The Montrose Basin Cycle Route is an 11 mile circular ride that allows you to visit House of Dun, with its stunning plaster ceilings, the Caledonian Railway with its steam trains and the town of Brechin with its round tower. Montrose is less than 2 hours by train from Edinburgh or Glasgow, so this outing can be achievable as a day trip.
Step One: Cycle 4 miles from Montrose station to House of Dun
When you leave the station turn left to get to House of Dun. The cycle route is alongside the A935 on pavements or segregated cycle paths. After 3.8 miles you will reach House of Dun. This country house was designed by the famous Scottish architect, William Adam. You can take a tour of the house, explore the gardens and feast on the home baking in the tea room.
Read my blog about the House of Dunn
Step Two: Caledonian Railway
Almost opposite the entrance to House of Dun there is a turn-off for Bridge of Dun. Take this to reach the Caledonian Railway. On summer weekends heritage steam and diesel trains travel between Bridge of Dun and Brechin. This experience is about train travel for pleasure. This is all about stepping back in time to an era of carriages with compartments, windows that open and doors that you slam shut. Lock up your bike here and take the train to Brechin.
Read my blog about the Caledonian Railway
Step Three: Explore Brechin on foot
Brechin has a pleasant town centre with merchant's houses dating from the late 1700s. The round tower, next to the cathedral, is one of only two in Scotland.
Read my blog about Brechin
Step Four: Cross the Bridge of Dun
Return to Bridge of Dun on the Caledonian Railway and cross the spectacular bridge on your bicycle.
Read my blog about the Bridge of Dun
Step Five: Cycle around Montrose Basin
The Montrose Basin Cycle Route is an excellent example of forward thinking by a local authority. The busy A935 makes it daunting to come here on a bicycle, but by making the pavement shared pedestrian and cycle path it has opened up the area to cycle tourism. Some parts of the pavement are very narrow with little space for bikes and people to pass, but they have made the best use of the existing infrastructure to ensure that it is viable to cycle safely in this area. The cycle path will take you back to Montrose station.
Brechin is a pleasant town in Angus with interesting buildings, including a 1000 year old Celtic round tower. The most exciting way to reach the town is to cycle from Montrose to Bridge of Dun from where you can catch a steam train to Brechin.
The Caledonian Railway is a heritage railway that operates steam and diesel trains between Bridge of Dun and Brechin. This is the nicest way to arrive into the town. The train station is one of the most striking buildings in the town with a glass canopy and decorative ironwork.
Head to the High Street that has a steepness and collection of stone buildings that is reminiscent of Edinburgh's Old Town. The gable-ended merchant's houses date from the late 1700s. This style of building had the shop on the ground floor, the merchant's house upstairs and storage to the rear.
Skinner's Burn walkway is a nice area of greenery between a stream and the rear of merchant's houses. The walk leads to the Cathedral.
Outside the Cathedral a man in a blue anorak with a Yorkshire Terrier at his feet said to me, "come in, come in. I am one of the elders. Everyone is welcome. It's a fine Kirk, a fine Kirk."
Once inside I found a peaceful and calming atmosphere, but it is outside that you will discover the most unique part of the building. This is the round tower, that dates from 1100, and is one of only two such towers in Scotland. They were much more common in Ireland and were bell towers. The tower at Brechin was here before the cathedral and incorporated into it.
When a settlement came under attack these towers were also used as a place of refuge for people and valuables. The door is very narrow and six feet above the ground for the purpose of providing this protection.
The doorway has beautiful carving, including a crucifixion at the top.
In Saint Ninian's Square I was approached by a group of teenage boys and asked if I was from Brechin. When I said no they questioned why I would to choose to come here. "They should drop a bomb on it," one of them said.
"Not when am still in it, idiot," his pal said.
Another asked me if I was a rock star! I think this was in reference to my hair, which was a bit too long. He then said, "climb in that," and pointed to the granite fountain. "You won't get out again. It happened to me and I got lifted."
"How did they get you out in the end?" I asked him.
"They got me out with ladders."
I was amazed that he managed to get into this fountain. It did not look easy. This encounter reminded me of how travellers and locals can have completely different perceptions of places. Whereas I found Brechin an enjoyable outing these boys were so bored that they risked climbing into a fountain and clearly could not wait for the day they could leave the town.
Take a train to Montrose. It takes around 1 hour, 40 minutes to 2 hours from Edinburgh or Glasgow, depending on which train service you travel on. It is a 4.3 mile cycle from Montrose station to Bridge of Dun, where the Caledonian Railway has a station. On summer weekends steam or diesel trains travel to Brechin.
The Montrose Basin Cycle Route will take you there, mainly alongside the A935 on a segregated path or on the pavement. After 3.8 miles you come to a sign for Bridge of Dun, take this left turn and at the bottom of this road you will come to Bridge of Dun station.
Both steam and diesel trains operate on the Caledonian Railway on weekends in the summer. If you have a preference for diesel or steam you should check the Caledonian Railway website to see which services will be running on which dates.
Read my blog about the Caledonian Railway
Why not visit the House of Dun? It is a short distance away from Bridge of Dun. Read my blog about the House of Dun