Starting from Haddington, where it links with Route 76, Route 196 heads south on a path by the banks of the River Esk, crosses the river, and then continues on minor roads for 6 miles, until it reaches the beginning of the railway path near West Saltoun. A very short detour here takes you to the Glenkinchie Whisky Distillery, which offers guided tours and free tastings. The railway path runs for another 6 miles past the villages of Pencaitland and Ormiston. The railway used to serve the many coal mines in the area and there are signs along the way indicating where the collieries were.
At Crossgatehall, the route joins minor roads for under a mile, before rejoining the railway path, which in turn leads onto the Smeaton Railway path (also part of Route 1). Turn left to head into the town of Dalkeith (a right turn takes you towards Musselburgh and Edinburgh). The route has been recently realigned through Dalkeith town centre to allow for the construction of the Borders Railway. Some sections are through pleasant woodland, but due to future planned developments, the route is interim in places – please follow the signs and take care on roads.
After crossing over the A7 on a footbridge, Route 196 separates from Route 1 at Bonnyrigg. Route 1 heads south, while Route 196 continues on the railway path which takes you past residential areas and through pleasant countryside. Once past Rosewell, you can see Roslyn Chapel in the distance to the right. A fascinating place due to its links with the Templars, it gained further fame through featuring in the book The Da Vinci Code. The route passes by wooded Roslin Glen and it is well worth a detour down the steps into the Glen to see Roslin Castle and to visit Roslyn Chapel.
If you continue to Roslin village, you can join the Loanhead Railway Path which heads north to Straiton Ponds, under the Edinburgh bypass (A720), and along a railway path (built in 2014) to Lasswade Road. There are plans to upgrade the existing path on the east side of Lasswade Road which takes you into the southern outskirts of Edinburgh.
Continuing along Route 196, you follow the meandering course of the River North Esk, through a couple of tunnels south of Auchendinny, and along the wooded riverbanks where the remains of paper mills can still be seen. The route ends in the small town of Penicuik.
We have taken all responsible steps to ensure that these routes are safe and achievable by people with a reasonable level of fitness. However, all outdoor activities involve a degree of risk. To the extent permitted by law, Sustrans accepts no responsibility for any accidents or injury resulting from following these routes. Walking and cycling routes change over time. Weather conditions may also affect path surfaces. Please use your own judgement when using the routes based upon the weather and the ability, experience and confidence levels of those in your group.