A day of two halves…
15 May 2013
I was up by 06.30, one because I was keen to get to Aberdeen in good time, and two to get out of the farmer’s field. There are a few principles of wild camping, including always leave the area in the same state or better than you found it, don’t overstay your welcome, and ask permission if private land, if possible. It hadn’t been possible late last night however I really don’t think they’d have minded anyway, camped where I was on some rough grass next to an old pile straw/manure!
As it happened the farmer turned up in his tractor just as I was leaving, so I gave him a friendly wave and he didn’t seem bothered, just got on with spraying his crops.
I rode back to the coast and Montrose, past the House of Dun which sounds impressive but was closed (too early), so I didn’t get to check it out. Rejoining route 1 I went round in an accidental circle because I wasn’t concentrating and missed a turning, think I was tired from yesterday and feeling a bit low with another overcast and cold day on the cards; nose still really sore too, despite aloe vera vaseline. Said hello to various dog walkers out for a morning stroll, and dutifully scooping the poop.
Anyway, picked up the right trail in the end and cycled through a couple of nature reserves. It was a good path to start off with, and a sign said I might see common lizards, this being one of their last habits in the North East.
There was another nature reserve at St. Cyrus, followed by a steep climb back on to the main route which got me going. Pedalled along to Johnshaven, where I nipped into a local shop and bought some ginger biscuits. Really wanted a fry up but no cafes present. I ate some cheese and oatcakes instead to try and boost energy levels.
I opted for the coastal rather than road option on route 1 for the next bit, which was an error really considering the path is more like a cobbled road or beach for the most part. Bit of bumpy and frustrating ride through to Gourdon, and one I wouldn’t recommend unless you’re on a mountain bike. Reckon it was probsbly the old coastal road in he past and was cobbled, but has since deteriorated. I really appreciate the national cycle network routes but they can be a mixed bag, and some really aren’t suitable for road bikes, tough though mine is. I had assumed wrongly that any marked cycle route would be road worthy, not always the case so worth bearing in mind and checking beforehand.
Post Gourdon I had to rejoin the A92 for a bit before turning off onto country roads again. The wind seemed to have changed direction to come from the north/north east, so I had a headwind again, and was getting cold despite the considerable number of hills, so it was slow progress to Stonehaven. I was also on a contemplative mood and found my thoughts turning to Lu, as they often do. I haven’t thought about her last few days for a while as it’s a box I don’t like to open too often, too painful and makes me sad, and angry that she didn’t have longer. You always wonder what else you could have done, but with cancer there isn’t much one can do other than be there, offer support, love & comfort, and listen, which thankfully I was able to do. The Big C, for whom I’m raising money on is tour, offer fantastic support for patients, so all donations gratefully received – link to Charity in top nav or here.
So feeling a little down in the dumps I made it to Stonehaven, where things immediately improved when I found a proper toilet! Things continued to improve with lasagne at a hotel bar (the Royal I think) in the town, plus a pint of Caledonian Best. Noticed Stonehaven also has a Gold Gilt award, at least I think it did, perhaps because it’s home to the original deep fried Mars Bar, or so the sign claimed.
I still haven’t tried one, and not sure I want to particularly. I might do just to see what all the fuss is about, but I’d rather have some haggis and black pudding really.
Post lunch and chatting to a few people interested in what I was doing, they thought I was crazy, I set off out of Stonehaven on route 1, avoiding the A90 as it’s just not that safe. Even though it sticks closer to the coast than route 1, I didn’t fancy the traffic. As I left I remembered one of the families I’d met near Stirling lived here and had invited me round should I need a break. Thanks for the invite Jackie, and sorry I didn’t make it – maybe on the next lap!
Feeling buoyed post lunch and a pint I powered up the hill out of Stonehaven, and into a series of convoluted country roads I’d have got lost in if not or the route 1 signs. This part of the route may have been designed by a madman or sadist, seeming to pick out every available hill, of which there were many, go up them rather than around them, and go back on itself. It felt at times like I was tacking. I like the challenge of a hill climb but on a 100 pound bike they can get tedious. Saying that the countryside was lovely, and well worth the pain in the legs. There were hardly any cars, just the occasional tractor, and odd fellow cyclist to say hello to.
I passed a lot of cows/calves/bulls/bullocks, who made polite conversation. I asked them if my mobile reception was likely to improve but they were on a different network so didn’t know, the sheep, lambs and horses were no help either. I was able to focus on more positive thoughts in the afternoon, remembering Lu in better times, and quietly updating her as to my progress.
So the route took me out of Stonehaven, round to Cookney which I thought was called Cockney and started singing the Lambeth Walk, then I lost track a bit, before arriving in Portlethen, along to Cove Bay, around the point at Nigg Bay and into Aberdeen via the docks, which were quite impressive.
It was a bit windy and raining in the latter stages, with a lot of traffic, but good to be in Aberdeen. With improved mobile reception I located a campsite 6 or 7 miles out of town, along the Dee, so using google maps I made my way there via a nice cycle track, the Deeside Way. Lovely smooth ride, with no headwind, a welcome relief. I reached the Deeside Holiday Park by 17.30, having covered about 65.7 miles, and had a bit of a fist pump moment when I noticed the large and welcoming inn next door. The campsite/caravan park was good, with a nice toilet/shower block, kitchen if you needed it but for extra, a TV and games room where I could recharge my phone and iPad, and a good pitch for my tent. Not as nice as the smaller more personal sites but you’ve got to love a hot shower post two days in the saddle.
Showers are also handy for washing your cycling bib and tops through, and socks. Two jobs done in one and means you stay warm in the shower or longer. Not a really comprehensive clothes wash but gets rid of grime, sweat and associated salt which if left unchecked can cause the dreaded chafing! Also got chamois cream to help with that, which I rub into the material as well as apply to any afflicted areas, thankfully been mostly fine so far, probably because of the aforementioned practice.
All clean and in my civvies I made my way to the Old Mill Inn, serving great food and ale. Spent a very pleasant evening there chatting to the staff and a couple of touring (by car) Americans from Oregon, updating my journal and blog (free wifi) and of course eating. I had kipper pâté, followed by mixed grill including haggis and black pudding, then apple crumble, accompanied by three pints of ale. A little extravagant maybe but really nice and much needed. I sat next to a fire too, which although gas added to the pleasure of the evening. Slept well that night.
So a mixed day but ending on a high, and a relaxing day planned for tomorrow with some shopping in Aberdeen, and a short leg further up the coast. No troll sightings so think I’ve left them behind, what will be next? Maybe giants up North, who knows!?
I think Giants can be spotted on the west coast – walking towards Ireland as I understand it.
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