Sunday, 26 August 2012

Edinburgh Part One.Holyrood Park and Arthur,s Seat.

                                                  Salisbury Crags.Holyrood Park.
I,ve been to Edinburgh over 40 times in the last ten years.I,m an outsider but I feel I know it fairly well now.I make no apologies for going back again,this time with a mission.I had received a combination stopwatch, altimeter ,pedometer,device as a present a while ago but never used it much.I,m not a big fan of gadgets like this ,usually finding them more of a distraction than a help. Then an idea came to me.Edinburgh is built over hills, an extinct volcano and its plugs in fact that give it its unique appeal.Few other cities in the world boast its incredible backdrop of  jagged cliffs  so close to cityscape's and castles.So...Could I climb three thousand feet ( 914 metres) of ascent and descent  taking photographs within the city during the course of a days walk.
I was sure it was possible.It might even be 4000 feet.I would also attempt to take my best set of photographs in Edinburgh yet,after all its a dream city for the amateur snapper.It really doesn't get any better than this.Could I take on the professionals living in the city.You always think when you see some poorly laid out professional images on TV ..."That's Mince! My granny could do better than that! "A good while ago I watched some guy photographing drab shop doorways in the rain in Edinburgh with a £1000 quid camera when he had this kaleidoscope of savage rock looming behind him.The commentator was praising him for capturing  the very essence of the city.It could have been shop doorways anywhere in the ******** world!.I nearly smashed the telly in I was so pissed off!
So here,s granny having a go instead.
The Pentlands From  the slopes of Holyrood Park.
Salisbury Crags.You would never know you were in the middle of a city here surrounded by houses.Holyrood park is a lot bigger than most tourists that climb Arthur,s seat realise.It has a lot of hidden quiet areas away from the crowds.
I came here because Glasgow was in the rain all day.What a contrast over on the East Coast.It also has its fair share of daredevils going where others fear to tread.
Spotted this guy near the top of what I think is Cat Nick. You are not really supposed to scramble on Salisbury Crags in case you knock rocks down on people below.Its also a hard type of rock to climb on with mainly outward sloping holds ,although this is not that hard it is steep.
Exposure on the summit escarpment is jaw dropping.In places as scary as anything on the  steepest Munro's when you look over the edge onto multi story flats far below.
Makes the height worse somehow.I promised this girl I,d post this up so she can have a copy.
Arthur,s seat itself has an easy and a hard side.Guess which this is.You can just see three figures on the ramp near the top.I don't recommend this face as a route.The rock is crumbly and loose and covered in sharp gorse bushes in places.
This is directly under the summit.Hope no one drops a camera on me unless its  better than mine.
One of the easy side with Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth behind.White ship in the distance.
A zoom of Inchkeith.A hard island to get out to and land on as its privately owned.

A six spot burnet moth.Someone stood on this one on the path so I rescued it and put it on a flower to die surrounded by sunshine.Aw.It wasn,t me,some other clumsy bugger.If things live and move on the planet they kill  other smaller things,sometimes by design, more often by accident.That,s nature for you.Just as well there are no giants still around today ,they were notorious for sitting down on humans leaving only a waving arm or a leg sticking out a bum crack.What a way to go!
One of the Lomonds,The Binn above Burntisland From the Grasslands of Holyrood Park.
One of Berwick Law From the empty  rolling end of the park,filled with skylarks and purple heather.
The start of the cliffs looking out towards Gilmerton.
Surprised no ones though of Paragliding off here.Probably not allowed.Next James Bond Film maybe?
Cant end without a photo of the Castle.Did I manage to clock up 3000feet of ascent in a city? I,ll save that for part two next week.
This has been a "granny does it better "production....And not a shop doorway in sight.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Dumbarton Alps .Loch Lomond and Route 7.

It may have twigged to some of you that I have been collecting cycle trails recently.Mainly because I,ve bagged everything else I,m interested in within a days drive but I,m having a great time. Many of them are superb. Healthy ,traffic free exercise to keep an ageing man fit and they provide some great opportunities with a camera.This is the Beardmore Sculpture at Dalmuir.Shipyards  and related works used to line the Clyde from Glasgow to Greenock.

