Liverpool to Oban

Beach closed at Morecombe!
Beach closed at Morecombe!
Seafront at St Anne's
Seafront at St Anne’s

Liverpool to Preston. 18th October 2014

Left home early on 6.45 train as had to pick up bike tickets at Euston. Why Virgin can’t organise it so you can get them out of the ticket machine I don’t know!! Anyway all worked smoothly. On the train the forward facing seats weren’t, so I went to find 1 for me! Good ride to Liverpool. Changed at the station and set out around 12. Firstly a walk through the pedestrian centre out to the Mersey and a view of the lovely city museum. Then North, past the old dock area. Some bits had been done up a bit, a few bits were still working areas, a few bits were rundown and a few derelict. No the best bit of coastal cycling. Most surprising thing were the ads by the road for the expansion of Heathrow airport. Seemed really bizarre. We must have gone through Bootle, but saw no sins, past the container port, and then suddenly we were in Crosby, which seemed a different world. It contrasted greatly with what we had just seen, with its prosperous air. Along 3km of Crosby beach was ‘Another Place’, an art installation. It consisted of 100 life size cast iron models of the artist’s naked body, place on the beach at differing height, with some partly submerged In the sand, or sea. It was oddly affecting. Then, on past a nature reserve to Formby. Over a level crossing and onto the ‘Asparagus cycle trail’! That was a new one. It took us past an old asparagus field which had recently been brought back to use and sported some very fine looking asparagus plants. There through a gate and across the railway line. Felt very odd to be so close to the train. Then along a cycle path through dunes and a nature reserve at Ainsdale, and tnhen to Southport. Not sure what I expected from Southport, But I liked it. Very long beach with salt marsh and sand. Came across one of the best road names ever; Ralph’s wife’s lane!! I was starting to get tired, but it was too early to stop, so I hoped we would find somewhere to stay a bit further on. No luck! We cycled along quiet lanes and little villages, and in 1, Tarleton, 4 pubs, but nowhere to stay. I was so tired by now, but had to keep going. We were now heading for Preston for the night. Into the city and ended up at a very uninspiring pub, but at least we had a bed. The street was a bit run down, and gourmet food was not apparent so we ended up at Nando’s. I fell straight to sleep at about 8.30, for 10 hours 40 mins!!

Per S. 75.81k. ave 17.8. Time 4.14.19. Odo 9760

Preston to Lancaster. 19th October 2014.

No breakfast at the pub, so over the road to Tesco Express to pick up croissants and fruit juice to start the day. Found our way out of the city with only a small detour following the wrong cycle signs, but soon picked up the ‘Guild Wheel’ cycle path which took us out of town alongside the River Ribble. It wasn’t as hard going as I had expected a very stiff headwind. After about 6 miles on the lovely cycle track, it was out onto A roads with a bike line separated from the main carriageway by painted lines. Then turned off through the villages of Freckleton and Warton into the wind and heading towards Lytham. S stopped at McDonald’s for coffee and pit stop, but I want to carry on past the headwind before I stopped. Straight into Lytham and along a cycle track along the prom into a fierce headwind. I was pedalling hard and still Only reaching 11 k per hour. Passed a beautifully restored windmill on the Lytham seafront. Slowly, slowly we progressed until the coast began to bend and we headed north. Along the prom at St. Anne’s, which really did seem attractive. Missed the Royal Lytham Golf club which was set back from the seafront. The delights of St. Anne’s soon became the delights of Blackpool as we passed the Pleasure Beach, with its enormous roller-coaster. There was a very wide prom, with very few people on it and a very strong tailwind. Now reaching over 20k per hour without pedalling! Possibly the best way to see Blackpool. There didn’t appear to be much beach as the waves came up to the concrete steps. Stopped for postcards, and S bought me a stick of Blackpool rock, though not one of the ‘adult rock’ that was advertised. Saw the illuminations, although they obviously we’re not at their best in the daylight. Also new trams right along the front. Got blown North past the piers and tower, and the things reverted to more typical coast with houses and small hotels. Large amounts of work were being done to the sea defences North of Blackpool, so we were diverted off the prom onto the road all the way to Fleetwood, the end of the line for the trams, and where we planned to catch the ferry across the river Wyre, just a couple of hundred metres. No such luck! The ferry was cancelled because of the gales. We were faced with a 17 mile detour inland and back up the other side. Too much! Had lunch at a cafe by the ferry deciding what to do when Stephen came up with a bright idea a taxi. So we took a tix, 17 miles round to the other side of the river 200 metres away! Then we were off again. Pretty and more affluent village on the other side called Knott End. Then the cycle to Lancaster. We had realised there wasn’t much in the way of accommodation along that stretch and wer right. Luckily mainly a tail wind still firstly along minor roads, and then a not very busy A road, which had some small ups and downs which made me realise how incredibly flat it had been so far. About 6 miles from Lancaster followed a signed cycle route which led alongside the river Lune on a disused railway track right into Lancaster. Lancaster does get top marks for the ways in to the city, as it was brilliant from the north as well. Looked at a couple of places which were not very inspiring. Asked a pcso and was directed to the sun hotel. Went into ask about other hotels, as it said full, but they had space. Very relieved. Out for a meal at Molly’s, and then back for an early night. After 50 miles I need a lot of sleep!

