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  • John Muir Way (W2E) 2024 Easter Weekend
  • didnthurt
    Full Member

    I live almost on the John Muir Way route (or should that be routes as there is a few options for walkers and cyclists along it) and regularly ride sections, but have never ridden it in it’s entirety until this Easter Weekend.

    I picked the ‘bikepacking’ route as per the link on the John Muir Website, which is a touch under 212km long with an elevation gain of 2168m (according to Garmin).

    https://johnmuirway.org/doing-route/cycling-route/

    The John Muir Way

    https://www.komoot.com/tour/259472158?ref=atd

    Although I’ve read that some have ridden it in a single day, I thought that this would be too much for me both physically and logistically. So 2 days it was, and this way I get to sleep in my own bed as I live close to the half way point.

    Day 1 – Helensburgh to Linlithgow, recorded distance 107km with 1300m of ascent.

    Day 2 – Linlithgow to Dunbar, recorded distance 126km with 910m of ascent.

    Still had parent duties on the Saturday morning, which meant that I never started my ride from Helensburgh until 3pm (via train, no issues there, decent trains to Glasgow and onto Helensburgh).

    Weather was sunny with a coldish South Westerly wind, or more crucially, a tail wind.

    The route I followed is basically the walkers route except does not head up and over Bar Hill – from Twechar through the old Roman Fort –  instead you stay on the canal path. If you have the time and legs (it’s quite a steep trail up and down) then I’d recommend adding this section in, the area around the Fort would also make for a great bivvy spot.

    Helensburgh to Balloch

    Great riding was had, the climb up towards Ben Bowie was quite steep but easy enough as the gravel surface was decent. What a view!

    A detour down the steep path was required due to wind fall trees across the path, no biggy the trail was great fun.

    A quick pint in the sun was too much for me to resist.

    My god, Balloch was busy, anybody would have thought it was the first sunny bank holiday weekend of the year.

    Balloch to Strathblane

    The trail through the Kilpatrick hills was a real highlight, I was chuffed with myself for cleaning all the short steep climbs. Didn’t have chance to admire the views across the Reservoirs as it started to hail!

    Stathblane to Kilsyth

    This went by quite quickly, all pretty easy, some fantastic views though, you’re surrounded by hills.

    Kilsyth to Falkirk

    Getting closer to home now on familiar trails, still didn’t stop me missing my turn (twice) in Bonnybridge. Handy stop for a Tesco, even serves coffee. It was now time to put the lights on and layer up.

    Falkirk to Linlithgow

    As the ride progressed, the ground conditions had been getting wetter and wetter, around Falkirk the puddles were quite big, the weather was fine though, just a bit chilly. Got home about 10pm, what a lovely day of riding.

    Linlithgow to South Queensferry

    Planned on getting up and away early but decided that my bike really needed a wash and lube first. Set off at 9am, after a coffee and a couple of hot cross buns (it was Easter sunday after all). Retraced my steps back to the Aquaduct then headed down the steps along the river Avon path. Although there are some steps that need a carry (rumour has it, that it is possible to ride all the steps but you might get a rind-ding or two 😉) but the singletrack at the bottom is well worth the effort in my opinion.

    The route to South Queensferry is a regular ride for me and was over in no time, but something wasn’t quite right, why do I feel a head wind? Oh well, I can’t have a tail wind two days in a row, I did contemplate doing both days finishing in Linlithgow but that’s not really a coast to coast is it. Maybe next time?

    South Queensferry to Edinburgh

    I stupidly thought the route followed the caost through Edinburgh and was thinking of stopping on the Cramond sea front for a bite to eat, but no, it instead headed inland. Thankfully it wasn’t much of a detour to the bakers and Tesco on Ferry Road. Cheese & Onion pasty, fudge doughnut and coffe for Easter Sunday lunch wasn’t quite as good as the lamb (with all the trimmings) the family would be having but I still enjoyed it, especially sitting in the sun.

    The climb up Corstorphine Hill was brutally steep but cleaned. The descent was class!

    Route mostly follows the NCN route along with sections of the Water of Leith and canal paths, all very nice but very busy with people and slow going. And quite muddy in places.

    Edinburgh to Prestonpans

    Some great riding to he had, you’d never know you were still in a the city. The path along the coast from Musselburgh is class, and I enjoyed the section through Prestonpans around the old Cockenzie coal power station.