Close up of the Titan Crane From a viewpoint beside the Clyde.You can  clearly see a tourist group standing on the top of it.Next to it is the new Clydebank college.
Decided to set off on  Saturday this time as they forecast a good day at the last minute. On Saturday morning in fact.Normally the weather forecasters get it spot on but this year they have been changing maps and their minds every few hours, each with a different outlook.Shows you how unpredictable our weather has become. I didn,t trust the forecast for Sunday though and was proved correct.Set off after lunch for a six hour cycle and had excellent weather throughout after a dull grey morning.
The entrance arch to the high tunnel on the cycle track near Bowling harbour.I,ve been out this way a few times on a bike but not recently.The plan was to cycle all the way out and back to Loch Lomond from my house.Around 30 miles,mostly on cycle tracks and canal tow paths.It was busy with walkers and fellow cyclists but after the nightmare of last week on those packed single track roads still a relaxing canter.
Canal path near Old Kilpatrick.At this point its broad enough to share with other users no problem.Some lovely and interesting scenery throughout. The reason for the title "The Dumbarton Alps? "Well, this is where the Kilpatrick hills are at their most spectacular and impressive,towers and peaks of vertical rock rising high above the main A82. I always remember as a child on day trip coach runs craning my neck up to look out the windows at  the sheer cliffs of Dumbuck soaring above me.There always seemed to be a buzzard wheeling in a crystal blue sky.It was where the highlands really started and if it was good above here the day out would be memorable indeed.That image has never left me.It shaped my entire outdoor philosophy and gave the blog its title,now I think of it.
Its not changed any.It still  has a working quarry in its hidden heart.Seagulls flying around it today for a change.They seem to love gliding over the Whisky bonded warehouses here,maybe they just like the fumes wafting upwards from the barrels,not to mention the roofs for nesting on. Dumbarton has a long association with the water of life.Its one of the towns main Industries. Instead of dogs ,noisy and very vocal attack Geese used to guard and patrol the compounds here but now they have been  mostly superseded by CCTV cameras and alarm systems Although they still had a small  gaggle here last time I looked as an extra deterrent.Not seen them for a while though.'s
Maybe it was the fumes but I had a brilliant idea here.What these soaring cliffs really need are some monkeys or apes on them.The Rock Of Gibraltar is famous for its troops of Barbary Apes. Tourists flock to see them and they add loads of character to the cliffs.
Of course they would just die from the cold here in winter.Can,t have that.
Then I saw on TV recently folk in monkey suits pretending to be apes. Even fooled the real thing.So here,s my great idea. How about if we took  some young  local teenagers or unemployed actors /actresses who cant get a job in the nearby River City  complex off the dole ,put them on a scrambling training course and got them to bounce up and down all over the cliffs above the road in monkey suits for the summer.I,m sure the tourists would flock here boosting the local economy.David Cameron and his glove puppet Nick Clegg would be delighted as its helping to adjust the unemployment figures and the Scottish tourist board and Alex Salmond could give  humping "Brave "a wee rest.Great idea eh?
There,s a lot of bare rock in this area.You could get hundreds of human monkeys dancing on here. It would resemble a planet of the apes film set and wipe out unemployment in the town in one fell swoop once it made international headlines.If you got some cute young actresses bouncing around here the males are always a cert to follow. They could even have an International fun day  every year shooting bananas out of canons over Dumbarton rock with the monkey people catching them in their hands or in other obvious natural openings over on the other side,much like the famous tomato flinging  festival day in Spain.The tomatine.
Speaking of which the next stop was a trip into here. The notorious and scary north face of Dumbarton rock ,a place few tourists to the castle visit and with good reason.I used to go climbing here  back in the day when I wasn,t hiding a beach ball up my tee shirt as is sadly the case now. I always loved the location right on the edge of the River Leven with views over the Clyde  estuary but getting too high off the ground was scary stuff indeed. The rock here has a natural volcanic polish and as its very popular with climbers many of the easier routes are like glass.Not great for grip unless you have prehensile toes and my face always looked  very worried here whenever I spotted it in the so called holds.Also if you slipped off suddenly fingers had an annoying habit of being left behind in the narrow cracks.
All the boulders here have routes on them and the large cliff behind has some of the most intimidating climbs in the country on it.
I always climbed sideways here to be nearer the ground. I was much happier that way pretending to be a crab.
For anyone interested here are the overhanging face routes up the cliff.If you click on any of the pictures they go full size folks.No really!

