At Inveresk Lodge Gardens you will enter a haven, an escape from the city, a place to sit and clear your head. As soon as you walk through the entrance gate your nose will be delighted by the sweet scents of flowers, plants and herbs. There are immaculate lawns, staircases and pathways to lead you through this gorgeous place. It is only an 8 mile cycle from Edinburgh.
To get here by bicycle follow my Edinburgh to Musselburgh route guide. When you reach the path alongside the River Esk continue along this until you see a passageway on the right hand side that leads uphill on gravel. It is probably a good idea to push the bike up most of this because it is quite steep and the gravel difficult to get a grip on.
At the top you turn right onto a road that goes through the village of Inveresk. You will be immediately struck by the grandness of some of the properties, some in bright colour tones. It feels like a lovely place to live.
It is only about one minute of cycling through the village before you spot the sign for the gardens, which are located on the right.
Inside the entrance there are some handy bike racks, so you can park up before heading through the gate into the garden.
The first thing you will see is an immaculate lawn with perfect vertical stripes. It makes you think that someone bent down with a pair of scissors to get it looking this good. Facing this is the house, Inveresk Lodge, built in 1683. This white house is not open to the public, but interesting to note that its first owner was Sir Richard Colt, Solicitor-General to King Charles II. I took a peek through a window and could see a grand wood paneled room with an antique rocking horse.
Adjacent to the house there is an Edwardian conservatory where you can step inside and have a look at the potted plants and enjoy the wonderful aromas. There is also information panels that explain the history of the gardens.
Leaving the conservatory you will find a terraced walkway that is crammed with a variety of colourful flowers and plants. This is a joy to stroll along. From up here there are impressive views of the distant Pentland Hills. It is almost unbelievable that you are just a short distance from built-up urban areas. You are reminded of this by the background din from traffic on the A1 road, but the bird song triumphs over this.
As you wander around you will come across many interesting features like the sundial at the centre of the garden, dating back to 1644. There is a water feature with a gentle trickle, a decorative urn and a wooden staircase leading you through thick foliage.
There are plenty of benches dotted around the gardens, so lots of opportunities to have seat a take a few moments to appreciate the surroundings.
The lower garden consists of a large meadow and a pond, bordered by woodland. The singing from blackbirds, wrens and thrushes is particularly prominent in this area.
My video gives an excellent impression of what you can expect on a visit to these gardens:
How to get there
Start in the Meadows in Edinburgh and follow the National Cycle Route One signs. A full description of the route can be found in my Edinburgh to Musselburgh route guide.
Follow the route until you reach the wooded path by the River Esk. Turn left along this path and look out for the uphill gravel path on the right-hand side. This will take you up to the village of Inveresk. If you don't fancy cycling back you can use the train station at Musselburgh.
A beer brewed in East Lothian with a malty taste. If you are doing the cycle route from Edinburgh to Musselburgh and would like a local beer after your ride then this is the one.
Knops Beer Company was started in 2010 and has a brewery within the Archerfield Estates, near the villages of Gullane and Dirleton.
I like the picture on the bottle of the beer. It depicts the famous Musselburgh Racecourse and the name of the beer gives the impression that it is to do with losing money on a bet at horse racing. However, the story behind the beer is nothing to do with horses.
Back in the day a brewer's drayman accidentally spilt a large amount of beer from one of the casks. He was worried about his boss finding out so filled up the cask from a stream on the road to Musselburgh and delivered it to a pub where he hoped that nobody would notice. When he returned to the pub later the landlady told him that it was the best beer she had ever tasted and her customers loved it! She described it as "brisk". The drayman then told his boss about the accident and the unexpected result, so the brewer started to produce the new ale and a drink with this character became known as "Musselburgh Broke."
The malt taste is quite strong, but the gentle carbonation and a slight sweet taste makes it refreshing to drink.
Walk into a magical world of ancient machinery, cogs and cranks turning to the rhythm of the water wheel that powers them. This is Preston Mill in East Lothian. A unique experience that can be visited by bicycle.