Dist 80.71. Tot dist 156.52. Ave 15.4. Mx 35.2. Time 5.12.42. Odo 9841.7

Lancaster to Morecombe (and back). 21st October 2014

The tail end of hurricane Gonzalo was crossing the country, leaving heavy squally showers and strong winds in its wake. We decided to take the cycle route the 3.5 miles to Morecombe. We waited for the torrential rain to stop and off we we crossed a bridge over the river stopped to talk to a lady who recognised our Roberts bikes, owning one herself, and someone who had cycled across the US. Then went along an old railway track. We sheltered under a wide bridge to miss the worst of another shower, and then into the face of the wind. Past the little new station at Morecambe and to the seafront. We had intended to ride along the prom, but it had been barricaded off as the waves crashed against the sea-wall. We then sheltered in the tourist information centre, in the old, rather grand station building, when there was another very, very heavy squally shower! The 2 people there were very friendly, and 1 had done cycle touring. After that it was back on the bikes to be practically blown back to Lancaster in double quick time. And on the way back another time of shelter under the same bridge for another shower. Then left the bikes at the station and wandered around Lancaster a bit. Then spent a pleasant 90 mins reading Adventure travel magazine in a cafe. So nice to just sit and relax and read. When returning to the station, our train was cancelled, but we could catch a full train to Preston and pick up the train at Preston, where it was now starting from, due to the effects of the weather!

Grange over Sands to Lancaster.  21st April 2014

Slightly concerned this morning as we had about 50k to do before catching the train just before 1. This meant we were going to have to go substantially quicker than the usual 10k per hour average! Managed to set off by 8.45, after a lovely breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, though I did think the Somerset House B&B where we stayed was a bit over-priced at £80 for the night, especially compared to the £65 in Millom the night before. The town was very quiet as we left, the tourists weren’t up and about at that time on a Bank Holiday Monday, and there was no wind, yet. Followed a very quiet little lane for a while, signposted the W2W (apparently Wolsey to Weir) cycle way. Then the cycle way went along the old road parallel to the new A590 for a while. Very pleasant. Then we knew we had to join the dual carriageway for a while, but it wasn’t that bad, there was a decent shoulder that was well-paved, and we were off it in no time and on to the A6 for a little. Then off on little side roads, mostly forming part of some cycle route, and an amazing number of cyclists out, both speedy and slow and families. The road proved hillier than expected, but progress was good, 16k in the 1st hour and 15 in the second. Again good views out over Morecombe bay. After a couple of hours we suddenly turned east for a bit, and the wind had definitely got up. Thank goodness we weren’t heading in to it most of the time.

As we approached Carnforth, and I thought we would have to go on the A6 we saw a sign for NCN route 6 up onto the canal path of the Lancaster canal, which was a lovely way to cycle in to the city. Then an excellently signposted cycle route right to the station and straight onto a platform. Stephen seemed a bit edgy, hurrying me along. It was 12.11, and we had done nearly 52 k so I was delighted. He was agitated as he thought the train left at 12.27, and was a bit fazed by my calmness, as I am usually the agitated one when travelling. All went well and we safely got on the train. Yet again to find the forward facing seats I had booked were rear facing. Thank you Virgin!

