Picture of Ken and Linda with their tandem

Title: End to End by Tandem. Ken & Linda Hardy

 Day 11: September 20 th , Kilwinning to Kilmartin

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This was a day of contrasts: the towns, the weather, the landscapes, the traffic, the transport.

We left our B&B at rush hour to get to the ferry on time. This meant that there was obviously a lot of traffic about and it was here that our trip nearly came to an abrupt end - a school bus passed us so close on a bend that we were left with barely 18 inches of road between it and the kerb. We just managed to keep upright but not without actually bumping the side of the bus and a lot of wobbling. A heart stopping moment. From then on we made sure we were well out into the road so that all vehicles were forced to pass us safely. Fortunately we suffered no damage as a result of this encounter.

Arriving at the ferry port in good time, we bought a "hopscotch" ticket which took us onto Arran by the Ardrossan ferry and off again from Lochranza on the north of the island. As we waited for the ferry, it started to rain a bit. The Ardrossan ferry is a large vessel taking many cars and commercial vehicles over to the island and also a large number of foot passengers. It takes about an hour to cross.

As we crossed, Arran, which had been shrouded in mist, gradually cleared a little to allow us to see something of its hills. However, it was still raining as we left the ferry and we set off to cross the island by the road known as "The String", a road surveyed by Thomas Telford to create a shorter route across the island. He didn't think of laden touring cyclists when he surveyed it however. It's very steep in places and we walked most of it as a result. The light rain kept coming down as we were climbing, however, when we reached the top of the pass the rain started to ease off and the views cleared to reveal the scenery around us. Beautiful!

The run down the other side to the coast road was a delight and soon the sun came out. That coast road along the west side of Arran is delightful and we were spinning along a mostly flat, single track road with the wind behind us, yards from the beach, with the sea lapping onto the shore, the sun shining and views over to the hills of the Kintyre peninsular and hardly another soul to be seen. This is what cycle touring is about! We were very glad that we'd decided to come this way rather than staying on the mainland.

We caught the Lochranza ferry with seconds to spare, in fact they'd seen us coming round the bay and had waited for us. This was only a tiny ferry, taking only about 6 cars or so. As we crossed it started to rain again and we realised that a heavy storm had been following us up the coast as we cycled north and had now caught us up. We were glad to be on the ferry! The rain had more or less finished by the time the ferry reached the Kintyre peninsular on the other side.

The road leading away from the ferry was one of the loneliest of the trip, leading over the hills, single track, virtually no other people or cars to be seen. Stopped for a few minutes by the road for a bite to eat in the silence of the surroundings. It was only a few miles before it joined the A83 but it was a run to savour. The A83 wasn't at all busy either since it only serves the towns and villages of Kintyre, and we were soon in Tarbert, a delightful fishing village with a large, natural harbour. We stocked up on supplies here and had the rest of our lunch sitting on a bench by the harbour. Another coach load of elderly tourists spotted us and there followed the usual bunch of questions and comments about "rather you than us"! What a lot people miss by thinking only of the energetic side of cycling and not of the benefits.

Back on the A83 there was a small amount of climbing followed by a run back down to the coast, then the road followed the coast all the way to Lochgilphead - another delightful ride. We got a B&B guide from the Lochgilphead Tourist Information Office and sat in the sunshine to choose a B&B for the night. We phoned ahead to book a room in Kilmartin, about 10 miles or so further on.

We started on the A816 for a short way but then branched off onto a minor road which followed the Crinan Canal towards the coast, a nice quiet back road. After trying the wrong turn off we eventually found the right one which took us back towards the A816 almost at Kilmartin. These back roads were a lovely alternative to the main road and well worth the slight extra distance. Kilmartin is only a small place, set in a lovely location with the hills all around and the sun setting over them as we arrived. It's also a centre for a large number of archaeological sites, according to a guide book in our room. The whole area is steeped in history and pre-history. Shame we hadn't the time to stay and explore. We had spotted one of the circles of standing stones as we'd approached the village.

This B&B was one of the best ones with a nice room in a lovely house and excellent parking in a large garage for the bike. Very friendly owners as well. And we enjoyed a good meal in the pub which was only a minute's walk up the road. Once again, Linda wasn't too hungry and ordered a "small" meal which turned out to be the largest one!

Day 11 - Mileage: Day 64; Cumulative 693