Christmas Dinner

The December weather has not been encouraging for venturing outdoors.  I have managed to be out on my bike, but my mileage for the month is lower than I might manage on some long days in the summer.  I went out with Ewan and Sally a few days before Christmas.  In the days when I was a full-time Edinburgh resident, Ewan and I went for a ride together most weeks.  Sally has taken over the role of regular companion, but they have graciously let me join them when I am back in town.

We set off together on the train to Falkirk.  The path from the platform leads straight to the towpath of the Union Canal. The towpath was mostly ice-free at the end of the cold snap, but the canal itself was still heavily iced away from the bridges.  It is not far to the Falkirk Wheel, a millennium project to re-connect to the Forth and Clyde Canal. We paused at the visitor centre wondering about a coffee, but decided it was too early.  I spotted an interesting sculpture celebrating canal life – though a horse this big would struggle under the bridges.

Woman leading Horse. Scuplture in straw at the Falkirk Wheel
Woman and Horse Sculpture at Falkirk Wheel

We joined the towpath on the Forth and Clyde and turned east.  The canal used to terminate at the River Carron where there is a “sea lock” to allow access to the tidal river.  A major development project has seen the canal itself extended further along the river, permitting boat movements over a wider tidal range.  I have never seen a boat using this stretch of canal – perhaps I’ve always been there at the wrong time.

Near the original terminus, another visitor attraction has been created – the Kelpies.  These enormous sculptures were originally conceived as an integral part of the lock working – they would tilt as the water in the lock change height.  By the time they came to be constructed, they were static, but are placed either side of the lock.

Small kelpie models in the foreground with the giant Kelpies in the background  appearing smaller than the models.
Kelpies – “Small – Far Away”

We did have coffee here before heading off over the Skinflats and the Clackmannan Crossing.  We skirted the north shore of the Forth and through the Black Devon Wetlands.  This is a relatively recent addition to our repertoire.  We are rarely rewarded with any interesting bird sightings, but can still enjoy the wilderness.

Rusty bridge in the foreground with distant hills behind
Remnant of Sauchie Waggonway

After a short break at a hide for coffee (from our flasks this time) we headed on through Alloa to the Inn at Cambus where Ewan had booked us a table for lunch (other Inns are available).  I’d only ever been in to that pub once before and it had been deserted.  This time, every table was occupied.  Starters and main course left us unable to manage a pudding, but we did have yet more coffee.

Getting back on the bikes with full stomachs was daunting, but we didn’t have far to go.  The route was mostly flat except for the slight hill to get in to the campus at Stirling University.  By then, the sun was low in the sky, we were cycling on one of the shortest days of the year after all, so we headed for the station at Bridge of Allan.

Sunsetting over hills beyond a small lake in the grounds of Stirling University
Sun Setting over Stirling University

I did no more cycling before Christmas, but we did go on an unusual journey on Christmas Eve.  In years gone by we’ve gone to pantomimes and other theatre productions.  This year we tried to repeat a success from a few years ago – an escape room.  After a short walk to the launch pad at Summerhall we undertook our mission for SASA in orbit.  We all enjoyed our hour as Space Cadets, and with a few helpful hints from our host successfully re-entered in time for lunch.

Four space cadets in jackets and caps in a red-lit hexagonal tunnel
Mission Accomplished