Cycling from Glasgow to Loch Lomond
What to do between Christmas and New Year? During the period between Christmas and New Year, I enjoy heading out on my bike on a short tour to take advantage of the quiet roads in big cities, cheap train tickets and discounted accommodation prices. It’s a funny time in the calendar when going to work feels strange, yet staying at home and doing nothing feels plain lazy!
This year I decided to head up to Scotland to ride around the Glasgow region following the Forth and Clyde Canal along the ‘Central Belt’ with the intention of stopping off at the impressive Falkirk Wheel, The Kelpies sculptures and the architecturally infamous new town of Cumbernauld.
From Wigan North Western to Glasgow...
I bought my Virgin train tickets to Glasgow for only £12 each way a couple of weeks in advance and decided to take my new Marin hybrid bike rather than my Brompton. I wanted to ride along canal paths which are unpredictably surfaced and this might have been a bit difficult in parts for the smaller Brompton wheels.
I left Manchester Victoria early in the morning on the 28th December on a largely deserted Northern train to Wigan before walking over the road to the Wigan North Western station to catch the Virgin Pendolino to Glasgow Central.
Frustratingly, the train was running 45 minutes late due to over-running engineering works and the morning was one of the coldest of the year. The skies were clear through the Lake District and the cool sun was beaming through the windows. I got off the train at Glasgow Central and was immediately struck by the rise in temperature in Scotland.
Onwards to Loch Lomond...
Turning left out of the impressive Glasgow Central station put me immediately on the cycle path to the SECC exhibition centre and the redeveloped Clyde Docks. Historically, this part of the city was an important shipbuilding area with thousands of workers and linked industries all helping make Glasgow the ‘second city of the Empire’.
Today, the scene is very different as the docks have been redeveloped into a media centre with the offices of the BBC, STV/ITV and the Daily Record all nearby. The impressive Science Museum, Zaha Hadid designed Transport Museum and the SSE Hydro Arena also ensure that this is a lively leisure area too.
Following the Forth and Clyde Canal...
The cycle route I followed was the National Cycle Route 7 between Glasgow and Loch Lomond around 25 miles from the city centre. This trail follows disused railway lines, the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath and riverside paths all the way to Balloch on the shores of picturesque Loch Lomond.
As I left Glasgow along the old railway line passing through derelict businesses and tenements, I picked up the Forth and Clyde Canal towpath just outside the post-industrial town of Clydebank.
I have an intimate knowledge of this canal path as in 2012, I completed an ultramarathon running between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The journey will always be remembered as 55 miles of pure pain and it was good to be back cycling along the towpath rather than running.
Unexpectedly the route that I was following passed the first lock on the canal towpath and looked outwards towards the Clyde Sea. As I had previously cycled from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal, knowing that I had explored fully explored another waterway was a welcome feeling.
Through Dumbarton and onto Balloch...
Along the way, I passed through the ancient town of Dumbarton on the Clyde coast and was immediately impressed by the castle that sits atop a huge rock. Dumbarton Rock is classified as an Ancient Monument and ironically, the stadium for Dumbarton F.C lies directly beneath the castle which is not exactly a fortress!
Passing through the town, I crossed over the famous and historic bridge out of Dumbarton and re-joined the riverside cycle path towards Balloch for 6 miles.
Balloch is the main centre for southern Loch Lomond and thrives as a popular shopping location and accommodation base for exploring Bri