Sunday, 29 May 2016

Cycle Ride Around East Lothian

I was looking for a nice quiet area to cycle around when friends suggested East Lothian. This is the area to the east of Edinburgh and a popular area.

I arranged to meet friends in Dunbar and travelled from Motherwell on the Cross Country train. The journey was only 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Arriving at Dunbar, I met up with some friends and we started cycling towards the Museum of Flight at East Fortune.

We cycled along the cycle route 76 to East Linton and then continued along the A199 road until we turned right onto the B1347. This road was quite hilly, but we soon had arrived at the National Museum of Flight.

National Museum of Flight

The adult admission was 12 GBP, but as we had arrived by bicycle, it only cost 10.00 GBP. East Fortune is a disused airbase which was established as a fighter and airship airfield in 1915. During the Second World it was used as a flying training establishment. In 1942 it became a station for a group of de Havilland Mosquito aircraft.


One of the Concorde supersonic passenger jets is on display in the museum and visitors can enter the plane to view the interior. Concorde was withdrawn from service in 2003 and a few of the planes are on display in various countries around the world.
The interior of the plane is quite small and the windows were tiny. This was to avoid disaster if a window broke during a flight.
Passenger  jet
There were a number of hangars with different displays including civilian and military aircraft.

Vulcan bomber B.2A as during Falklands War
The above fighter jet was similar to the ones used during the Falklands War in 1982.

Many of the exhibits are displayed in the buildings on the airbase.It takes a few hours to go round them all, but is very interesting.

After viewing all the displays, we had a light snack in the small cafe before heading for North Berwick. The 4 hours we spent at the museum was very enjoyable and worth visiting again.

Road to North Berwick

The road to North Berwick is very pleasant, as it passes through some beautiful countryside. There were some sharp climbs, but nothing too difficult. In the distance could be seen North Berwick Law, a volcanic plug of hard rock.

Fenton Tower

At Kingston, just outside North Berwick, was Fenton Tower. This is a fortified 16th-century tower and has had many distinguished visitors, among them being King James VI of Scotland (son of Mary Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley) who was surrounded by a rebel army in Fife and took refuge at Fenton Tower. It is currently used as an hotel.

Fenton Tower
Arriving in North Berwick, we saw the remains of the second St Andrew's Church. This was built in 1664 and was the only church in the town until 1843.

St Andrew's Church
North Berwick has a lovely beach but as there was a chilly breeze, there was nobody sunbathing on it!

North Berwick Beach
North Berwick Beach
The Seabird Centre organises boat trips to the Bass Rock and Isle of May. We stayed in North Berwick for an hour and a half before heading back to Dunbar.

Returning to Dunbar

We took the coastal A198 road and got some magnificent views of the Firth of Forth. The view of the Bass Rock was excellent at this point.
Bass Rock
Tantallon Castle

Further along the road we saw the ruins of Tantallon Castle. This was a 14th century castle and was the last curtain-wall castle to be built in Scotland. It is managed by Historic Environment Scotland and on our next visit to the area we intend to visit it.

The rest of the ride to Dunbar was relatively uneventful. My train to Edinburgh was departing at 19.45 and we made it to Dunbar in plenty of time to catch it.


Although the journey to Dunbar was direct, the return one involved an hour and 10 minute wait at Waverley Station in Edinburgh. As the sun was still shining, I took the opportunity of photographing the castle. Evening is the best time for this, as the sun shines directly on the castle and gives it a warm 'glow'.

Edinburgh Castle.
I also walked about Princes Street and saw the trams. These were brought into service a few years ago, but are state-of-the art.
Edinburgh Tram
I then made my way back to the station and caught my train back to Motherwell. It had been a great day in East Lothian and the weather was great.

Further Information:

Scottish Seabird Centre
Historic Environment Scotland

Friday, 20 May 2016

Matrix Fitness and Pearl Izumi Tour Series Cycle Races - Motherwell 17.05.2016

On Tuesday 17th May, the Matrix Fitness and Pearl Izumi Tour Series Cycle Races were held in Motherwell town centre. This was the second year the town had held these events. I took the day off work to savour the action and also catch a glimpse of the preparation required before a large cycle race.

Photographs of the race can be seen here.

Behind the Scenes

The backroom staff were hard at work during the day getting the riders ready for the race. The bikes are checked out and worn parts replaced. They are then washed ready for the riders to start their race.

JLT Condor 
 The JLT Condor bikes were being prepared. I had a close look at the and the frame was made from carbon fibre with Campagnolo components. The saddle was a Fizik Arione which is a fairly narrow saddle. 

Madison Genesis
Raleigh GAC
North Lanarkshire Pipe Band was also in attendance and entertained the crowds with some lovely music.

Nikki Juniper of Team Ford Ecoboost
North Lanarkshire Pipe Band

Ladies Matrix Fitness Race

There was action in the afternoon with races organised by Scottish Cycling. The Ladies Matrix Fitness race started at 17.30 and was won by Eileen Roe of Lares-Waowdeals. Near the end of the race, there was a terrible crash with one of the riders falling so badly she had to be taken to hospital.

Pearl Izumi Tour Series Cycle Race

The men's race started at 19.30. The dark skies suggested rain would fall during the day but thankfully it stayed off until about 15 minutes before the men's race finish. The winner of this race was Jon Mould of JLT Condor. Second was Albert Torres of Raleigh GAC, with Ed Clancy of JLC Condor third.

