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
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.