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39. Pencaitland

start: Musselburgh
distance: 29 miles
OS map: 66

Pencaitland route mapAn old coach road, a disused rail line, classic views over the Forth and parts of the East Lothian Coastal Route are all features of this trip.

There's a car park by the river at (342 726) in Olive Hall Road. From here, go to the traffic lights by the bridge and take a sharp right for the road signed for Inveresk. Follow this round and you'll be heading out of town uphill and past a school. Inveresk Gardens are along here on the R and, shortly after, take a L turn onto Crookston Road.

As you come out into open fields you'll see the hill ahead of you with Falside Castle a prominent feature. This is an old coach route and, if it wasn't for the new section of the A1, it would take a pretty direct line up the hill to the R of the castle. The cycle route is signed when you get to the A1. Follow it to the A6094 and cross the A1 by the bridge.

You're looking now for the L turn that is the continuation of the route. It's a hard pull up here but the views get better as you go. Just past the castle the road turns into a track and heads across towards North Elphinstone farm. At the far end of the farm buildings look at for a track on the R (399 709) that heads downhill. After 500m go L at the T junction then R heading for Ormiston. The track crosses the old Pencaitland railway and access to what is now a cycle/walkway is over the bridge and on the L.

It's 2 miles to Pencaitland - make sure that you take the R fork just after passing under the B6371. Another mile or so brings you to a road bridge at (448 673). Access to the road is by steps. Glen Kinchie Distillery is along to the R - we turn L, heading for West Saltoun. It should be noted that in wet weather there's a short, but very boggy, section just before the road bridge. You might want to leave the cycleway at Pencaitland and do this bit on the road.

At West Saltoun take the road for Haddington to cross the B6355 at (468 685) and going on to Samuelston South Mains. At Westfield, look for a footbridge over the River Tyne at (501 717). A track on the other side goes for almost a mile to reach the A6093. Turn R then almost immediately L and follow this past Letham Mains to reach the 'old' A1 at (486 737). Look straight ahead and you'll see the bridge that you're aiming for, but to get to it you need to turn R then cross over the 'new' A1.

The bridge is a bridge over the old rail track which is now a cycle route. The route starts in Haddington but there is 'unofficial' access to it down a steepish bank to the L of the bridge. There's always an option to go into Haddington and pick up the route there - it's signed and starts at (502 740).

The trail goes through sheltered cuttings to emerge in open country giving good views over the Firth before dropping down to the station at Longniddry. You can carry your bike over the station footbridge or, just before reaching the platform, turn L and back on yourself following a track that goes down and under the railway to come out on the B1377. Head down to the shore signed for Gullane and turn L along the B1348 for Cockenzie past Seton Sands.

It has to be said that this stretch of coast isn't stunning but there are odd moments. Look out for signs for the East Lothian Coastal Route. Port Seton Harbour is worth a look and there's a path along the waterfront from here to Cockenzie Harbour. You need to use the road now to get past the power station and on through Prestonpans.

Approaching Musselburgh, there's another alternative when the Coastal Route takes you along the sea wall to come into the town at the outflow of the river - it's possible to work your way along the riverbank back to the car park.

jb, galashiels

Download GPS data in GPX format.

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