Fans of Outlander will recognise Preston Mill, as it featured in the series. Visits to the mill are by a short guided tour. The highlight is being able to watch the machinery at work. I was fascinated that the cogs slow down and speed up, depending on how fast the waterwheel moves. You get the feeling of something that is predominantly dependent on nature rather than human intervention, something more organic than machine. This is now quite alien in today's technology, which is why it is so special to see this.
The building itself is quite unusual. I have not seen anything like it before. The roof is inevitably compared to a witch's hat or something from the imagination of J.K. Rowling or Tolkien, but it serves a practical purpose. It houses a furnace to dry the grain.
There are chains to pull up the bags of grain to avoid the previous practice of people carrying it on their backs.
This building was added to through the years as successive generations of millers built up their knowledge and experience and looked for the least labour intensive methods.
I liked my guide's theory that it was probably the apprentices who suggested the improvements. The miller would have been used to doing things the same way for years, but an apprentice would spot new ways of working. This is exactly what happens in today's modern workplace when new people are employed and suggest improvements.
Outside the mill you can have a look at the waterwheel at work.
Take a short walk across the river to get a closer look at the curious beehive-shaped structure. Can you guess what it is?
It is a 16th century doocot that housed 500 pigeons for the purpose of eating them. Pigeons were once a delicacy for the owners of large estates, but they were a nuisance to farmers as one bird could gobble 100 kg of grain per year.
There were pigeons flying in and out of it during my visit , so it looked like it was still providing a home for birds.
How to get to Preston Mill
Preston Mill is just under 6 miles from the nearest train station at Drem, so you can cycle there direct from the station using the map below.
Or for a circular route that starts at Longniddry station and ends at Drem follow these steps:
East Linton. You would be hard pressed to find a prettier village. Colourful flower beds, a row of characterful buildings and a fountain with golden figures. When you are cycling on Route 76 it is worth stopping to have a look around and then head to the nearby Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom for a spot of lunch next to the bird feeders.
The previous blog covers the cycle route from Haddington to Hailes Castle. From the castle continue along the narrow road for just under 2 miles and you will enter East Linton over a bridge crossing the River Tyne.
The village has a variety of buildings, which makes it an interesting and attractive place to walk around.
In this photo I like the small white house with the round window in its gable, sandwiched between the grander white building and the stone cottage:
There are some of the characteristic East Lothian cottages with their red roof tiles. In this photo I like how the window to the right of the door is higher up than the window to the left of the door:
The centrepiece of the village is the cast-iron fountain with figures of four boys pouring urns. There is a decorative lamp stand on the top of the fountain.
There are a couple of places to eat in the village, but I tried the Smeaton Nursery Gardens and Tearoom less than a mile away, down a long driveway (marked on the map below).
I had pea and watercress soup, a coffee cake and a cappuccino. It was excellent food, but what I loved the best about this tearoom was being able to watch the bird feeders out of the window. A blue tit arrived at one of the feeders just as I sat down. It was pecking at the seeds and I noticed that more seed seemed to end up on the ground than in his beak!
I tried to take a photograph of the birds, but each time I positioned my camera they flew off, so these photos are not brilliant.
The birds waited in a nearby hedge and then flew over to the feeders once the coast was clear. Each time that I made a movement to take a photo the birds flew away back to the hedge. They waited there until they felt safe enough to come back to the feeder. Again, when I moved they flew back to the hedge. I decided to sit still and enjoy watching them than trying to get a perfect photo.
East Linton is due to have its train station reopened. This is written into the contract of the current operator of the Scotrail franchise, but no dates has yet been set. It does mean that it will be much easier to reach this village and access the surrounding area by bicycle.
Where to next?
Preston Mill is in East Linton and well worth a visit. Read my blog about Preston Mill.
How to get to East Linton
East Linton is just under 6 miles from the nearest train station at Drem. For a circular route that starts at Lingniddry station and ends at Drem follow these steps
This ruined castle, once visited by Mary Queen of Scots, sits on a peaceful spot next to the River Tyne. You can explore the great hall, the vaulted kitchens and enjoy the views over the river and the surrounding countryside. The grassy area in front of the castle is a perfect picnic spot. Hailes castle is on National Cycle Route 76 and easy to reach from Haddington.
My previous blog describes the route from Longniddry train station to Haddington. Use this route to connect with the route from Haddington to Hailes castle- the castle is 4.3 miles from Haddington. Look for the Route 76 blue cycle signs in the town and these will send you in the right direction. You can also use the map at the end of this blog.
