Ulog 17: A cycle ride to the Dug Café

in cycling •  7 months ago

I fell and sprained my ankle about 10 days ago, so hillwalking is out for the next week or two. I thought a cycle ride would be a good way to exercise the ankle without it having to support my entire body weight.

I used to cycle a lot – I commuted to work every day on my bike for several years. But that was a long time ago. However I recently inherited a bike – called Betsy – from a friend who tried cycling once and hated it.

So a couple of days ago, me and Betsy set off for a ride along the Forth & Clyde canal, from Glasgow to Bowling, nine miles away, where the canal ends.

Signpost saying Bowling 9 copy.jpg

We cycled alongside the River Kelvin, and then up to Maryhill Locks, where the canal crosses the Kelvin Aqueduct.

The Forth & Clyde canal and the aqueduct were constructed in the 1780s, but the canal was closed in 1963, falling into a state of dereliction. It was regenerated using National Lottery money in the early 2000s, along with the Union canal that runs from Falkirk to Edinburgh.

Locks at Maryhill copy.jpg

Birds have returned to the canal, with swans, cormorants and the odd heron frequenting the area.

Canal with swans copy.jpg

The heron was being very still, and from a distance it looked like a strange statue.

Heron at a distance copy.jpg

Heron, v close up and blurry copy.jpg

Unfortunately there is a danger that the canals could fall into disrepair once more. Three lift bridges on the Forth & Clyde canal and one on the Union canal have been closed to boat traffic or restricted, due to safety issues. Campaigners are calling for more investment.

Old km marker at Anniesland Lock 27 copy.jpg

Illustration of Lock 27 c1896 copy.jpg

The area used to be quite unpleasant before the regeneration took place, and now it's busy with walkers, cyclists and people fishing.

Fishing cyclist copy.jpg

I passed the man above a few times as he cycled along, stopping now and again to do some fishing.

Bike monument, Clydebank copy.jpg

At Clydebank there is a monument celebrating the opening of cycle route 754. I contributed to its development, donating a small amount of money every week for years to Sustrans, the charity that developed the National Cycle Network.

I did it because I love cycling and wanted to see better cycle paths. I've become very disillusioned with governments and where exactly our tax money goes, and I think this kind of funding could be a way forward in the future.

Sustrans bench copy.jpg

I stopped to have lunch by the canal at Clydebank, not far from the busy Clyde Shopping Centre. As I ate, a man came up and asked me for money. Sadly, Clydebank, like many parts of Glasgow, has a very visible problem with drug and alcohol abuse. I once saw a woman, probably no more than 35 years old, sitting outside the doors to the shopping centre, drunkenly slugging back a bottle of wine, at 3pm.

These problems seem to have their roots in deindustrialisation to some extent. The shipbuilding industry, once of enormous importance to Glasgow and the British Empire, was centred around here, and with its decline came joblessness and poverty.

Clydebank shopping centre copy.jpg

I write this because I don't want to gloss over these issues. The canal runs through some of Greater Glasgow's poorer areas, areas that have been ignored for years and allowed to fall into disrepair. Its regeneration has been a great thing in my opinion, giving local people a place to walk, exercise and play in places that you might have felt very uncomfortable visiting a couple of decades ago.

Km marker, Falkirk to Bowling copy.jpg

After my refreshment break, I cycled on. I had to cross Dumbarton Road at Dalmuir, just outside Clydebank, where the canal runs underneath the road.

Across the road, from here, you can see the Beardmore Sculpture, created by Tom McKendrick in 2010 to commemorate the Beardmore Naval Construction Works, which was in operation for less than 25 years, from 1906 to 1930. The sculpture was built from components of the dreadnought Ramillies.

Beardmore sculpture copy.jpg

Shortly afterwards, the Erskine Bridge loomed into view.

Cylist with Erskine Bridge in the distance copy.jpg

The Erskine Bridge spans the River Clyde, and when it was first opened, in 1971, it was the longest bridge of its type in the world.

Underneath the Erskine Bridge different view copy.jpg

The canal passes under the bridge at Old Kilpatrick.

