Canal paths and Callendar Estate - From the low country to the highlands and beyond - CycleBlaze

August 27, 2018

Canal paths and Callendar Estate

Falkirk Wheel, Grand Canal, Callendar mtb park

Out time at Moniaive has come to an end and we've decided to base ourselves in Falkirk tonight so that we can ride the canal paths,  a different kind of terrain, before heading further north.

Tonight's accommodation is a self-contained flat in an unprepossessing part of Falkirk town, itself not the most attractive of places - though I could be doing it a disservice. (There's a danger, I think, in these journals of passing judgement on places we pass through based on only a fleeting acquaintance - I'm guilty of it.) Too early to check in, we start our ride from the van which we've parked across the road from the flat.

Our route is through town until we join the Forth and Clyde Canal. At its junction with the Union Canal, we meet the majestic, unique Falkirk Wheel. Opened in 2002, this massive boat lift connects  the Forth and Clyde with the Union Canal, 35 metres (115 feet) higher up.  Apparently,  those in charge wanted to make a millennial statement, deciding  to create a "dramatic 21st-century landmark structure to reconnect the canals, instead of simply recreating the historic lock flight (ProfWiki)."

It's difficult to capture the scale of the Wheel from close up . . .
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. . . but this end-on view helps
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The Union Canal opened in 1822 to transport coal from Falkirk to Edinburgh, but was already a dying means of transportation. Once the railway from Edinburgh to Falkirk opened just 20 years later, it fell into slow decline and was closed to commercial traffic in 1933. Of course, canals the world over have taken on a new lease of life as recreational waterways - and providers of cycle paths.

We continue west on the Forth and Clyde until we've had enough of it, turning back to spaghetti junction at the Wheel - and navigating carefully through a multitude of pedestrian tourists - to take the Union Canal towpath southwards to our turnoff to the Callendar Estate.

The home of a grandiose 19th century  mansion with links back to Culloden and beyond, Callendar now operates as a leisure centre in true British style. A small but perfectly formed network of mountain bike trails interests us, along with the café of course. (Robyn's first rule of cycle touring: Never ride past an open café . . . odds are there won't be another around the corner, or for the next 20 km.) 

We have fun on these trails, which swoop around the estate, before it's time to move on. Tour Director has mapped our way cross-country back to the Union Canal and then at last to our flat in Falkirk. It's been quite a day but it's not over yet.

Today is our wedding anniversary (as it is, coincidentally, three years into the future when I write this- whew, shades of "Outlander"!) and we intend to celebrate by taking a train into Edinburgh and finding a place to have dinner.

The train bit works well but we have trouble finding somewhere suitable to eat. It's the last night, or perhaps the closing ceremony, of the Edinburgh Tattoo so the city is heaving. We cruise along restaurant alley for half an hour or so, sticking our nose in the door of any that look half-promising. But they're full, sorry ma'am. About to give up, we turn a corner and find Badger & Co. It's quiet (who cares?), elegant . . .and used to be the home of Kenneth Grahame, author of "Wind in the Willows". Again, who cares? It's a great evening, celebrating 41 years.

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Today's ride: 37 km (23 miles)
Total: 217 km (135 miles)

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