East Lothian gravel riding at it’s finest. This route is not without challenges. Some sections may have you cursing me, the route creator. This route joins up segments and trails that I have enjoyed riding over many, many years. I’d often wondered whether I could stitch everything together in one ride, just like this. It’s a labour of love, that will inevitably change with the seasons. Riding this route in high summer you’ll be rolling along on dry gravel. In February, parts of this route might not even be passable, and you’ll have to think of a way round. But – if you’re looking for a way of escaping for the day, or the afternoon, or evening, a way of leaving all of that shit you’ve been worrying about and stressing out over behind, then this my fellow rider, this is it.

TPM – The Pencaitland Method.

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June 2024 – As Summer casts her gaze back over her shoulder at us, we feel the pull of her promised long, warm evenings, encouraging us to cast off the mundane humdrum of life and instead, pick up our bikes and ride. So then, ride with us as we chase Summer’s golden hours, transporting ourselves into an ancient land, away from the city.

Leaving Edinburgh behind we head out to Pencaitland, meaning ‘Head of the Woodland’. It’s one of the oldest inhabited places in East Lothian and if you’re lucky you might be able to spot one of the many buzzards that still call this ancient place their home.

Saltoun Big Wood, or Saltoun Forest on OS Maps, awaits. This area is a mixture of managed plantation and natural woodland. Beware though, in 1629, the reputed wizard of East Lothian, Alexander Hamilton confessed he met the devil amongst these trees. So perhaps don’t dwell too long… A mixture of wide woodland paths and close, tight, twisty singletrack make up this section. You could easily spend the whole evening here exploring.

This area is famous for an abundance of yew trees, and many can be found along the route, including the Dundas Yews as you exit this section and return to the road for a short while.

A fast loop around the Winton Estate, dating from 1150, returns you to the Pencaitland Railway, where it’s up the steps to Elphinstone, +10 points if you don’t need to get off and push! Follow on through the field access tracks to Fa’side Castle, best known for its association with the Battle of Pinkie in 1547. This was the last battle fought between Scotland and England as separate nations.

Chasing the sunset and heading back into the city again via Musselburgh, feeling as if we’ve somehow been transported by Summer somewhere else altogether magical. We round out the route with a half-ascent of Arthur’s Seat, the ancient extinct volcano that sits in the centre of Edinburgh, offering spectacular views of Scotland’s capital city.

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This route contains sections where you may need to get off and push your bike. Depending on weather conditions, some sections may be overgrown. The nettle stings will only hurt for a wee while. Be aware, the section at the Dove Cot, after Saltoun Woods, has been blocked by a fallen tree. The route continues around the left of the Dove Cot, under a yew tree. Coffee and cake is available at the fantastic Rosearista Coffee Shop, please check their Facebook page for opening times as they are a small family run business.

If you’ve spotted any issues with the route – or have any updates, questions or links you your rides, please post them in the comments below.

Interested in bigger bikepacking adventures in Scotland? Read about my experiences on The Capital Trail and the Badger Divide!