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.

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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.

 

 

Edinburgh festival of cycling (EdFoC) update.

SBT will once more be guiding two rides at EdFoC.  This years rides are Innocent Railway and Rosslyn Chapel a 30 miler on cycle paths and some roads with time to take a tour of the Chapel.  The second tour is The Waterways of Edinburgh this will be covered in another post..


This is s great ride and it’s sometimes hard to believe that you are in the middle of Scotland’s capital as you pedal through woods and parkland.  The route also takes in some of the River Esk way.   Leaving Roslin you follow another old railway that has been converted to pathway and head back towards Auld Reekie.  You cross the a lattice work viaduct engineered by the same man responsible for the Tay rail bridge!!  Needless to say I didn’t stay on it long!

 

As we head back into Edinburgh Salisbury Crags come into view and we pick up the Innocent Railway for another chance to go through the tunnel or over it!!

Tours start and finish at the Scottish Parliament at 1030 see EdFoC website for details and check out the other great events taking place.

SBT does Islay

Islay has been inhabited since 8000BC, at various times the island has been inhabited by the Gaels and Vikings eventually coming under Scots rule in the 12th century.

Having had such a long history the island is full of sights to see both natural and manmade.  Machir Bay a mile of golden sands and voted in the top 30 beaches in the UK by Conde Nast traveller. Finlaggan two islands to the north of Islay one of which is linked to the main island by a walkway.  Tools and weapons from 14th and 15th century have been found on the islands.

If Islay is famous for anything it’s whisky with it’s own festival in May and 8 working distilleries on the island it’s not hard to see why.  With the Island Adventure tour you can spend one of the days on the island touring the distilleries. The YH at Port Charlotte is an ex distillery building!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

SBT does the Great Glen Way

This is the first in a series of posts about the areas that SBT tour in.

The Great Glen (GG) is a geological fault between Fort William and Inverness.  At one end of the GG lies Loch Linnhe and the Atlantic Ocean and to the other the Moray Firth and the North Sea making it an ideal off road Coast to Coast (C2C).

The original fault was created about 380 million years ago then a mere 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age the fault as we know it was formed.

Traversing the GG way there is 22 miles of man made Caledonian Canal and 38 miles comprising 3 lochs that of Lochy, Oich and Ness.  The Caledonian Canal was oened in 1822 almost 49 years after first being proposed.

There are ten hill forts along the GG testifying to it’s strategic importance.  Torr Dhuin and Craig Phadrig are the most accessible from the GG Way and are worth visiting if only for the views.  Craig Phadrig is thought to date from 350BC and be on the site that eventually became Inverness.

The GG runs through the three main types of habitat water side, woodland and moorland and you can expect to see oystercatchers, heron, kittiwakes and even ospreys.  Landward red squirrels, pine marten and red deer.

The GG Way passes through Gairlochy, Laggan locks, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit.

We shall take a look at some of these settlements as well as Fort William and Inverness in another post.

 

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