Once you leave the town you will be on quiet country roads. This is flat farming country, the only exception being one hill- Traprain Law- that dominates the horizon. You will see it continually as you head towards the castle.
The final one mile to the castle is on a very narrow road. Whenever a car appeared in front or behind me it was necessary for me to stop and pull right over to let it pass.
The entry to the castle is completely charming with a path crossing a tricking stream. Several people were using the grassy area as a picnic spot and children were having a fantastic time running around and exploring the castle.
This is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, dating from the early 1200s. It does not take very long to look around. There are some staircases to go up and down, some doorways to go in and out and plenty of window holes to gaze out from.
The great hall is intact, but roofless. Perhaps Mary Queen of Scots feasted here when she spent one night at the castle in 1567. She was on the way to Edinburgh for the wedding to her third husband, James Hepburn.
I have seen many Scottish castles, so I cannot help to compare them and look for what is unique and special about one particular castle versus others. Hailes is far from the most exciting that I have visited because it is small and does not take long to explore. Its best feature is the tranquil location by the river with the grass lawn being a superb place to relax in the sun for a few hours. I also enjoyed the narrow road that takes you to the castle, thick with trees and dotted with farmhouses and cottages.
Where to go next?
Cycle two more miles to the village of East Linton. My next blog will show you what to see and do there.
For an easy day out take the 18 minute train journey from Edinburgh to Longniddry. From there you can cycle the 4.5 mile traffic-free path to Haddington. This is a disused railway with information panels about the line's history and the wildlife that lives here.
At Longniddry station the start of the path is marked with a large wooden sign announcing the distance to Haddington. There is also a warning to be on the look out for thieves. I would not worry, you are quite safe on this peaceful path.
There are information posts at regular intervals along the route. They are in the style of railway signals and you operate them by pushing them down to raise the "signal". This reveals a panel with information about wildlife or the line's history. It is a clever design that pays homage to the railway heritage of the path.
This branch line was closed in 1968, but there have been calls to reopen it on the basis that the population of Haddington is increasing and many people commute to Edinburgh.
There is plenty of evidence of the railway, mainly in the form of these stone bridges:
This photograph provides a good view of the colossal stones used in the construction of these bridges:
There is something that looks like a pond alongside the path. This had been a tank for the steam engines to load up on water. Nowadays it provides a home for frogs, toads and water beetles:
I enjoyed reading about events in the railway's past on the information panels. There had been a regular train that carried manure from Edinburgh police horses to be used as fertiliser on East Lothian farms. In 1937 a train went straight through the buffers at Haddington station. It was thought that frost on the rails caused the accident.
This is a popular path, so you will likely come across walkers, joggers and other cyclists.
Once in Haddington cycle up to Station Yard industrial estate where you can find the surviving station building on a piece of platform.
I used this cycle route to reach the radio station, East Coast FM, located at Station Yard. I was invited to speak on air about my blog and cycling in Scotland.
Haddington is an attractive town with neat streets and interesting buildings, so it is worth having a look around.
There is a sculpture of two goats fighting. They are up on their hind legs and head butting each other. The goat is the emblem of Haddington and it is on the town’s coat-of-arms.
Next: cycle to Hailes Castle
My next blog covers the route from Haddington to Hailes Castle.
Visit a whisky distillery
This railway path features in the cycle route to Glenckinchie distillery. Read my feature about cycling to the distillery.
Visit a motor museum, Concorde and the birthplace of Scotland's flag
Drem, the next station along from Longniddry, provides easy cycling access to these attractions. Read my blog about where you can cycle to from Drem
One of Scotland's most dramatically situated castles can be reached easily from Edinburgh using the train and a bicycle. Tantallon Castle is perched on a rocky coastline, surrounded by cliffs, and has stunning views of the Bass Rock with its 150,000 gannets.
From Edinburgh Waverley station take a train to North Berwick (35 minutes). North Berwick station is the end of this line and once had stone buildings and an elegant canopied roof, but this was all demolished in the 1980s. Today there is little more than a small kiosk with a sign stating "confectionery and newspapers."