    Prestonpans to North Berwick

    This is a very exposed section and I found the strong headwind hard going. The sandy singletrack was loads of fun but not fast. The (very good) coffee and toilet stop in the layby was much needed.

    The beach path is great from Dirleton into North Berwick, but nearly came a cropper riding through an huge puddle in a field, deep and sandy! There was some quite big puddles about. Into a very busy North Berwick, no time to stop for ice cream or walk up the Law.

    North Berwick to Dunbar

    Last section to go. This is also pretty familiar to me as I’ve ridden around here a few times over the years.

    First wet foot of the trip, one puddle was hub deep. Plenty of water about but the weather remained dry, and windy.

    Some great trails here.

    Quick pint and a bag of crisp in East Linton, then onto the last section into Dunbar.

    Some more great singletrack riding along the coast and I was soon into the centre of Dunbar. Quick photo next to the John Muir statue then onto the train station.

    Train ticket was bought with an hour to kill, handy having a pub nearby.

    Homeward bound.

    Train was on time and I got onto the train with no issues, there was already 2 bikes in the bike section so I just wedged mine in, out of the way. Only one stop until Edinburgh so thought I’d just stay with the bike until then. Was informed by the guard later, that I shouldn’t have got on as they had no room for my bike. I said I was sorry and would get off at the next stop (my destination anyway).

    No such excitement on my last train home from Waverley.

    Overal

    Loved it! Would definitely do it again, I’d like to try and do it in a day but would require an early start and a quieter time of the year/week.

    Much slower than I expected but that could be a mixture of my lack of conditioning, soft wet conditions and the high number of people about.

    Bike

    Bike of choice for myself was Cyclocross bike with 38mm treaded gravel tyres with 38t front ring and 11 speed 11-42t on the back. A great choice IMO, although you could have got away with narrower tyres, and a mtb would also have been good, just a bit slower on the easier flatter sections.

    Definitely fit a bell!

    Hope you enjoyed my write up.

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    A few photos of my trip. I didn’t really take too many on the second day as I’d ridden these sections before.

    IMG_20240330_145927332IMG_20240330_145517246IMG_20240330_153027840IMG_20240330_154558272IMG_20240330_155142117IMG_20240330_160504124

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    IMG_20240330_161830030IMG_20240330_171035524IMG_20240330_171510698IMG_20240330_172921095IMG_20240330_173212947IMG_20240330_173418400

    gallowayboy
    Full Member

    Thanks for posting that, looks like a brilliant wee trip and well done with the weather!

    didnthurt
    Full Member

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    didnthurt
    Full Member

    That first photo is an absolute belter! Should have trimmed it a bit to eliminate the thumb and plastic barriers 🤦🏻‍♂️

    Glad you enjoyed the write up galloway boy.

    dove1
    Full Member

    Nice write up and photos.

    Thanks for sharing.

    SSS
    Free Member

    Good work! Like you ive ridden many parts, but never the entire route.

    Thanks for the komoot link. Might be a summer plan…..

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    Komoot link is Markus Stitz, I just downloaded it as a GPX file to my Garmin, which then synchs to my Strava.

    Vortexracing
    Full Member

    We did it last October. Got really lucky with the weather. Did it over 2.5 days with hotels and B&B’s as stop overs. Really enjoyed it, great route and superb scenery.

    It’s on the list to do it again.

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    dufresneorama
    Free Member

    Nice write up and pics.

    Done this a couple of years ago bikepacking within the wife. Her first ever bikepacking/touring/cycling trip.

    We drove to Dunbar, got train with bikes to Helensburgh the cycled back.

    She had never cycled more than a few miles at a time, but smashed it.

    Day 1 Helensburgh to Falkirk – campsite.

    Day 2 Falkirk to Seaton sands –  campsite.

    Day 3 Seaton sands to Dunbar.

    I was on gravel bike with semi slicks. She was on rigid mtb with alt bars and semi slicks.

    Can’t remember a single hill if I’m being honest.

    Was good fun, pretty chilled and a bonus that my wife didn’t hate me or cycling by the end of it.

    Vortexracing
    Full Member

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    Vortexracing
    Full Member

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    Daffy
    Full Member

    Thanks for this.

    imnotverygood
    Full Member

    I think the route through Edinburgh is a bit odd. Especially since you can get through most of the city on the cycle paths in the North of town.

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    Thanks for all your pics and comments. Much appreciated.

