SBT does the Five Ferries

Start timeThe Five Ferries is an iconic Scottish road cycle on the west coast of Scotland.

Regarded by many as a one day challenge and indeed run as a challenge in one of it’s guises, the Five Ferries is a approx 100 miles long, you travel on Five Ferries, two islands and 3 peninsulas.

There are a number of ways to cycle this route my preference is to start at Ardrossan and get the ferry to Arran and head south around the bottom of the island.  Arran has a spectacular coastline and it is laid out before you as you head around the island.  This is the longest cycle leg with the most climb and is an ideal stopping point if you want to do the ride over 2 days rather than 1.Climb from Brodick

Ferry number 2 takes you from Arran to the Kintyre peninsula and a ride north to the village of Tarbert an ideal lunch stop.  You have cycled 50 miles by this point and climbed almost 4000 ft!  Alas if the group speed is not sufficient to build a cushion its no lunch and straight on Ferry No 3 to Portavadie and the Kyles of Bute.Tarbert

If you would like some luxury rooms for an overnight stay this is the place!  This is the third cycle leg and the scenery is just awesome.  You cycle round the Kyles of Bute to board ferry No 4 at Colintraive travelling to the Island of Bute.  A short fast 8 miles sees you in Rothesay for the final ferry to Wemyss Bay and the final ride to Ardrossan.

This is not an easy one day ride and the added pressure of ferries to catch with the chance that they might be cancelled for one reason or the other makes it an adrenalin raising ride!

There is plenty to see on this tour I would recommend that you take your time and take the two day tour and as I said there are a number of ways to do this ride it can be shortened reducing the 100 miles to something more like 80.

 

 

 

 

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Waterways C2C (West coast)

Possibly the shortest and easiest C2C route in the country starting at Bowling to the west of Glasgow and stretching across Central Scotland to Leith this is a relitively flat route almost exclusively on Canal or cycle paths.

I alighted from the train on a bright and dry morning to begin the exploration of the route from Bowling to Leith.  Today I was stopping at Falkirk as I have already done the Falkirk to Leith leg before.  At the basin in Bowling there is a bike shop and a cafe and the start of the route.​

​The surface is tarmaced and in good condition and makes for pleasent cycling.  The first points of interest on the route are the Dalmuir drop lock, the first in the UK and the Beardmore sculpture.

The canal winds it’s way through Knightswood, Kelvnside and Bishopbriggs finally leaving Glasgow and heading for Kirkintilloch and Kilsyth.  Wildlife is rife along the canal I saw these two just lazing around by the bank!

I made my way past Auchinstarry Basin the surface still in great condition towards Bonnybridge and Falkirk.   I stopped for lunch at the wheel and made my way to the station and back to Fife.

A great ride this part of the C2C. Was 31 miles with 1000 ft of climb.

SBT at EdFoC 2017

After last year’s festival where I dutifully turned up every day I had decided to try and cut travel costs by asking clients to prebook and prepay.  Unfortunately some foreign clients seem unable or unwilling to do this,, not quite back to the drawing board at least the prebooking was working.  I spoke too soon as I was travelling to Edinburgh for the first booking my e mail pinged with a message from my clients to say that they couldn’t make it!

I did not have a totally wasted day however as I went to the Fringe office and got a couple of programmes for a wee thing happening in August!

Both tours last year had been quite long so this year I decided to have a short tour, Waterways of Edinburgh, and a long one,  Innocent railway and Rosslyn Chapel, running them on alternate days.  By far the most popular was the short tour with bookings on three days. I will admit to this being my favourite even with diversions for flood defence work at Murrayfield.  I had no bookings at all for the longer tour and one request to do a tailored private tour for a father and 2 sons.

The Waterays tours went very well with a Norwegian, a Brazilian and a Turk taking the chance to be introduced to the Union Canal and the Water of Leith. 

 It was a joy taking them along the canal regaling them with tales of Burke and Hare and the local area then  as we travelled along the WoL explaining about the John Muir way and the NCN which we are lucky to have.

Dean village proved the point of much snapping and gasps of appreciation.

I enjoyed all of their company and it was a shame to leave them.

The bespoke tour morphed through a few changes until it ended up being a mix of trails, railway and pump track.  I met the three American riders at the Scottish Parliament and after explaining my plan for the trip headed off towards Salisbury crags.  After the crags we went around the back of Arthurs seat for a view of Duddingston Loch and the Pentlands and then headed for the Skelf Bike park.  The final destination was Liberton which we reached via the Innocent Railway and Craigmiller Castle.

