Glasgow to the Falkirk Wheel

This weekend I was up in Glasgow. It was freakishly warm – too hot for sitting about, but just right for cycling. But I didn’t have my bike, and due to a failure in lateral thinking, I wasn’t sure how I could get any glorious sunshine miles in. Then it hit me: why not hire a bike? I called a bike shop and they had no bikes. But being friendly (ie non London) types, they recommended another bike shop that was more likely to have bikes. The bike shop turned out to be about 500 metres from where I was staying and they let me keep my bags full of haggises and hiking boots in their store room while I went out to faire un petit randonee a velo. They also gave me a big map of Glasgow and directions to the canal, as I mentioned that I’d like to go to Falkirk. Big up Alpine Bikes – super friendly people, well maintained bikes and excellent tips on where to go for a ride.

I was riding a mountain bike, which initially felt really weird. I think it’s the suspension that freaks me out, it feels a little like a clowns bike. I wondered if I’d made the right choice turning down the offer of a helmet. But I set out towards the Forth & Clyde canal, and was almost immediately suspended above the city. The canal runs above the streets and is amazing oasis of calm in Glasgow. I followed the signs towards Bowling until I reached the junction where the Forth & Clyde heads west towards Falkirk and Edinburgh. Glasgow slipped away and brightly coloured fields of green and oil-seed-yellow replaced the houses. There were lots of people out on the tow path – elderly couples on holiday, dog walkers, pasty-skinned teenagers with fishing rods and bottles of irn bru, as well as joggers and other cyclists.

The tow path is not a place to ride quickly, and I enjoyed watching the scenery go past at a leisurely pace. I started to feel hungry but ignored it. I started to feel thirsty but ignored that too – slightly foolish as I had plenty of water in my bag.

After 2 hours of sun-soaked canal riding, I arrived at the Falkirk Wheel, my destination! I’ve been wanting to go to the Falkirk Wheel since it opened, as I find it fascinating. I stood and gawped at it for a while. Then rode up closer to it and gawped some more. Finally I sat down with my sandwiches and carried on gawping, watching it turn and the boats make the improbable journey from the canal by my feet to the aqueduct in the sky.

Eventually I’d had my fill of the Falkirk Wheel – and had far more than my fill of oatmeal & raison cookies (such a glutton) – and I headed to Falkirk to get the train back to Glasgow. This was the least pleasant bit of my trip, mainly because Falkirk appears to be a massive shit hole, and also because I hate riding mountain bikes on roads. And so back to Glasgow, return to the shop, collection of haggises and hiking boots, and the end of my Scottish adventure.

St George’s Cross, Glasgow – Falkirk Wheel: 23 miles

Sunburn: 1 foot, 1 ankle

Oatmeal & raison cookies: 3 consumed

Glass on tow path: really not all that much at all!

A grand day out and a well recommended ride.

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