|Thursday, May 5th 7pm
Distance: 12.4 miles
To be changed to the normal map format once Strava co-operates
Only three riders turned up for tonight's outing, but what we lacked in quantity we gained in quality. It was a lovely sunny evening, with only a slight breeze, and temperatures into double figures.
We headed out to Stockbridge, with a pause by St. Bernard's Well. In the 18th Century, this spot was teaming with visitors, as the great and the good of Scotland came here to take the waters, which were famous for their health-giving properties. The well was supposedly discovered by St. Bernard, the 12th Century founder of the Cistersian order, while living in a cave nearby. All highly unlikely: there is no evidence that Bernard ever left his native France, and in any case there aren't any caves in Stockbridge. Never mind. We could still admire the 1789 pump house, which is based on the design of the Temple of Vesta in Tivoli, and the statue of Hygieia, the goddess of health.
We continued through Dean Village towards Ravelston Dykes, passing the Gallery of Modern Art. In Ravelston Woods we looked unsuccessfully for traces of the old sandstone quarry, which provided the materials for many Edinburgh houses. The area is now a local nature reserve. We then followed Craigcrook Road into Davidson's Mains.
At Braehead Avenue, we briefly joined the pavement alongside the busy Queensferry Road, before dropping down to a rough path by the River Almond. There's a ruined cottage here, reputed to be the home of a farm labourer named Jock Howieson.
According to the story, one evening Howieson heard a disturbance on nearby Cramond Brig. On going to investigate, he saw a stranger being attacked by a gang of robbers. Not one to stand idly by in a crisis, Jock laid into the attackers, who promptly fled. He then took the stranger to his barn to recuperate, and gave him a bowl of water and a towel so that he could get cleaned up.
Long story short, the stranger turned out to be James V, travelling incognito. The king rewarded Jock by giving him Braehead Farm, but on the condition that whenever the king or his descendents crossed Cramond Brig, Jock or his descendents must provide a bowl of water and a towel – a custom that is said to have continued to Queen Victoria's time.
History lesson finished, we headed down the Almond, then climbed the steep Peggy's Mill Road to Whitehouse Road. As we reached Cramond Harbour, the firth was looking its best, with the tide out, the sun just above the horizon, and the whole scene illuminated in a lovely glow. This was evening cycling at its best. We eventually tore ourselves away. We finished the ride with a delightful spin along the esplanade, then through Forthquarter Park and along the bike path to Craigleith, where we went our separate ways.