Events wise the only one I attended was Spokes Big Breakfast.  There was plenty on, you could get your bike marked by the Police, your chain cleaned and a few samples of cleaner and lube and of course free breakfast rolls.


 

Tay Bridge to Carnoustie

I parked up in the car park at the south end of the Tay Bridge.  A lovely sunny day with a slight westerly wind which would mean a helping hand on the way home.

Carol and I got the bikes unloaded and headed out on NCN 1 and across the Tay Road Bridge.  This bridge is unusual in that the cycle and pedestrian way is raised in the middle rather than on the side.  We headed north with traffic rushing by on both sides.  At the north end we got in the lift and once at ground level headed for the silvery Tay.  We were’nt alongside it for long however before being directed away from the river and into an industrial/commercial estate which leads into the docks.  The cycle path goes straight through the docks and emerges at Stannergate.

Once more alongside the Tay travelling on a well surfaced path.  You can see Broughty Castle in the distance.

NCN 1 takes you past the castle and along Broughty Ferry esplanade to Balmossie and Monifeith.  After Monifeith you are on Barry Links, owned by the MOD and still in use today.  As we approached we could see red flags flying and heard gunfire as live firing is conducted on ranges on the links.  It wasn’t long and we were sitting in Franco’s cafe enjoying a light lunch before retracing our steps back.

A great wee ride of 26 miles with 500 feet of climb all on well surfaced cycle path.

Cyclofun 2017

Cyclofun 2017 is an event organised by the NE Fife Rotary clubs.  It is centered around Tayport FC ground and is a family event with led rides, stalls, cycle obstacle course and kids races.

I took the train from Kirkcaldy to Leuchars the nearest station to St Andrews and home of an ex RAF station now occupied by the army.

It was a short cycle to Tayport on NCN 1 and quiet country roads.  The event started at 1100 and although some setting up was still being done it was busy when I arrived at 1120.  I spoke to the organiser and several of the stall holders and dropped some business cards off whilst I waited for others to arrive so I could assist with the kids races which were due off at 2pm.

We set a course up, just a short lap and started registering riders a small field for both races but the kids enjoyed it and who knows there might be a budding start or two in the field.

After the races were done and the course tidiedup I headed back to Kirkcaldy backtracking at first then heading out towards Ceres on my way to Leven to see Carol and then eventually home.  A good cycle just over 30 miles on the Tour de Fer.  Much better then driving it rally is #betterbybike.

 

Edinburgh Festival of Cycling update

The festival is rapidly approaching and is now only 11 days away.  I took the chance to have a final ride along one of the routes I shall be offering-The Waterways of Edinburgh.

I left Haymarket station and headed up to what is billed as Edinburgh’s best kept secret, the Canal basin.

After navigating some canal works, which will in all probability still be in place during the festival, I got back on the canal and headed for the Water of Leith visitors centre.  This is the first stop on the tour and riders can browse publications and have a snack if required.

I then headed down the WoL which meanders its way from the foot of the Pentland Hills to Leith and the Firth of Forth making its way through the city and past many attractions such as Dean Village, Murrayfield and Stockbridge.

 

Come and join me try some other event at EdFoC.

It’s not about the destination-Island adventure tour April 2017

I live in the Kingdom of Fife and on an atlas Islay looks like a hop skip and a jump away I can promise you though that it isn’t.  It takes 3 trains 3 ferry rides with 3 cycle journeys to reach the old distillery building in Port Charlotte that is now the island’s Youth Hostel.  That, though is the point of cycle touring it’s the journey not the destination that matters.  Already and I am not yet out of Edinburgh I have spotted a new path that needs exploring, that is for another day though.

The train station is literally a stones throw from the ferry terminal at Ardrossan, with my client due at 1205 and it being 1110 I wandered into the terminal bought the tickets and settled down with a tea and a scone!

Client collected, tickets distributed we dutifully followed instructions to board the first ferry of the day.  David had never cycled in Scotland before and was truly excited about his trip to the Isles I went through some of the details on the hour long trip to Brodick.

Upon disembarking we started on our first ride of the day 14 miles to Lochranza and the second ferry of the day to Claonaig.  Not even I would call this a flat 14 miles.  Initially the road winds it’s way around the coast and is flat with great views across to the mainland and of Goatfell then at Sannox it takes a left turn and an upward sweep for approx 30 mins.  The descent into Brodick though makes the climb worthwhile.  We arrived at Lochranza with time to spare and looking for some sustenance at the sandwich shop.  Zut Alors it was closed as was the public toilets.  We boarded the brand new ferry to Cloanaig and in no time we were back on the mainland with a 6 mile ride to Kennacraig and the final and longest ferry trip of the day to Port Askaig on Islay.  The. Crew let bikes onboard first which as far as two ravenous cyclists was concerned was the correct decision.  We headed for the restaurant on board and were first in the Q when the shutters  went  up.   Silence descended as Fish and chips and a Beef and ale pie were consumed.