Dist. 51.85  Total. 251.98  Ave. 16.4  Max. 36.8  Odo. 8040.6  Time. 3’09’34

Barrow in Furness to Grange over Sands.  20th October 2014

The forecast rain was falling as we headed for the station to catch the train out to Barrow. A pleasant trip of an hour with me spending most of it looking out of the window. Two good bridges over expanses of water, and lots of salt marshes, one one of which were large numbers of sheep grazing. The rain had stopped by the time the rain chugged into Barrow, and we were lucky enough on the trip to just have a few light, drizzly, squally showers. Dried out very quickly when rain did fall. Found our way out of Barrow with ease along the main road to Ulverston. Not too much traffic, and the road was fairly flat. A lot of it alongside the sea, with lots of mudflats and in places great numbers of wading birds. The wind was not as strong as the previous 2 days, but it was blowing us along, rather than in our faces, which helped. My legs were really pathetic; the effect of 2 days hard cycling on no training since we got back from S Korea! Picked up lunch in Ulverston. Really skirted around the east of the town, then the worst bit of the day. About 5 miles on the main road from Barrow. Lots of traffic including lots of lorries, some ordinary road and some dual carriage-way. No fun at all. No provision for cycles. So glad when we could turn off onto a pedestrian and cycle only bridge. Then a lovely couple of miles off road til we joined a B road at Low Wood and followed it all the way to Grange. At times today some views of the sea, but mainly the coast was just a faint outline in the mist. Lunch by the side of the road, and into Grange early. S was going to treat me to some chocolates, but slight altercation with the owner left that idea high and dry. Settled for a hot chocolate instead. On to the beautiful Grange station, with the old iron work picked out in red and green paint. Nice and easy trip back to Lancaster. Feeling really pleased at having closed the gaps this weekend. Now have done the whole coast from Exeter round to Edinburgh!

Dist 48.2km. Tot dist 205.24. Ave 14.8. Time 3.17.34. Odo 9891.1

Millom to Barrow in Furness.  20th April 2014

The forecast for the day was fine, mainly sun, some cloud and light winds. Well, that wasn’t quite how it turned out! There was a very strong wind from the north east. Also, as soon as we set off in the morning we hit hills, on a main road. Setting out from Millom had been great with the church bells ringing out for Easter at nine. The hills were not particularly long, but just steep enough to be too much for me, so the pace was slow as I walked up them! After about 4 miles we joined the bigger, busier A595, but the ups and downs just carried on. We cut off a corner in. Boughton in Furness, very steep down and up! But it did improve when we turned south to Barrow, and the road suddenly became quieter. Again up and down, but great views back across to Millom, and it was easy to see why there wasn’t a ferry. At that time there was just a vast mudbank in the inlet. We could see a dark cloud gathering to the west as we made our slow way towards Barrow. Barrow was just as inspiring as expected! Not helped by the grey cloud and the start of some rain. We cycled through the centre of town and turned East. Suddenly I almost stopped as the full force of the wind hit! A very strong headwind and we were due to be heading straight I to it for the afternoon ! We looked around for somewhere to eat lunch, and saw a couple of uninspiring pubs, but also an Italian. Barrow is obviously the place for cheap food. All the pizzas were only £5.35!! We treated ourselves to a full meal and watched the I forecast rainfall!! We were both getting worried about the afternoon, with around 50 miles to do into the teeth of the headwind. Stephen checked train times and found there was 1 in about 40 minutes, and then a 4 hour wait. We decided to take the train, after all it is supposed to be fun. We’ll come back and revisit Barrow another time!

Caught the train, no problem with the bikes as the train started at. Barrow. It made its way inland to Ulverston, and then across the aqueduct. As thought, stunning views out over Morecombe Bay. Ulverston looked a particularly pretty and well-kept station. Stop at. Caramel, where the racecourse is. I had no idea of that! Then into Grange over Sands station. Again a beautifully kept and pretty station, apparently grade 2 listed! Amazed to read the first trains there were in 1875(?). Seemed early! Cycled trough the town, and what a contrast to the rest of our trip. Suddenly the streets were full of people, and hustle and bustle, a real tourist town. Found our B&B, and I caught with a nap while Stephen explored and bought me some chocolates in lieu of an Easter egg.

