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John Muir Way - Might be Better by Bike

John Muir Way - Might be Better by Bike

Postby Gordie12 » Fri May 12, 2017 2:43 pm

Route description: John Muir Way

Date walked: 06/05/2017

Time taken: 5 days

Distance: 223 km

Ascent: 2522m

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As usual I was looking for a long distance route to help me prepare for a bigger route in June. Initially I was looking at the Kintyre Way but as there was an ultra event on on the Saturday I was due to start I switched to the John Muir Way. The JMW had the distance I was looking for but not the ascent as it seemed fairly flat after my 1st day so I decided to test myself and try to complete in 5 days which meant averaging a minimum of 27 miles per day.

I had worked hard during the winter usually doing 2 walks each weekend, building up from 12/13 miles each trip in January to 19 miles in April. Unfortunately I liked my little 13L rucksack too much and switching to 50L at the start of this walk was tough on the shoulders.

My daily schedule was as follows.

Day 1

Helensburgh - Strathblane
Miles - 27.3
Ascent - 2967ft
Walking Time - 08:12
Stopped Time - 00:37
Moving Average 3.3mph
Overall Average 3.1mph

A beautiful morning to set off, no sign of any clouds and a good breeze blowing.

Due to forestry work the start utilises the Three Lochs Way so there is a walk along the main road near the water front rather than heading up to Hill House. The diversion is well signed, just a case of watching the lampposts for the left turn that takes the route away from the main road and uphill through the woods.

It's quite a long mildly steep climb to link up with the JMW track then onwards to the point where Loch Long disappears from view and a few minutes later a corner of Loch Lomond can be seen ahead. An easy descent and I arrive in Balloch which is a bit weird in full walking gear heading through hordes of tourists meandering all over the place at 1mph but it doesn't take long to get away from the shops and once on the loch side the crowds disperse.

There is a short steep climb up towards Balloch castle and leaving the grounds behind I was to find out much later that that was the end of paths as I was now on minor roads and tarmac cycle paths.

The minor roads were very quiet and traffic was never an issue but somewhere I must have missed where the walking and cycling routes split and I remained on the cycle route.

Suddenly, hordes of walkers were walking in the opposite direction from me and I realised I was on the West Highland Way road section near Drymen. I was on the WHW for a few miles,

The climb up from just beyond Dumgoyne distillery was tough on the legs but I arrived in Strathblane in pretty good nick.

Looking back to Helensburgh

High point between Helensburgh and Balloch

View from Balloch

Heading the "wrong" way on the West Highland Way

Day 2

Strathblane - Falkirk
Miles - 25.3
Ascent - 611ft
Walking Time - 07:48
Stopped Time - 01:19
Moving Average 3.2mph
Overall Average 2.8 mph

It was a surprise to be walking in to an east wind yesterday and today was no different. Another beautiful morning and it was hard to see a cloud in the sky. The plan for today was to stop more often and give the shoulders a break as my 1st stop was at 18 miles yesterday.

The first few miles were on a cycle way utilising a disused railway line. It's Sunday, not sure I've ever seen such well used routes - there are bikes everywhere. Most cyclists give plenty of warning they are behind you, others shoot past without bothering to let you know. It's an old railway line so it's flat and easy walking but it's tarmac again.

Learning from yesterday I stopped at Milton of Campsie, dumping the rucksack on the old platform and having a good look around. This is a lovely spot for a break with the area around the station looking really smart and tidy.

At Kirkintilloch I linked up with the Forth and Clyde canal and headed along the tarmac towpath to Kilsyth. I was too busy chatting to someone at Kilsyth to realise I had missed the walking route turn off from the canal so carried on to Bonnybridge. Shortly after Bonnybridge there was a lot of activity in front of me on the towpath. As I got closer I could see that there was a cow lying across the path, the cows in the field opposite were agitated and it looked as if the one on the towpath had fallen down the steep drop in to the canal and then struggled over to the towpath side. The fire brigade had partially covered it with a sheet and someone from the RSPCA asked me to give the cow a wide berth. Hopefully it recovered OK, in the heat it may have been trying to get down to the canal for a drink.