1. Requiem 46metres. E7. once one of the hardest routes in Britain. Took over 10 years before more than a handful of  top climbers could boast to having climbed it.Now the hardest grade is around E11 or E12 or something suitably ridiculous.
2.Cyclops. E4.    3. Chemin de Fer. E5.   4 The Big Zipper E4.   5 Stonefall Crack Direct  HVS.
Even some of the boulders have  huge overhanging faces with routes where feet don,t touch rock at all til the top and these are usually done  minus a rope.
When I wandered round to the front of the castle beside the bowling club I had a great zoomed view of this massive cruise ship docked at Greenock. This thing was the height of a multi story building and almost dwarfed the cranes beside it.Gives you some idea of scale. A cruise at sea is my idea of hell mind you.I,d rather get dressed  up in a monkey suit then climb Dumbuck.
For anyone visiting the area there is also a nice flat walk along the foreshore here towards the Erskine bridge that starts at the castle itself and runs for a mile or so,tarmac at first then getting rougher underfoot the further away you get.Plenty of wildlife and wading birds to see though.
Different view entirely.Taken further up the cycle path where it skirts the edge of the Leven Swamp marshlands.A few folk fishing in waders.
The Leven drains Loch Lomond and is the 2nd fastest flowing river in Scotland.After days of heavy rain ,In spate conditions, its an impressive sight,flooding a large area of the banks and fields either side as it struggles to cope with being the only outflow from  Scotland's largest loch.As you can see  its now turned into a cracking summers evening.

A view over towards Overtoun house and The Lang Craigs behind. Another great area for walking with a network of  paths and trails below and along the  top of these cliffs. A signed cycle path...To the Crags ...goes up into this estate as well from Dumbarton for anyone wanting a bit of uphill panting on the pedals.
Another view nearer Dumbarton. The Kilpatricks are really impressive here in sunshine. Taken from the cycle track just next to Ballantines huge plant set in its own  leafy countryside estate where the bottling takes place.
Anyone who hasn,t walked along the edge of this  long escarpment  yet has missed one of the great delights of the central belt.Its fantastic,especially in springtime around May/June when the lower slopes are  completely covered in a  vibrant profusion of Rhododendron flowers,one of the largest displays anywhere in Scotland,part of  the long forgotten and abandoned Overtoun house alpine garden trail.No doubt however  if a National Park or other authority got their hands on it they'd  have to wipe out this amazing yearly display as an invasive weed. Or maybe I,m wrong.
A view of the deep water markers I walked along a few months ago at low tide. Now obviously at full water depth. Don't think I,d like to be stuck out here on one of the towers overnight. It was fairly windy and This little boat was bobbing up and down like a cork.Also spotted what looked like a dolphin fin out here,or maybe a small whale.
Had a great but uneventful run back to my house. Going back it was a lot quieter and  I could power down on the pedals more.A great trip.
Still think the monkey suit idea would be a winner.Off to email the Prime Minister,s office right now as he,s always looking for new ways to get the unemployed earning their keep.Shit , I may even volunteer myself depending on the calibre of the actresses involved .I,ve always fancied myself as an action star.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Three Ferries Tour.Kyles Of Bute.Tighnabruaich.Otter Ferry.