 Evening meal was at a Chinese, and then a short stroll along the esplanade, in the cold wind, but with great views out over the bay.

Dist. 40.02  Total. 200.13  Ave. 12.3  Max. 41.7  Odo. 7988.8  Time. 3’14’44

Silloth to Millom. 19th April 2014

Set out from Silloth at 8.45, after a bit of a fuss over the key. The previous evening we hadn’t been able to put our bikes in the bike store because other cyclists had the key with them, but we were told our bikes would be put into the store later that evening. In the morning one of the other cyclists had disappeared with the key. Eventually he appeared, having a ‘disagreement’ with Stephen. But after all our bikes weren’t in the store, so we needn’t have waited for the key!

Set off along a little pave, just to shake my bones. Then headed south on a quiet B road along the coast. We were following the Hadrian’s Cycle Way. Just a few cars, very rural, very flat and no wind. Quite idyllic. Through little villages such as Beckfoot, and then after 9 miles to Allonby. Views out to sea of a large off-shore wind farm, and back up the coast to the hills of Scotland. Just outside Maryport went onto a cycle path by the shore, which was lovely, all the way to Workington. Went to get a coffee in the centre of town. My preconceptions of Workington, and later Warrington were shattered. I have always thought of them as grey, bleak, somewhat miserable places, but today, with the sun shining, they seemed anything but. Lively, attractive, pleasant, with a pleasant marina in Whitehaven, and a strange circular installation in Workington playing lovely classical music as we drank our coffee. It certainly beat musak!

After Workington it got a bit hillier climbing out of the town, and I noticed a house called Manx View, but no view of the Isle of Man today! But we did chance upon an old railway, which made very pleasant cycling for a while. On and down into Whitehaven, where we bought lunch, and then the hillier bit started in earnest. Quite a bit of pushing now for me! We went up following a B road, and then descended into St. Bees where we ate lunch in a very pleasant little park, with a statue of St. Brega, a local saint of legend from Ireland, and after whom St Bees was named. She was 9th to 11th century.

From St Bees there was a stiff climb up, but that was followed by a lovely rolling, very tiny back road with almost no traffic running parallel to the shore through farmland. At one point a herd of young cows seemed fascinated by us! In the distance we could see the large shape of Sellafield drawing ever closer. Did we start to glow as we passed? The cycle path went right around the perimeter fences. It seemed very well protected, including by police officers with sub-machine guns! Was surprised to find that right beside it was a normal train station. Past Sellafield following the Cycle Way signs which led up to a golf course. A lady aggressively told Stephen he wasn’t allowed there, despite the sign pointing there. I came in at the end of the disagreement and just cycled on, which was a mistake. At the golf course there was a kiss gate which was hard to get through, and then some golfers started telling us we weren’t allowed there. Again initially aggressively. Why do people have to be like that? They said we should be on the new super duper cycle path the other side of the line that the local council had spent a lot of money on! Any way it was quite difficult on the footpath so we did take the opportunity to cross the railway line onto the cycle path. Hardly super! Barely wide enough for one person to cycle along, and would have been quite difficult if we had met others coming the other way. It was like calling a farm track the equivalent of a brand new road!

At one point we came to a level crossing. The gates were padlocked, and when a train had passed a man appeared to I luck them and let us through. So strange to have a manned level crossing almost in the middle of nowhere, with very few trains a day passing by.

We carried on following the cycle way, which then led us at Ravenglass to a footpath over a river alongside the train viaduct. The views out over the Esk estuary were magnificent! Once into Ravenglass we did get a bit lost following the cycle way signs which seemed to fizzle out past the Old Roman Bath House. We had hoped to find another river crossing to save us a detour, but no luck, so we turned back and climbed up the steep hill, past the entrance to Muncaster castle, and onto the main road. That was far less pleasant. All day we had been accompanied by birdsong. Many skylarks, and others I couldn’t identify, despite ‘Tweet of the Day’, It was getting late and we phoned the accommodation to let them know we were definitely still coming. In the distance for quite a while we had been able to see some huge buildings; the submarine manufacturing areas at Barrow. It was then just a question of plodding on, and on, turning off the main road and finally descending into Millom around 7!

