|Panoramic View of Edinburgh and the Northern Hills|
The goal today was an easy one of getting to Edinburgh, only about 40 miles away (our expectations had risen as we progressed!). Just before Innerleithen we had joined NCN Route 1, and we planned to follow that to Edinburgh. The overnight rain stopped just as we set off, starting with a long steady climb along a stream from 500 to 1335 feet, with one 200 foot drop in the middle. Nothing but sheep, cows and birds, now in bright sunshine. After the summit there were spectacular views of Edinburgh, marked by a hill known as Arthur's Seat, and the mountains to the north.
A three mile gradual descent on a smooth, newly surfaced road led to a circuitous route through back lanes with many ups and downs - a type of road that we have come to associate with NCN routes. When approaching big cities, we have chosen to use NCN routes, which are designed to stay away from the A roads and all the traffic. There are costs as well as benefits, as this approach to Edinburgh illustrates. Often the roads are narrow and poorly surfaced, and make no effort to avoid hills. There are often lovely sections of flat paths taken over from disused railways, paved or with good dirt surfaces (since the drainage is usually good). On the other hand, these are typically interspersed with sections through the cul de sacs and parks of suburban housing estates that have obliterated the path of the railway, often with many barriers that are hard to negotiate on a tandem without continually getting off and on again. A common hazard is broken glass on the trail leading to flat tires, and indeed we had a flat in the front tire on the way into Edinburgh. Another section of the route was being rebuilt, and no effort had been made to provide a usable alternative, so we had to wade through inches deep mud that took several days to eradicate from shoes and bike. Nevertheless, we still prefer the NCN routes to heavily trafficked A-roads.
We arrived in Edinburgh by 2pm, and went to the Tourist Information Office to find a hotel. We were contemplating finding one a little away from the center where it would be cheaper, but the person helping us found a nice hotel just a block or so away that had a very good last minute rate. It was still rather more expensive than the rural B&Bs (100 pounds a night) but since we planned a day off to go sight seeing we decided a central location would be more restful - and we deserved a rest after our good progress! The Parliament House Hotel turned out to be very comfortable, and the food (breakfast was included and we had dinner there the second night) was excellent.
In the afternoon we cycled to 3 bike shops looking for spare inner tubes of the right size and valve type, and new pedals to replace my ones. I had made the mistake of replacing the original nice ones (designed for clip on shoes, which I don't use) with simple ones taken from an old mountain bike. Early in the trip one began clicking indicating a bad bearing. WD40 and oil helped, but we didn't want to embark on the last part of the trip through remote parts of Scotland with a pedal that might fail. Cycling around the city to the different bike shops was, however, a nerve-wracking experience. Many of the streets in the center of Edinburgh have special car-free lanes shared by bikes and buses. Unfortunately for the cyclist, there are many buses, and most are rather impatient to get through the traffic. We always seemed to be weaving in and out between lanes of moving buses and stationary ones picking up passengers. Riding around the city reminded us of our recent trip to Beijing and cycling in that hectic city.
We had dinner at the Mussel Inn. We had to take a table outside, since they were fully reserved inside. It started to rain soon after the food came. The manager took pity on us, and let us finish inside - provided we finished in 20 minutes when the guests with reservations would arrive. The mussels were delicious, so we had no trouble finishing them in time!
Route and more pictures
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