Take the A198 to the castle
You have to cycle 6km on an A-road that has a steady amount of traffic, but the road is wide enough for safe overtaking. For a large part of the road a pavement runs alongside it. Although this is not marked as a cycle path it is not heavily used by pedestrians. Unfortunately it does not go all the way to the castle and there is no choice but to use the road for a final, short stretch.
This is a coastal road, giving views across golden fields to the blue sea and the Bass Rock. On the return trip the view is even better because you can see Berwick Law, a hill that dominates the landscape for miles. The surrounding area is mainly flat so Berwick Law looks mountainous and gives the impression that it towers over the town.
On reaching the castle car park you have to leave your bicycle here and then purchase a ticket from the kiosk to enter the castle. The approach to the castle involves a walk across this bridge.
The castle has a stunning profile with towers, the sea behind it and the Bass Rock to the left.
There is another wooden bridge to cross to get inside the castle:
The bridge crosses a wide, deep ditch that was an inegral part of the defences. This view shows the ditch and the mighty towers that have stood here since the 1350s:
Once you are through the door and inside you will find this an exciting place to explore. There are plenty of spiral stairs, with rope handrails to grab onto, narrow passages and hideouts.
On leaving the castle I commented on the stairs and passages to the steward and he said, "yes, it's a good fitness regime." If you are disappointed by the short cycle on this route, then fear not! The castle itself is going to give you plenty of exercise.
I peered down a 32 meter deep well and discovered the shaft to be thriving with jungle-like foliage. It was like a lost world down there. The plant in the well is hart's tongue fern.
It turns out that the castle provides a home for many flowers and plants. The old stone walls are like a rock garden for wild thyme and wall pepper, a plant whose leaves have a peppery taste. So, the castle walls are a good place to pick up salad ingredients!
The castle ditches also provide nourishment in the form of scurvy-grass, a plant rich in Vitamin C that sailors once munched to ward off scurvy.
I found a narrow passageway to a latrine where I looked through the hole to a view of the sea lapping far below. I liked the idea of a bathroom with the sound of the sea below.
The sea was gentle during my visit. It made a soothing, calming sound as I made my way around the castle.
There are many windows that give views over the grassy courtyard, out to sea and the Bass Rock.
When you walk out into the courtyard and turn around to look at the castle facade it is equally as impressive as the landward view of the building.
The landside view from the castle looks across fields towards Berwick Law. I could hear geese from a nearby farm and watched two horses grazing. It was peaceful now and almost impossible to imagine the siege of 1491 when King James IV brought catapults and dug trenches. This siege and others failed to take the castle, a testament to the strength of the building.
How to get there
Making use of the train and a bicycle makes it easy to visit the castle, otherwise you need a car or plan a journey using train and local bus to get there as a day trip from Edinburgh.
The train takes 35 minutes from Edinburgh and it is a 12km return cycle trip,
If you want more of a cycle you could ride from Edinburgh to Musselburgh and then take the train to North Berwick.
The traffic-free cycle route from Edinburgh to Musselburgh is about 6 miles. It takes you from the city centre to the beach with some interesting diversions on the way. Enjoy cycling through a disused railway tunnel and stop off at Edinburgh's 'other castle.'
The route can be started in the Meadows, the city's main green space. Look for the blue directional signage that points to Musselburgh.
Following these signs will take you out of the Meadows and onto Buccleuch Street. This street has a brilliant segregated bike lane, protected from the road. When this ends you turn right up Gifford Park which is blocked to traffic at the other end and this makes it nice and quiet.
At the end of Gifford Park a cycle and pedestrian crossing light will help you to cross over busy Clerk Street to Rankeillor Street. This is a residential street with a one-way system that helps to keep traffic volume low. There is some segregate cycling infrastructure at the end of this street that leads you across St.Leonard's Street to join another, superb, protected bike lane. The blue signage, at this point, states that Musselburgh is 5 miles. Just keep following the signage to guide you through the residential streets that follow.
Soon you will find yourself proceeding down a 320 metre tunnel that was part of a disused railway. This is really exciting to cycle through with dim lighting and a drop in temperature. On a roasting hot day this tunnel is probably the best place in the city to cool down. It always surprises me that the tunnel is actually quite steep inside it, so in this direction it is a speedy descent, but a long and gradual climb on the way back.
