SBT does Arran

Arran features in three of SBT’s tours the Five Ferries, Sea to summit and the Island Adventure tour.  On all the tours there is a chance to see some of the islands attractions but perhaps the best way would be to do the Five Ferries two day tour and stay at Lochranza YH giving you a day to look around the island.

The ferry leaves from Ardrossan on the mainland and arrives at Brodick the island’s largest settlement there is also another ferry to the Buddhist owned Holy Isle this leaves from Lamlash.

Natural attractions include Kilmory and Blackwaterfoot beaches, Eas Mor waterfall and the Kings cave.

Surprisingly for such a small island there is three castles:Kildonan, Lochranza and Brodick.

Of course this being Scotland there is a distillery and a brewery on the island both of which have shops and tours.

The history of Arran is fascinating and at various times during it’s history it has been occupied by Vikings, Celts and the Engish.  It was victim to the Highland Clearances this is commemorated at Lamlash.

So what you waiting for book a tour come and see this lovely Island.

 

 

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Touring with SBT

Once a booking has been made I am often asked what do I need?  Will there be time to take photographs?  What speed do I need to maintain?

Lets try and answer some questions you might have.

So you have decided where and when you want to go.  You have made arrangements to get to the start point and you have checked the bike over.  Everything is ready to go except you haven’t packed!  Yes you should check the weather forecast to get some idea of what you are likely to encounter.  Some clothing will depend on your own preference but its always better to stay warm and dry so pack accordingly and then just put a light waterproof in anyway!  Almost all the routes have shops or cafes so you do not need to carry food with you.  Small snacks for on the bike are advisable.  You should always have water.

What might you encounter in Scotland that you will not elsewhere?  The dreaded midge!  Insect repellent between May and September is a must.

Scotland is a wonderful country great in the sunshine sometimes even better under moody grey clouds or snow.  Not to photograph it would be a travesty.  There will be ample chances to stop and record your journey.

Your guide will have an array of tools and the knowledge to carry out roadside repairs but carrying spare tubes and a chain link is recommended.  Once more most of the routes will have access to cycle shops.

SBT want you to enjoy the journey the only time there will be speed requirements is if we need to catch a ferry but you will find that the itinerary is more likely to have you miss a ferry to allow you to get food or relax than push the pace!

Prior to departure you will be sent an info sheet which will contain …….info!  On clothing, terrain, mileage and attractions.

 

I hope this has helped if not try the FAQ page on http://www.scottishbiketouring.com

 

Island adventure a tour by SBT.

Kirkcaldy to Port Charlotte.  I was meeting my “tourist” at Ardrossan terminal so travelled from Kirkcaldy to Ardrossan on my own.  On the Edinburgh to Glasgow train I shared the cycle storage with 3 other bikers and it turned out they were on the way to Glasgow Green to meet Marcus Stiltz after his single speed world trip!

All the trains were on time I managed to get across Glasgow without getting lost, knocked down or mugged so all was good with the world.  Tom had stayed at friends and arrived at the terminal before me, I went in to buy the tickets and he was waiting when I came out.  We did introductions and had a chat over a cuppa before boarding the first ferry of the day from Ardrossan to Brodick.  All told we will have gotten 3 ferries and did 3 bike legs before we reach the YH at Port Charlotte and that, to me is what makes it an adventure you feel as if you are crossing borders without getting a passport stamped and it takes almost as long as flying to Beijing!

We headed north from Brodick heading for the sandwich shack and lunch before the second ferry to Cloanaig.  The cycle from Brodick starts off nice and flat following the coast after about 5 miles it starts to climb there is then a short descent and the main climb starts.  You are biking along by Goat Fell by this time and the views are pretty good.  Having climbed you are then handed a great wee descent but beware of sheep on the road!  We reached the sandwich shack and had some food and drink whilst we waited on the ferry departing. 


Brodick to Lochranza 15 miles 1098 feet of climbing 1:11:45.

A short ferry ride and we were in Cloanaig.  I suggested to Tom that we take a look at Skipness Castle and chapel as we had plenty of time before the ferry from Kennacraig.  We headed right from the dock and pedalled along to the castle.  It’s in ruins although you can get on the roof and there are some excellent views of Arran.  We then walked to the chapel which has some interesting gravestones including some Pictish ones and a grave stone for a soldier killed in Belguim in WW1.  


Once we were satisfied that we had seen all there was to see we walked back to the bikes and headed for Kennacraig and the Islay ferry.  The road is mainly single track with passing places and quite undulating but all the undulations seem to accumulate and you have a great 14% descent before the road joins the main road and you turn right for the ferry port.  We arrived with about 50 mins to spare time to bask in the sun!