Where to start.I had been looking forward to this tour all summer.I last did it 10 years ago and it was one of the best cycle rides ever.Quiet and serene.Would I still be fit enough for it? I,d been in training recently putting in the miles and waiting for a good day to arrive.Its around 60 miles at a guess but it has a lot of ups and downs throughout its twisting duration.
On a sunny day like it was you have to arrive early to stand any chance of getting parked so I was up at 7.00am to catch the 8.45am ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay for the first leg of the tour.
Bute was as beautiful and quiet as ever as I arrived in early morning sunshine around 9.30am.A free Friday. Crisp and fresh but with the promise of a hot day ahead. I cycled past sleepy Port Bannatyne with its Russian Tavern then along an empty ribbon of tarmac to the 2nd ferry of the day between Rhubodach and Colintraive.This is one of the shortest crossings in the UK.They used to swim the cattle across here as it was quicker.Cows were harder and much fitter back then though.
Only had a five minute wait for the ferry then I was across.The next stretch was very scenic.I took the small yellow back road up the shores of Loch Riddon.It was starting to heat up so I was glad to have the trees and shade down here.Loch Riddon is tidal and the cattle were taking advantage of this heading out across the mud flats to the edge of the River Ruel to cool down.
Next came the famous Kyles Of Bute much loved by writer Neil Munro and his wily highland creation Puffer Captain Para Handy.
I was really enjoying this section and it was as good as I remembered it.This is not  part of route 75 but I would link into this soon at the B 836. As soon as I did this my mood changed slightly.This whole area is signposted as" Argyll,s secret coast" Instantly ,as soon as I turned onto the A8003 I went from few cars to many.Under one a minute on this tarmac to Tighnabruaich.Most were large 4 by 4s,open topped sports cars or big six seater plus jobs.It always strikes me as odd that we are fast running out of oil and gas yet the cars seem to get bigger and bigger each year.
The scenery was still outstanding though so I wasn,t too bothered.Tighnabruaich came next. A lovely place and fairly hard to reach.Or so I thought.It seemed like everybody had seen the forecast and decided that this was the weekend to visit their holiday home. The place was jam packed with cars. Fair enough. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine. This is a popular place to sail into and moor the yacht just off shore. I,ve boated in here myself on more modest craft and had a great time.It was a lot quieter then though.Cant blame anyone either as it was a spell of good weather after a mediocre summer this year and everyone was keen to make the most of it.I was now on cycle route 75 which takes you around the "Secret Coast".By this time though,getting zoomed past at a car a minute, I was thinking secret from whom? A lifer in prison? A hermit on a desert Island? The people who put the signs up?
There was even a search and rescue helicopter buzzing about overhead.Might as well have the blackpool illuminations and the circus here as well I was thinking as I had my lunch on a bench.To be honest It was not that relaxing or peaceful.Not on a bike.Maybe I just picked a bad day in peak summer conditions though.
Next up ,to get away from all the traffic, I took the minor road loop to Ardlamont.Route 74.This was a very bad idea. Now I was on a tiny road with passing places and still had frequent cars. I,m not the brightest bulb in the showroom but even I could detect a pattern here.I should have cut my losses ,turned around and headed back to Bute to go cycling on empty roads there but I,m a stubborn bugger at times.I had my route in mind and I would see it through to the end.
I kept on going to Kilbride Bay where there is a stunning beach.It had a long line of cars in the lay by.Over 20 crammed into spaces for 5. Now I knew where all the passing cars had been heading for. It did look amazing though.Unfortunately I couldn't stop and had to keep pedalling.The amount of traffic on the roads had slowed me down.In a game of Rock, Paper,Scissors a speeding car will always beat a slower bike and I,d had to wait at every single passing place thus far as cars shot by.Also as a single guy on a beach with young children splashing around I was aware I would not be welcome and would be greeted with immediate suspicion by any parent watching.I,m always surprised there is any room left for anyone else on the planet with the number of paedophiles supposedly lurking round every corner,outside every home these days. As a teenager growing up in more innocent carefree times I would be a good samaritan occasionally if someone younger was hurt, lost or injured and would either help to find the parent ,hand them in to a large store or find a nearby police station.Now I avoid any contact whatsoever like the plague except to inform an elderly couple maybe if they look ok ,a women passerby or a family group if these are available. Then its up to them what they decide to do about it.Children,If  I,m not a  close relation of, have been a completely alien species to me now for many,many years.In this modern world they are to be avoided and shunned at all costs.Never,ever to be alone with one.Like standing next to a ticking bomb.This may seem harsh but I suspect many men outside of their own family group feel the same way.So I naturally try to avoid  placing myself on a suspect list.Society seems fairly  relaxed about breaking and ignoring every other value and taboo from years ago though. Good manners,patience, swearing and getting legless in public,aggressive driving attitudes towards complete strangers,promoting idiots as role models but this one is still written in very large letters. The number one bad apple.I,m not downplaying it but it  seems just a little unbalanced in the media and in peoples perceptions.
Hardly a mention about the real killer of children lurking in every street and town. Road deaths.Which I,d imagine outnumbers any lurking paedophiles by a million to one.Just a thought which probably sprang into my head after taking this picture below and remembering my own recent van knock down accident.Also getting passed by at speed by almost every car on the way down from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay and I,m not a slow driver. I was doing close to 70 ,the speed limit,yet got passed by a endless string of cars touching 80 to 90 miles an hour.I parked next to one that had passed me doing almost 100 yet they were still getting out when I arrived. We all seem to be in an increasing hurry to get places that don't actually move.Like hampsters on amphetamines placed in cars instead of inside big revolving wheels.Modern life is one big constant race to no where in particular.