Race winner Jon Mould

The crowds were out in force and everyone was having a great time. This was the second year the event has been held and it was well organised. Hopefully there will be more events like this in the town.

Further Information:

Tour Series

North Lanarkshire Council

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cycle Ride to Craignethan Castle

The weather has been a touch warmer than of late and much more pleasant for cycling. One of my favourite rides is to Craignethan Castle near Crossford in Lanarkshire. I like it because the roads leading to the castle are very quiet and also I have friends who live near it.

I started the ride from the town of Larkhall. Larkhall is a former mining town and has some lovely stone-built houses and cottages, as well as more modern houses. I usually take the back route through Larkhall (B7019) as it avoids the busy main street and is much quieter. It also passes the small 9 hole golf course which is popular with beginners and those using motorised golf buggies, as it is reasonably flat.

Arriving at the village of Ashgill, the local church comes into view. The church was built in 1889 and refurbished in 1912. It is called after Dr William Peebles Rorison was one minister to Dalserf Parish Church. He was educated for the ministry in Glasgow and was inducted to Dalserf on 1st May, 1851, where he spent 56 years.

The Hon. James Hozier, son of Lord Newlands of Mauldslie, gifted a substantial proportion of the cost for the refurbishment in 1912 and suggested it be renamed the Rorison Memorial.
Rorison Memorial Church (Dalserf)

At Ashgill I met some friends who were accompanying me on the ride. The road passed some pleasant countryside with only a few cars passing us on the road. In the photograph below can be seen Tinto Hill in the top right. This is a popular hill walk for those looking for a test of their fitness.


Just before arriving at Craignethan Castle, we pass the hamlet of Tillietudlem. Tillietudlem is a fictional castle in Sir Walter Scott's 1816 novel Old Mortality. In the Autumn of 1799 the novelist made a brief visit to Craignethan Castle. His novel 'Old Mortality' which was published in 1816, was set in South Lanarkshire during the late 17th century conflicts between Royalists and Covenanters.

The plot largely takes place in and around the fictional Tillietudlem Castle. It is thought that the name Tillietudlem was taken from the ravine under the old castle of Lanark called Gillytudlem. The Ordnance Survey of 1859 names the gorge "Gullie-tudlem".

Craignethan Castle

Just after passing Tillietudlem hamlet is the entrance to the castle. There is a short drive up to it with a short walk from the car park.

Craignethan Castle
The above photograph shows the castle from the hill above. There is a steep walk from the car park to the castle entrance is quite steep and those with mobility problems are allowed to park just outside the castle gates.

The Keep

The Keep
The castle has an inner and outer courtyard separated by a deep ditch. The largest building is the keep which in very good condition considering its age. The attic and roof are gone, but the walls still have many decorative corbels which supported a parapet walk.

Walking through the main entrance there are stairs to the left leading to the upper floors and on the right, the stairs lead to vaulted cellars which contain four rooms, a prison, and a well.

Ground floor of the keep
Underground cellars showing the well
Exterior view of the cellars

In the ditch is a caponier. This was a fortified structure which allowed defenders to use hand-guns to ward off attackers. If attackers managed to gain entry to it, they could be picked off by the soldiers in the caponier. This is a rare structure in Scottish castles.

Caponier interior
The photograph gives some indication of how deep the ditch is.

At the corner of the outer courtyard are some towers.

Corner and main entrance 
In the photograph above a steep hill can be seen in the background. At the top of the hill is the location of the car park.

For the history of the castle, please see here. An excellent video of a tour of the castle can be seen below.

After visiting the castle we made our way to Crossford and the Dobbies Sandyholm garden centre for some refreshments. The road from Craignethan castle is very steep. Just after leaving the castle there is a very steep descent. A car had recently overshot the bend and the fence was broken. 

Steep hill.
At the bottom of the road it flattens before the road climbs steeply and then follows is a steep descent into Crossford. My disk brakes were working overtime at this point. At Lanark Road it was a short cycle up to Sandyholm.

After some refreshments there we cycled back home. It had been another pleasant day out.

Further Information

Craignethan Castle - Historic Environment Scotland
Dobbies Sandyholm

Thursday, 12 May 2016


When I was golfing last weekend I noticed some bluebells growing in the woodland adjacent to the course. As it was not very considerate to start taking photographs during a round of golf, I decided to go back at a later time to capture these lovely woodland flowers.

Bluebells are an indication of ancient woodland and are commonly found in many areas of the UK. They are protected in the UK under Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

Below are some photographs of these lovely flowers. More images can be seen here.

White bluebell
Close-up of a bluebell
Wild Garlic
Some bluebells lack the blue pigment and are white in colour as can be seen above. There only a few of the white ones in the wood.

The white flowers above are Wild garlic. This has a strong odour but is a lovely flower and it can also be used in cooking. I have not tried it but some of my friends who love cooking tell me it adds flavour to many dishes.

Unexpected Visitors on the Golf Course

On my way back I walked through the golf course and was surprised to meet two women dressed all in black with niqab headwear walking on the fairway. I got a bit of a shock as it was quite an unexpected occurrence to see Muslim women on a golf course. 

They told me they were looking for the River Clyde and Strathclyde Park. I had to escort them off the course as they were in danger of being hit by golf balls and take them to the path which led to the river. They were very friendly and told me they had recently moved from Bangladesh.

I gave then some information about the area and pointed out some areas of interest before leaving them to enjoy the River Clyde and Strathclyde Park. 

It had been an eventful day!