Island adventure tour.

Its not often the fun starts before the pedals turn on a tour but that was the case on my latest Island Adventure with Jesse from Kansas.

I met him on the train to Ardrossan and we took our seats across from a lady that resembled Merida from the animated film.  There followed a most bizarre and rambling monologue from the lady most of which I can’t recount here.  It certainly made for an entertaining start to the tour a novel introduction for Jesse on his first visit to Scotland!

I picked up our ferry tickets and we made our way to the car loading ramp and onto the first ferry of the day.  Living in landlocked Kansas I was to learn that anything to do with the sea fascinated Jesse.  Arran is a very popular island with cyclists and the ferry is often busy with bikes, today proved no exception.

Bike storage on car deck.



After storing our bikes we made our way up to the passenger lounge and some food and drink.  While we were there I explained to Jesse about the three cycles and 2 ferries that were ahead of us before we reached tonights beds at Port Charlotte YH.

The first cycle of the day is the toughest, Brodick to Lochranza, a ride of  15 miles with 1200 feet of climbing very scenic and the descent into Lochranza is amazing.  Jesse was riding a hired Whyte gravel bike and soon pulled ahead of me but, as was the case all of the tour, I took the chance to leapfrog him when he stopped to take pics.

Arriving in Lochranza we arrived smack in the middle of the village gala day.  It made Jesse beam.  Pipe bands, Viking warriors and of course the castle all combined to make Jesse a happy tourist!  We made our way round to the ferry port and grabbed some food and drink as we waited on the ferry to Claonaig.  A short crossing followed by a short ride saw us waiting at Kennacraig for our third and final ferry of the day.  Upon arriving on Islay we headed for the YH at Port Charlotte.  I had called ahead just to let them know we might a little late.  Thankfully they kept reception open for us and had even made our beds!


With only one full day on the island we headed off to the south to Portnahaven seal searching.  Unfortunately Jesse was to be disappointed as none were around!

We headed northwards on a short loop which brought us back to Port Charlotte and we headed north again to Bruchladdich and a café stop.  It was a Sunday and the local bike club were in the café.   It is a  popular stop with  good selection of coffee and cake!

After we were rehydrated we headed out to Kilchoman distillery for lunch and a visit.  A farm distillery the visits are excellent value for money and the café has a good selection of food.IMG_20180722_125222.jpg

We had an hour before the next visit so we had lunch first and I whiled away an hour reading while Jesse was on the tour.  He came back from the tour with a bottle of Machir Bay and I asked him if he wanted to visit he said yes so we set off to the beach at Machir Bay and the old church.  We headed to wards Machir Bay on an almost deserted road and made really good time.  The car park had a few cars but the beach is so big that the visitors just got swallowed up.  I said to Jesse that if he had 50:50 vision and the earth didn’t curve the next landfall was Canada!DSCF2373DSCF2374

We headed back to Port Charlotte and after a wash, some rest and a quick change we headed to the Port Charlotte hotel for some Traditional Scottish music and real ale.

The next day we headed off to the ferry for Kennacraig.  Not so busy with bikes this time! We then cycle to Cloanaig via Skipness Castle and smokehouse.DSCF2380

The castle although a ruin is sturdy enough to allow some scrambling on its walls and battlements.  Something Jesse took full advantage off.DSCF2382

We purchased fish at the smokehouse and headed for the final ferry of the day to Lochranza and the YH there which, to Jesse’s delight was about 500m from the castle.

Arran is one of the few islands with a road the full way around the island and although it had been on Jess’s list of things to do he had bigger fish to fry.  We had an early night and got up the next day and headed to Brodick and the Ardrossan ferry post haste.  Once we landed we were travelling to Glasgow and then Jesse was heading to Edinburgh along the canal network he was in for a long day!20180724_075910








Bridging the centuries.

I went out recently on a mix of NCN 76, Fife Coastal path and NCN 75 an excellent ride of 35 miles which took me from Kirkcaldy on the north of the Firth of Forth to Newhaven on the south side.  It was a gorgeous day and there was plenty other folks out taking advantage of this unseasonably hot weather.

The reason I had chosen to ride this route was that a booking had come in for SBT’s Bridging the Centuries tour and as it had been a while since I had done the whole route I thought I would have a wee ride along it to check for diversions etc.

My weapon of choice was my 29er although the route would be possible on a hybrid with wider tyres I like my Spec Hardrock and had not done a  long run on it in a while.

Leaving Kirkcaldy I passed some seals playing on the rocks between Kirkcaldy and Kinghorn.  Excuse the pic it was taken on my phone.  You can just make out seals in the water to the right of the rocks.20180708_093326

The route between Kirkcaldy and Kinghorn is all off road and is part of the Fife Coastal Path well maintained and a good surface, there are some stairways to negotiate.  When you reach Kinghorn you leave the path and hit the road into Burntisland where you can then rejoin the path by the beach.


