When was the last time you went to North Berwick? Or have you ever been? If the answers are either ‘not in ages’ or ‘nope, never’ then perhaps it’s time you went on a little adventure.
The Editor enjoys a good adventure, and that’s why on Sunday afternoon the water bottle was filled, tyres were pumped and helmet was on for a little cycling adventure to North Berwick. In actual fact it’s something I’ve meant to do all summer, so with some late-summer sun set to last all afternoon and a little free time it seemed like time for a well earned break for the city and an adventure on two wheels.
Obviously you’re meant to plan your route perfectly in advance, but that didn’t quite happen. Armed with a good internal sense of direction, the knowledge that a combination of the National Cycling Routes 1 & 76 and the John Muir Way would get me there and some unfounded confidence I set off. Luckily there are loads of sign posts and road signs for North Berwick, so full planning isn’t really necessary. There’s actually about six miles of cycling in the city to do first, but with the tunnel starting by the Commonwealth Pool, and what I assume is an old railway line virtually the entire way to Musselburgh is flanked by fields and greenery.
The coastline of East Lothian is pretty stunning, and it’s amazing just how much of the time you’re right along side it. There are also loads of signs for the various routes and ways, and only once did I think I’d navigated away from where I was meant to be (although there is a chance that there just wasn’t any signs for a bit). Fields, hedgerows and the occasional town, it’s a pretty picturesque landscape – the one blip on the horizon, the old power station at Cockenzie.
I was surprised to find that the John Muir Way actually goes round the coastal side of the old plant. Now just a shell, there’s something rather abandoned and sad about Cockenzie, its two chimneys now just a relic of what once was (although granted not quite the picturesque skyline filler we have in these parts). I also discovered that whilst lots of people have started taking panoramic photos on their phone from moving vehicles it does not work for a bike on rough ground, unless we can call it modern art of course.
By the time I pedalled in to North Berwick it was about four and the 26 miles just covered hadn’t actually taken as long as I’d expected (nor been nearly as exhausting as East Lothian’s coast is a lot flatter than the city). With the bike locked up I went on a wander round the harbour – who knew there was a lobster hatchery there? – and out to the point. The sea down here is of course dominated by the Bass Rock and I had flashbacks of school trips to the Sea Bird Centre when it first opened to look at the gannets. The guanau covered rock was dazzling in the sun, although I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have been nearly as pleasant up close.
A walk around town and then a stroll down the beach makes you very hungry, so the final part of the adventure was deciding where to have fish and chips from – clearly a necessary part of any coastal trip. With the sun shining it was The Lobster Shack that won, and pretty soon a freshly cooked breaded fillet of fish was in front of me, accompanied by some golden chips and a little salad. There is something amazing about food this fresh and cooked in front of you – it may come in a little brown box and be cooked in a shack, but in many ways I think this makes it better.
After another stroll down these beautiful white sands and a bit of reminiscing of four years spent in St Andrews, where being able to go for a beach walk feels much like a human right, and wishing I lived nearer such a beach it was almost time to go home. The sun was sinking slightly and after being distracted by the ice cream shop it was time for the trip back. Although this time I cheated and took the train.
The next time the sun is out and you have a little free time, take a little trip down to East Lothian and North Berwick (there are buses and trains, if you don’t have a car). Most of the way for cyclists is actually off the roads, so there are not many points where you are rubbing shoulders with the cars. The views you get along the way – and when you get there – make it very much worth the effort.