June Mini Adventure

I had great plans to blog on the hoof but time, energy, limited wifi put pay to that. As a result I really admire those of you who do and although I didn’t blog, hopefully I absorbed more along the way.

The mini adventure was all about cycling but because of the route became a multi-modal journey with fingers crossed for connections and space for bikes.

I set off with my cycling friend (MCF) early on Saturday. We had to take 3 trains for the 1st leg and only one could be booked for bikes – yikes! But the gods smiled and the connections went smoothly and the bike space was fine – phew!

I was surprised how busy the station was early on Saturday.

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On the first train stags and hens drank bubbly and did quizzes, in the quiet coach we planned and caught up.

Between Edinburgh and Glasgow we shared the cycle space with a lady going to Falkirk to meet fellow charity cycle riders for the first time.

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On the third train journey urban Clydeside made way to green fields and threatening skies.

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Next the first ferry! Like stations, ferry terminals always have a bit of a buzz with people setting off and friends meeting up…

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There’s a clue in the name…

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The Calmac crew take in the view and everything goes like clockwork…

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The clouds dissipated and the threat of showers disappeared leaving beautiful blues and the prospect of dry cycling on Arran…

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At last we could start cycling after half a day of travelling. The road North round Arran clings to the coast giving beautiful views of the sea, coast, wildlife and sheep – real and sculpted. The yellow flags were in beautiful full flower.

Next, the route turns inland and climbs. At this point we got a full measure of our relative fitness levels – MCF cycles most days and in most weathers, so was comfortably ahead of me but I was pleased with my fitness. The hill climbed steadily, and the slower pace meant we saw buzzards passing food/playing, heard cuckoos and watched swallows.

Then for the hair-raising down… I have to say it involved brakes, and was fast and exhilarating and I felt sorry for the large number of cyclists (not looking so fit) that were crawling up the other side.

Having reached the north of Arran, it was time for the next ferry. As we waited and snacked and went from the sun on a bench to the shelter of the waiting room, the weather changed and clouds bubbled up from the south.

I love the smaller ferries, they chug backwards and forwards with locals and visitors and feel much more informal than the bigger ferries.

Half way across, the rain arrived. As we arrived at Claonaig, it strengthened, so, in the ferry “bus” shelter we donned full water proofs and set off again. For 5 hilly, single track road miles it poured enough to make us really appreciate the waterproofs and get very wet feet. The rain water ran down my face and into my mouth with a strange artificial taste. Is that what helmets taste like? The water streamed along the road and I had to moderate my pace to for fear of skidding. I was pleased there was very little traffic on the road.

Then it stopped. And we cruised along a wide fast road. It was quiet but the Saturday evening traffic was fast and scary enough for me to reconsider the route for the next day. It felt like the cool breeze might dry us out, but it turned out the breeze was just the rush of air as I cycled and actually the midgies were out and attacking ferociously. We reached Tarbert and made the essential Coop visit for provisions for dinner. The harbour view was lovely but no wind meant MCF’s insect repellant was so appreciated…

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A few miles further north we stayed in a new and quiet hostel. After 3 trains, 2 ferries and 39 cycle miles, it was lovely to get dry, clean, eat and enjoy the panorama…

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After a sleepless hot night on a very high bunk the morning was fresh, sunny, bright and refreshing. The Crinan canal looked pretty with lovely reflections. The cycle path was great but so new the gravel made travel quite slow.

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But first provisions for a long day of cycling, of course… 12 coop

After the canal, we travelled across flat land that must be quite wet and then came to Kilmartin. It would have been interesting to explore more thoroughly the many stone circles and mounds, but there were still lots of miles to cover and the quieter route we were taking was longer than the coastal route.

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Way markers and gates between the fields, paths and stones of Kilmartin…

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The route followed Loch Awe, never close, mainly perched aloft with beautiful sneaky views of the water. We wound through villages, ate lunch listening to hymns being sung in the nearby church, passed through fields then forest. There were showers but never persistent enough to need waterproofs. It went up and down.

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And up and down. AND UP AND DOWN. The ups were – out of the saddle – steep, the downs were pot hole and gravel scary and breaky. Eventually we reached Taynuilt and felt we were making progress. Ha! there were still seemingly never-ending miles ahead. Next the route wound through open fields surrounded with undulating hills reminiscent of valleys like Dunnerdale in the Lakes. Eventually, after stops, snacks, tea at the cafe near Loch Awe and well over 50 miles, we wound our way into Oban.16 awe 2

I was oh-so ready for the end of the day. My hands were stiff from breaking! We got dinner provisions, parked the bikes in the lovely Oban SYE hostel bike shed, got clean and had tea, and tea and dinner and tea. What a great, exhausting, satisfying day.

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With an after dinner stroll in the fresh Oban evening…18 obn

Next day (after another hot, not much sleep night in a hostel bunk), I left MCF (who was so lucky to be able to continue cycling through the Outer Hebrides and across the north of Scotland) and caught the train south. What a lovely journey, the staff were friendly and organised. They sorted out the passengers and bikes and reservations and fed the platform ducks. My bike settled, I soaked up the view – characterful stations, green mountains, waterfalls in spate…19 obn trn

This was the first time I’ve taken my bike into a sandwich shop. No one blinked an eye! It must happen all the time! And I munched while people watching in Glasgow…20 GLC

Crossing the border into England across the broad Tweed. I love this journey above cliffs and sea and castles and islands and nearly home…

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Finally, the last few miles from the station to home, so familiar. And the conclusion of an adventure. And reflection and satisfaction and what next…

It was a great journey, not quite a west coast exploration due to our change of route but it was so good to have a cycle adventure again. There will definately but another time…

Mull in spring

I love Mull in spring. This April/May I enjoyed 2 weeks there. Staying on the edge of the island; soaking up four seasons of weather, wild birds, animals and plants; watching the waves; absorbing the sunsets and wide skies. Most of all being still and restful. Here are a few of my observations…

A day trip to Iona makes a full day out and a lot of driving on the small roads of Mull. However, the scenery is stunning and the colours of SW Mull and Iona are beautiful…

There’s something about being by the sea that is exhilarating. Watching calms and as you observe it opens its secrets of bird life, islands and passing boats…

What else did I love? Well, the herdy sheep, the colours of Tobermory, the entrancing Mishnish lochs, the brocken spectre/sundog, and the big dark night sky all stars and moonlight…

And I have to mention the sunsets, difficult to capture in camera but always beautiful…

…till next time…