Roslin to Shawfair

Until recently, the cycle and walking route running along the old Edinburgh, Roslin and Loanhead Branch line of the North British Railway, was only rideable from the west of Roslin to the bridge crossing at the Lasswade Road on the A768. But over the past year the route has been extended out to the new town development at Shawfair. The route is now around 5 miles in length and looked perfect for the Swifty scooter. But first I had to get there.

As always I like to plan my route and wanted to complete the whole of the route on the Swifty, so using the car as transport was out. Using Google maps, I calculated the route to the start at Roslin Chapel, from my home in Bonnyrigg, at around 5 miles. Add the distance from Shawfair back to Bonnyrigg at around 7 miles and we have quite a decent scoot at approx. 17 miles in total. This would be maneagable and my longest scoot to date.

Next I needed to decide which Swifty to use, the Swifty Zero or the Swifty Air. With the Swifty Zero set up with skinny tyres for on-road tarmac use, and only less than half a mile of the route being off-road, it was a no-brainer to take Swifty Zero. No need for the Swifty Air today as its larger tyres would just make for unnecessary harder work.

It’s great being able to leave straight from the house and not have to load everything into the car to get to the start of the ride. My route took me right from the front door, along various footpaths, roads and pavements up through the new and still on-going Hopefield housing development to join up with the Penicuik to Dalkeith cycle path, route 196 of the National Cycle Network. Then it was along a slow but easy railway grade climb to Rosewell (easy due to no headwind today) where I was able to enjoy an fast but rough descent down the B7003 to Roslin Glen, home of the well-known Roslin Chapel of Da Vinci Code fame.

I had originally hoped to use the pavement here on the B7003 and avoid the traffic on this often fast and busy country road but the pavement surface was terrible and more off-road than on-road. It would have been fine on the Swifty Air but not so comfortable on the Swifty Zero. In addition, hedge cutting had recently been carried out and there was a high risk of punctures from the clippings, so I had to use the road on parts of the descent.

Of course, for every descent there is usually an ascent, and getting out of Roslin Glen was no different. The B7003 road is very steep and there are a couple of blind bends that would be near suicidal pushing a scooter on foot, so I made use of the footpath leading straight up the steep side of the glen. The stepped path is very narrow, slippery when wet and no passing places. Luckily I only had to wait for one pedestrian descending and found the best way to carry the Swifty was to invert and hoist onto a shoulder. After the steps a muddy path leads through some woodland to the graveyard beside Roslin Chapel, where I was able to mount the Swifty and scoot into Roslin itself and join the cycle and walkway.

Now on the Roslin to Shawfair cycle route I was able to fairly scoot along the excellent smooth tarmac surface, aided by a slight, if somewhat cool, tail wind. The next 5 miles was sheer joy, a few kicks of the leg and long free wheels. It was reasonably busy with people out walking, horse riders, cyclists and dog walkers all enjoying the fresh dry morning. At times like this a good bell is worth its weight.

There was as even a pheasant shoot in progress where the route cuts through Drum Estate but I was able to pass safely enough as the gamekeeper was well in control of the beaters and guns. There were a few comments about scooting being a good way to get fit, about having one giant leg and one skinny leg and also something about the leggings I was wearing which I didn’t quite catch.

Shawfair came too soon and it was something of a let down to end the long downhill scoot from Roslin. Actually, I’d planned to ride the route in this direction. Not only to enjoy the downhill ride but also to have the prevailing winds at my back. I know from experience just how much of a slog this route is going uphill against a strong headwind.

From Shawfair, I followed various cycleways and paths back towards Dalkeith, adding a short loop through Dalkeith Country Park, stopping at the main gates for a quick bite to eat. Then through the town centre – to many a strange look and comment, which is not unusual when riding a Swifty scooter – and back home to Bonnyrigg. I must say I was getting a bit weary by now and was glad to stop. Though I did clean up the Swifty before anything else.

Well, my longest scoot to date, about 17 miles in total and with only a short stretch of muddy off-road at Roslin Glen, otherwise all good smooth tarmac. So, thoughts about the day? Firstly, when I first bought the Swifty I was not sure if longer rides where possible, now I know they are and not as difficult as I imagined. On the matter of photography, a quick and easy way to access the camera is essential as there always seems to be loads of photo opportunities. And, no need to rush, just take your time and enjoy the ride.

Finally, I wish I’d taken my video camera with me and made a video of the route. So, that’s going to be added to my to-do list, complete the same route and make a video. I’ve made a few cycling videos, mostly off-road fat biking riding A Surly Pugsley and its harder work than you might realise. For every clip you have to stop, set up the camera, ride the route, go back and collect the camera, ride again, repeat, repeat and so on. All very time-consuming but watch this space.

Copyright ©2020 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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