Tuesday, June 16 Genoa – Edinburgh
We took a taxi to the airport about 8:30 a.m. and sat around waiting to check in for our flight. Although the web site for the company that wraps your bags in the Saran type wrap advertised that they have bike boxes at some of the major European airports including Genoa, they do not. Fortunately we had not relied on them. Our boxes looked pretty lame, but we had no choice at that point (they looked mostly made of tape!). As we said, Maggie’s handle bars didn’t fit in her box, so we had them wrapped in the Saran for more protection as she was carrying them on board. The flight to London and then the connecting flight to Edinburgh were on time, smooth and completely uneventful except that British Airways and Turkish Airlines both serve food and drink for no charge if the flight is more than 1 hour. Very civilized. When we checked in to our home for the next 3 nights, we realized that our “apartment” was in fact a dorm room from one of the universities with a private bath and a shared kitchen. With the 2 bike boxes and all of our gear, it was crowded. We put one of the bikes together and went to sleep.
Wednesday, June 17 Edinburgh
We gave ourselves until 10 a.m. to work on the bikes and then went to the old city to visit Edinburgh Castle. The walk from our apartment to the castle took about 30 minutes. The castle is very imposing and sits high above the valley on a rock out-cropping.
About 1 million years ago, the site was a volcano that erupted and left sheer walls down to the valley floor. The rock is actually magma that came from the volcano. With the price of admission, we got a 20 minute guided tour which hits the high spots and shows you where all of the rooms and exhibits are. Our guide was excellent. We ended up spending almost 6 hours touring the various historical places in the castle among them were 3 museums, a memorial to all of the Scots who perished during the First World War (149,000), the prison, rooms in the castle where Mary Queen of Scots son and future king was born, the throne room and the Scottish Royal Jewels and an explation of how they came to be and their history.
We had dinner with George and Gayle Gerson and their daughter Liza, her husband Chris and their 6 year old daughter, Eve. They had flown in that afternoon after spending about 5 days in Ireland. We knew they were going to be in Edinburgh at the same time and exchanged information before we left Grand Junction. It was good to see them. We made plans to meet tomorrow and take the 2 ½ hour free guided tour of Edinburgh
Thursday, June 18 Edinburgh
We met George and Gayle at the starting place for the tour. This was our 4th free guided city tour that we have taken in various European cities. They include English (and other language) guides who work only for tips. All of the tours that we have taken have been very good, this one in particular.. Dave, our guide was animated and theatrical and made the 21/2 hours go quickly. After our tour, which ended at 12:30, we visited St. Giles Cathedral, had lunch and took the bus to the office of a charity (Sustran) that is putting together national bike routes in all of Scotland. We got many suggestions and some maps to help us decide where to go and how to get there. We met the Gersons, et al for dessert and said good bye.
St. Giles Cathedral
Friday, June 19 Edinburgh-Bathgate
We left the dorm about 10:30 a.m.. We had no trouble navigating across the old city and finding the beginning of the bike route along the Union Canal toward Glasgow. About 12 miles of the ride was beside a canal towpath which was flat, but we still did nearly 1700 ft of climbing for the day.
Most of our ride was paved although altogether about 5 miles of our day was spent on good gravel. The towpath took us under many rock bridges where the path was narrow and the surface made of cobble stones, the bane of the cyclist. The route is well signed, has lots of long views of the countryside and is very pleasant. After riding about 25 miles we found a place to stay in Bathgate, a small village on the bike route.
The people we met along the way were friendly and responded when we said hello….their call out is “hiyah”. The weather was more of the same that we have had since our arrival in Scotland last Tuesday. It was very overcast, windy. threatening, and only 50 degrees. Hadn’t ridden with scull caps, tights, and long fingered gloves since February. Once again the sun never shone. It did not actually rain until we were in a Pub/restaurant. Each of our dinners were exceptional and very different. Ed had a filo dough pocket (veg. Wellington) filled with veggies and mushrooms then topped with a leek sauce. Maggie had haddock with light bread crumbs topped with coconut shavings and bananas then baked and topped with a mystery brown sauce. Really really good.
Sat. June 20th
This morning it was pouring rain through breakfast, but had stopped by the time we packed up and left on the path. We’ve been following the National Cycle Route #75 all the way across Scotland. It was a lovely day of riding through varied country side on quiet paths. Through some of the villages it wandered amongst the houses. The morning was mostly uphill and we stopped for lunch and coffee at an Anglers Club at a lake/resevoir along the path. It was filled with lively Scots who were eager to chat with us. By 4:45 we were in the small village of Uddington, about 13 miles from Glasgow and found a lovely room in the 1896 Redstone Inn for the night.