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.

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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.

 

 

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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!!

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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………….

 

 

“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 http://www.scottishbiketouring.com 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.

 

TTFN

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.