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Uphill All The Way: All For a Chocolate Eclair (Haddington to Edinburgh)

Published on: 17 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 22 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the twentieth report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

Today was the day. My last cycle ride of my tour to take me to the heart of Scotland, Edinburgh, my ultimate destination and goal.

I could be confident of success. It was only a 20-mile leg and there were no gradients worthy of mention.

First though I faced a problem. I had not been able to connect to the wi fi hub in my accommodation at the Plough. Nor had I succeeded when I had moved down to the bar only feet from the device.

Haddington

Haddington.

Also, I found annoyingly that my booking did not include breakfast (why advertise as bed and breakfast if it is just bed?). Never mind I would seek out a suitable place to get some breakfast with wi fi. Easier said than done in Haddington. It seemed I had to settle for one or the other.

I settled first for breakfast, in an Italian restaurant, where else? The cook who looked Italian, but spoke with a Scottish accent (not uncommon, there were many Italian migrants who came to Scotland in the 20th century), was talking about his team’s, Italy’s, chances in the World Cup.

If Scotland had been playing too perhaps there would have been a conflict of interests but when Italy beat England two nights before it was probably, for him, a double whammy.

I moved on to the library.

“Do you have wi fi?”

“Yes we do.”

“May I use it?

“Yes you may, but please fill this form out.”

Having divulged all my personal details (why do they want all this stuff?) I was politely given a password.

I had waited for this stage before asking the killer question.

“I have read that a character from Haddington was instrumental in drawing up the Act of Union. Can you tell me where I could find out more please.”

“No, I have not heard about that.”

“No I don’t suppose it is too popular these days.”

“No. You are putting a cat amongst the pigeons there.”

I smiled, resisted smugly adding, “That’s my job,” and wondered if a gang of kilted men with ‘Yes’ T-shirts would be summoned to show me on my way. But all remained peaceful.

I sat and finished my report. It took much longer than expected, for one reason somehow I managed to irretrievably lose 45 minutes work which I had to repeat. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, at last I finished, returned to the Plough Inn, asked the friendly bar made to fill my water bottle, added some ice and set off.

Haddington's banks in impressive old houses.

Haddington’s banks in impressive old houses.

The west end of Haddington is graceful and well laid out. Two of the ‘Scottish’ banks, The Bank of Scotland and The Royal Bank of Scotland are located in impresive buildings, which were, I imagine built as houses rather than commercial premises.

Unusually too, the fine purpose built post office is still in use for that purpose, a rare sight these days.

Unusually the Post Office is still in its original building.

Unusually, the post office is still in its original building.

I cycled a mile or so, along the main road, westwards passing some young teenage schoolgirls smoking. If I was more socially responsible I might have stopped and remonstrated with them for being so stupid. But if I had I suspect I might have been led away by the local poelis (as many Scots pronounce police). Anyway, was the welfare of Scottish youth any longer any of my business?

A little further and a sign directed me to the right northwards and then left on to the track of a disused railway, now the Haddington to Longniddry trail (what is your ‘niddry’ and how do you know if it’s long – oh Scottish place names, don’t you love them?).

The Haddington - Longniddry trail, a disused railway line.

The Haddington – Longniddry trail, a disused railway line.

It was a good cinder-like surface the gradient was only gently uphill and I was able to coast along at about 14 mph. The only disadvantage was that as on many converted railway lines the hedgerows on either side were tall preventing sight of the surrounding countryside on either side. After a while though the sound of a train nearby reassured me that my old friend the East Coast line was remaining faithful close by.

At one stage a gap allowed me to see northwards across the Firth of Forth to Fife. I recognised some of the hills from a recent car journey to see my son Tom in St Andrew’s. It was frustrating I could not see westwards. I wanted to catch my first glimpse of Edinburgh.

The view across to Firth of Forth to the Kingdom of Fife.

The view across to Firth of Forth to the Kingdom of Fife.

The trail ended logically, after five and a half miles, at Longniddry. I went through a small tunnel out on to the road and then downhill. I took me to the shoreline and there, I realised, in the distance at last was Edinburgh.

My first view of Edinburgh.

My first view of Edinburgh.

I double checked by using my monocular but yes that was definitely Arthur’s Seat. It was a good feeling but it was still a while away.

I could make out the Forth Rail Bridge.

I could make out the Forth rail bridge.

First, I would go through Musselburgh, where I intended to pause for lunch, and Prestonpans, sites of two battles with different outcomes. I thought I would pause there for some lunch.

Musselburgh High Street

Musselburgh High Street

I seemed to get to Musselburgh in no time, cycling down past the racecourse which looked at its manicured best in the early afternoon sunlight and on into the town. I asked for directions to the shoreline and went into a convenince store for some picnic items.

This was a first for me, the Post Office co-located with a pound shop. Are all the stamps one price too? Presumably the funerals advertised above cost more than a quid.

