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85. Poets Glen

start: Whitecraigs
distance: 50 km
OS map: 66

Poets Glen route mapA super route and full of interest. It uses old rail lines, minor roads, tracks, river walks and a canal towpath. We also cross over the Pentland Hills, breeze through parts of Edinburgh and if you've never discovered the secret Innocent Railway route, then read on...

We start and finish at Whitecraigs on the NCR 1 but you could equally well start in Musselburgh and follow the cycle route up the (east) bank of the Esk.

Head NE for a few metres along the A6094 and look out for the cycle track going off on the right along an old rail route. You're soon into open country and cruising towards Dalkeith on a good surface.

Reaching a road which gives access to newly-built schools, you can turn right and follow it southwards before it swings west towards the town centre. Alternatively, look for a narrow path heading up a bank on the right and into some low trees. This comes out on a back road but will join another main road which can't really be avoided; either way you'll have to follow the main drag through the town.

On the main street keep going straight ahead through a couple of sets of lights and yet another set of lights at a crossroads. On your left coming up soon should be an open park area. Up ahead and on the right you'll see a curious tall structure which looks like an old water tower but is, in fact, now a private residence. As you draw level with it turn right to cross what was a rail bridge but which has been back-filled. The 'water tower' is just ahead but you turn immediately left on the cycle route - you're still on NCR 1 - alongside a stone wall.

If you don't spot the sharp left turn you'll end up crossing the viaduct over the Esk but it's worth just taking those few extra yards anyway, just to take a look at the impressive views.

Backtrack a little from the viaduct and take the right fork now. Passing through a short tunnel you'll come to what was Eskbank Station. Further along, and just past an industrial estate, the track takes a sharp right and leads to a footbridge over the A7.

You're heading gently upwards as the route passes through Bonnyrigg and Rosewell and reaches a high point before the gradient eases and starts to drop down Roslin Glen. The River North Esk is down to your right. Roslin Castle and Rosslyn Chapel are over to the right in the trees.

Shortly after passing through the tunnel at Auchendinny, leave the cycle route as it passes alongside a factory and take the road up to the right. Cross the main road heading northwest and then west to meet the main A702. Turn right and you can use the footpath for half a kilometre to the Flotterstone Inn, not quite the half way point, but an option to stop for a bite to eat if you want to.

The route up Glen Corse is a popular one with walkers and cyclists alike and can get quite busy at times. It's a tarred road and our route follows it until it takes a sharp left turn along the reservoir. At this point we leave the road and take the track leading northwest and up the hill. You might need to push for a while but it's possible to cycle all or most of this right up to the col. Pause to admire the view of the Forth and over into Fife.

It's a pleasant roll now down the track - be considerate of walkers because it's so easy to damage what is sometimes a fragile relationship. Go through a gate and take the path to the right signed for Currie. Just as you arrive at Middle Kinleith Farm there's a signed path going off to the left. This is the route down Poet's Glen (don't ask - there must be a story somewhere...)

Reach a road and turn right for a hundred metres or so before taking a path down some wooden steps at a bend in the road. This path soon joins the main Water of Leith Walkway and leads easily downriver.

The gradient down here is leisurely but again, this is a popular route with walkers and cyclists and can get fairly busy. The trail connects with the canal towpath at an obvious junction. Cross the canal and take the towpath towards the city centre. Crossing the aqueduct may be a bit unnerving for some and you might want to push the bike; on the other hand, it might be busy and you'll have to push the bike...

The Leamington Bridge marks the basin at the end of the canal. Once again, we've been following NCR1 and you need now to get to The Meadows. Whether the signed route is the most convenient route is up to you, but there's no option except to take to the roads for a while.

Having reached The Meadows, follow the cycle route that skirts the northern edge and your next target is the Commonwealth Pool. This may or may not be the way that NCR1 is signed but, if you haven't savoured the delights of the Innocent Railway, it offers a satisfyingly dramatic approach... take the road passing the north side of the Commonwealth Pool and heading towards Holyrood Park. Don't go as far as the ornamental stone pillars that guard the entrance but look for a road on the left, East Parkside - it is signed for NCR1, but it's easy to miss. The road leads between blocks of flats. After just 50m or so turn to the right and then sharp right again...

...and it wouldn't do to spoil the surprise...

Emerging from the far end of the tunnel, you'll find yourself in open countryside and it's difficult to believe the transformation from urban clutter to rural calm in so short a distance.

The route is signed and wends its way past Bingham, Newcraighall and on to join the River Esk cycle route from Musselburgh and it's just a short hop now back to Whitecraigs.

john b, galashiels

Download GPS data in GPX format.

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