Arrived at the Falkirk Wheel at around 4:30pm where I spent half an hour having a good look around. After about 15 miles of tarmac yesterday I spent the whole day on the hard stuff today, albeit some of this was due to my own stupidity for missing the turning near Kilsyth.


Milton of Campsie

Boat on Forth & Clyde Canal

Falkirk Wheel in operation

Day 3

Falkirk - South Queensferry
Miles - 26.1
Ascent - 1417ft
Walking Time - 08:13
Stopped Time - 00:51
Moving Average 3.2mph
Overall Average 2.9 mph

Warm, blue sky, east wind - same as usual!

I back tracked to the wheel and found the Union Canal which I then took to just beyond the Avon viaduct. A couple of miles in to the walk I came to a long tunnel. The JMW directs you round rather than through the tunnel but it is lit and I could see the end of the tunnel in the distance as I approached the entrance. Not everyone's cup of tea but I thoroughly enjoyed walking through.

Next was a first for me on a long distance walk as I passed a prison (Polmont) and a few minutes later I approached the Avon viaduct. Really enjoyed the feeling of walking over the viaduct but cobble stones didn't help the feet. A couple of hundred yards beyond the viaduct I left the canal behind and followed the river Avon down in to Linlithgow (this was the 1st time off tarmac today).

A mix of quiet roads, farm tracks and a really nice path through mature fir trees and I was on the east coast, time for a cycle route in to Bo'ness!

Blackness Castle looked interesting and I want to go back and have a proper look around in the next couple of months. The diversion around Hopetoun House seemed long but the grounds are interesting and it was enjoyable. It's only a few minutes walk from Hopetoun House grounds to South Queensferry so the day is over and the feet are now starting to hurt (specifically, the left foot).

Yer arse mate

A very calm heron

Request stop

Weed removal?

Avon viaduct and those cobble stones

Between Linlithgow and Bo'ness

Nearly finished

Day 4

South Queensferry - Longniddry
Miles - 31.5
Ascent - 1967ft
Walking Time - 10:05
Stopped Time - 01:34
Moving Average 3.1mph
Overall Average 2.7 mph

Ahead of today, I don't know what to expect - walking through Edinburgh??

Typical east coast early morning, cloudy and cool with the knowledge that the cloud will burn off. A guy in front of me has a body warmer and gloves on - seems a bit over the top.

After another day of mainly tarmac yesterday it's good to be on a smooth gritty surface to start the day along the shoreline and through the trees to the Dalmeny House and estate. There is a nine hole course in the grounds, good length of holes, fairways cut, greens look decent and with smart looking tees and flags it's pretty impressive and I'd be happy to walk out my front door on to the 1st tee for 9 holes every morning.

Entering Edinburgh on Barnton Avenue I got the feeling my house was worth about the same as the gates and security systems that surround some of these amazing houses.

I wasn't sure what I would think of walking through Edinburgh and now that I've done it I'm still not sure what I made of it. Some amazing houses to look at, some bog standard estates to walk through, Corstorphine Hill (with great views over Edinburgh balanced out with severe foot pain on the descent), busy roads to cross, great parks to walk through, quiet canal towpaths near the city centre, people everywhere, a diversion on to a very rough and busy Dundee Road, seeing Edinburgh Castle from the back for the first time, being close to Arthur's Seat for the first time........... A real mix of emotions with no mid ground, I either seemed to be loving or hating it.

My left foot was now causing problems. I had an enormous blister covering the ball, my little toe was no longer my little toe and the front of my big toe was painful. I was using compeed as usual and I was also trying Medipaq gel tube toe/finger bandages for the first time. Despite the problems both were helping me and I will definitely use Medipaq again (Compeed is a must for every long distance walk).

Due to the discomfort I found the 5 miles of cycle track from Arthur's Seat to Musselburgh never ending and stopped halfway for an ibuprofen sandwich. Once back on the coastline the breeze helped me to feel a bit better and press on towards Longniddry as I passed through Prestonpans, round the coast side of Cockenzie Power Station and through Port Seton.

I started walking at 7:45am this morning and finished a few minutes before 7:30pm so a long day and really warm once the cloud burned off around 11am.