After Burntisland is the lovely village of Aberdour with its sparkling beach and castle, which featured in Outlander, and some decisions to be made regarding route not difficult rather an easy route or a hard one with some hike-a-bike.


I then followed the FCP up the high street and along by the golf course and passed by the Braefoot Bay shipping terminal.  The path continued by St Bridgets Kirk and into Dalgety Bay where the first view of the bridges is available. The path then continues to Inverkeithing and across the Forth Road Bridge.  There was excellent view east and west once on the almost empty bridge.

After leaving the bridge you head through South Queensferry and under the Rail bridge into Cramond Estate where a carriage racing event was taking place.


The paths through the estate are well signed and in no time you are emerging at Cramond Brig and heading down by the River Almond to the village of Cramond.  If the tide is out and the causeway in use a visit to Cramond Island is well worth some of your time.


The route now is flat and tarmac as far as Newhaven and Leith where I left the road and headed onto once of Edinburgh’s cycle paths.


Lunch in Princes Street finished off a great day of cycling and as the crow flied I was only about 15 miles from home.


A ride on NCN 1

NCN 1 is a near 1700 mile cycle path from Dover to the Shetland Islands.  On a mix of traffic free paths and on road surfaces the signed route follows the East coast connecting the major towns and cities and passing through some stunning coastal scenery.

I took myself along to the train station and travelled to the ex RAF now Army base of Leuchars this is the station that serves St Andrews and is a busy little place especially this close to the Open Golf Champs.

Using quiet country roads I reached the Tay road bridge and started across the bridge on the elevated central carriageway.  A little unnerving with traffic whizzing by on both sides!

Dundee is a city that is undergoing a lot of change one of which is visible from the bridge the new V & A museum due to open later this year.


There is a lift at the north end of the bridge large enough to easily accommodate 2 or 3 cycles.  The lift takes you down to ground level and the Quayside and NCN1.

The route is well signed and even with ongoing works and diversions was easy to follow.  The route takes you through the dock area with some staggered barriers and two security gates to negotiate.

Once through the dock area you are alongside the north side of the Tay, looking south you can see the north coast of Fife.

DSCF2350I was soon in Broughty Ferry “The Ferry” to locals and was passing by the impressive castle.  Completed in 1495 the Castle has had a long and colourful history and was being adapted even up to the second world war to defend the mouth of the Tay.

DSCF2351After The Ferry comes the village of Monifeith and then back onto dedicated cycle path to Carnoustie.  This was the site of several diversions due to the Open Golf but once past them its back onto dedicated cycle path again lovely smooth easy rolling tarmac a joy to cycle on.

Approaching the fishing village of East Haven  I decided to stop for a quick bite to eat and head back to Dundee on the A92 cycle path an undulating traffic free path alongside the A92. I used the path to avoid the diversions through Carnoustie on my return route.

Once back in Carnoustie I retraced my steps back to Leuchars and the end of an enjoyable outing on NCN1.

A total of 51 miles with 1700 feet of ascent a really enjoyable ride.



A Mini Adventure (Thirty six hours with SBT.)

Due to a set of fortuitous circumstances I found myself with two totally free days and set out to make the best of them.

I set myself two major objectives 1.Climb a Munro (a Scottish mountain over 3000ft)

2. Cycle an iconic Scottish route.

I set off for the North west of Scotland at 0700 and although it was a working day for everyone else missed the majority of the rush hour traffic.  I was parked up at Coulags and ready to climb the munro by 1130.  The munro, Maol Chean-Dearg, looked amazing in the sunlight and was beset by other “baggers”.


A small munro at 3061 feet I had negotiated the easy lower slopes, the higher rock fields and made my way back to the car by 1730.

I was staying in a Youth Hostel in Applecross which meant a drive across the amazing Bealach na Ba.  To quote Wikipedia “Bealach na Bà is a winding, single track road through the mountains of the Applecross peninsula, in Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands. The historic mountain pass was built in 1822 and is engineered similarly to roads through the great mountain passes in the Alps, with very tight hairpin bends that switch back and forth up the hillside and gradients that approach 20%. It boasts the steepest ascent of any road climb in the UK, rising from sea level at Applecross to 626 metres, and is the third highest road in Scotland. ”  You may have guessed by now that this was the second item on my list.

I had a good nights sleep in the hostel aided no doubt by the fact that none of us in room snored!

I planned on doing the Applecross loop 44 miles of single track tarmac with 4400 feet of ascent , 2000+ of which is the climb up from Applecross.  The road winds and undulates it’s way through amazing countryside with views of mountains, beaches and forests following you around all the way.  A very hot day was forecast so I rode my Ridley Orion Team with a small backpack and bladder.  The road rises even before you leave the village and basically does not stop going up until you reach the car park at the summit.  The road was not busy when I left, 0830, but as the day wore on the traffic became more frequent due in part to the Peninsula being part of the North Coast 500.