This tunnel is one of Edinburgh's secrets and it takes a bit of effort to find it. The entrance is located within a residential complex of flats. It is a very unlikely place to find an old railway tunnel and features on many blogs and books about 'secret Edinburgh.'
The tunnel was part of the Innocent Railway, Edinburgh's first railway, so-called because it was a horse-drawn system in an era when steam engines were considered dangerous. It opened in 1831 and was originally designed to carry coal from Dalkieth to the capital, but passengers became an important source of income.
Disused railways are normally great for cycling because the paths are well-surfaced and flat.
After leaving the tunnel the route takes you past Arthur's Seat and the verges are alive with foliage and flowers.
The route continues along this flat path, shielded by trees and bushes from the busy capital beyond. Barking dogs, lawnmowers and, perhaps, someone practicing their electric guitar the only signs that you are in a major city.
The path soon reaches the remains of a railway cast iron bridge.
At this location there is an information panel about the railway.
Edinburgh's 'Other Castle'
At this point you have an opportunity to make a short detour to Craigmillar Castle. The cycle route crosses Duddingston Road West, but if you turn right onto this road and continue straight on for 1 mile you will reach the castle. More detailed directions, photos and information about the castle are on my blog about the castle.
Dr Neil's Garden
The other diversion from the route is another of Edinburgh's lesser-known attractions and one of my favourites. This garden sits on the banks of Duddingston Loch and can be reached by turning left on Duddingston Road West- it's only a 5 minute cycle. This short on-road stretch can be busy with traffic, so you might prefer to push along the pavement.
This is very much a 'secret garden' as it is hidden away and not greatly advertised by signage. You could easily find yourself wandering around the charming streets of Duddingston Village and not finding any sign of a garden. There is an entrance on Old Church Lane, a set of iron gates with a sign for 'The Manse', or if you go into the car park of Duddingston Kirk Hall you will find a path to the garden.
The garden is enchanting with its water features, little pathways and interesting plants and flowers. It is one of those locations that fools you into thinking you have left the busy city far behind.
Continuing on the cycle path to Musselburgh you will pass through mainly residential areas, parks and playgrounds.
When the path arrives next to the car park for the homewares shop it can be a little confusing about which way to head.
There is also an interesting fountain in Newcraighall. It was constructed by residents "to show their high esteem" for a doctor who served the community for 30 years.
To continue on the route you turn right on Newcraighall Road, but if you turn left you can reach Newhailes, a handsome Georgian villa where you can go on a guided tour and have cake in the stables tearoom.
The route then takes you via Queen Margaret University to Musselburgh train station. From here you travel through estates of semi-detached houses to reach the centre of Musselburgh, via the River Esk path.
You could visit Inveresk Lodge Gardens, accessed from the River Esk path. These are beautiful and peaceful gardens that are worth the short detour. Read my blog about the gardens to find out more.
The River Esk is a great spot to enjoy the sunshine with an ice cream from the famous S.Luca which has been making the stuff since 1908.
After this ride you might want to try a local beer. Read my review of Musselburgh Broke
Read my blog about Newhailes when I went on a tour of this handsome villa.
Musselburgh is in East Lothian and I have written several blogs about cycling and things to see and do in this region. Read about East Lothian
Our carriage drops us at the home of the Dalrymples. We have been invited to dinner. We admire the perfect proportions of the building and proceed to the grand staircase. We are particularly looking forward to seeing the library, which is famous throughout Scotland as a centre of learning and scholarly discussion.
A guided tour to Newhailes begins with a walk into the driveway and up to the front door, the same approach made by distinguished guests of years gone by. My tour guide, Faith, encouraged me to use my imagination and to see myself as an invited dinner guest, making my way up the staircase to proceed through the front door.
Faith encouraged me to feel the banister of the stairs and notice how worn they are. "The National Trust wanted to only preserve and restore what was necessary to keep the building structuarally safe and leave it in a state that the last occupant left it."
This gives the house an authentic lived-in feel, so that it is pretty much as it would have been when Lady Antonia left it to the National Trust in 1997. The house dates from 1686 and remained in the Dalrymple family until the Trust took it over.