Union canal through Edinburgh

Arthur's Seat

Swan City (River Esk)

Port Seton harbour?

Day 5

Longniddry - Dunbar
Miles - 28.1
Ascent - 1310ft
Walking Time - 09:24
Stopped Time - 00:32
Moving Average 3.0mph
Overall Average 2.8 mph

Blue sky, warm, east wind, it's groundhog day.

Bit of a milestone today, I've carried shorts in the rucksack for 4 days, I'm bloomin wearing them!!!

Nice easy walking to Aberlady and Gullane. A mile short of Gullane I was standing by the side of the road looking to cross when the North Berwick bus stopped to pick me up. The driver opened the doors and as he waited for me to get on I have to admit it was very tempting but I politely refused and he headed off.

Passed through another lovely village (Dirleton) before some more farm tracks and a path through woods brought me out at the side of the West Links at North Berwick. I was speaking to a lady golfer and she suggested (with the tide out) I take to the beach for the walk in to town and I'm glad I did as the soft sand made a nice change.

I left North Berwick and skirted round Berwick Law before walking down the side of some fields heading for East Linton. All was well with the world until I reached 3 fields where the farmer had used a digger to construct a path down the side of his fields. The dry ground was uneven and bone dry solid and the feet took a hammering leaving me limping when I lef the fields behind for a good path running through some woods. Some more farm tracks then a short climb up and over Drylaw Hill and I was in East Linton.

I had the feeling now that the walk was nearly over. I followed a good path along the side of the River Tyne followed by more long flat farm tracks before arriving at Hedderwick Sands. The path was now narrower and uneven and when I reached the tree line I stopped and removed my rucksack as for the first time in 5 days I felt exhausted. I only had about 3 miles left but there was nothing left in the tank. I ate some bits and pieces left over from previous days and had a drink of warm water before heading off towards Dunbar. Again I hit the beach for the walk in then wondered if I could actually get to Dunbar along the beach, thankfully there was a bridge otherwise I would have had to back track half a mile which would have been hard mentally.

All that was left now was to keep to the coast side of the golf course and I was home but each time I went round a corner there was another jutting out bit of coast to cover. Right at the end I had to drop down a series of steps then climb up again before a short walk in to the John Muir museum which is the official finishing point.

Well, I got the physical test I was looking for (and then some). I now know that even on a flat route, 27 miles a day for 5 days is tough and finishing off with nearly 60 miles in 2 days is plain daft.

There is some great scenery along this route. Admittedly you head through commercial areas, skirt a prison and walk in places you wouldn't normally think to go but overall it's very enjoyable.

I had 5 days of an east wind which must be pretty rare so not once was the wind on my back. I couldn't have asked for better weather making the waterproofs redundant.

My only issue is the amount of tarmac whether it be a quiet road in the country, a busy road in Edinburgh or a cycle route on a towpath or a disused railway line. I can normally cope with this type of surface but there were days when the entire route was on tarmac and that is punishing on the feet (they have 4 weeks to recover before I head for Wales in June).

Nigel Tranter's Bridge to Enchantment - Aberlady

Typical last day scene

Preston Mill

Hedderwick Sands

Approaching the finish in Dunbar
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Re: John Muir Way - Might be Better by Bike

Postby Dunni » Fri Apr 19, 2024 10:50 am

Thanks for the suggestion for a cycle path. You had the best weather. Sorry for the blisters. I guess, thats tarmac walking.
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Re: John Muir Way - Might be Better by Bike

Postby Gordie12 » Fri Apr 19, 2024 4:19 pm

Hi Dunni

Is it really 7 years since I did this route :shock:

Averaging 27 miles a day in heat and on tarmac only means one thing - blisters.

I've done loads of long distance walks since then and many that were much longer but I have never been as knackered as I was on that last day and the final few miles into Dunbar.

Should be great fun on a bike, hope you enjoy it.
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Posts: 2162
Munros:114   Corbetts:65
Fionas:30   Donalds:38+0
Sub 2000:35   Hewitts:44
Joined: Sep 6, 2012
Location: Nr Forfar

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