TRAINING RIDE No.2 – A short climb out of Edinburgh to West Linton

Sponsor me on my Celtic Challenge  – goto my fundraising page for the St. Columba’s Hospice on

Cough Cough Splutter…..

Must go cycle now…I need to put the miles in preparation of my CELTIC CHALLENGE, but boy did I feel rough. I’ve come down with this hacking cough – chest infection thingy that seems to have plagued most people I know, and I didn’t feel like doing anything at all, never getting on the bike and doing fifty miles…

Slow start with Claud

To cap it all off, my lovely Velo Ecosse winter training bike was in the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative  still being serviced after I managed to completely break my left hand integrated brake and gear shifter lever. I could have used this as an excuse but… I had deliberately issued an email to my fellow St Columbus Celtic Challengers about going for a cycle – so a cycle I would have to have…..

I hadn’t prepped enough though –

Firstly, I didn’t get up in time for the early start I had promised myself..(cough cough splutter).

Secondly, it took me a while to pick out the clothing I wanted as the weather looked like it might be variable. Typical Scotland – 4 seasons in a day. Eventually, I had stuffed various wet weather gear into my jacket top pockets and felt suitably kitted up.

Thirdly, I realised that my clip pedals were still on the training bike being serviced, so I would have to install some pedals on the old tried and trusted Claude Butler (1970) Reynolds 531 steel frame.

Photo of my Claud Butler circa 1970
My circa 1970 Claud Butler bike with Reynolds 531 steel frame

About an hour after hunting in the shed, store, mini-office and etc……I got the pedals installed, fired up my Garmin Edge 200 (best budget GPS cycling computer around) and got going.

Finally on the road.

My GPS “snapshot” of my travels for that day is available to view on 

It’s worth a look because it shows my speeds in real time along with the elevation of the route from sea level. A load of information detail in there if you like that sort of thing…what is of interest to me is that it clearly shows an ascent from my starting point up to the moors before West Linton. There’s a slight drop going down the valley into the town for lunch….

Getting started then, I thread my way along Niddrie Mains Road, past Cameron Toll and start climbing through the back streets of Gilmerton and Mount Vernon to Liberton Brae, and up tp Mortonhall bypassing the steep climb of Liberton Brae. I balk at the thought of dealing with multiple lanes of traffic on the road past the Edinburgh Ikea store and divert west along Frogston Road East to Fairmilehead, choosing to cross over the City Bypass on the A702 Biggar Road, which can be busy with traffic but today was reasonably quiet.

Loving my old bike – again….

I’m marvelling at how quiet and purposeful the Old Claud bicycle feels underneath me – The steel frame is heavier, yes, but having built her from scratch and having ridden her from London to Amsterdam and a good bit more, I’m marvelling at how tight she feels – I know every component on the bike and I’m just loving the fact that there are no rattles, knocks, squeaks or bumps. Considering the mileage we’ve put in, the old girl feels great. As I cross from the A702 to the A701 to Penecuik, all I’m aware of now is the swish of the tyres on the road and my heart in my ears again.  Also, with the cooler air outside, and having hit something of a slow rhythm  in my cycling cadence, my coughs and sniffles have subsided too……It would appear that there is no problem in this world that can’t be sorted out or alleviated somewhat by going for a cycle ….;-).

View from A702 Biggar Road Looking SE
View from A702 Biggar Road Looking SE

The only blot on my rapidly relaxed feeling was, as usual, the weather….

Whilst the view over the city bypass was great and the sky relatively clear , when I looked  over to the west towards the Pentland Hills, the cloudbase was quite low and brooding and the sky darker and more misty. Looks like I may get wet!

View towards Pentland Hills and Ski Slope
View towards Pentland Hills and Ski Slope

Roadside Flowers.

I cycled off the A702 onto the A703 to aim towards Penecuik. As I neared the town, however, I spied flowers and scarves tied to the roadside fence commemorating the scene of an accident. It seemed crass and indecent to just pass idly by so I stopped to examine the flowers and mementoes and sadly, all of the written notes were too soggy or too far gone to see for whom they had been laid. It’s tragic when something happens to completely alter and even ruin a family’s life as the result of a completely unforeseeable and random accident, and the small altar that had been set-up by the roadside was a potent witness to this fact. It was all too clear that it was well tended and cared for.

Photo of the Roadside Altar
Photo of the Roadside Altar

If anyone reading this blog knows for whom this act of remembrance is for, could they  drop me a line to let me know?