Had to go into the market square to find somewhere to eat, and did get a table in the Italian restaurant, but had to wait over an hour for the starter. I was shattered, but as we learnt the next morning we were lucky to get anything, as a fellow guest at the hotel hadn’t been able to get any food anywhere in the town!

Dist. 109.47  Total dist. 160.1  Ave. 13.9  Max. 40.3  Odo. 7948.7 Time. 7’50’12

Carlisle to Silloth. 18th April 2014

Set out from home early this morning to catch the train to Carlisle. Slightly unusual routing; Tadworth to East Croydon, East Croydon to Milton Keynes and then Milton Keynes to Carlisle. All worked really smoothly, and arrive just a few minutes late in Carlisle. Negotiated our way through the pedestrian precinct we went through last year. After a couple of wrong turns ended up on cycle route 72, which went out from Carlisle along the banks of the river Eden. The cycle route shared the path with the Hadrian’s Wall footpath.

After a few miles we turned onto a small road and cycled through the mainly flat pretty countryside. Part of the route was along a road that is subject to tidal flooding, with lovely views across the Solway Firth to Scotland. Saw 2 pairs of Oyster catchers and lots of dunlin. Through Port Carlisle, which was very small, and then on to Bowness on Solway which is the end, or beginning of the Hadrian’s Way footpath. Interestingly saw a sign that said the local church had been made of stone taken from the wall.

Turned south along a very quiet road, could hear lark song and saw some swallows and a rookery. Lots of fields of sheep, the trees and hedges just coming into leaf, still flat with a cloudless blue sky, wonderful cycling. Went past a church at Holme Abbey, described as a grand-daughter of Rievaulx abbey. Then into Silloth, and a bit of pave to finish on.

Dist. 50.62  Ave 15.5  Max. 43.5  Time. 3.14.59  Odo. 7839.3

Annan to Carlisle. 28th May 2013.

Set off from Annan, and pleased that it wasn’t raining. Annan wasn’t a very inspiring place. The road out was pretty much flat and fairly straight all the way to Gretna, where we took a slight diversion to Gretna Green. All the way along there were views to the misty Lake District across the other side of the river estuary. Then at the edge of the Gretna we posed by the Scotland and England signs. Realised that I have travelled to Scotland by plane, rail and bike, but never by car. Chatted to a group of 3 men doing JOGLE in 7 days. Rather them than me, especially with the strong headwinds! At Gretna it was south on the old road beside the M6 for a while, which wasn’t much fun, but then turned off onto quiet country lanes and edged ever closer to the end. A few little climbs as we approached the City, and past the biggest timber yard I’ve seen, with a DB Schenker sign!   Then into Carlisle along some busy roads. And the first words said, ‘you’ not allowed to ride your bike here. It’s traffic free’.friendly! Somehow I had missed the sign. Walked down to see Carlsile Castle, and then went to a free lunch time concert of guitar music from Scott Bradley in the cathedral. Brief lunch and then to the station for the train home.

Dist. 33.22  Total. 398.66  Ave. 14.4  Max. 31.2  Odo. 6864.0  Time. 2.17’38

Dumfries to Annan. 27th May 2013

What a difference a night makes. Went to sleep to cloudless blue skies, and woke to grey ones with the forecast rain. Didn’t hurry to get away as we knew it was going to rain all day and we didn’t have too far to go. Didn’t seem too bad as we started out, but I’m sure that was because the strong wind was behind us. The road was fairly flat and we were pushed along by the wind. Through New Abbey. “The prettiest town in Galloway” so the sign said. Didn’t notice as I was concentrating on the roads not wanting to hit a pot-hole or deep puddle! Caught a brief look of the ruined abbey. Then much the same as we hurried towards Dumfries. It might have looked lovely up the Nith estuary, if it wasn’t for the rain. At the edge of Dumfries was sign saying ‘Queen of the South’. So that’s where the football team comes from!

