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