Just to confirm I’m not actually in Scotland anymore, my blog is just really behind due to more exciting stuff taking precedence. I will catch up, but no doubt I’ll still be doing so from home post tour end! Check out my twitter feed (@jam_har) if you want more up-to-date info.
16 June 2013
I woke up feeling a little woozy after the excesses of the previous night at the Argyll Inn, however I feel it’s important to immerse oneself in the local culture. It was a pretty dull day outside my tent, with no wind, and closer inspection revealed clouds of midges still buzzing around. I grabbed some breakfast from my panniers and retreated back inside for another hour or so, swatting at any midges that made it in.
Post a bit of writing, and some route planning (will wonders never cease), I spread out wet stuff to dry as the sun came out, and had a shower. I still had quite a bit of damp kit from the last few days, and didn’t want to wear wet kit again, or pack it away like that. My shoes were also still quite soggy, however after a bit of bike maintenance, packing up, and a call to my parents to wish Dad a happy Father’s Day they were at least comfortable to wear again, and on the road to being merely moist.
It turned in to a bit of a late start after deciding to FaceTime my brother and his family too. Still, it was Sunday and I was enjoying catching up with people. It was good to see my nephew Seb dashing about on his tricycle. He’ll be on a bike and challenging for the yellow jersey in no time, although he is only 1 and 3/4, so maybe a little bit of training required; no performance enhancing drugs though so I’d better hide the Haribos.
Leaving Lochgilphead in the sunshine, I stopped at a supermarket for a few supplies and to get some lunch, expecting to have to wild camp for a night or two. I try to avoid going to supermarkets when I’m hungry, which is a bit of a challenge on this tour, so I ended up buying far more than I intended, mostly from the bakery section – pastries, fresh bread, and cookies.
I pedalled down the A83 round to Loch Fyne, following the relatively flat road along the coast through Lochgair, Tullochgarm, and past the gardens at Crarae, advertised as Scotland’s own Himalayan experience which sounded intriguing.
Post Furnace there’s a reasonably long climb up past the Aachindrain Township, before a nice long descent to Inveraray. The A83, thus far, was proving to be a pleasant road, being smooth, and passing through forest and farmland. I noticed quite a bit of logging going on again, leaving stark patches on hillsides, and piles of timber waiting for a lorry beside the roadside.
One of the benefits of hills plus a high level of annual rainfall is Scotland can generate quite a bit of power from hydroelectric facilities, and I passed quite a few along the way.
After an altogether different sort of ride to yesterday morning’s, and feeling in holiday mode quite randomly, I stopped at the Loch Fyne Hotel on the way into Inveraray for a break. The hotel in run by a friend of a friend’s brother, and had been recommended (thanks Vikki) via Twitter due to good food, and spa facilities should I require them. I was sorely tempted to have a sauna and massage, but opted for a pint and food instead, sitting outside in the sunshine and chatting to a few other tourists. The tuna melt panini and wedges didn’t last long, and it was lovely feeling warm for a change, although with clouds in the sky and it being Scotland I was prepared for the weather to change at any given moment.
The sign said the hotel couldn’t be held responsible for any damage to parked vehicles – I hoped my bananas were going to be alright.
Post the hotel I rode on into Inveraray, and had a look around. Even though it was Sunday everything was open, it being a tourist destination, and I nipped into the whisky shop as recommended by Dad. I could have spent a lot of money in there, but thankfully didn’t have room in my panniers, so instead chatted with the owner about some of the distilleries I’d passed. He, of course, had whisky from all of them. The shop smelt marvellous.
I stopped for a look at the famous jail, and castle, but didn’t go into either. They were a bit pricey for the time I’d be visiting them for.
Inveraray is a nice little town and worth a visit. I joined the throngs in having an ice cream and relaxed on the green next to the loch for a bit, watching a bloke toss a cocktail bottle around pretty professionally (that sentence could have gone wrong). I think he was trying to impress a group of nearby girls so I was quite amused when he hit himself in the head, causing much giggling.
I rode out of town over the bridge, continuing on the A83 alongside Loch Fyne. Everything was very green, with the road passing through forest and fern, and some lovely scenery. I passed a group of veteran cycle tourers going the other way, powering up the hill I was coasting down, all looking very fit and lean and probably in their 70’s, good stuff. Cycling obviously has massive health benefits, and must add several years on to your expected life span.