Cloanaig to Kennacraig 10.8 miles 715 feet of climbing in 52:49

The Islay ferry takes two hours to reach port and as it was 6pm we decided that food was in order.  Was it good or were we just starving??  Book a tour and find out!   After getting off the ferry we really had to put the boot down to cover the 18 miles to the hostel before the advertised reception closing time of 21:30.  I had called ahead so they were expecting us.  We rolled in at 21:30 and to my surprise the wardens recognised me from my stay last year for the marathon.  Bikes stowed, bodies washed and some fresh clothes on I headed for the kitchen and a cup of tea whilst Tom headed out for a walk round the village and a visit to the pub.

Port Ellen to Port Charlotte 18.6 miles with 533 feet of climbing in 1:13:33

The tour spends two whole days on Islay one of which is a free day Tom elected to go to an RSPB loch and do some bird watching.  So left to my own devices I ran and I biked.

A short 4 run miles after breakfast, too soon after breakfast actually!

I followed the run with a bike ride to the south of Port Charlotte to Portnahaven the start point for the Islay marathon back up the east coast of the Island-next landfall Canada!
Heading up the coast from Portnahaven I met these buggers as they were bigger than me I back pedalled for a bit so they could squeeze past.​
​After the cattle passed I continued north, it’s the only way really, and reached the hostel right on tea o’clock which I had in the garden looking out over the beach and water.   After I had finished I decided to set out on another cycle ride just up to the nearest big town heading  North this time, Bridgend.  It was just an out and back ride but I caught the last rays of the sun as it started to set.

Totals for the day:

Run 4 miles 268 ft of climb in 37:02

Combined cycle 33.9 miles with 1300 ft of climb in 3::21:55

Day 3 Jura!!

After breakfast we headed to  Port Askaig for the ferry to Jura.   The cycle to Port Askaig follows the route to Port Ellen as far as Bridgend then takes a left.  As with most roads on Islay it is twisty and undulating with a great wee descent to the ferry terminal.

Port Charlotte to Port Askaig 15.4 miles 514 feet completed in 1:00:00

We arrived at the ferry terminal and Tom visited the shop for some carbo loading.  After a short trip we got off the ferry and turned right onto the only road on the island we wanted to catch the 2:25 back giving us approx  4 and a half hours on the island.


Straight away you are on the type of climb I am happy to call a friend, not too tough but long and gaining height with every turn of the cranks!  You know what comes next is a long easy descent and that was the pattern of the trip we passed through the village of Craighouse home of the Jura distillery and enjoyed a nice flat stretch along by the shore.  We continued until we reached the 18 mile mark and decided that if we were going to have lunch on the island we had best start back.  So back we went more rolling hills and a lunch stop at Antlers in Craighouse which we enjoyed outside in the sun.

​There is an amazing amount of wildlife on and around Jura and on our short visit we saw seals, raptors including a golden eagle, deer and gannets.   Our visit at an end we headed back to the ferry terminal and the trip back to Islay.

Jura totals 36.2 miles with 2394 feet climb in 3:05:31

Once we were on Islay we headed back for the hostel,Tom stopped off at Finlaggan once the home of the Lord of the Isles.

Total 15.4 miles 460 feet of climbing 1:17:19

Day 4 Homeward Bound

On the way home we took the low road to the ferry mainly to try and avoid the strong winds blowing unfortunately it didn’t seem to make some difference!

Ferry Dist 20.6 miles 475 ft of climbing in 1:33:37

We wanted to spend a bit more time biking on Arran to do that we had a tight deadline to meet on the next bike section especially with the wind against us.  By the time we had unloaded for the ferry we had lost 5 precious minutes so it was heads down and PLF!!  The descents we enjoyed just a few days ago were now our enemies.  Thankfully we made it.

Kennacraig to Cloanaig 5.7 miles 469 ft in 30:00

On Arran the plan was to pedal down the west coast and head over the String road, Arrans highest,  which would mean a big climb and the an impressive white knuckle descent as we were buffeted by the wind on our way down.  Reaching the port it was time for some food as we waited to board the ferry to Ardrossan.

Final bike of the tour 22.3 miles 1550 ft climb in 2:18:14.

That’s it the Scottish Bike Touring Island adventure.  A mix of history, wildlife amazing scenery and great biking.

Great Glen Way Day 2

After a light breakfast of cereal and toast, the obligatory pot of tea and one of the hosts coffees I was on my way.  I followed the remainder of the Invergarry loop a higher route which brings you out at the Bridge of Oich.


From Bridge of Oich to Fort Augustus the going  is easy and mainly along the canal tow path.   Once you reach Fort Augustus that is the last you will see of the Caledonian Canal till Inverness.

