Monday, 29 May 2017

Four Fun Days in Scotland

At the end of last year we noticed that the Caledonian Cachefest had been published, we watched with interest and decided to make a decision nearer the time.  As it got nearer we decided it would be fun to make a long weekend of it.


We loaded up the camper-van and set off around 8pm on Thursday night.  We made good progress as the roads were quiet and we stopped off in Selkirk to do the Local Hero virtual.  We'd wanted to do that one many years ago when we had a family holiday in Jedburgh but ran out of time, so it was definitely on the to-do list this time.

The plan was to overnight in Yair Bridge, ready to ride our bikes up to the Three Brethren first thing Friday morning.  The Three Brethren are three massive cairns that were built at the beginning of the 15th Century demarking the boundaries of three estates – Buccleuch Estate, Yair Estate and Selkirk Burgh.

We set our alarms for 5am and after breakfast set off through the forest.

It was a steep climb on the bikes and after an hour or so we made it up to the cairns.

Almost there

I first became aware of the cairns when I spotted the photo Ordnance Survey posted on Instagram a couple of months ago.  When I looked at the route we'd be taking to Peebles I realised we'd be passing near to it. The photo the OS posted was of the cairns with blue skies and glorious sunshine, I imagined that when we came to visit the reality of it would be quite different and would more than likely be raining heavily.

I couldn't believe our luck when the forecast was for sun and temperatures in the upper 20s!  We spent ages at the cairns and trigpoint, relaxing in the sunshine and taking photos, we didn't see another soul.  Then the ride back down was very fast and exhilarating. Absolutely fantastic!

Next stop, Peebles.  We checked into the campsite and immediately set off on our bikes to explore the area.  We'd noticed a trigpoint on top of a nearby hill - Venlaw - so after stopping at Tesco for picnic supplies we headed to the top of the hill.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Peebles on our bikes until it was time to attend the Welcome Pig-Nic event which was held at the campsite and was a barbecue which was held by the organisers of the cachefest.  It was a really fun event and great to chat to other cachers for the evening.  Really surprised how late it stayed light for too.  It was still fairly light at 10pm.  After the event we went back to where we were camped to chat with other cachers.


We were up early as we wanted to find the cache in Neidpath Tunnel before attending the Cachefest event.

We parked in the centre of Peebles and headed off to the tunnel on our bikes.

It was great fun cycling through the tunnel, it was lovely and cool in there too.  It was then time to make our way to the cachefest event.

We enjoyed a quick look around the stalls and a chat to other cachers before heading off to Cardrona Forest to do the Paws for Thought series of puzzle caches that we'd solved over the last couple of weeks in preparation for our trip.  We were keen to find them all as we quite enjoy a spot of geo-art.

We set off about 13:30, cycling uphill in the hot sunshine.  After a couple of hours we could hear distant thunder and it started to cloud over, by this point we'd only done about quarter of the caches as they had all been quite long searches.  We met some other cachers coming the other way, they only had the ones left to do that we had already found and they reassured us that all the ones they'd found were really straightforward, this gave us a bit of hope that we'd at least be able to make a bit more progress and maybe finish the series.

The storm was getting closer and we  stupidly hadn't brought any waterproofs with us so we decided to abandon the series and whiz back down the hill to the van.  Just as we reached the van the heavens opened and there was an almighty thunderstorm and within seconds there was a stream running through the car park - we'd made the right decision.  After a bite to eat and a couple of hours the sun had come out again and we decided to have another go at the series as we were quite determined after taking so much time to solve them all.  This time we had a lot more success, all the remaining caches were indeed easier to find and we made very quick progress, we were finally back at the van at about 9pm after cycling just over 12 miles in the forest.  Really great fun.


We left the campsite early and headed towards The Kelpies in Falkirk.   We parked in the free car park and cycled from there to the the Kelpies.   At 30 metres tall The Kelpies are the tallest equine sculptures in the world.

After that we continued along the canal on our bikes to the Falkirk Wheel.  The Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that was built in 2002 and connects the Union and Clyde canals.  It replaces a staircase of 11 locks which before the wheel was introduced would take nearly a day to transit and surprisingly is the only one of its kind in the world! It was fascinating to watch and we'd been looking forward to coming to see it but the only disappointment was the theme park type play area that was set up around it.  It seemed totally unnecessary.

After this we continued on our bike ride towards The Falkirk Tunnel.

At 630 metres the Falkirk Tunnel was the longest canal tunnel to be built in Scotland and was completed in 1822.  Apparently the reason it was so long was that the owner of nearby Callender House didn't want the canal to be in sight of his house so the tunnel was dug. The solid rock was excavated by hand using picks and shovels and early gunpowder. The tunnel is at least 3.6 metres high and as part of a millennium project lighting was introduced in the tunnel which means you can now see thousands of stalactites which have formed on the roof of the tunnel.  Fascinating!

After this we passed under the Laughing Greeting Bridge -  Here the bridge has been decorated with a laughing face (facing Edinburgh) and a crying face (facing Falkirk).  It's hard to find the reason for this is but it seems that it was down to the fact that the section between Glen Bridge and Falkirk involved the construction of the eleven locks and the cutting of the tunnel, a tougher project than the section to the east of the bridge!

Once back at the camper-van we made a brew and a bite to eat then headed up to Dundee for the evening.

We stayed overnight in Dysert ready for an early start in Edinburgh tomorrow morning.


Our last day in Scotland, we're going to make the most of it and have a full day exploring Edinburgh before heading home this evening.

There is no free parking in Edinburgh centre so we decided to park on the outskirts and cycle in.  This proved to be a great idea as it was really quick getting around on our bikes.

First stop was the Royal Botanic Gardens.  We wanted to come here when we first visited Edinburgh back in 2011 but completely ran out of time, the second time we visited Edinburgh was to climb Arthur's Seat and once again ran out of time so it was definitely on the to-do list this time.  We spent a few hours exploring and found all the answers to the virtual, David Bellamy's World.

The botanical gardens are free to enter but you have to pay to go in the glass houses which cost £6 and was well worth it, very interesting and informative.

Next on the to-do list was the Scottish Parliament Building, yet another must-do location due to the virtual Holyrood Horror being there.  The security to get in was strict, as was expected and as per usual when going through any kind of security our bags were pulled over to be searched.  It was hilarious watching them pull out bits an bobs out of our caching bags....and having to explain what things were... various leads, cables, gps, chargers, batteries, my emergency tin of mackerel, a kitchen knife, .... to name but a few odd things we keep stashed in our bags

It was really great to be back in Edinburgh and it was great fun cycling up the back down the Royal Mile.

After a fab day we made our way back to the camper van and set of towards home, stopping off to find  a virtual on the way.

We've had such a great time, can't wait to go back to Scotland, love it there!

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