Fancy landing on a beach the only operating airport in the world that lands scheduled flights on a beach? How about climbing the UK’s highest mountain, biking along ancient coffin roads and military roads? You can do all of this and more in Scotland with Scottish Bike Touring.
The 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.