The ascent down the other side was exhilarating, scary, fast and ear popping.  Strava gave my top speed as 40mph!  20180530_103522

At the bottom I turned left and continued around the loop.  Although the Bealach is the biggy there are plenty other lumps along this road 2400 feet of them to be exact.  The route is what I call an OOOOO and AAAAA route every corner you turn there is a better view than the one you just went by.


The temperature was rising and the level in my camelback was falling when I happened upon this little oasis of rehydration and refuelery!  Oh and the Amazing flapjacks were!!


The final ascent and approach to the hostel crowned a magnificent day.

A quick pit stop load the bike back on the car and I was off and heading for home.

I arrived at 1855 just less than 36 hours after I had left.

So the next time you have 36 hours what will you do………….



Talking Tandems group ride

Talking Tandems are ten years old this year.

Cycling really is simplicity itself.  You want to go out for a cycle you jump on your bike and head out.  Simple.

Now add into the mix several blind or partially sighted cyclists from Fife and Lothian, transport arrangements, pairing pilots with stokers on the correct sized pool tandem, exchanging pedals and finally each pair trying out the tandem they have been allocated!  A time consuming process.  That was what happened this morning at the Dalgety Bay base of Talking Tandems.DSCF2329

We finally got on out way but luck was not smiling on me.  Originally down as solo support I ended up pairing with a new stoker on a large tandem.  At 5 ft 5 in not an ideal size.  I was willing to give it a go so that the stoker could get out.   We left the car park and within 10 metres one of my pedals had fallen off!  A quick fix and Gavin, my stoker and I was off, almost 400 metres later and a gear cable snapped.  That finished Gavin off he decided that he would get picked up and head home.  We limped back to base and I got on board my solo steed and headed out to try and catch the others.

We headed across then under the eerily quiet Forth Road Bridge.  We then headed on country roads to Winchburgh and Linlithgow.  The turning point was just after Linlithgow and on the way we stopped for lunch at a handily placed garden centre.

The return route saw the group heading through the lovely Hopetoun estate and Port Edgar and heading, once more across the Forth Road Bridge and back to Dalgety Bay.

The route was 35 miles long

with 2100 feet of climbing.

TT are 10 years old this year and are a registered charity if you or your company would like to support TT please get in touch.


“Off” season at Scottish Bike Touring.

It has been a little while since I posted but that does not mean that I have not been busy.

All of my bikes got a good clean and going over at the end of November with my Ridley Orion road bike ending up on the turbo.  Happy to say that there were no problems with my bikes just another year of scrapes and bumps.

I decided that my website was looking a bit tired so decided to give that a makeover.  Not being used to sitting at a desk for hours on end I broke the work into manageable chunks stopping when required.  I have had good constructive feedback from some viewers so please feel free to log on to and give me more feedback.  The site is still undergoing some work but you should be able to navigate through it ok.

As well as the website I was going over the rides on offer and decided to revamp some of them and introduce some new ones.

Two new offers are city and off road bespoke tours in and around Edinburgh.  I was asked to do this last year by a client and it was a really good ride.  Built to the clients requirements this can be as long or short as the client requires and take in a lot of sights.

Another new tour is based totally in Fife.  The Outlander Fife locations tour.  I have been riding this during the holidays and watching the series for background.  This tour can be done in two ways either as a normal point to point tour or as a “Hub” tour returning to the same accommodation each day.

Hopefully it will not be so long before my next post.



An Aussie odyssey

In late September my website rec’d a hit from an Australian web address.  I replied but it got bounced back.

I had another hit same name different e mail once more it got bounced back.

There was a phone number so I gave it a call and spoke to Kelvin in Australia!

He was coming to Europe and would be in Edinburgh for four days and he wanted to spend one of them visiting the Falkirk wheel!

We agreed a date for a tour and also that he would call to confirm date and time when he arrived.

A call was made and a date and time set.  We set off for the Falkirk Wheel at 1000 on the 6th October and after negotiating the Edinburgh traffic we arrived at the Canal basin and the beginning of the Union Canal Path to the Falkirk Wheel.

Kel was from Sydney and a Primary school teacher and keen to learn some local history as well as having a bike ride.  We came through the final tunnel and as soon as Kel saw the top of the wheel he let out a whoop.  The next hour his body may have been in the café but his mind was outside and as soon as the wheel started operating he was out looking at the wheel.

After food and drink and a final look at the wheel we headed back t Edinburgh.

Kel had really enjoyed his ride almost 70 miles and although the Union canal is a contour canal we recorded over 2000 ft of climb.