Pushing on…

Diving left of the main road to penecuik took me down the B7026, down a steep hill to a single lane bridge crossing the North Esk river at the bottom of Auchendinny, within Roslin Glen. The valley following the North Esk, is a deep groove cut in the earth – so having gone down quite  bait in my steep descent the road curves up in two reasonably steep gradients from bottom of valley back up on to the shoulder of the hill. Turning left onto Harpers Brae, I rapidly descend again back into the same valley again, to meet the same river, although this time slightly runs the shoulder of the hill to the south and west of where we first met. The descent down was a lovely steep curving corner (taken at full pelt) , which spoiled only by the single lane bridge and traffic lights right at the bottom of the valley, which required hard braking only to wait, slightly steaming in the cool, deep shadows of the trees whilst no cars or vehicles came in the other direction.


Now for one of the best reasons for this route….climbing up out of the glen up Eskmills Road and Kirkhill Road. This is a steep ascent in two sections with a nice restful easier gradient in between. The 1st section ,Eskmills road, seems steep enough and your beguiled into thinking you’re at the top when you get to the central more even gradient in the middle because the road curves to the left behind a stone wall and out of sight. It is only as you come round this visual obstacle, legs straining slightly with the previous reasonably short climb that the even steeper gradient and banking turn to the right of Kirkhill Road is revealed.

Just lovely…’re whole body system is wide awake at this point, your breathing laboured, your legs start to ache. You suddenly become very hot with the effort as half way up this section it gets steeper towards the top! This is made even more obvious by the visual angle that the passing buildings and garden walls seem to have in comparison with your head down , bum up posture that you’ve now embodied to get up this gradient. Panting now you push to the right as the road curves round and you roll over the top to realise you’ve just rolled up to the back of the town centre of Penecuik. It’s a great starter gradient to try out for novice hill climbers because it’s steep, climbs 150ft  but is very short (less than 10 minutes) – and I intend to revisit it many times before the off on to the Celtic Challenge.

Whizzing through the back end of Penecuik (downhill section) takes me back on to the A701 and onto another uphill gradient, this time rising from 569 ft to 888ft (319ft) as you climb out of Penecuik on the Peebles Road, but veer off onto the very quiet B road that is Deanfoot Road which travels in a relatively straight line, parallel with the A702 to Biggar. Deanfoot Road is a delight and a pain, both at the same time. Once you climbed up onto the moor, you’ve reached the high point of the trip, literally, and because the road is a reasonably deserted  B class single track road to a small town from a small town, its a great cycle route because you’re vehicle free most of the time. It’s also very typical of the more remote routes across the hills of Scotland – Once you’re on this road, it feels like you could be anywhere in the countryside of Scotland.

Photo image of Deanfoor Road Passing place sign
Deanfoot Road.....starts out nice enough....
Image of more exposed section of Deanfoot Road
....But ends up feeling pretty exposed to the elements...

The downside of Deanfoot Road is that it is very exposed ….my speed was down to 6 or 7mph (sometimes even less) because the wind howls across the moor – and mostly into your face.

In good weather it’s bearable but wearing – really energy sapping – in bad weather, you’d be swiftly proved under equipped as the wind is cutting and even a light mist in the air will freeze you to the bone in short order. There is no cover from trees or buildings on most of the road either.

So it’s suck it up and get going time…

For the next two miles – its head down into the wind and push push push just to keep rolling…I swear that if I tried to stop pedalling and coast along,  I’d end up rolling backwards, acting like a giant (if heavy) sail.

The only visible feature at the road side confirms the change from the Edinburgh City district to the Scottish Borders. Well done!

Facing into the wind...and still smiling
Facing into the wind...and still smiling
Image of Scottish Borders sign
Crossing District Boundaries

Push for long enough and you roll over a slight rise down into the valley and to the lovely town of West Linton……..

Photo of West Linton Station Road
West Linton Station Road

…….where you can enjoy a lovely cup of tea, coffee, cake baked potato or whatever at  the Olde Toll Tea House…….

Image of the Tea Shop
Lovely wee tea shop with great soup!

…..on the Station Road right next to the Church.

West Linton Parish Church
West Linton Parish Church

After being well fed and watered …..I made my way back to Edinburgh, taking a short cut through Penecuik instead of skirting down through Roslin Glen, and taking the busy A701 all the way past the Ikea store and back into town.

Tellingly, it took 1hr 21mins to get up the hills and across the moor against the wind, travelling 14.67 recorded miles ( there was a sight glitch on my GPS where it stopped recording for about 2 miles) , and only 57 mins to get back travelling 16.9miles. Going across the moors with the wind at your back is fantastic – pushing along at 22mph is easy and I peaked at 30mph  only because my claud butler bike had a limited amount of gears available.

Cant beat it – going to do this route again……..

Sponsor me on my Celtic Challenge  – goto my fundraising page for the St. Columba’s Hospice on



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