September 1st finally came. I was up until silly o'clock on Friday night doing last minute prepping. Do I take the front panniers? Do I take extra warm clothes? How about the battery charger? It was nearly 3 am when I got in bed, with a 6 am alarm set.
At 7 am I wheeled my heavy tourer out of the house. When I was about to take the very first picture of the trip, outside the house, I realised I had forgotten the memory card in my laptop. Somehow I still managed to snap a quick shot of the loaded bike and made my way down to Euston for my train.
After nearly an hour of pleasant riding, in the sun, through some nice countryside, I made it to the windy town of Ardrossan. I happened to come across a cycle path which took me mostly off-road on route 73 to the seafront, where some strong winds and waves seemed to be the playground for some kids. The little ones enjoyed getting splashed with sea water...and despite my best efforts to avoid the spray (sea salt is the worst thing you can present your bike to!), I got splashed a couple of times.
|Quiet country lanes to Ardrossan|
|Ardrossan sea front|
Scotland is a famous destination for cycle touring in the UK, and I could sense that, with a few other cyclists about to board the ferry with me. One of them had a nice Thorn bike, and I soon got into an interesting chat with him.
|Six of us boarded the ferry to Arran|
Phil was using his trip of the Western Isles (and Outer Hebrides) as a test for longer adventures. He had food for 6 days in his front panniers, in preparation for the relatively less frequent services found in the Outer Hebrides. He had also been a keen racer for the last 20 years, but was now taking it easier and enjoying touring much more. His plans were to cycle anticlockwise from Brodick (in Arran) to Lochranza, where he would cross over to the mainland, then on to Oban for his ferry to Barra. From there, he would cycle North until eventually catching a ferry back to Ullapool, from where he was planning to pedal back to Fort William. He had a vast amount of knowledge of cycling in the UK, and I enjoyed chatting with him, and got lots of new ideas for the future. In addition, he recommended I did not miss out on Bealach Na Ba pass, apparently the highest pass in the whole of the UK. I was not sure if I had time to do it, as it was not on my initial plans, but the 2000 feet (600 m) climb in 5 miles (8 km) beckoned.
|Finally, Arran is visible in the background|
|Still dry and relatively warm, yet I had to force the smile due to the winds!|
After Lamlash, the road became super quiet. In Whitting Bay I stopped for my first picture, just as the rained eased down.
After a few more ups and downs I spotted a sign for Kildonan, involving a diversion to the left of the main road and down an steep hill back to sea level. The descent was fantastic, again in the rain, and the town seemed small but rather cute. It was 6:30 pm and light was fading, so I pulled into the campsite. Being my first night, I decided not to rough camp and after a nice conversation with the owner, I set up camp.
The campsite was nice, yet as it later proved, quite pricey for Scottish standards (£7 per person per night). The next campsite was 20 km and there was no way I was going to make it before dark in the rain and wind. Three other cyclists had already set their tents right by the seafront, so without much thinking on my side, I went on to pitch the tent near theirs. However, I had not fully realised how windy it was there! It also was the first time I was going to pitch my new tent, so certainly not the best of ideas and I obviously struggled quite a bit.
|Tent pitched in the wind/rain|
|View from my camping spot|
|Sunset at Kildonan|
The stats for the day were as below:
- Odometer: 50 km
- Max speed: 47 km/h
- Moving average: 16.6 km/h
- Overall average: 12.9 km/h