The Capital Trail (Halfway!)

The Capital Trail is the first Bikepacking Scotland route created, a perfect challenge for advanced and expert mountain bikers wanting to explore the amazing trails around Edinburgh, in East Lothian and the Scottish Borders.

Day 1 (Portobello Beach)

Kit sorted and waiting for Mark to arrive to pick me up from home, he turned up around 18:25 and we packed up the car to head towards Edinburgh (Portobello Beach) the start point of our yearly epic trip (The Capital Trail).

Got into Edinburgh for about 21:30ish and found a free parking spot near the beach front, unloaded the car and set about loading the bags onto the bikes in the dark, cold night.

Rode to the promenade and along the sea front saw a massive rat 🐀 on the beach, made our way towards Musselburgh Harbour where the route turned inland along smooth cycle track. Navigating purely by the Garmin with only bike lights showing the way we weaved our way through the woods until we reached a clearing and the road towards Carberry Tower Mansion House passed the main mansion then weaved our way into the estate and deeper into the woodland. As time was ticking by we kept our eyes out for a decent spot to camp that was fairly flat-ish, finally found something half decent around 00:30 so set about rigging tarps & tents to climb into our sleeping bags and get some kip 😴

With 8-9 miles done we settled in for the night…

End of day 1/4

Day 2 (Carberry Estate Woods)

Woke up early 05:00 as the woods came alive with birds singing forgot to unpack my beanie hat so spent a restless night with a cold head, although to be fair the sleeping bag did really well considering how cold it had been my feet didn’t feel cold at all. Reluctantly we got up and slowly broke camp and got everything packed away, started back on the route around 05:30 trying to warm up cold hands and feet by spinning the pedals.

We past Elphinstone which was just a quiet village with no signs of shops so pressed on towards Pencaitland which seemed a larger place cycled along a lovely old railway path, nice surface and relatively flat.

The track followed the River Esk for a while before passing through a wooded area and some well hidden buildings nestled in the woods.

Heading towards West Saltoun along farm tracks to more rural locations.

This is where the hills began to grow in size and the mountains appeared in the distance.

The route continued in this vain up steep hills, rest at the top, cool downhills then repeat had to negotiate a few fords en route some went well others ended with a wet foot (thank goodness for waterproof socks)

Luckily I had a water filter to be able to fill up water bottles along the way.

More hills and more pushing followed with stunning views, but tired legs we plodded onwards to the town of Lauder.

Passing a few places of interest… one being a privately owned Bothy named “Tim’s Bothy” looked fab inside, however it was locked up to stop anyone abusing it.

Finally reached Lauder and stopped for a well earned coffee and sandwich, then pushed on towards Tweedbank hoping to get there before dark and get something warm to eat for tea!!

Finally reached the River Tweed late afternoon and pedalled along its banks towards town.

Thoroughly knackered having covered just over 50 miles for the day we arrived at Tweedbank and made the decision to stop at a B&B for the night rather than push on and try and find a camp spot in the dark. We researched online and found somewhere reasonably priced just down the road at Galashiels.

We turned up and spoke to a bizarre old gent named Bill with dreadlocks and red pants!! He sorted out the garage for our bikes and then upgraded us to the family room for the same price 👍 the room was massive, fireplace two settees and two single beds, managed to get a hot shower and dry our socks on the radiators… Bonus.

Got showered and changed then headed out for a bite to eat at a place called Quins… I had haggis Bon-Bon’s followed by sticky chicken, a couple of pints then back to the guest house tucked up in bed by 21:30…

End of day 1 1/4

Day 3 (Galashiels)

Work up around 07:30 having had a warm, comfy nights sleep, socks all dry and well rested we headed for breakfast… cereal bars toast and fruit. Paid are bill to Bill and set about loading up the bikes in preparation for a full on day of climbing headed back towards Tweedbank to pick up the route with a short detour at a local shop for snickers bars and a cheeky scotch pie for later. Took a slight wrong turn heading out of Tweedbank, but didn’t take long to get back on track. First hill of the day wasn’t too bad we passed some logs along the way so had to take a classic bikepacking photo.

The route took us towards Sunderland Hall with it’s well groomed gardens and ancient woodland tracks.

After negotiating the woods the route spat us out at a quiet country road then straight away led us off into another woodland except this one went up and up which involved a lot of pushing with a little bit of riding then back to pushing again as the track became covered with roots making it awkward to navigate.

This went on for what seemed like hours riding, then pushing and repeat with time and energy being drained in equal measure our spirits became dampened a little especially when we had finally cleared the woods only to find more hills in the distance.

On top of the hills we could see the Three Brethran markers and eventually the terrain became rideable again only to find the gradient increase and it was back to pushing. We finally made it to the top and decided to stop for our lunch of pies and chocolate.

The Three Brethran

Some cracking views, but they had definitely been earned this morning and in fact it was getting close to 13:00 which meant we’d spent the majority of the morning pushing our bikes.

At least it should be a cracking downhill… or so we thought because it was all over far too quick then back to climbing again, we decided to head off the route at the next section and bypass an enduro trail that was part of the route instead we landed on a forestry track which was a welcome chance to ride our bikes properly. Around this time we made the joint decision to scrap the route and head for civilisation to take stock of where we were and what our next plan would be… far too many hills between us and Edinburgh with too little time to do it. So riding through Innerleithen bike park we headed for the trail centre and Innerleithen town.

While having a coffee we consulted the maps to find an alternative route back to Portobello Beach and as luck would have it we just happened to be close to Coasts and Castles route 1 which would take a more direct path towards Edinburgh, decision made we rode off to find route 1. This was much better all good terrain riding through a lovely valley that seemed to go on forever then up and over along quiet roads and stunning scenery all the way to Bonnyrigg.

At Bonnyrigg we stopped for a cheeky McDonalds and checked the maps again to find the most direct route back to the car, this involved riding on busier roads, but as it was getting late in the day we used a fair few footpaths instead we finally reached the car around 21:30ish stopping the clock at just over 100 miles done 👍

Slowly unloaded the bikes and packed up the car then headed for home thoroughly knackered and glad to be in a warm car.

Route incomplete.

For details check out the ride on komoot.

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