The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar/Deli/Restaurant was my next destination. This is the original restaurant of the Loch Fyne chain. I’ve been to the one in Norwich several times and really like their seafood, although I need to check if they use wild or farmed salmon now.
I was tempted to grab a meal, however you no doubt need to book, and it wasn’t long since I’d last eaten (not that that seems to make much difference on this tour, mange tout) so I just had a browse around their shop looking at all their goodies, a lot of which I have ordered online in the past as gifts for people, vey handy. Unfortunately none of the produce would keep very well in my panniers, but I did recommend the Bradan Rost pâté to one indecisive shopper.
I finally made it around the top of Loch Fyne and rode down into Cairndow, and past the Ardkinglas Woodland Garden which claims to have the tallest tree in the UK; I wonder who goes around measuring them all. The village is ‘quaint’ and gas some pretty roads around it.
With it starting to get late, and still wanting to cover a decent number of miles, I pedalled on down the A815 to Strachur and past the apparently award winning Creggans Inn. There must be a lot of people and organisations giving out awards these days, having passed a lot of establishments that have won one award or another, but to be fair the Inn did look nice. Steeling myself I pressed on down the B8000 coastal route, passing through a few small villages, and hearing the distant strains of the pipes from down the road somewhere. It was a bit bizarre cycling down the quiet road with the sound of bagpipes gradually getting louder. I eventually passed their source – a man playing outside his caravan in a small caravan park. I wonder what his neighbours think.
I rode past the Kilmore Chapel where the Lachlan Clan chiefs are buried, according to the sign.
The road alongside the loch is really lovely, with just the occasional hill, dip and turn, and great scenery. I think I hit it at the right time of day with the light conditions making things look dramatic.
I made it to Otter Ferry at about 19.30, and stopped for a pint in the pub whilst considering where to camp. The owner advised there was a good spot just back up the road, next to the loch, that would hopefully not be too midgey. With that sorted I got chatting to the only other people in the pub, who turned out to be from Norwich too, living just down the road from me near Elm Hill; it’s a small world sometimes.
Kay and Peter Bemble were up on the West Coast of Scotland on hols, with Peter recovering from bowel cancer surgery and chemotherapy. We chatted for a while about my trip, and what they were up to, agreeing that when something like cancer happens to you, or someone close to you, it doesn’t half give you the motivation to try and live life to the max, and get out there and do stuff you’ve always wanted to but perhaps put off due to work etc. You never really know what’s going to happen so don’t put your dreams on hold for too long! Peter talked about having a fresh perspective on life, and appreciating things more such as Springtime arriving, blossom appearing on trees etc. Lu was the same, having had a big lust for life post her treatment. Thanks for the donation to the Big C, and congrats on your daughter making the Olympic fencing team! Good luck with your next scan Peter, and maybe see you back in Norwich. Lovely people, like a a lot of the folks I’ve bumped into on this tour.
Post a pint, and another courtesy of Kay and Peter, I rode back along the loch locating the spot next to the shoreline the publican had recommended. It was a great little patch and I pitched up next to the beach, quickly lighting a fire to try and discourage the midges, which duly arrived in numbers. I used the quick fire lighting method in this instance, rather than flint and steel, opting for fuel for my stove over driftwood. Needs must when midges attack.
I applied Avon skin so soft to try and further deter the midges but it didn’t seem to be discouraging them much, so I got the tent up quick, whilst watching a cormorant fish in the loch.
The light kept changing because of the clouds, but it led to a wonderful sunset which I watched from my tent, before turning in early with a big day planned for tomorrow.
The colours just kept getting better and better.
As I was shutting the tent door a grey heron stalked by at the water’s edge, obviously not quite sleepy enough to retire yet, unlike me. I keep meaning to do a count on grey herons, I’ve seen loads in Scotland.
Quick mileage update – with 60 odd miles done today, my total was standing at around 2720.
Brings back memories of a couple of family holidays in Argyll, seeing red squirrel & Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe for example, lovely part of the world.
Can you tweet your current location – keen to know where you now are. Am getting to be quite a fan of your prose as my lunchtime distraction.
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