For details on the rides below see my Strava.
Edinburgh has a surprisingly good cycling network for such an old city covered in cobblestones and steep hills. It is possible to pretty much circumnavigate the city centre entirely on shared pedestrian/cycling paths. The city has managed this by re-purposing a bunch of disused railways (much like Sydney did with the new light rail running along old freight lines). The railway lines mean the paths have a manageable incline over longer distances – great for accessibility and commuting, and as they are often cut into the terrain which places them below street level, they give a new and shadier perspective to the city.
The ride below makes use of most of the converted railway paths, as well as sections of the canal paths and the Portobello waterfront. The little hook near Leith is a warning to not always trust Googlemaps. It lead me in a loop, past a sewer treatment plant, that was cut off at one end by a 10ft wire fence. The ride is about 40km of which about 5km is on road, though much of this is on quiet residential streets rather than high traffic roads.
The section from Newington through to Portobello is almost entirely downhill and probably the most aesthetically pleasing section, along with the Portobello foreshore, though that section has heavy pedestrian traffic for much of its length.
Heading out of town the re-purposing of disused railways and canal service paths has continued and although some of these sections are not sealed they are still manageable on a road bike. The path along the Union Canal is mixed service, sometimes concrete, sometimes rough gravel, sometimes compacted gravel and sometimes tarmac. There isn’t much traffic on the paths but as you get closer to the city pedestrian traffic increases, particularly about 2km out. Cycleways along the A90 to Dalmeny and Queensferry from the city have been completed, though a detour into Dalmeny estate is possible and certainly more appealing than riding alongside a highway. My initial plan here was to ride from Queensferry to Linlithgow and back along the canal to the city, however, I got a little lost coming out of Abercorn and found myself on a high traffic road with no shoulder and a lot of trucks. Unsure of how long that would last (and how long I would last) I headed directly south to the canal instead of continuing eastwards. There is a path along the foreshore to Blackness but I’m not sure what condition that track is in – as far as I can tell it isn’t suitable for a road bike but I’ll investigate next ride.
The trip below was a bit of a navigational disaster. I planned to get myself to North Berwick and catch a train back to the city. I ended up riding just over 60km – the distance to North Berwick but didn’t get there in time. Since I had to get back to the city in time to pick up the kid from day care, I had to cut this “short” – in terms of not reaching my destination even though the distance was about right. There are large sections of dedicated cycleway on this path – if followed correctly. I didn’t follow correctly as can be seen in the numerous circles, dead ends etc. The ride along the shore from Prestonpans to Longniddry was a little disappointing, though the 8km section of compacted dirt/gravel from Longniddry to Haddington is really nice to ride along (another re-purposed railway). If I were to ride out to North Berwick again I’d probably take a different route inland (the coast always seems to have a horrible headwind) as there is another path into Haddington via Pencaitland.
This ride took me south to Roslin Castle (which is free and very much worth a visit and much more interesting to the not-free Abbey up the hill). Much of the ride south is on shared road where a bicycle symbol has been painted in a very narrow shoulder, often with parked cars in the way. However, once you get to Gilmerton you can attach to off-road shared pedestrian paths, which start at the back of the Morrison’s at Gilmerton and stretches through Loanhead (via the newly completed railway conversion) down to Roslin. It is a really nice ride through the countryside here.
The castle is quite small (comparatively) but is set on a rocky outcrop in a valley with an intact stone bridge for access and a number of walls are still standing. There is a privately owned house, which is probably one of the most awesome places to live. Before crossing the North River Esk a trail heads down to the river and a ruined mill, along with some other structures. This is a beautiful secluded place and well worth both the gravel ride into the valley and the steps up the south bank. Once up the bank another converted railway (including a number of station platforms) heads into Dalkeith and then another cycleway leads down into Musselburgh and to Portobello. This entire section is largely downhill and mostly on dedicated off-road cyclepaths. The section into Dalkeith is mostly compacted direct (entirely suitable for road bikes) while the section from Dalkeith is sealed.