Once through that chunky front door I admired the wonderful rococo plasterwork in the hallway- there are lions, birds and fruit. The hallway provides views of the Firth of Forth.
The Dalrymples loved shells and there are shell decorations everywhere. Faith said: "If you get bored of the tour you can always occupy yourself counting the shells."
In the Chinese Sitting Room Lady Antonia had kept a tube of glue close by so that she could stick the shells back on as they had a habit of popping off the wall when she put the fire on.
The library is my favourite room, with its marble fireplace and polar bear rug, and I could imagine curling up to a book in one of the armchairs. However, the shelves are empty, not a single book to be seen. Some books had been sold off to pay for the upkeep of the house. The collection is now in the National Library of Scotland and considered very valuable.
Faith entrusted me with shutting the doors of each room as the tour group left. They are lovely, sturdy, wooden doors that have a satisfying close.
The tour also includes the dining room, bedrooms and the kitchen.
The exit we took from the house was particularly exciting. It was a servant's tunnel, designed so that the family did not have to see the servants. This provided an entry and exit point for the staff where they would not be noticed. There was a peephole to allow the servants to watch for arriving carriages.
The stable block has a cafe where you can enjoy a coffee at a table in one of the stable pens.
The grounds are worth exploring where there is a shell groto, mostly a ruin and no longer decorated with shells. The summer tea house is also a ruin, but you can use your imagination to think how lovely it must have been to enjoy tea taken in the gardens.
You cannot take photos inside Newhailes, but there are good pictures of the interior on the Undiscovered Scotland website.
There is a charge for the guided tour and the house is open from April to October. The National Trust website has full details.
Newhailes is 5 miles from Edinburgh. The cycle route is mostly traffic-free and I have describe this route in the next blog post.
Many cities in Europe have cycle hire schemes, the type where you put a credit card into a machine and then take a bicycle. Earlier in 2015 there were newspaper stories about the possibility of such a scheme coming to Edinburgh. Glasgow already has a scheme with 400 bicycles across 31 hire stations. Abellio, the new operator of Scotrail, announced that they would introduce cycle hire at train stations. Drem station in East Lothian would make an ideal candidate for a cycle hire facility and this is why...
Although the station is in a rural area it is only 25 minutes from Edinburgh and provides easy access to many visitor attractions within short cycling distances. The roads are light on traffic and largely flat, so it is ideal for people new to cycling. The station could easily become a leisure cycling destination with daytrippers travelling from Edinburgh, perhaps it might even be possible to offer a combined rail and cycle hire ticket and even discounted entry to some of the visitor attractions.
I have blogged about the variety of interesting things to see and do from Drem station. Here are five that can be visited on short cycle trips from the station:
Visit Concorde at the National Museum of Flight- 3.8 miles from Drem station
Motoring nostalgia at Myreton Motor Museum- 2 miles from Drem station
Climb to the top of an iron age hill fort- Chesters hill fort is a little over a mile from Drem station
Visit the birthplace of Scotland's flag- 2 miles from Drem station
Climb to the top of a tower for stunning views over the countryside towards the sea- the Hopetoun Monument is a little under 3 miles from Drem station
Do you agree that Drem would be a good place to have a cycle hire scheme? Are there any other train stations that you think should have cycle hire available?
Drem station is one of the best places to arrive with a bicycle because of the sheer variety of destinations within short cycling distances. It is an ideal day trip from Edinburgh as the train takes only 25 minutes to get to Drem. This blog features the Hopetoun Monument, a 4km cycle from Drem. The monument has stunning panoramas of countryside and sea, once you make it to the top of the 132 steps.
The Hopetoun Monument cuts a distinctive shape, rising from a hillside thick with trees. It looks industrial, functional, like a smokestack The countryside is mainly flat in this area, so the monument really stands out and will pique your curiosity. I didn't know anything about it until I came here and deciced to cycle towards it to find out what it is.
There is a small car park where the path up to the monument begins. You can leave your bike in the car park whilst you head up the path. There is an impressive mixture of trees, including beech, oak, ash, sycamore and Scots pine.
It is quite a steep climb up the Byres hill, but only takes around 10 minutes to reach the door of the monument.