Across the river in Dumfries and then turned straight onto the NCN route 7 again. This time a path alongside the river. And it was like turning into a wall. Suddenly the lovely strong tail wind was a horribly strong head wind. Every turn of the pedal was a struggle. I thought the distance on my computer was going especially slowly, until I realised I was looking at the clock, not mileage! But it still went pretty slow. Again, in good weather I’m sure it would have been lovely, but not in this. And the wind seemed to get stronger, and the rain heavier; so much so that the rain was stinging my face. It was a long slog down the estuary. S stopped for a coffee take away, which seemed to perk him up! Then on to the tip, which was a nature reserve with an empty car park! Wonder why! The Solway Firth looked very unappealing, brown and turbulent. At least we turned away from the head wind. Amazing how brilliant it seems when the wind drops! Then up to Bankend, where we took a sharp right, again following NCN7, and the clouds seemed to lift a bit and it got lighter, and the rain turned into a light drizzle. Altogether more comfortable. We were now on the final stretch into Annan, counting the miles down, gently undulating. We went over and under the railway line, and finally were in Annan and found the hotel on the Main Street.

Mileage. 55.96  Total. 309.48  Ave. 14.9

Newton Stewart to Dumfries. 26th May 2013

Yet another sunny day! There were occasional times when there was some cloud, but mostly more sun!! Set off in a bit of trepidation for the first 18 miles to near Gate of Fleet looked as though they were going to be along the busy A75. Started on it, but then, thanks to Stephen’s Garmin after only a mile or so turned off onto a disused railway, part of NCN 7. Had to climb up a bit, but that gave better views of the river winding its way down the estuary. This is great I thought, but then after about 5 miles, route 7 headed inland. We had a cycle route for 1.5 miles to Carsluith, then part of the old road, but then it was out onto the main road for a bit. Not great fun! Took another detour, which proved to be steep. S didn’t seem impressed! But he did see some people at an adventure centre riding segways whilst waiting for me. We had been along the cost with great views over the bay to The Machars of yesterday. We cut inland a bit and then down to the coast for a flat bit and then the dreaded sight of a sign saying climbing lane 1 mile! But there was a shoulder and it didn’t seem too bad. But it was a relief to turn off onto the much quieter A755 and then the B727, and rejoined the route 7. At first it seemed quite wild, ut then less so as we cycled through quiet villages, and then headed north with a tail wind to Kirkcudbrigt for lunch at a little cafe looking at the ruined castle. It seemed quite a touristy place, and now I know where it is! Out of K on the road to Dalbeattie. Along the coast for a bit, then Mutehill, where the road went up, and all of a sudden a lot of climbing, but more rookeries, and also 2 hares! 1 ran towards me and then into a field. What a rare sight! Stopped at Dundrennan Abbey ruins, where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours on Scottish soil.

As I was cycling along the next bit an animal ran on the road towards me for about 30 yards. At first I thought it was a rabbit, than as it got closer realised it was a hare. Suddenly it spotted me, ran the other way for a few metres then ran under a hedge into a field where there was another one. Magic!

Then a long easy ride to Auchencairn, and then turned north towards Dalbeattie. Thought it was going to be hilly, but luckily it wasn’t. Just followed the side of the estuary with lovely views out over it. To a junction at the edge of Dalbeattie, where we decided to go on to Kirkbean, and booked a very expensive night in a small hotel there. Still, it was only 4, and it was a beautiful afternoon, and the weather forecast for the next day was atrocious, so the more the better.

From Dalbeattie turned south alongside the river along the Solway route. Through some villages and then at Sandyhills great views across the sand, which stretched for miles along the Solway Firth as the tide was out. It was just as I imagined it to be. Then the road was very hilly for a while, and I was glad I wouldn’t have to face it first thing in the morning. Then finally we reached the hotel. Another 100km day. The hotel was lovely, and there was soon a cup of tea/hot water in the Lounge for us, with some delicious fruit cake.

Meal was lovely, but quite small portions, ESP of potatoes after a full day cycling! Smoked salmon and dill tartlet, excellent pastry, local fillet of pork, and lemon brûlée. Coffee was £4.95, but did come with 4 hand made chocolates!

Dist. 99.43  Total. 309.48  Ave. 14.9  Max. 44.4  Odo. 6774.9  Time. 6.38.31

Stranraer to Newton Stewart. 25th May 2013

Woke to a cloudless sky. How lucky is that!

