The John Muir Way

The John Muir Way offers a journey through Scotland’s landscapes, history and heritage. Traversing central Scotland, it links Helensburgh in the west with John Muir’s birth place Dunbar in the east and is fully way-marked for walking and cycling.

With the smell of adventure in the air headed out early with plenty of time to get to Newcastle station and the start of my Scotland trip.

Managed to negotiate the trains pretty well into Edinburgh in quick-ish time, then the long, long arduous journey towards Helensburgh.

Parked up on the train ready for the journey

Day One

Finally arrived in Helensburgh around 12:45 and made my way down towards the start point, however lost my bearings a bit and ended up doing a circular ride around the harbour until finding the official start point.

Official start/end point

Finally set off ‘n’ rolling just after 13:00 and straight into a climb up towards Hill House and out of the Burgh. Once at the top rode through a small wooded area then onto really nice tarmac cycle paths all the way to Loch Lomond (however the rain had kicked in so donned the waterproofs)

Loch Lomond

Passed through a very busy Lomond shores with market traders and shops… to be honest it all felt a bit chavvy, stopped for a quick burger in the rain and carried on leaving it all behind.

With the rain still looming around picked up Route 1 following quiet country roads and cycle paths.

Until eventually the rain passed and I spotted a sign for refreshments so took a little detour for coffee and sandwich at The But & Ben in Croftamie.

The But & Ben

After a short break got underway back along the cycle track and across a quaint iron bridge with nice views.

It was at this point the route merged with the West Highland Way which meant lots of gates and quite a few walkers.

The route took more of an off-road vibe now with a small section of hike-a-bike.

With the end in sight finally reached the campsite and met the owner Andrew (an eccentric fella) who explained all about John Muir and how I was doing the ride in the wrong direction, then about the food kitchen and giving him a 5 star review no mention of where I could pitch my tent!!

Managed to find my spot for the night and got myself sorted… in a field full of tents somehow found the one place with dog poo and got it on my shoes.

Home for the night

Anyway after a hot shower, cleaning the shite off my shoe and being charged £20 for pizza, chips and a can of coke… in answer to your question Andrew… No I’ll not be giving you a 5 star review.

The rain had started again and the wind picked up so chilled for a little bit then decided to get an early night…

For details check out the ride on komoot.

End of Day One

Day Two

Wet start to the day, but managed to pack everything away on the bike then had some breakfast before setting off ‘n’ rolling by 07:00. Didn’t take long to get back on the trail the first section on the Strathclyde Railway Path which was a lovely quiet mornings riding skirting along Glazert Water (just too wet to take any photos).

Within a short while I merged onto the Forth & Clyde Canal with great views and really decent grade towpaths I cruised along the canal for miles albeit soaked to the skin (just lucky it wasn’t cold).

Losing sight of the canal spotted signs for the Falkirk Wheel so followed the gravel tracks through the woods until eventually…

The view opened up and to be honest it was very impressive, even though it was still raining I had to take some photos. Unfortunately a passenger barge had just reached the top section so didn’t get a chance to see it operating. Climbed to the top section where it meets the Union Canal.

Start of the Union Canal

Rode through Roughcastle Tunnel which was an experience then continued along the canal. Shortly after leaving the tunnel I spied a potential break stop Cafe @ Canada Wood so stopped for a coffee.

Riding through the woods I found something interesting to take a picture.

It was around this time that the rain stopped and I even thought I saw the sun trying to get out!! Carried on along the canal.

Reached another landmark further along the trail and one I’d been looking forward to seeing… the Avon Aqueduct.

The sun had now made a decent appearance so with time to spare and a lot happier decided to stop and unpack the tent, tarp & waterproofs to dry them off. Headed off with everything dry leaving the canal and heading for the sea.

The route now hugged the coast line with two iconic bridges looming in the distance the first being Queensferry Crossing.

Queensferry Crossing
Forth Road Bridge

At this point I realised how hungry I was and searched google maps for potential places to eat, thought about a Tesco’s meal deal, but right next to it was a Burger King.. decision made 👍

Hunger abated made my way back down towards the bridges and continued along the coastline until picking up the canal again and heading Into Edinburgh, negotiated my way through the Edinburgh (busy) but not horrendous for a major city and out the other side with the campsite closing in I had one last ascent to tackle before finally reaching my end point for the day (not an easy place to get to on bike).

The campsite was a lot more professional that yesterday’s with lovely flat pitches and fab showers, so got my pitch got setup and showered even managed to find a drying place for my stinky cycling gear 👍

Even managed a couple of cheeky pints at the end of day two.

For details check out the ride on komoot

Day Three

Light rain this morning so had to pack up the tent wet… again! No breakfast included at this campsite so got packed away and hit the trails around 07:30 slight navigation issue trying to leave the place, but eventually found my route and enjoyed the descent to Portobello Beach and back along the coast with the sun on my face.

Musselburgh Shell Sculpture

Mostly coastline riding this morning great weather, but not as scenic as the days before.

World War Sea Defences

Eventually left the coast behind and joined quiet country roads heading inland, not before spotting something interesting in the distance…

Bass Rock is located about 3 miles north east of North Berwick, and is a steep crag on the southern entrance to the Firth of Forth. It is an important nesting ground for seabirds.

Further inland along farm tracks stumbled upon a free wild camping spot just outside Whitekirk which was someone’s private land that they’d landscaped and left open for anyone to use, which I thought was a really great thing for someone to do.

All that was left to do was finish up the ride and head to Dunbar and John Muir’s Birthplace.

Ride Complete.

For details check out the ride on komoot.

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