2010 Cycle Tour – Day 1

The Forth Rail Bridge

After a very poor nights sleep at the Edinburgh Dreghorn Travelodge (lots of traffic noise and poor accommodation), we decided to skip breakfast and headed instead to the starting location for our tour, the rather glamourous Edinburgh Airport long stay car park. Any security guards that had been watching the CCTV stream from one of the many cameras would have been surprised to see two eager cyclists preparing themselves, their luggage and their bikes for a week long tour around Scotland rather than the usual view of customers hurrying to the airport, suitcases in tow, ready to fly off to warmer climates. A prompt departure at 8:30am and we were cycling out of the secure car park through a lane normally used by the airport shuttle bus.

Madeline – Eager to start

John – Not quite as eager

The first part of the route led us out of the airport and onto a cycle path running alongside the A8. It wasn’t long before our first “drama” of the holiday occurred. Whilst crossing the A8 using a footbridge, Madeline’s front wheel fell off. It appeared that in our haste to get on with the ride, we (though more specifically, I) had not fully tightened the quick release clamp on Madeline’s front wheel. Note to self, before we start our next ride, make sure both wheels are securely fastened…

After the short but less than pleasant ride alongside the A8, the route then turned north to follow a Sustrans cycle path towards the Forth Road Bridge. The path, a disused railway track, was thankfully free of the glass and nails often found on urban cycle paths, but a combination of mud and gravel certainly meant that we had to concentrate on where we were riding. 8 miles and just one accidental detour near Dalmeny, where we couldn’t understand where the cycle path had disappeared to, and we were within sight of Forth road & rail bridges. The ride took us over the road bridge, however the view across to the rail bridge really attracted my attention. An expanse of heavily intertwined steel girders, the rail bridge stood proud across the Forth in an imposing and purposeful stance.

The cycle route eventually deposited us in a shopping centre car park with no visible sign of where to go nor how to get to the bridge, which at that point was well within view but a 100 feet above us. Without the Sustrans route maps to guide us, we spent an entertaining 3 miles or so cycling around the houses in an attempt to find bridges entrance (reviewing the guidebook after the holiday it appears that we should have exited off the cycle path at an earlier point to follow a road and path to the bridge).

A typical Sustrans long distance cycle path leading us to Queensferry and the Forth.

There is something a little bit magical about riding or walking across a long bridge. The feeling of the bridge moving under you and the sheer drop to the river below can be unnerving but the views that they present can be fantastic. Fortunately neither myself or Madeline suffer from acrophobia (something which we tested on our last holiday by walking to the top of Sydney’s famous harbour bridge).

The Forth Rail Bridge

Our pre-trip weather advice of “Pack your waterproofs” didn’t come in handy on day 1

Once back on terra firma we headed on to Inverkeithing where we stopped for a light breakfast before following NCN route 1. NCN 1 runs from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and onwards to Inverness, however we would divert from the route and forge our own path on day 2. The route literally hugged the coast through Dalgety Bay, Aberdour, Burntisland and on to Kirkcaldy and at times was very pleasant. However as is often the case the state of some of the paths left a lot to be desired. In some places I’d have preferred to have been on a mountain bike with full suspension rather than a stiff, heavily laden, touring bike. Fortunately the route from Kirkcaldy veered inland to Glenrothes making use of quiet B-roads.

After consuming a variety of sandwiches and warm savouries from a bakery on the outskirts of Glenrothes, we pressed on heading north east towards St Andrews. After the mornings minor undulations it was nice to start riding through rolling hills, although the climb up Cults hill to Craigrothie certainly increased the heart rate as did the climb to Strathkinness. With less than 10 miles left for the day and views into the distance of St Andrews we decided to grab refreshments at the Strathkinness Tavern, where a refreshing pint of Belhaven Best was quickly devoured.

A bridge too far?

The views north after our first real climb of the day

The descent from Strathkinness was pleasant if rather short before we navigated away from the NCN route, threading our way through the secure RAF compounds in Leuchars before taking a scenic route to our overnight stay in a tiny hamlet of Vicarsford. It seems that the B945 on which we were cycling is a notorious accident black spot, a fact reinforced to us when we passed the aftermath of a head on car crash that had occurred minutes before we arrived. Fortunately whilst the cars looked badly damaged, the occupants seemed shaken and in shock but not seriously injured.

After the days cycling we decided that an evening in St Andrews was deserved. The town was picturesque and reminded me very much of cities such as York albeit full of people, mainly men, wearing strange attire and carrying a bag full of sticks. As you can infer, I am not a huge fan of golf.

St Andrews, the spiritual home of golf.

We had planned a 58 mile route but ended up doing over 65 mainly by ignoring our planning and sticking to the signposted NCN cycleways. As first days go, the terrain wasn’t bad, the scenery good and the weather fantastic, so we didn’t really mind the extra miles.

Planned distance: 58 miles
Actual distance: 65 miles
Ascent: 4207 ft
Flickr: 2010 Cycle Tour Photo Set

Day 1 - Route

Day 1 - Profile

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