trip. However, the excellent campsite had plenty of paper towels and they did most of the drying. I fixed the puncture, my third of the trip, this time made by a vicious thorn, and I set off into Berwick and across the Tweed into Scotland.

Misty morning
From Berwick I diverted from the North Sea Cycle Route yet again.  At this point National Cycle Route 1 turns inland and approaches Edinburgh eventually through the Lammermuir Hills.  National Cycle Route 76 stays close to the coast and I followed this route (approximately). This diversion was easy to justify to myself as I would be able to catch glimpses of the North Sea most of the way.

It began to rain as I crossed the bridge, then climbed out of the town, across the A1 and into hill country on narrow lanes where I didn't see a car for ten miles. I bypassed Eyemouth and went instead through Ayton, a fine old town with a castle, then climbed a big hill, almost moorland, and when I came over the other side the Firth of Forth was laid out below.  The low rain clouds that had been steadily spreading over the coast all morning ended ahead of me, and I could see a different kind of weather in the west - cumulus clouds and sunshine.

The Firth of Forth

However, I couldn't quite outrun the weather. There was a wonderful descent to a little cove that was full of caravans, but had coffee too, at a place called Cockburnspath, and then it was up and down along paths and tracks and the course of the old A1 to Dunbar, where I had a very good lunch in the cafe next door to the birthplace of John Muir. I recommend both the cafe and the birthplace.

Cafe and the birthplace of John Muir
Near Haddington
From Dunbar I followed Route 76 through Haddington and then went straight on through Tranent to Musselburgh, where I was spending the night with friends.  I walked on the beach and looked across the Forth to the Fife coast and thought about which way to go the next day.  The weather was definitely starting to feel autumnal and I was starting to consider a short cut to Inverness that would save a few days by not hugging the coast of Fife and Aberdeenshire. The only trouble with the short cut was that it went over two of the three highest roads in Britain.  But the best thing about it was that I would be have a rest day in a cottage belonging to friends in the Cairngorms.

Musselburgh beach

I decided to sleep on it, but in the morning I had made up my mind.  I would go through the mountains.

Maps:  to Berwick upon Tweed; to Musselburgh

Tips:
  • In Northumberland National Cycle Route 1 sometimes offers alternatives between a coastal path and one slightly inland. In fine weather the way along the coast would be beautiful and fun. In rain it is beautiful but you won't see much, and it is hard work.

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