    Just to add my tuppence on the route through Edinburgh, I do totally get the route via the Water of Leith, Slateford Aquaduct, innocent railway etc, as this gives people an alternative route to the more well known NCN routes etc. It would be great if the alternative routes were noted on the John Muir Way website just to offer a choice. Maybe it’s credit to Edinburgh for having such a wealth of alternative great routes.

    mashr
    Full Member

    The route I followed is basically the walkers route except does not head up and over Bar Hill – from Twechar through the old Roman Fort –  instead you stay on the canal path. If you have the time and legs (it’s quite a steep trail up and down) then I’d recommend adding this section in, the area around the Fort would also make for a great bivvy spot.

    Maybe I’m just jaded as my local wee trails are there, but not sure I’d fancy an evening in the no man’s land between Twechar and Croy. Otherwise, yes it’s a lovely spotBar Hill

    sillyoldman
    Full Member

    Did it with pals summer before last. Same as OP 2 days camping in Linlithgow (made better by magic fish and chips and a cheap carry out from Aldi. Classy us.)

    Stuck to the walking strands as they seemed more entertaining.

    Had to panic a “rack” together to support my tent and sleeping bag by sawing and drilling an old rim and bolting it to the cage/rack mounts on the fork, with bonus zip ties to reduce the chances of the bolts vibrating loose. Held up surprisingly well, and looked very “special”.

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    sillyoldman
    Full Member

    Great route. Loved it. Shame about the pub selection in Dunbar though. In spite of the staff’s thoughtful offer, we didn’t really fancy a round of Venom.IMG_2945IMG_2941IMG_2955IMG_2956292488b9-92f4-412a-9be8-a51cfd033dfaIMG_2924

    fasgadh
    Free Member

    Enjoyable write up, thanks.   The eastern bits are very familiar to me, I too live on the route, and ride the East Lothian sections frequently.  The route west of Falkirk is on my To Do list.

    The old JMW ran from Cockburnspath and the route eastwards from Dunbar is very worthwhile.

    Storm beach, Skateraw

    Dunbar would be a good choice for a gravel riding base being close to the Lammermuir Hills as well.

    olddonald
    Full Member

    Bit of Roman history geek – does the route cover much of the Antonine wall / forts ? thanks..

    didnthurt
    Full Member

    I mentioned the Roman Fort on Barr Hill, and @mashr has kindly supplied a photo of where the Fort was.

    You essentially follow large sections of the Antonine Wall on the John Muir Way (less a wall and more an earth mound & ditch in reality).

    From the sections that are familiar to me, you also go past other Roman settlements like Rough Castle just before the Falkirk Wheel, pretty close to sections of the Wall at Callendar House (sections of the wall were used recently for the British Cyclocross Championships where local lad Cameron Mason won the elite mens). There is also a visible section of the wall at Kinneil House in Bo’ness.

    When you’re on the coastal path in Dalmeny estate (just after South Queensferry) there is a rock called ‘Eagle Rock’ which is thought to be an old Roman carving of an eagle, which is plausible as nearby Cramond (sadly missed out on the John Muir Way) was a Roman base. There is a stone lion in the Scottish Museum in Edinburgh that was pulled out of the River Almond at Cramond that is believed to be Roman, it was found by the old ferry man. See below.

    cramond-lioness1

    If you’re looking for history, then you’re spoilt for choice along the route, or very near to the route. From:

    • Where William Wallace was defeated by the English at the Battle of Falkirk (not far from Rough Castle),
    • An Iron Age fort on Castle Hill (right next to the Barr Hill).
    • Even the more modern history is all fascinating to me, like the old Manual brickworks at Whitecross you pass coming into  Linlithgow, now gone but was the second biggest in the world at one point. And the reason why there are so many paths around there as there was trains that took the clay to the brickworks.
    • Or the Avon Aquaduct you go over on the Union Canel which is the longest and tallest aqueduct in Scotland, and the second longest in Britain.
    • Or the many coastal anti-tank concrete defenses from WW2 you pass along the Forth.

    So much history. That’s part of why I liked the route so much.

    olddonald
    Full Member

    Thanks – it was a tentative on the list of bike packing trips — now its a definite.

    matt_outandabout
    Full Member

    but not sure I’d fancy an evening in the no man’s land between Twechar and Croy.

    I’ve been there in the daylight with a large group for work – and still had an issue with neds…

    gecko76
    Full Member

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