Lock near Old Kilpatrick, better copy.jpg

It's a very scenic spot, but someone had decided to throw a can of Irn Bru, "Scotland's other national drink" in the water. Typical!

Can of Irn Bru under the waterfall copy.jpg

The lady at the right of this photo was cycling with her pet dog in the bike basket. They were heading for the Dug Café at Bowling.

View along canal near Erskine Bridge, with cyclist and dog in basket 1 copy.jpg

If you're not from Scotland, you won't understand what I mean by "dug". It's the west of Scotland way of saying "dog".

There wasn't much further to go now – Bowling was just 2 km away, according to the milestone.

For some reason, all the ducks seemed to be gathered at this spot.

Ducks on pier copy.jpg

At last, the marina at Bowling came into view. Bowling is where the Forth & Clyde canal meets the wide estuary of the River Clyde, and you can smell the sea here.

Marina at Bowling 2, with lovely red boat copy.jpg

Dungraftin, better copy.jpg

The owner of this boat had evidently retired.

Bowling is a quiet little hamlet at the foot of the Kilpatrick hills. From this standpoint you could completely forget the busy A82 dual carriageway that separates Bowling from the hills.

Canine café

At last, I reached the Dug Café. I love "dugs", but I don't own one, so it's nice to sit in a café that's full of them. However, today I was to be disappointed. The only canine customer was the one being transported in the basket on the bike I'd passed earlier, but she was just having a takeaway.


Dug Cafe, different angle copy.jpg

I enjoyed a mocha and a slice of rocky road, and went on my way.

Mocha and Rocky Road copy.jpg

Grand finalé

As it was my first lengthy cycle in quite a while, I had a few aches and pains on my way back, mostly around the sitting area! But it was a lovely day, and I thoroughly enjoyed it – apart from a comedy fall right at the end.

I was just leaving the canal at Maryhill, inching my way slowly round a very sharp bend that would take me down to the main road, when Betsy went into a slow skid, tipping me over uncontrollably.

I fell backwards into a kind of shallow pit full of nettles and thistles, where I flailed about like a beetle on its back trying to get up. There was nothing to hold onto to lever myself up – only jaggy thistles and nettles. My small backpack saved some of my skin from nettle rash and thorns.

A couple of men out jogging passed by and helped me up. The palm of my hand was full of thorns and there was a bit of bleeding, but I felt no pain – only embarrassment! The kind men clearly realised this – one of them assured me that he'd "done the same thing many times" and the other one said: "Well done you for just getting back up on your bike again!"

Horses copy.jpg

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Very nice pictures. It was really enjoyable to follow you around on your bike ride this way. That is horrible about the fall and hopefully you can mend up well. I remember the first time I tried to ride a bike recently. I hadn't been on one since I was a kid and it was nothing short of a miracle that I didn't kill myself!


Thanks @bozz. No lasting damage except a few tiny cuts and a slight feeling of embarrassment! I hope you get back on that bike, as it is so much fun and great exercise. Just wear a helmet and keep away from motor traffic and you'll be fine :)


We used to take our bikes camping with us, but never really used them. I stopped taking them because they were just using up extra space. Glad that you aren't too damaged. I am sure the embarrassment will last longer than the cuts!


Thanks! At least it gave me a laugh - once I'd cleaned myself up :)

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Lovely post. Nice pictures and story. (That all-centered formatting in spots needs some attention though. Just sayin'. [smile] )


Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.


Thanks for pointing out the all-centered text formatting issue, which I hadn't noticed, as it only started to happen after I uploaded smaller versions of the photos. I can't for the life of me work out how to change it back to left aligned - there seems no logical reason why it's doing this, as the Markdown commands are exactly the same ones that I would normally use! Urgh...

Nice places @natubat
You should stop by the waters and fish there.


Thanks @cryptopie! Maybe I will one day.

Thanks for the education, never heard of 'dug' down in the south. That fall sounds bad, a bed of nettles is never pleasant.


You have to say it in a Glasgow accent for it to make any sense!


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Great pics- I really hope to cycle in Scotland someday!

Posted using Partiko iOS


Thanks! You will love it :)