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.
The guard, resplendent in suit, waistcoat and hat, looked impatiently at his watch. He paced up and down the outside of the carriages. "Come on! We leave at 11," he said to the men connecting the diesel locomotive to the carriages. Then everything is ready and he shouts out, "all aboard!" A whistle is blown, doors are slammed and the engine growls as it accelerates away from the platform.
For an authentic experience of how British Railways used to be the Caledonian Railway is a great day out and easy to reach by bicycle.
Brechin railway station, with its glass canopy, clock and 'Caledonian Railway' sign in decorative ironwork, is joyful. And stepping inside is very much a step back to that golden era of railways that people talk of. Tickets are bought from shuttered hatches and there is a railing, highly decorative, of course, to control queuing at the ticket window.
Walking around the station and the platforms you will find plenty of items that add to the feeling of being in a different century. There are old advertising sings, luggage barrels and even an old car.
I took a seat in a compartment for the novelty value. Railway compartments no longer exist on Britain's railways, so being able to slide shut a door and have a part of the train all to yourself is an experience to relish. The fabric on the seats was worn, some of the springs had gone, but it was so much more comfortable than the seat on the modern train I had taken to Montrose.
Pulling down an armrest and sinking into the seats of a British Rail compartment you cannot help but think that passenger comfort has diminished somewhat in the modern era of railways.
The other carriages have open saloons, where some of the seats have quite striking colour schemes.
All of the staff were dressed to the railway nines, including the young boy who asked "would you like to buy a smashed penny for our boiler appeal? They cost £1." I was curious about what a smashed penny is, so I bought one and found that it is exactly that- a smashed one pence coin, flattened with a heavy duty tool.
This line had closed to passenger traffic in the early 1950s, but since 1993 a preserved railway has run services on a 4 mile section between Brechin and Bridge of Dun. It operates mainly during summer weekends. It is a pleasant ride through farming country.
Both steam and diesel trains operate on the line. During my visit the carriages were pulled by a diesel locomotive. 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.
At Bridge of Dun it is worth taking the short trip from the station to the bridge that crosses the River South Esk. The bridge is impressive with interesting architectural flourishes- you can read about it on my blog.
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
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.
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.
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.
Other things to see and do
Take the Montrose Basin Cycle Route all the way around Montrose Basin. This is about 10 miles and means that you can do a circular route from and to Montrose station. You could pop in to the Montrose Basin Visitor Centre.
Before you reach the turn off for Bridge of Dun you will pass the entrance to House of Dun, a National Trust property where you can go on a tour of the house and explore the grounds.
Brechin is worth exploring for interesting architecture and the cathedral.