With a weekend of glorious weather ahead of us, we decided to explore the southern side of the ‘Round the Forth’ cycle route. After spending much longer than anticipated at the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway Museum, we decided to make a weekend of it and complete the journey from Linlithgow to Stirling over 2 days. Despite the ominous ever-present oil refineries and power stations, this is a surprisingly nice part of Scotland and it was worth taking time to enjoy.
Day 1: Cycling from Linlithgow to Polmont with a visit to the Bo’ness and Kineil Railway Museum
Distance: 10.5 Miles
Terrain: Mostly flat country roads, with a detour along the shore path near Bo’ness. Uphill and a bit busier on the way to Polmont Station
Time it took us: 8 hours, including a few hours at the railway museum and a round trip journey on the steam train
After a brief stretch along the A803 from Linlithgow Station, a gentle uphill along a quiet country road led to excellent views of the Forth Bridge. From there, a steep downhill for a couple of miles brought us to the pretty outskirts of Bo’Ness. We took a brief detour along the coastal walkway, with views to the left as far as Kincardine and Langannet Power Station. To the right Blackness Castle seemed temptingly close, but we decided to save that for another day – we had a train to catch, after all, and not just any old train.
The Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway Museum proved to be a fascinating day out. It has a wonderful collection of historic buildings, sheds full of vintage steam and diesel trains, and a museum where you get the rare chance to step inside a steam train engine room and play with the controls. We took a leisurely return journey to Manuel on the beautifully restored “Morayshire” steam train (LNER – D49, No.246), disembarking one stop early so we could stroll back to Bo’ness along the shore.
We resumed our bike journey, taking Route 76 through Kinneil Wood where we got lost for a while (it’s not well signposted!). After this a hilly but quiet country road took us to Grangemouth. In the beautiful autumn light, even the smoking stacks of petrochemical land looked amazing. We cycled briefly beside the busy M9, before taking a left on to a long and increasingly busy uphill section to Polmont Station.
Day 2: Cycling from Polmont to Stirling
Distance: 24.6 miles
Terrain: Mostly flat country roads, with a short section on a muddy farm track. Some main roads and cycle bridges over motorways.
Time it took us: 5 hours
Starting at Polmont Station, we retraced our steps to the Grangemouth oil refinery. From there Cycle Route 76 follows the M9 to the outskirts of Grangemouth, then winds its way through 1960’s suburbs and on into the centre of town. After refuelling at in the La Porte Precinct, we continued on over Kerse Bridge and right onto a narrow country lane. Surrounded by recently harvested fields, Newton Road was wonderful to cycle on. Supremely flat and traffic free, some were parts so reminiscent of Kansas we almost expected to meet Dorothy and the Wicked Witch!
After that Route 76 becomes a little weird. It crosses over the motorway several times and, rather dishearteningly, often seemed to be doubling back on itself. Eventually, we found our way to another quiet and hilly country road passing through farmland for several more miles. After climbing for a while with the distant Ochil Hills coming slowly into view, Stirling suddenly appeared below us – a welcome sight as we were feeling a little bit weary at that point. The path became a muddy track, followed by a pleasant ride along an old railway trail then on into Stirling.
It’s always worth checking on train times before embarking on any journey. We didn’t, of course, so it was a rather nasty shock to discover that there were no trains from Stirling Station that day. Luckily, being Dahon owners, we were able to fold our bikes and pop them into the luggage store on the rail replacement bus. A slightly ignominious end to a lovely weekend, but we’ll be more prepared in future.
How to get there: Direct trains from Glasgow Queen Street to Linlithgow / Polmont – only takes about half an hour as long as you’re not on the rail replacement bus