Decided not to do all the corners of the Rhinns of Galloway, but did set out heading north and then headed west to cross the peninsular. It was beautiful, and beautifully quiet and pastoral. There seemed to be a lot of up, before views over the sea to Ireland appeared, then we went parallel to the coast till we were nearly in Port Patrick. We decided not to descend into Port Patrick, but headed East. Along the way we passed what turned out to be the first of several, at least 5 today, rookeries. Brought back childhood memories. We soon turned south east and headed for Sandhead, which boasted a 7 mile sandy beach. The road headed north east and was fairly flat. After the little farms of earlier, thee now looked to be a couple of v large farms, and a sand quarry, and then a lot of MOD land, and lots of birds. That was a feature of this trip. Lots of little birds, that I couldn’t identify!

Had to do a bit on the busy A75, then Headed into Glenluce for lunch, and it seemed to be a town that had seen better days. Still, picked up food at the little supermarket, which thoughtfully had a picnic bench outside.

After lunch turned onto the A747 and down into the Machars Peninsula. What a little gem. Cycle routes were signposted on the A road, and it was so quiet the road was suitable! The road hugged the coast all the way down to Monreith, and it was magic. Apart from a couple of small hills the road was fairly flat. Looking out to sea, the sun was twinkling on the small waves, the sea was a Mediterranean blue. Just perfect! At Port Patrick we bought ourselves cakes and picnicked by the sea. Looking at an information board I discovered that what I had thought was Ireland, was in fact the Isle of Man, and we were only 22 miles away. More surprising was the fact that London was only a few miles further than John O’Groats! We didn’t see any of the standing stones as they were further inland. As we neared the tip we turned north, a tail wind thankfully, and sailed through Whithorn. An early pilgrimage site, and poss 1st church site in Scotland. It had a huge wide Main Street. Then north again, nearly to Wigtown, where we decided to go for Newton Stewart rather than stop. If we had known we should have gone to Wigtown and taken a small side road rather than the main road which seemed more of a busy racetrack from there to Newton Stewart. Had a couple of slightly hairy moments. Still things improved for the last couple of km into Newton Stewart as there was a cycle path down by the river. An idyllic end to the day.

Again we found a lovely place to stay at the Creebridge Hotel. My lamb was excellent, but Stephen was disappointed with his beef curry.

Mileage. 108.14  Total. 210.04  Ave. 15.4  Max. 39.4  Odo. 6675.4 Time. 6.59.12

Troon to Stranraer. May 24th 2013

Sleeper arrived into Glasgow exactly on time. Relatively straightforward time buying tickets for Troon, stacking up food for the day and catching the train. Just after 8.30 we had arrived back at Troon station and set off heading South. What a contrast in the weather. This time the rest of the UK was suffering cold and rain, whilst we had sun and a strong following wind behind us all day. It made the cycle a real pleasure. Cycled straight for the coast, and at Troon joined a cycle path along the front, where there was a wide sandy beach, and a man in a tractor dragging it and picking up litter. The bay swept away in front of us and we could see to the headlands past Ayr. Turned away from the coast and cycled past Royal Troon golf club, and then after a bit of a wiggle got back on the cycle route to Ayr. It was on the land side of the railway, but flat, nicely paved, and with the wind behind us, it was a perfect start. We whizzy along past Prestwick, where we saw a plane take off. Soon we were into Ayr, and followed the cycle route as it wiggled about trying to keep us off the main road. Cycled across the a river Ayr, which was another of those large Scottish rivers, and to our left was the old stone arch bridge.

It continued flat for another mile or so around the bay, and then suddenly we were on a small track and climbing. We joined the main A719, which wasn’t too busy, as it follow edge the coast, a bit inland and undulating. Past the ahead of Ayr, which looked like a children’s farm. Through Fisherton, and past Dunure, but not down into it, or we would have had to come back up again.

Then we stopped to read a stone at Electric Brae, and discovered we were on the magic road. If you are in a car and release the hand-brake an optical illusion makes it look as though you are rolling up hill! In land and then back to the coast, past a town called Maidens and suddenly we were at Turnberry, which looked as if it was made up of ‘the courses’ and the large, very impressive looking, Turnberry hotel. 2 open courses in 1 day!

