Our second day began with a vibrant blue kingfisher fluttering before us on the Forth and Clyde Canal, which we rode to the Antonine Wall – a Roman frontier constructed in 142AD.
If I’m being honest, it’s less impressive than Hadrian’s Wall in almost every way other than it’s further north, but I’m a sucker for any and all Roman history. We arrive at the Falkirk Wheel (via the flowy trails of the Callendar Estate) just as it hoists a boat up onto the Union canal, then struggle up a daunting gravel track above Linlithgow.
“Our final descent of the day is a cruise down to Bo’ness, a frankly stunning, steeply-stacked town on the south bank of the Firth of Forth”
Our final descent of the day is a cruise down to Bo’ness, a frankly stunning, steeply-stacked town on the south bank of the Firth of Forth where – we learned over local ale at the Corbie Inn – James Watt worked on the first steam engine in 1769.
Day three was our shortest ride, and took us back to Edinburgh. A haggis roll for sustenance and we were riding into a sunrise over Blackness Castle, a popular spot with Americans thanks to Outlander, a TV show which seemingly many people who are not from Scotland watch. We pass herds of deer in Hopetoun House, the famous Forth Road Bridge and the secret little beaches of Dalmeny Estate before ascending Corstorphine Hill, and cycling the short distance from there to my flat. I spend the end of day three in my own bed; staycation status secured.
The final day was a sunny 41 miles to Dunbar – mostly riding into far-reaching ocean views, on road and fun singletrail, and finally arriving at a mural to Muir on Dunbar High Street to finish. We grab a hard-earned fish and chips from Cafe Central, eat it on the 17th-century Dunbar harbour, and watch the huge waves that left John Muir in awe as a child. It’s a beautiful town, and there’s great surf nearby, at Belhaven Bay, if you’re happy to brave the North Sea cold.
“The humble beauty of the Lowlands should not be overlooked”
It should be noted that Muir was a flawed figure. Though his views evolved, the conservationist made derogatory comments about Black people and Indigenous people which drew on racist stereotypes. The Sierra Club itself, which Muir founded in 1892, addressed this in July of 2020.
The John Muir Way, however, is a terrific long-distance trail. The Cairngorms, Highlands and islands may be the pinnacle of the Scottish wild but the depths of history, culture, and the humble beauty of the Lowlands should not be overlooked.