Posts Tagged ‘John Muir Way’

Old house at Whitekirk

Whitekirk with it’s non-white Kirk (the original white Kirk was allegedly burnt down by suffragettes) looms into view. The sky darkens without warning.

Zing! Ouch! Zing! I said OUCH already! Zing….fizzzz.

This isn’t just a rain shower, this is a Scottish rain shower  – with perfectly formed, icy stinging hailstones! It’s May, c’mon! These wee buggers are cunningly designed like dum-dum bullets. They sting when they impact, and then, as your body heat instantly melts them they spread out and splatter much more ice-cold water than a mere raindrop could deliver.

Drookit (soaked) in seconds.

We shelter under the only cover in sight – a trailer in a field with a tent-shaped two sided wooden sign advertising the local golf range’s Sunday Carvery. It’s not a tent one would wish to spend the night in but it suffices as a makeshift one for the few infuriating minutes until the bonkers Scottish Spring weather reverts back to a patch of intense sunshine. The heat is such we are probably 90% dry by the time we’ve cycled another mile.

We’ve set off from North Berwick to kill time cycling whilst the young master tackles his Higher English exam. Tantallon Castle first stop we fancy – until we cycle in and find they are charging £5 EACH to visit a ruin. Ok, it’s reasonably well preserved but still, on the offbeat tracks we cycle we regularly pass myriad hidden ruins of castles and once-proud manor houses, and as we only wanted a quick look before cranking on we pass. The kiosk and wall blocking the drive up to the castle means we couldn’t have taken the bikes up to keep them in safe view in any event.

Old Smithy

Binning Woods looks tempting again but it’s still been too showery which makes the logging trails into the deep woods soaking and flooded so we pass it by leaving it as an itch to be scratched at a later date….and fly onwards towards Tyninghame and one of the ‘raison d’etre’ for cycling – tea rooms. Tyninghame (old English – Hamlet on the (river) Tyne) is a beautiful wee village with impressive red stone cottages. The tea room is situated within the Old Blacksmiths (Smithy) shop and serves a nice selection of cakes, teas and coffee with a nice sun-trap of a courtyard with outside benches and tables. It also has a rather nice shop full of trinkets, postcards, tat and whimsy. The tea is good, the millionaires shortcake a welcome sugar boost. The chocolate brownie cake is good if not up to the benchmark standards of the cafe at Merryhatton Garden Centre at East Fortune, and the prices are very reasonable indeed. The coffee can be brewed as potent as you like – the caffeine kick might be just what is needed before the climb up the steep hill as we turn and head back towards North Berwick. The spring showers that loom in the sky skirt over us as we chill and munch, but don’t in the end give us our second drooking of the day.

The wee steep climb back up to intersect with the John Muir Way is a killer but worth it to enjoy the nice shortish sections of forest singletrack with lots of wee dips, banks and climbs (it’s called a walk but this has – HAS – to have been carved through the woods by a cyclist). This is a great section of the route, fast and twisty, and the broad smile erupts on the riders face and creeps from ear to ear threatening to split one’s head in two – nothing beats forest singletrack when you are on a mountain bike.

The pace slows as the John Muir Way turns into grassy tracks which are harder going. This route, which  consists of lots of interconnected individual paths and tracks, has  many heavy gates to hold open or fences to heave the bikes over which also makes progress more leisurely. It’s still a good effort to connect it together to run 43km. We climb gently up towards North Berwick Law. Once up there is a nice fast section down to the car park, and we pass what I thought was a radio ham coming down from the top of the hill with a tri-pole antenna. She is eagle-eyed, tho, and spots that it is actually a member of the RSPB checking bird numbers by listening in for their leg or wing-mounted transponders.

Back into North Berwick in nice time to rack up the bikes and pick up the budding young writer from his exam.

Miles: 15  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 0  Cake: 1  Tea: lashings  Hailstones: billions  Calories burned: 1100  Mechanical problems: 0  Nettle stings: a couple  Tosser motorists: 0  Moronic cyclists: 0 

The beasties hover and ambush you in groups as you hurtle through their airspace.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

Forming a pattern like they’ve been fired from some ancient blunderbuss. They don’t hurt, but they leave gooey marks if they impact hard enough that their heads and tails become one as they splatter your cycling jersey.

“Are you going far” asks the friendly old wifey, who, with her rotund midriff and wide brimmed hat, looks like a colonial governor on safari in the jungle as she ceremonially stalks the first part of the ‘way’, shooting pesky natives with her fly-filled blunderbuss.  She seems impressed with the intended trip – we’ve come down to East Linton, East Linton > North Berwick following the John Muir Way – a series of paths and rights of way that are joined together to provide an off-road walking and cycling route that stretches from Muir’s birthplace of Dunbar along 45 miles of coastline, also joined by the East Linton spur.

Apart from the odd wasp chewing sour-puss, most people are happy to share these trails and chat, and I always proffer a cheery ‘hello & thank you’ to everyone I pass, even those who look like they’ve just seen Beelzebub come into view atop a bike and just stare as they try to process your appearance.

Duck…weave…hop….brake..BRAKE…climb…out the saddle…batter on……the second part of forest singletrack is superb, fast enough to whizz along, lot’s of twists and mini climbs and dips, with roots, stumps and the odd sticking out branch all coming at you fast to keep you on your pedals.

North Berwick is heaving with tourists of almost every nationality, with the whole place planted with myriad flowers and in bloom it’s a riot of colour in the brilliant sunshine. I put back 500 of the near 2000 calories I’ll burn today with a quick lunch before cracking on towards Gullane. Astonishingly quickly we come on Yellowcraig beach…the ice cream van is tempting but a new ice cream shop in Gullane is the next destination so we forego Mr Whippy’s facsimile for the real thing.

Archerfield House

The signage is good but not perfect for the route to Gullane – we skirt along the golf course path a little further but soon connect back up, and also take an unintended detour past the magnificent Archerfield House before jumping back on the path.

There’s a biplane of all things buzzing alongside and above us as we come out of Archerfield Estate into Gullane. For giggles I wave at the pilot and to my surprise he spots me and flicks on the smoke switch. He then, to our delight, does a couple of sorties over his new appreciative audience. Brilliant!

The ice cream is cold yet begins melting immediately in the increasingly warm sunshine. It’s good, creamy and well-earned as there be hills soon. Don’t pass through Gullane without sampling!

We detour off the path before it continues to Aberlady and head past Myreton Motor Museum. I’ve passed this several times before but never visited and I don’t break that habit today at least. It looks deserted anyway.

The path shown by the map at Ballencrieff has been ploughed and planted so we didn’t get to Camptoun that way – had to double back and head up the road, slog..slog…slog…..then the fast bit back home.

Good times. GOOD times.

Miles: 27  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 1 Cake: 0 Calories burned: 1737  Mechanical problems: 0  Tosser motorists: 1