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78. Culross

start: South Queensferry
distance: 52 miles
OS map: 65

Culross route mapThis is a circular route taking in the first two road bridges over the River Forth. Of course, when you think of places like Falkirk, Grangemouth and Rosyth you may well wonder what the attraction of such a route would be. Don't let that put you off, though, because you might just find - as we did - that there are some pleasant surprises in store...

Start at South Queensferry, or Dalmeny Station if arriving by train. There's plenty of parking space down at the shore between the rail and road bridges. Head along the cobbled main street and take the road towards Hopetoun House. It passes directly under the road bridge and you'll see a cycle track up to the left. It's a matter of preference whether you choose to cycle on the west or east side of the road bridge; we chose the west.

Enjoy the views as you cross the river. If you're on the east side then follow the cycle route staight ahead and down to a roundabout. If you're on the west side then you can escape by lloking for the path that heads off tothe left and into a hotel car park. From here take the road along to the same roundabout.

Turn left at the roundabout aiming for Rosyth. To your left are fuel storage tanks and this is all part of the MOD complex. The road heads uphill and brings you to another roundabout. Down to the left is the main entrance to Rosyth Docks so stay with the main drag, keeping the military stuff to your left. Emerging into open country, you'll come to yet another roundabout. Don't be tempted by the road to the left, you need to go along to join the main road. Follow it west for just a few hundred yards before turning left for Limekilns and Charlestown.

Roll down into the pleasant village of Limekilns and follow along the shore road to Charlestown. This is a quiet backwater and worth a visit in it's own right. The road heads north now to meet the main road again. There is a cycle route alongside it, however, which does a detour past the village of Crombie. A little after passing Crombie, look for a left turn signed for Crombie Point and roll down to the shore again.

There's a track now that keeps to the shoreline for a mile or so towards Torreyburn. Join the road here as it passes under a rail bridge. Less than half a mile past the bridge is a left fork to Low Valleyfield. Just a short way down here, look out for a footbridge over the railway signed for Valleyfield Ash Pans and take the obvious track alongside the railway towards Culross. The ash pans are over to the left and this is where ash from the nearby Longannet power station is dumped and sprayed with water to stop it blowing away.

You can either re-cross the railway at the first gate and go into Culross, or continue along a narrower track which takes you to the far end of the village. In any event, Culross is like stepping back in time and it's worth spending a while looking round its narrow streets and soaking up the history of the place.

The road winds past Longannet Colliery and the power station and aims for the main road over Kincardine Bridge. [I think there's now (2008) a cycle track alongside this section of road] You would have thought there would be a cycle track on such a busy bridge crossing. There isn't, but there's a footpath and I'd have no hesitation in using it. You need to stay with the main road for three quarters of a mile to a parking area where we turn left onto a back road. There's a footpath on the right hand side of the main road if you prefer.

Where the minor road swings sharp right, take the track that goes straight ahead. Turn left when it reaches another minor road. The road turn to the right and then right again to cross the motorway and lead into Carronshore. At this point, route-finding starts to get a tad problematic...

...what you're aiming to do is reach the Union Canal. At the time of writing (May 2001) a good deal of construction work is underway to link the Union Canal and the Forth-Clyde Canal using the Falkirk Wheel to lift boats from one to the other. There is access to the Union Canal where the road goes under a railway bridge at (866 795). Our route simply follows yellow and brown roads on the OS map but no doubt there are equally good, if not better, variations.

When you reach a T junction in Carronshore, turn left to pass the Victoria Inn and follow the road as it takes a sharp right turn. Turn left at a cross roads opposite some red brick flats. Pass the Black Mill Inn. We're following a bus route and there's a park over to the right. Turn left at the roundabout, signed for Falkirk. The road crosses the River Carron and leads to another roundabout. Turn right to pass the Carron Centre.

You'll reach another roundabout. Turn right to keep some sports fields over to the right and a school down to the left. The Forth-Clyde canal is just over to the left. There's another roundabout where you turn left, cross the canal, and then immediately right. The canal is on your right now. Follow the main drag, heading slightly uphill and pass under a rail bridge to gain access via a track on the left up to the Union Canal.

A mile or so brings you to the Falkirk canal tunnel. It's about half a kilometer long, but dead straight. Lights are a good idea and though you can manage without, you'd probably be best walking. There is a wooden railing between you and the water. For the adventurous, I have seen someone cycle it without lights, but it wouldn't be my preferred option...

NB: the tunnel now has lights...

You now have a good few leisurely miles along the towpath to the basin at Linlithgow and then a few more past there to Winchburgh. The canal soars over the dramatic Avon Viaduct on the way.

Leave the towpath at Winchburgh and take the road into Kirkliston. Go through some traffic lights and look out for a sign to the cycle route just as you pass over an old disused railway. The cycle route leads along the railway towards Dalmeny. It joins the road just before reaching Dalmeny and you can stay with the road to roll down under the Forth Rail Bridge into South Queensferry. Alternatively, look out for the continuation of the cycle route as it rejoins the old rail route that swings left under the main north-south rail line and passes above the centre of the town to emerge in a supermarket car park.

jb, galashiels

Download GPS data in GPX format.

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