Twenty years ago, David Gray and Sustrans founder John Grimshaw created the C2C cycle challenge route from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, across the Pennines. It quickly became the most popular long distance cycle route in the UK. The duo are now hoping to replicate that success with a new, 122-mile sea-to-sea cycle route, this time for Scotland. Gray plotted out the original English route before its launch in 1994 and has done the same for the Scottish route, aided by Grimshaw, who was the former CEO of Sustrans. Gray used to be the north east coordinator for Sustrans and now has a cycle holiday business called Chain Events.
Grimshaw and Gray were commissioned by the Upper Tweed Railway Paths group to look at creating a long distance cycle route using dismantled railways in the Scottish Borders. As a result of this they came up with a sea-to-sea cycle route between the town of Annan on the Solway Firth and South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh. Unlike the English C2C route, which is tackled from west to east, the Scottish C2C runs due north, highlighting the fact that Edinburgh, on Scotland’s east coast, is further west than Carlisle.
The route comprises a mix of country lanes, moorland roads, cycle paths and seaside promenades, and like, the English C2C has two stiff climbs, one over the Devils Beef Tub – a border reiver cattle hideout back in the bad old days – and a long ascent through the Moorfoot Hills. The route then opens out on to a panoramic view (in good weather, natch) of the Lothians, Edinburgh Castle, and the Firth of Forth. The route ends under the Forth Bridge.
The route is designed to be tackled over two days with a suggested overnight stop in or near Peebles, a town that caters to cyclists thanks to the MTB trails at the nearby Glentress Forest, created by Arthur Phillips long before the Forestry Commission took over the provision of mountain bike "parks".
A map for the Scottish C2C will be available soon. It is sponsored by the local councils, Edinburgh Bike Co-Op, SPOKES and AES Wind Generation and SESTrans.
"Businesses along the route have been primed to expect a new wave of hungry and thirsty cyclists arriving on their doorsteps," said Gray. "Given the fact that touring cyclists spend around £40 a day on food and accommodation and there are 15,000 every year on the original C2C this new route will potentially bring a huge boost to the local economy."
"This ride links the Solway Firth to the Firth of Forth by way of three river valleys, the Annan, the Tweed, and the Esk, and the Southern Upland and Moorfoot Hills in between. It uses an extensive length of former railway west of Peebles, combined with the Scottish Borders Council opening the 11km Railway Greenway route from Peebles to Innerleithen in 2013, and Edinburgh City Council's resolve to open up a continuous coastal promenade route from Joppa to Granton. Whilst these works will take a number of years to complete, sufficient is in place to make this wonderful ride possible in 2014."
He added: "The ride is only signed south to north at present because from the Devil's Beef Tub to Lyne the current route must follow the main road down the Tweed valley. Eventually we hope that the proposed routes shown on this map will be opened to bypass all this main road, but at this early stage we are still in negotiation with a number of landowners."
Chain Events will be running supported rides on the new route from April onwards.