Going by the diamond pattern I think this was once an adder.The road from Millhouse to Otter Ferry is mainly single track.Its the B8000.It should be quiet as its not particularly scenic,much of it is covered in conifer plantations with poor views out to sea.I was intending to turn off at Otter ferry then go up over the tiny minor road to Glendaruel then take the B836 back to Dunoon.Ten years ago this had been a great, well remembered trip.What a change in ten years though. All along this road animals, birds,insects and butterflies lay dead or dying in their hundreds.
I cant be too much of a hypocrite as I have a car myself but its only when you walk or cycle along a country road slowly you see the carnage motor cars leave in their wake.In places the tarmac looked like a trendy modernistic wallpaper with  nearly every species in Scotland flattened into the road surface.Multiply that by the number of roads in Britain and you get some idea of the scale of wildlife destruction UK wide.That's the ultimate carbon footprint and its a very heavy one. On wildlife and on people.

It was a  friday, not even a weekend but it was a living nightmare on a bike.Easily the worst three roads I have ever done on a bike in my life.I ended up walking large sections of them getting off at practically every incline. Not because I didn,t have the energy in my legs but because cars were so impatient.I was passed by over 100 cars on this stretch alone. Not one slowed down to respect a bike,some even tried to nudge me over onto the grass verge before I,d reached the passing place.Most regarded me as a bloody pest in the way.On a single track road I had cars overtake me at 50 miles an hour inches away from my body.I was clipped three times by wing mirrors which is why I started walking up any hills as cars would drive behind me inches from the end of my bike willing me to go faster towards the passing places trying all the time to squeeze past.
Put it this way. The only time I will ever do the B 836  again is if I win a lot of money buy a 2nd hand chieftain tank then get the chance to flatten every arsehole in a car that doesn't get out of the way fast enough.See how they like it.This is the tiny minor link road from Otter Ferry to Glendaruel though even here traffic passed me.How anyone can put this road (the B836) down as a cycle route is a mystery.Have they ever tried it in peak summer traffic? Zero out of ten as a cycle route except in grim conditions or in winter when cars are few. As anyone who visits this blog knows I usually look for the positive aspects in any place I visit,even areas others would  normally dismiss but I hated the B836 with a passion and couldn,t wait to get off it.Cycling the main Loch lomond road during an Easter holiday break would be safer.Count to ten.Relax.
This is Dunselma.Built in 1886 for the  powerful Coats family as a sailing lodge above Strone point by architects Rennison and Scott.It is now privately owned.
The multi millionaire Coats Family owned a Cotton empire based in Paisley.The Large mill in the centre of this town still stands today.
As a result of this  traffic I was well behind my predicted time and have never been so glad to to reach a main road again where I could cycle without coming to a grinding halt every time a car approached .Red Western ferry back to Gourock then a mad dash in the near dark along the pavements back to Wemyss Bay.I,d parked in my usual spot,The Garage car park which locks the adjoining parking compound at  9.30pm.Never having been this late before I hadn,t the phone number and hadn,t bothered to remember when it closed. I didn,t think time would ever be an issue.It was now almost 10.00pm and everyone had gone home.No emergency number.
It was either wait on the beach til 6.30am in the morning or get a train back to my house.
Luckily I managed to get one of the last trains departing from here along with my bike and arrived back in my house around 1.00am. An 18 hour day in total,10 of which had been spent in the saddle avoiding cars.Now I remember why I dislike cycling single track mainland roads in the highlands in summer.They may be B and C roads but being the only way in and out of communities many of them are no fun on a bike at peak periods in sunny weather.
Ironically, the myriad of minor  roads in the more populous central belt and east coast means that these roads are empty and far more peaceful.I will never do this route again...Ever... on a bike.
In the morning I took the train back down to get my car, happy to be a mad speed freak once again and get my revenge on any aggressive drivers that passed me. The sword of obsidian swung on more than a few occasions as I forced them into the ditch for a change and spilled their blood with my sharp stick out appendages instead. A lesson well learned.
Beam me back to the safety of the city and the estates and schemes of the central belt.At least if they run you over there they usually have a reason for it other than shaving five minutes off a journey time.
(This is a revised post. My first attempt was far too extreme and had far too many swear words in it for public consumption)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Dunfermline.Roscobie Hills.Loch Fitty.Pittencrieff Park.Townhill Loch.