This was a first for me, the Post Office co-located with a pound shop. Are all the stamps one price too? Presumably the funerals advertised above cost more than a quid.

“Do you have any pies or pasties?” I asked the shopkeeper a Scot of , I imagine, Pakistani parents.

“No sorry” he replied. I was surprised it looked like the type of shop that would definitely stock such items. After a short search I found some.

“You do have some pies,” I said, anxious to help the man with his stock awareness.

“Oh pies,” he said, “I thought you said parsley.” It was a reminder, if I needed one, that here I was the the with the strange accent.

I cycled the few yards in the direction I had been told but instead of a shoreline it was the banks of a river the River Esk. There were benches. Just right.

A good spot for a picnic (note the person in a 'sombrero' perhaps I was not the only Mexican from south of the border in town.

A good spot for a picnic (note the person in a ‘sombrero’ perhaps I was not the only Mexican from south of the border in town.

While I ate my lunch entertainment was laid on by seagulls who were constantly squabbling. I noticed that one in particular was belligerent, constantly circling and then buzzing other birds of his own species and others, causing them to fly off in alarm.

This lesser black backed gull was the bully bird.

This lesser black backed gull was the bully bird.

I am sure we all know people like that who can never leave well alone.

The town of Musselburgh is by the site of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Despite its charming name it was a vicious 16th-century battle that left thousands of Scots dead.

The objective had been to marry off Henry VIII’s son Edward to Mary, Queen of Scots (it did not happen) but it was remarkable militarily as an early example of inter service co-operation; the navy’s barrage played a significant part in disrupting the Scottish forces. The peacefulriverside scene that faced me thankfully gave no clues to the slaughter.

I got back on the road. Next was Perstonpans a battle I suspect you are more likely to have heard of. Why I wondered name a place after a cooking utensil from a town in the north west of England? But it turns out the name derives from Priest’s Town  and the pans from the salt pans that used to operate on the shoreline.

Prestonpans - I received a friendly wave from the man enjoying the sun on the right despite the towns history.

Prestonpans – I received a friendly wave from the man enjoying the sun on the right despite the town’s history.

This time the victory was Scottish or, at least Jacobite (not all Scots were Jacobites by any means we should remember). It was probably the high point of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s military endeavour during the ’45 rebellion and he is said to have shown magnanimity towards the enemies wounded commenting that they were all his father’s rightful subjects.

I pressed on once again and found myself looking at a sandy beach, a seaside resort. On a sunny day it was busy but it was not what I expected so close to Edinburgh. It just showed my ignorance, I suppose.

On the beach - not a sight I expected in Scotland not even in June.

On the beach – not a sight I expected in Scotland not even in June.

The place is Portabello, birthplace of Harry Lauder. Evidently it has been much improved through community action over the last decade. Good for them. It is looking good. An example to us all perhaps of what can be done when a community gets together with a sense of purpose.

I could see now that Edinburgh was really close. I concentrated on the navigation which once I found Fishwives Causeway was quite straight forward.

My route was via Fishwives Causeway

My route was via Fishwives Causeway

A few minutes later I was in Milton Street tucked just behind Holyrood Palace. It was a street of Scottish tenements and another airbnb booking. It took me a few seconds to realise that was it. Apart from a mile’s ride to the station the next day it was over.

My aribnb room in Edinburgh was weel equipped, comfortable and in a street just yards behind Holyrood Palace - so quite good neighbours.

My airbnb room in Edinburgh was well equipped, comfortable and in a street just yards behind Holyrood Palace – so quite good neighbours.

My hostess Eva was Spanish and showed me my very pleasant, well equipped room, explaining everything with great attention to detail. As she gave me her recommendation for a tapas restaurant, what else from a Spaniard, I felt a mixture of happiness, satisfaction, and sadness. It was over. It was done.

On the towel on the bed was a chocolate eclair. To some it might seem scant reward for 600 miles cycled but to me it was entirely fitting. It was the very same sweet that my wife Fiona would sometimes produce on our shared bike rides.

Tomorrow I would be home and be able to tell her all about it, face to face. I might get another chocolate eclair, who knows?

A chocolate eclair reward for completion of my trip the same treat my wife sometimes awards.

A chocolate eclair reward for completion of my trip the same treat my wife sometimes awards.

16.06.14 UATW computer data:

Miles cycled: 19.31 miles

Average speed: 9.8 mph

Cycling time: 1 hour 58 minutes.

Next report: The last royal mile and reflections on an uphill journey.

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test One Response to Uphill All The Way: All For a Chocolate Eclair (Haddington to Edinburgh)

  1. M. Bedforth Reply

    June 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    If the comments are working, could I be the first to congratulate Martin Giles on his epic ride, for staying safe and for getting there. On some of those rainy days it must have been easy to give up.

    Also for the daily reports and photos which were interesting and informative. Good recommendations for the B&Bs too.

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