 

Leaving the ferry at Port Askaig you don’t even have time to ask “where is the first hill” when you are on it climbing out of the port on the way to Port Charlotte.  The final ride of the day undulates it’s way across the island passing 4 distilleries and the House of the Lord of the Isles on the way.  It wasn’t long and we were booking in at the YH and partaking of a very welcome cuppa.  Day one came to a close as did our eyes!

Stats: Miles biked 36.5 Feet climbed 1895.

During a leisurely breakfast we made plans for day 2.  David wanted to visit a distillery so we set off in the general direction of Bowmore and Port Ellen.  Traveling along one of the island’s main roads David commented how quiet and still everything was and I had to agree with him I think a total of 3 vehicles passed us in about 30 mins.  When we arrived in the village of Bowmore we had a quick look around and then popped our heads into the visitors centre at the distillery.  Having just missed one tour we decided to continue to Port Ellen and pick a tour once we got there with 3 distilleries there was no shortage of choice.bowmore-distillery

We arrived in Port Ellen and as this was where we would return from I showed David the harbour and bought our tickets for the return.  Whilst buying the tickets the Calmac employee told me of a new cycle/walking path that had been laid out to the distilleries of Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg.  The path had been a joint venture between the distillers and public funding.  We found the path and headed up it arrivimg at Laphroaig in time to book a slot for David on the next tour.  After availing ourselves of a free coffee we set off to follow the path till it’s conclusion and then turned around so David could take his tour.    A happy client returned over an hour later with a miniature of Laphroaig.

We headed back to Port Charlotte taking a slightly different route and with the wind at our back.  I had promised David that we would see seals on our return alas there were none in spots I had previously seen them so we hatched a plan to head south on the morrow to Portnahaven and go seal spotting.  WE had our evening meal in the Lochindaal hotel two very fine burgers!

Stats: Miles biked 49 Feet climbed 1041

Day 3 being a Sunday we had a long lie and a leisurely breakfast.  I managed to borrow a pair of binoculars from the hostel staff and we headed south to Portnahaven and, hopefully, the seals.  We took a small detour to look at the Ancient burial ground by Ellister.  We travelled ever southwards to Port Wemyss and finally Portnahaven where there was indeed seals!  Heading north once more we stopped at an Island craft store for some shopping and a chat with four other cyclists.  Heading north there are a few climbs and descents and we soon left the others behind we reached Kilchiaran and headed east back towards Port Charlotte.

Once in the hostel we settled down to some serious tea drinking!  David then headed out again whilst I waited for the village sore to open so I could buy some rations for the evening meal.

Our loop stats were Miles biked: 19 with 992 feet climbed.

Day 4.

We left the hostel at 0800 for the first ride and first ferry of the day.  Once more the weather was kind.  Wet roads indicated that it had rained during the night but we pushed on as the day brightened.  When we boarded the ferry I asked the crew if we could disembark first as we had a tight schedule for the second ferry as David wanted a longer ride on Arran.  The crew agreed and as soon as she docked we were off!

This cycle is only 6 miles and we had 25 mins to do it.  Heads down we headed up the first and steepest climb.  Once conquered we took advantage of a tail wind and set to as fast as we could and then hail!!  As we drew close to the ferry port a stream of cars headed towards us on the single lane road delaying us as we let them pass.  We could see the superstructure of the ferry over the tree line.  David was ahead and reached the ferry as the final foot passengers were walking down the ramp!  Success!

With rumours of service disruptions ringing in our ears we headed straight for Brodick from Lochranza.  The climb which had taken 30 mins on Friday today took 20.  A hard climb followed by an exhilarating descent.  Back along the coast road we went, with a ferry in view as it left Brodick.  We reached the ferry port in time to learn that the 4 o’clock ferry had been cancelled and a decision would be made about the 6pm one by the Captain.  With the 6pm cancelled thoughts began to turn to a night in Arran however we managed to get back to the mainland when Calmac decided that the 7pm ferry could go.

We managed to reach Glasgow and I caught my train East arriving home just before midnight.  David however had o spend the night in Glasgow and get the first train home in the morning.

The Island adventure tour-a tour with adventure!!

 

Stats: Miles bikes 41 Feet climbed 1800.