After. a small refreshment in Fort Augustus and a halt to watch boats in the lock I headed off again and almost immediately started to climb. The path now is mainly on undulating forest path with views through the trees of Loch Ness.  The tracks were good the climbs hard and the descents exhilarating I stopped often for views of the loch and the surrounding countryside.  The Way had been busy with walkers but I had not seen many bikers when just outside. Invermoriston I spied a flash of day-glo top and came down a descent and nearly into four women cyclists who were making thier way rather gingerly down the descent.  I stopped at Invermoriston to check the facilities available there and have some lunch and the four came past me on the road and followed the signs for the GGW in the book it says that ther is a climb of 560 feet in less than a mile this must have proved too much for the ladies as about 5 minutes later they came past again on the road !

If hills are graded 1-10. The hill out of Invermoriston would be a shahoorsirthatwassteep!  It continued like that for the rest of the way to Drumnadrochit. some great single track  unfortunately there was also some gates which needed  opening!

  The GGW puts the wild and Ness in wilderness.

Stats 30 miles, 3913 feet climbed in 4h. 

EdFoC here at last!

When I first had the idea of offering rides at the EdFoC I had no idea what to expect, I had not attended any of the previous festivals either as a customer or as an event organiser.  Fifty eight yo and still learning!

Carol and I attended the opening speeches, drink and food in a church in Edinburgh.  I was like the proverbial cat on a hot tin roof.

We got home and after a chat and a cuppa Carol left me to my final preparations and I had an early night.  The 9th dawned and I do mean dawned to me up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to take on the world.  I was washed, dressed, breakfasted, packed, double triple checked and ready to go for 8.  Train time 9:25!

FF to Edinburgh I was waiting outside the Parliament when I got a call from Martyn today’s client he and his friend Jules were in the vicinity and just wanting to know my exact location.  I gave him directions and in no time we were introducing ourselves and I was describing the route to them.  During this conversation a Burmese tourist rocked up on a Dahon folder EdFoC programme in hand!   Luckily he was only wanting to know about the routes and what type of bike would be suitable so I might see him again.

Surprisingly Martyn and Jules were local, until recently Jules lived in Leith!  They were familiar with some of the route but not it all and wanted to see the paths they were not familiar with.  Jules was on a 29er and Martyn on a CX bike.

We set off heading through the park and into the Innocent tunnel then onto NCR 1 and out to Dalkeith.  Although there are a few road crossing this part of the ride through the capital is on traffic free cycle path.  We continued along this path till we neared Dalkeith and took to the road for the ride through the town, with a stop for tea.

After leaving Dalkeith we headed for Roslin Glen and the climb up by Glencorse Barracks which would take us out on the A702 and to the Pentlands.

We took time for another break by the visitor centre before tackling the climb up Maidens Cleugh this had concerned Jules but she did splendidly whereas Martyn did have some trouble with the CX tyres on the terrain however we all made it to the top and regrouped for a look at the descent which I described as exhilarating rather than technical.  The view from the top was clear and we could see the 3 bridges across the Forth clearly.

The off road descent did not give anyone any bother and soon we were travelling along the Water of Leith and the canal basin the end of the tour.

It was a great day and in Martyn and Jules I could not have asked for better first clients.  Roll on Friday and the 3 Forth bridges tour.  No one is booked on but plan B will be get a fringe programme and soak up the atmosphere of one of the best cities in the world during festival time!!!

Local meander on trails.

What does a bike guide do when he isn’t guiding a ride??

Easy he goes riding with his SOSAD(significant other sharing a diary) and best buddy Carol.

Carol is off on a Wednesday and we often spend the day together getting up to something or other and it often involves cycling.  A few weeks ago we put the bikes on the train and went to Edinburgh but we did have a purpose today’s ride was just that a ride on our mountain bikes just because we could and of course a planned lunch break.

We set off with a vague idea of where we wanted to go, a café already picked and a time we had to be back for.  Suffice to say we achieved all 3-a nice 16 mile loop almost totally off road with trails that we both had not been on before.  We had a great lunch at The Lemon Tree in Mountfleurie a café we had been meaning to visit for some time but hadn’t had the opportunity.  We were home a bit late but just 30 mins and had really enjoyed our ride together.

 

Recce of John Muir Way

I have long wanted to do the JMW not the American one but the C2C route in Scotland.  Born in Dunbar John Muir (1838-1914) left Scotland in 1849 for America.  If it hadn’t been for an accident which blinded the young Muir we may not have had the JMT or JMW he was so happy to regain his sight that he decided to follow his dreams and the rest as they say is history!

Bikeable in four days (134 miles) with B & B’s and rail stations all along the route it is one of the longer trips I intend offering to clients.  I start my recce next Friday and although the traditional direction would be West to East I have decided at least on this occasion to go East to West and will be doing the Dunbar to Edinburgh stretch.   Watch this blog for news of how it went.

If you, or anyone you know, are considering touring in Scotland get in touch.  Please follow and share this blog for an insight to my tours and to Scotland.