Lucky dip days can sometimes be the best ones.Looking at a large scale map for somewhere new to go my eyes fell on Dunfermline. I could cycle from here around a part of Fife I didn't know very well.Parking was obvious from the OS map Falkirk and West Lothian Sheet 65. Townhill Loch Country park and Scottish water ski centre. I,d never been there either.  Off I went. It,s not that easy to find without a sat nav but I like a challenge.Half an hour of Dunfermline back streets and a petrol's worth of sat nav later I arrived at my destination , road map in hand. Who needs these new fangled toys when you have a roll down window, a shouty questioning voice and pedestrians not yet knocked over.
Part of the problem was that my OS map was old and bore no resemblance to the actual street layout.Dunfermline is one of the fastest growing towns in Scotland and the boundaries and minor roads I was following had been swallowed up by new build posh estates. And as any driver knows new build posh estates love endless roundabouts and cul de sacs.At this rate it will be a city soon. 22 cul de sacs later I took this picture above.
Off I went on my trusty bike. Although this is one of the most Industrial and urban areas of Fife with a network of small towns and villages I knew it would have bags of history and great scenery as well.It is Fife after all ,one of the oldest settled landscapes in Scotland.My first port of call was to visit the Roscobie hills via the bowershall minor road then the quiet B914. Although not high they have character and are Ideal for exploring on a bike.
Next up came the Saline hills past the Knockhill racing circuit, then hill end then Saline itself.I met a few local bikers here.It was a hot day but they were still wearing their leathers.I was glad I was just in a tee shirt and shorts.
Came back via the same B914 past  Temple and Steelend.Great names around here. A lot are coal mining or heavy industry related.
Next up was Kelty and Loch  Ore. I,d been here before but thought I take another wee tour round its shores.I met a 20 something girl here last year on a bench who had the most incredible and incendiary tattoos I,ve ever seen. Most were highly pornographic and explicit but very artistic as well.Almost visionary in design.A real work of art as well as an eyeopener. She looked liked she could live up to the wrapping paper billing though and I was keen to peel further :)
Call me an old pervert but on a hot sticky day unobtainable goals like these make the long miles feel shorter.I like Fife!
I,d also given my bum a treat with some jelly under it.I,d even got Alex some in case he fancied trying it too next time he was out.
Two weeks ago Lidl had a bike sale on and I,d bought two gel filled saddle slip ons.
By god I wish I,d got one years ago. No more dead ass at the end of a long ride.It ,s like sitting on a bouncy panda now!
Next up was Cowdenbeath. This is a place I,d always wondered about but had never visited before. I just imagined it as an ex mining town like so many others here but I was slightly disappointed by it. A nice enough place to live but too pretty and posh for my tastes. On a bike ride I like visiting rough places as well as beautiful scenery as a contrast. The wilder the better.  Cowdenbeath was too nice and ordinary for my tastes.
"Where,s the rough quarter herabouts?" I shouted to the few males walking about from my bike."Where,s the dodgy bits hiding?"
I got a few strange looks and it was only after the forth attempt I realised the zip on my trousers had worked its way down due to all the uphill effort thus far and my flesh coloured boxers were on show to the world.At least I think it was my boxers.
I liked Kingseat  better.This wasn't rough ,its a lovely wee village but it did have history boards on the main street informing visitors that the place was founded on rich seams of coal.There used to be a range of pits close by.Now its open cast mines nearby that employ the locals still involved in the industry which requires far fewer workers although its probably much safer.
I also found out Kingseat gets its name from the the tradition that a large stone stood here on this ridge between  Scone Palace and Dunfermline.There was only a small farmstead here at that time. It was fashioned into a great seat and the Kings of Scotland used to rest here sometimes before descending into Dunfermline Itself. Amazing the things you find out on a bike ride. Yet another thing I,d never heard of.
Loch Fitty came next. A bigger loch than it looks on the map and a popular fishing spot for local anglers.Never been here either.
Next came Crossgates a small village on a crossroads with a nice mural inshot again giving something of the history of the area.
The B916 came next which led me back into the bottom of Dunfermline.So far, due to the greater population in this central part of Fife, the roads had held more traffic than I,m used sharing the tarmac with but I reasoned  if I stuck to the back streets and wider pavements cutting up through the heart of  Dunfermline it would be no problem.
Dunfermline is a town with great history and character. Its also a really hilly son of a bitch on a bike.Especially at the end of an up and down cycle ride through rollercoaster terrain. They don't show contour lines under buildings on  maps but there must be a lot of them here.
Passed this unusual style of church first then a climb up on tiring legs to the Abbey. I could reach this through the beautiful grounds of Pittencrieff Park,a gift to the town from the Industrialist Andrew Carnegie who grew up here when it was an off limits private estate he always wanted to play in as a boy.Its a stunning park as its sits on a high ridge with extensive views over towards the Pentlands.Everything sits on a high ridge here.Carnegie is sometimes described as the second richest man in history but in his later years he did his best to give it all away to good causes.

