Since last year’s trip went so well, Moz and I decided we should head back up into the islands again this year. Our original plans, of heading up over the Easter break were thwarted by bad weather, so we had to wait until August before we both had some free time. Which meant we missed the July heatwave. Oh well. Probably a good thing right? Wouldn’t want to be too hot. Relaxing on those nice Hebridean beaches with some beer. In the sun. Much better for it to be overcast and changeable.
Step one: try and remember how to fit everything onto the back of one bike:
Notice that I have a new bike! The nice elegant looking red one. My last bike got stolen from my flat’s stair, which meant a new (and better) bike was required! I was a little nervous about it, as I’ve already had a flat tire while out cycling. Perhaps bad luck. Or perhaps those road tires really don’t like stony paths.
The plan this year involved Moz leaving his car in Edinburgh, and we’d both take the train from Edinburgh to Ardrossan and catch the ferry over to Arran. From there, we’d head to Kintyre, Islay, Jura and Colonsay and then catch the train home from Oban.
Step two: we have to catch the train.
We end up having to make a mad run up and down the station platform to get everything on the train: there was only one carriage that carried bikes and it was at the opposite end from where we were standing. We ran up there with bikes, hooked them into the bike spaces, then I ran back down to throw the bags on, looked down the platform, couldn’t see Moz, decided that he was probably on the train, and that we probably had all of our bags, that conductor growled at me to hurry up, so jumped onto the train hoping we hadn’t overlooked something important. Like a tent. Or Moz. Turns out that we did get everything onto the train, including the tent and Moz, but still, a little bit more exciting than what I had planned. The connection at Glasgow Central is far more laid back, with time for a coffee and plenty of time to grab some bike spots. Although a good thing we got there early, as a couple of girls turned up just after we had secured our bikes. They managed to find space at the other end of the train, but I think anybody else turning up would of been out of luck.
And yes, I did try to reserve our bikes onto the train. The scotrail website recommends it, so I went down to the station last week and asked. And apparently it isn’t possible to make bicycle reservations on the Edinburgh – Glasgow or Glasgow – Ardrossan lines.
Anyway, we were off, and arrived in Ardrossan Harbour just in time for the next ferry to Arran. The sun was shining and we were both in a pretty good moods 🙂
Upon arriving on Arran, the first thing we do is find lunch. The second thing we do is to head to the Arran Brewery, a few miles north of Brodick. You know, when camping it’s important to sort out the essentials first.
We managed to resist the temptation of a second pint (instead, choosing to buy some bottles for later) and head south for Kildonan. We debated visiting Holy Island, but figured that there probably wasn’t enough time to do it today, and tomorrow, we optimistically hoped to make it to the north of the island, catch the ferry to Kintyre, and then cycle down to Gigha. While it would be nice to have had more time on Arran, if we spent two nights here, we would be on Gigha Saturday night, making it a little trickier to get to Islay on Sunday, as the ferries run less frequently.
As luck would have it, we rock up at Kildonan on the afternoon of their charity bbq. Venison burgers for £2.50? Count me in. Who cares that the campsite is a little busier than I’d like, and maybe not as scenic as some of our camping sports last year, when there’s a bbq going. And there’s a nice view of Ailsa Craig:
We got chatting to some of the other happy campers, who open hearing of our cycling plans gave some vague warnings about some hill. Hmm. Best not to worry about it.
Once we pitched our tent, we wandered down to the coast
and spotted some seals!
The sun did its best to shine, but didn’t quite manage to break through the clouds.
Urrgh. The first night in a tent is always the most uncomfortable: I barely got any sleep at all. On the plus side though, we were fully prepared for breakfast! I made full use of my mini camping stove and cooked some sausages.
Our original aim had been to get up early, giving us a chance of making the noon ferry from Lochranza. This plan was quickly scrapped, and we decided instead to aim for the 13:15 ferry. Except that, disaster! Just as we leave the campsite, we hit what I can only assume is the hill we had been warned out. Moz lets out a grunt, crunches his bike gears, and in return his bike starts playing silly buggers, refusing to go into any of the low gears. Progress is slow. Very slow. But we eventually get the problem sorted and start to make faster progress.
We make it to Blackwaterfoot for noon and stop for a coffee. The new plan is to camp at Lochranza, and worry about Sunday ferries to Islay on Sunday. That seems like a pretty good plan to me.
We eventually made it to Lochranza by mid-afternoon. The campsite was ok: good facilities, and while not terribly scenic. It had nice looking golf course, if you’re into that kind of thing. Which we’re not.
I did spot a deer though:
We headed into the Lochranza for the evening, swinging by the local castle to have a look-see, …
… before ending up in the hotel’s bar, where we spent the rest of the evening playing cards, sampling the full range of beer brewed on the island and having a nice meal.
Luckily, we managed to resist the temptation of drinking too much. Probably a good thing as we were hoping to catch an early ferry to Kintyre before cycling south to Gigha. But, it was still a pretty good night.