Just after Turnberry was a lovely tearoom where we re-energised ourselves with a drink and cake, and then joined the A77. As we came up to it it looked very busy with lots of lorries heading down towards the ferries at Cairnryan and Stranraer. However once we got on the road it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Generally the drivers were considerate, giving lots of space. Even the big lorries! The road was fairly flat and it was still fast going with the tail wind. We paused near Lendalfoot to see a Russian memorial to the ship the Vargas, which had been in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904, and had a chequered history. The memorial was large, and constructed with Russian funds and dedicated by the Patriarch of Moscow. Obviously better known to them than us.

One of the most interesting things was seeing the island of Ailsa Craig just off shore. It was round, a granite plug left over. The 3rd largest gannet colony in the world, and where granite is still mined for curling stones.

Reached Ballantrae and then turned inland, so uphill. But the climb up was rewarded with a great descent down to the shires of Loch Ryan, then it was long the lake-shore past Cairn Ryan, with its large new ferry port. The ships go from there to Ireland, rather than Stranraer now. The traffic seemed heavy, and less courteous on that last little bit into Stranraer. We arrived about 3.40, so only just over 6 hours since we left Troon. Certainly the fastest we’ve ever cycled over 100k round the coast.

Tried the tourist info’ but we sorted ourselves out at the North West Castle Hotel, which was great.

Didn’t think about the sun, so we both got sunburnt faces today!

Mileage. 101.89  Total. 101.89  Ave. 17.4  Max. 44.6  Odo. 6567.3  Time. 5.50.58

Ardrishaig to Inverkip.  5th May 2013

Woke to a lovely sunny morning. If only it had lasted! Breakfasted looking out over a beautifully calm Loch Fyne. Set out about 9.30 and had an idyllic first 10k undulating road, little traffic and right by the shore. Spring has well and truly sprung, and I did think that I don’t remember doing a tour before when the daffodils were out. Usually Spring is earlier and we are cycling later. The idyll passed though, as after the10k mark it started to drizzle, and the views were not as good. At about 12 miles we reached Tarbert and stood in the ferry shelter out of the rain waiting for the ferry. A few cars and several bikes doing the ‘5 ferries route’ came off, but our bikes were the only vehicles crossing to Portavadie. By now little could be seen apart from grey mist/ rain. It was up a steep hill from Portavadie, which looked as though a lot of money had been spent on a new marina. The road went up, and then down the other side to Kames and Tighnabruaich, where we cycled along the front and then I had to push the bike up to rejoin the main road. From Tighnabruaich it was up and up for what seemed……..

Oban to Ardrishaig.  4th May 2013

The trip started last night with the sleeper to Glasgow. I thought I had read recently that it is the longest passenger train in the UK and it was very long, the train splitting at Carlisle for Edinburgh or Glasgow. I slept OK, but Stephen said he didn’t. Pulled into the stations a few minutes early, after sitting outside the station for a while. Then a short cycle from Glasgow Central to Glasgow Queen Street and plenty of time for breakfast waiting for the Oban train. There were a lot of bikes trying to get on the train, and those without reservations couldn’t board. Again the train split, first 2 coaches to Oban, rear 4 to Mallaig, via Fort William… Maybe one day we’ll be on that section. On the train chatted to a Canadian on her way to Iona. Finally after about 3 hours of stunning scenery, including snow on top of some of the mountains we reached Oban. The Calmac ferry to Mull loomed over the station, but this time we turned away from the ferry and headed out of town towards Lochgilphead.

The journey wasn’t as hard as I had feared. Thankfully. There were several climbs, but only 1 was steep, 1 in 8, and a lot of walking, otherwise not to steep so I could cycle most of it. The views were good, but there were clouds and some mist and occasional spots of rain, and a cold headwind. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the road and we made good progress. Stopped at a nice little cafe in Kilmartin, but the best of the day came at the end. Turned off the main road and onto a small side road. There was an area called Mohn Moss, a large area of original peat bog, and pre-historic standing stones, rocky outcrops that had been the seat of some Kings from Ireland. Then finished by cycling along the towpath of the Crinan canal for the last 10km to Ardrishaig. This has information boards along it and had been newly surfaced in parts. It was a lovely little area we wouldn’t otherwise have come across. As it started to rain we reached the guest-house feeling tired.

Dist. 67.89 Ave. 13.80 Odo. 6322.4 Tîme. 4h54m41sec

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