A plaque on the tower states that the monument was built in 1824 in memory of the 4th Earl of Hopetoun.
The chances are that it will be windy up here and even windier at the top of the tower. As I made my way up the stairs I could hear the wind billowing and it buffeted me each time I passed the narrow windows that run up the tower.
Some of the window recesses were filled with tiny little twigs, once a nest for birds.
This short video records the last few steps to the top of the monument and the incredible view from the top:
From the top you can see the expanse of East Lothian's fertile lands. You can see out to the Firth of Forth, the Pentland Hills and The Lammermuir Hills.
To reach the Hopetoun Monument turn left out of Drem station onto the B1377. Then take the first left- this road will take you past Chesters Hill Fort, which is also worth visiting. When this road emerges at a junction take a right on the B1343.
I have been blogging about the interesting things to see and do from Drem station. Within very short cycling distances of the station there is an amazing variety of places to ride to, from the birthplace of Scotland's flag to the cockpit of Concorde. This blog visits Chesters Hill Fort.
From Edinburgh Waverly station the train takes 25 minutes to reach Drem, located in East Lothian. The station is the prettiest on this line that travels as far as the seaside town of North Berwick. The stone cottage-style station house is now a private residence from where you can buy free range eggs.
Chesters Hill Fort is a 10-minute cycle from the station. If you are expecting some sort of wooden fortress protecting a village of huts with smoking fires then you will be disappointed. The large mound of grass that formed the ramparts is all that remains, but there is an information panel that will help you to picture what this place was like 2000 years ago.
This visit is as much about walking as it is cycling. To get an impression of how big the fort was, and it is quite an extensive site, it is worth walking up the ramparts. You may have to dodge past some curious cows during your walk- this is farming country after all. From the top you will have an extensive view of all that luscious agricultural land and all the way to the sea.
It is mainly flat apart from one obvious chunk of hill in the far distance. This is North Berwick Law, which also had an Iron-Age hill fort. If you take the train (or cycle) to the next station on the line, North Berwick, you can hike up the hill for some of the best views in East Lothian.
Chesters has not been excavated so there is not very much known about the site. In the Second World War it was used as an observation post for the airfield at RAF Drem.
To reach Chesters Hill Fort take a left out of Drem station onto the B1377. Then take the first left and follow this road until you reach the turnoff for the fort. The turnoff is a steep road and during my visit the fields were full of huge bails of hay. The the rest of the route is fairly easy on the leg muscles. It will only take about 10 minutes to cycle there.
You will have time to fit in one or more of the other cycle trips that can be done from Drem station:
The National Museum of Flight to visit Concorde
Myreton Motor Museum
Athelstaneford, the birthplace of Scotland's flag
Discover the story of Scotland's flag on a 2 mile cycle from Drem station.
Drem is located in East Lothian, 25 minutes from Edinburgh, and is within cycling distance of many interesting attractions. This blog covers the village of Athelstaneford where the Scottish flag comes from.
It is a 2 mile cycle from Drem station to Athelstaneford. From the station take a left turn onto the B1377, then the first left, which crosses over the railway.
Look out for the old fashioned road signs that are beautifully maintained in this area.
The village of Athelstaneford, like all of East Lothian, is characterised by distinctive red roofed cottages.
The village is tiny and the main focus is the Parish Kirk, where there is a large sign for the Flag Heritage Centre.
The Flag Centre is free to enter and located behind the church in a doocot that dates from the 1580s. Inside there is an audio visual presentation about the Scottish flag.
The origins of the flag can be traced to a battle in 832. King Angus led an army of Picts and Scots against a Northumbrian army near Athelstaneford. Angus was outnumbered and the night before the battle he prayed for victory. When he went to sleep he had a dream in which Saint Andrew promised that Angus would win the battle. In the morning of the battle an unusual cloud formation appeared in the sky- a white cross against a blue sky background. Angus took this to be an omen and his army won the battle, despite being outnumbered.
It will not take long to visit the village and the Flag Heritage Centre, so you may wish to add on one of the other cycle trips you can do from Drem station. How about Myreton Motor Museum? Or the National Museum of Flight.
My previous blog post described a cycling journey from Drem station to the National Museum of Flight. Another trip you can do from Drem is the 2 miles to Myreton Motor Museum.
