Departing Kirkcaldy we hug the coastline of the Firth of Forth towards our crossing at the road bridge alongside the more famous cantilever rail bridge, designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker. Opened in 1890 it held the record for the longest single cantlilever bridge span until 1917 when beaten by the Quebec Bridge, Canada.
As we are mainly keeping to the coast at this time, there’s little in the way of climbing to bother our riders.
Having crossed the Firth of Forth we take a left turn and head for Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh. Keeping to the coast, predominantly, we bypass Auld Reekie and it’s highlights such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse passing by Leith and the Royal yacht onwards to Musselburgh.
Musselburgh is known as the “Honest Toun” and celebrates this by the annual election of an Honest Lad and Lass. This dates back to 1332 when the Regent of Scotland, Randolph, Earl of Moray died in the burgh after a long illness during which he was devotedly cared for by its citizens. His successor offered to reward the people for their loyalty but they declined, saying they were only doing their duty. The new regent, the Earl of Mar, was impressed and said they were a set of honest men, hence “Honest Toun”.
Honesty may be needed as the ride departs the coast, crossing the A1 and heads for the Borders, the Lammermuir Hills, and starts to climb. Hopefully keeping some 10 miles inland will shelter us from any sea breezes. Anyone who has driven this way, can possibly recollect wrestling with the steering wheel against heavy cross-winds.
Onwards through some interestingly named villages, such as Longformacus and Duns crossing into England. It was on the River Tweed here that Edward I of England met the Scots nobility in 1292 to decide on the future king of Scotland.
Shortly after entering England, and some 10 miles to the east of our designated route is Holy Island and Lindisfarne.
Locally the island is rarely referred to by its Anglo-Saxon name of ‘Lindisfarne’. Following on from the murderous and bloodthirsty attack on the monastery by the Vikings in 793AD, it obtained its local name from the observations made by the Durham monks: ‘Lindisfarne - baptised in the blood of so many good men - truly a ‘Holy Island’. Its more appropriate title is ‘The Holy Island of Lindisfarne’.
Onwards and southwards, through villages towards our destination.
Etal Castle, set in the village of Etal by a ford over the River Till was built by Robert Manners as a defence against Scots raiders in the mid 14th century, it fell to James IV’s invading Scots army in 1513, immediately before their catastrophic defeat at nearby Flodden.
Lilburn Tower is a privately owned 19th century mansion house at Lilburn, near Wooler. The property is a Grade II listed building and forming part of the Lilburn Estate. A number of discreet buildings and monuments are scattered across the grange, including the Hurlestone, Hurlestone Tower, and an astronomical observatory.
Skirting the edge of the Northumberland National Park to the west the route ambles into Alnwick . The profile indicates a rolling finish and a well-deserved rest after some 111 miles and 4000ft. of climbs.
The town of Alnwick’s greatest building by far is Alnwick Castle, one of the homes of the Duke of Northumberland, and site of The Alnwick Garden. It dominates the west of the town, above the River Aln.
Four days down, and some fearsome climbing ahead. The North Yorkshire Moors beckon tomorrow.
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