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The Herring Road

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

3 minutes

There are worse places to be than on your own.
— Ernest Hemingway

At the start of the week, with fair weather forecast, I set off for a little solo overnighter, now that we’ve been given the green light for wild camping once again.

Unlike most of the rest of the UK, wild camping is legal in the majority of places in Scotland thanks to the Land Reform Act of 2003. Adhereing to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and principles of responsible access, I’d planned my ride to arrive late and intended to leave early the next morning.

The Outward Journey

Accordingly, I cycled out of the city for a couple of hours shortly after dinner. Passing through Gifford, I continued along the road over the Redstone Rig before turning off and heading along the Herring Road.

The road is so named due to being the path that 18-19th century fishwives used to cross the moors from Dunbar to market in Lauder, often with a 50kg load of salted herring on their backs; I can only imagine the hardships and conditions they must have endured.

As the sun began to set, I pulled off the path and found a spot to set up my bivy for the night and prepare my overnight oats while having a good slice of fritata by way of supper.

The previous time I stopped for the night in this vicinity was on the way to watch the Tour of Britain sprint pass through Duns at the start of September last year. That time I was treated to a perfectly still and cloudless sky and, as the moon sank behind the hills, a spectacular view of the Milky Way by which to fall asleep.

Last night – theoretically at least – I should have been able to see the comet Neowise. However, that wasn’t to be. Instead, just as I was drifting off, there were a couple of tremendously bright flashes which I initially mistook for lightning. Slightly concerned that the weather forecast had been massively wrong, I opened my eyes to witness the brightest meteor I had ever seen streak through the heavens as it skimmed across the firmament.

Return to Civilisation

Waking early, I had breakfast while packing up before pushing on to Whiteadder reservoir. These days, the northern part of the Herring Road is quite tricky to follow – especially on a bike. I opted to cheat a little and follow the maintenance roads of the still-growing Crystal Rig wind farm.

My timing did mean that I met the early shift of works traffic heading up the hill as I descended towards Spott. Thankfully, the approaching vehicles were kicking up plenty of dust so I had advanced notice to reign things in.

Picking up the John Muir Way at Dunbar, I made my way to North Berick and – evntually – found somewhere for a socially-distanced second breakfast. I then continued back toward Edinburgh, through the Archerfield Estate and Gullane, hugging the coast as much as I could through to Musselburgh and Portobello Promenade before arriving in Leith.

All in, across the two days, the route was about 140km of some beautiful and varied terrain along mostly-quiet roads and historical paths. Definitely something I’ll be going back to again at some point.

#cycling  #outdoors