This station is just 25 minutes from Edinburgh and is located within the fertile lands of East Lothian. The station has a stone cottage, picket fence and flower pots. This view of the platform shows the lamp posts that I think look like a modern reinterpretation of the type of lamps that that might have been in use when steam locomotives still plied this line.
To reach Myreton Motor Museum turn left on leaving the station, onto the B1377. Then take the first right which goes under the railway. This road is typical of the quiet hedge-lined routes in East Lothian.
Within ten minutes you will reach the white building of the motor museum. It is not a big museum and if you are not very interested in motor vehicles you might find that half an hour is enough time.
But if you are fascinated by this sort of thing you will want to read every information panel and admire all of the vehicles from every angle. There are certainly some beautiful cars on display.
Some of the cars have fascinating histories. For example, the 1925 Morris Oxford in the picture below. This was bought from a scrap yard by Willie Dale in 1952. He took the car home to give it a good clean and then discovered an unopened letter down the side of the seats. It turned out that the letter had been written by his aunt and the car had been owned by his grandfather when it was new!
A close up of the seats in the Morris Oxford:
There are some bicycles on display at the museum. They have handwritten notes giving their history:
Amongst the sports cars and glamorous classic there are some unexpected vehicles, such as this Hilman Husky.
I enjoyed this little museum, but it doesn't take long to see all the exhibits, so you might want to combine it with one of the other nearby attractions. There is plenty more that you can cycle to from Drem station. Why not try the National Museum of flight where you can see Concorde?
Myreton Motor Museum has an entry charge, which is currently £7 for adults (March 2015).
Take a train to Drem, only 25 minutes from Edinburgh, and you will be spoilt for choice for cycling destinations. It has to be one of the best placed train stations for the number of interesting things that are easily cycled to. Top of the list is Concorde at the Museum of Flight , but there is also a motor museum and the birthplace of Scotland's national flag.
Drem station is located within the farming landscapes of East Lothian. If you come here as a foot passenger you will find it more challenging to travel to the places I mention here. There are bus services, but a bicycle makes it easier and because the distances are short and there are few hills you don't need to be super fit to enjoy this.
I think that Drem is the prettiest of all the stations along this line. It has a stone cottage that is now a private home. You can buy free range eggs here and during one visit the owners were trying to sell a mangle.
National Museum of Flight
On leaving the station turn right and follow the B1377. The museum is well sign-posted. The road is flat, fairly quiet and it is 3.8 miles to the museum. This is farming country so you will see fields of enticing produce:
You will also see some of the typical East Lothian rows of cottages:
At the Museum of Flight you can board Concorde and visit the passenger cabin and view the cockpit.
"I'm still impressed to think of all those people having their roast beef and champagne behind you while you're cruising at a speed slightly faster than a rifle bullet." Brian Tubshaw, Concorde test pilot.
Concorde could travel from London to New York in 3.5 hours. It took 4 hours longer to travel on a normal airliner. There was and still is no faster way to travel by plane. The Concorde experience was exclusive to the rich and famous and a ticket was beyond the average person, so being able to see the inside of this aircraft is quite a special experience.
Whereas most of us could only dream of flying in this aircraft once in a lifetime, some people could afford to use it as standard transportation. Rod Stewart once flew over his stylist to America to sort out a haircut that went wrong and one wealthy New York socialite paid £2,500 to fly over a favourite box of Mayfair chocolates so that she could have them at a party.
Concorde's last flight was in 2003, but the aircraft still looks like something from the future. It is incredible that something that could fly this fast will never take off again and that there is nothing to replace it, but there were several factors that led to its retirement- a Concorde had crashed in 2000, there was a general slump in the aviation industry and maintenance costs were huge.
The museum tells the story of this remarkable aircraft with displays and memorabilia, but there is a lot more to the Museum of Flight than Concorde. The site is huge and there are several hangers full of aircraft.
You could easily spend a day at the museum, so there might not be time to cycle to the other attractions near Drem station. Why not return to Drem station again and do one of the other cycle trips that begin at the station?
Part two of this blog will cover the cycle from Drem station to Myreton Motor Museum.
National Museum of Flight is located in East Fortune. It has an entry charge and a café.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.