The Abbey and gardens in the formal part of the park.Just here where the trees are is a deep ravine which is also part of the park with walks and trails along its base.Its one of the best parks in the UK and a real asset to Dunfermline and its citizens.The tower has" King Robert The Bruce " one word carved around each of its four sides.Just past this comes the main shopping street and a chance to walk and stretch my legs.

Carnegie Museum. Pittencrieff Park.There used to be a smashing little zoo  near here years ago til vandals ruined it.The modern namby pamby world at work.Never would have happened in the days when you could hack off children's hands for bad behaviour and just get a ticking off for an over enthusiastic approach to discipline.They can piss,vomit ,crap and throw glass in the paddling pool now and you,ve just got to pat them on the head.
I still keep the scythe sharpened though in case the good old days ever return.
Dunfermline high street is one of the few still busy with shoppers although even here To Let signs are creeping in.I cant see them ever reviving the fortunes of our high streets in our towns and cities as long as major superstore chains are around. Its too easy to get all your stuff in one go there.Very few people have the time or inclination now to travel from shop to shop like they used to do.
"Why is it called Townhill Daddy?"
"Because its the highest hill in a very hilly town son"
I must have been too dumb to have asked questions like these as a boy. Otherwise I would have known I was in for a monster climb back up to the car.This is not even the top of the hill. Happy days.

Highlight of the trip was finding this. The tunnel leading down to St Margaret,s Cave. In her lifetime she was an exiled princess ,her family having a legitmate claim to the throne of England. Unfortuately she came of age just as William the Conquerer got his hands on it and the Normans were not known for letting go of assests easily once aquired.She arrived in Scotland instead.
Here after a while she married  King  Malcolm and became Queen Margaret of Scotland. She was raised a devout catholic and reputedly did many acts of penance and good works down here,tending the sick and needy underneath a large car park.Presumably admission was free of charge then as well. North and South Queensferry gets its name from her as she  established a free crossing  there allowing poorer pilgrams to visit St Andrews and other holy places on route.
Cave was OK. Loved the tunnel down to it and another chunk of history I knew very little about until now.A lucky dip day.Cant beat them sometimes for surprises.