At this time of year it’s sometimes great just to get away from the city for a bit. Away from the buzzing city and out somewhere where it’s quiet and the air is fresh. It never fails to amaze me that you can do all this and not even leave city limits.
There are places like Blackford Hill or the Braid Hills, Holyrood Park and even Portobello, but one of my favourite places to go is north-west of the centre – the Dalmeny Estate. It’s probably been a month or so since I last went on a little cycling adventure – it was to North Berwick that time – so with good weather and some free time Sunday afternoon seemed like time for a little trip to South Queensferry, taking the long way round through the Dalmeny Estate (all photos are from my phone, so sorry for the quality).
Tucked in between the road out to the Forth Road Bridge and the coast, the estate (we’re talking country estate here, by the way) offers wide open space, green fields, gentle views, wooded patches, the occasional bit of wildlife (my family’s dog goes nuts over the pheasants) and access to great little beaches. It’s hidden away and many people don’t know it exists, making it perfect for a getaway without getting away anywhere far.
A combination of estate roads and rough tracks makes me thankful that I haven’t quite bought a proper road bike (and made me miss the suspension of previous bikes), but it is a fantastic place to go. Whether you’re on a bike, taking a stroll or walking the dog (four legged friends are welcome, so long as they’re on leads) the grounds of the Dalmeny Estate are open to the public. Much of it is still working farmland or wooded, but the paths and roads offer what feels like a walk far out in the countryside although you are still within city limits (albeit on the extremities of them).
Having kicked up a bit of dirt and peddled up a few hills I freewheeled into South Queensferry and pulled up alongside the RNLI Lifeboat Station. It’s one of the most remarkable things that living in Edinburgh makes you so blind to its beauty, I was watching a group of tourists as I locked up my bike, they were staring and taking photos of something. It took me a good minute to work out that it was the Forth Rail Bridge (‘Oh that old thing…’) – clearly I’ve lived here too long and take it all for granted.
I had no real purpose of going to South Queensferry, so did what any self respecting man-child does and promptly went to buy myself an ice cream. Naturally it was delicious (it was from The Rail Bridge, a restaurant/cafe with brilliant panoramic views of the bridges and Forth – which happens to also do a great brunch, if my prior visits are anything to go by) although if I’m perfectly honest it was definitely not warm enough to be sitting in shorts eating ice cream, despite the deliciousness of ‘Vanilla Honeycomb’.
Having done the obligatory looking at the bridges (side note: did you know that the Forth Rail Bridge is the only railway bridge in the UK that isn’t assigned a number? For more ‘fun’ railway facts please see my friend that works for Network Rail – there are many…) I was about to get back on my bike when I realised that there’s actually a bit of the new bridge now poking out over the water – it’s finally getting there! (lefthand side of the picture below, under the existing bridge). Although I feel we should all acknowledge that it definitely should have been called the ‘Third Forth Bridge’.
National Cycle Route 76 is the way back to the city centre with the best views. From South Queensferry it circles back to the Cramond Brig, hugging the coast for the vast majority of it. Perfect in the summer and most likely doable most of winter, it offers big vistas of the Bridges, Fife, Inchcolm and Cramond Island. For me it was the perfect getaway without really getting away anywhere.
Like many such cycling trips there wasn’t really a purpose behind doing it, but if you feel the need to escape city life and see the water I would definitely suggest that Dalmeny is where you should head. There’s the occasional plane going overhead on its way into the airport to deal with, but it’s small price to pay for great views, a beach and somewhere for a coffee or an ice cream at the other side.