16 May 2013
Waking up feeling refreshed, I was up surprisingly early for me, by 07.30 because the tent got too hot; a good sign that the weather had improved however Scotland had tricked me before so I decided to reserve judgement. A German couple were up early too in the pitch next to me, and I half expected to see they’d deposited towels on the chairs next to the duck pond to reserve their seating for day. Instead they were practicing their golf swings using pine cones, and drinking freshly brewed coffee that smelt amazing. Unfortunately I don’t do the caffeine thing, so settled for some peppermint tea instead, along with the last of my cheese and oatcakes; must buy some more!
Post breakfast I had a lazy morning sorting out a few bits and pieces, and catching up on some blog entries in the sunshine that looked set to continue to for the day.
It’s worth mentioning how impressed I am to date with my tent, a Hilleburg Akto that’s performing admirably. It’s not only very light and strong, but keeps the wind out, as well as the sometimes driving rain; a blessing since I entered Scotland and this cold north wind sprang up.
It’s a one person tent but surprisingly roomy, with space in the porch area to fit my four panniers and the dry bag that sits on my back rack. There’s enough room inside to spread out a bit, and you could even fit two in at a stretch, should the need arise!
Post blog entries and a smattering of rain, told you the weather was unpredictable, I finished charging up my phone and iPad in the TV room, then packed up. Realised I haven’t watched TV for two weeks now, not missing it, too much other stuff to do. I noticed at this point my front tyre had a puncture, which was annoying seeing as I had new and tougher tyres on my bike in the form of Schwalbe Marathon Plus’. Upon closer examination it was a weird puncture, the rubber having fatigued and worn through around the valve so nothing to do with the actual tyre, and perhaps a result of yesterday’s rough riding. Inner tube replaced I was ready to go, albeit with very grimy hands I had to scrub; handy I got the puncture in the campsite so had a bathroom to wash up in. I only have one spare tube left now, so ought to buy a couple more, although I have one old one that’s mendable still.
Leaving the campsite about midday, and passing the Old Mill Inn from last night, I pedalled to Aberdeen down the Deeside cycle path, a nice smooth ride of about 7 miles that didn’t take very long. The sun was still out so the day looked promising.
I headed to a Cotswold’s shop I’d located earlier via the medium of the web, and picked up some more fuel for my Whisperlite stove. I chatted to the shop staff for a bit, one of whom was a keen cycle tourer. Have to say I’ve always found the Cotswold’s staff really friendly and helpful, and the ones I’ve met so far know there stuff which makes a change. Mind you I should probably be sponsored by them considering the amount of kit I bought from them for this tour. Get a discount through work though, and CTC members also get a discount which is worth remembering.
I proceeded to wheel my fully loaded bike through the mall and grabbed a baguette for lunch, attracting some curious looks. I figured me wheeling my bike through the mall as no different to people pushing their prams, and if anyone wanted to challenge this I would claim I was using my bike as a pram to transport a lobster; Lobster wasn’t entirely convinced by this plan.
Leaving the mall, which I found entirely too crowded, I took a somewhat circuitous route out of Aberdeen seeing a few sights. It’s a nice city and one I knew nothing about other than it has a large port.
Stopping in Morrisons on the way out I picked up a few extra provisions. I might have bought too much however I wasn’t sure how much I’d need over the next few days, given the apparent sparseness of campsites along the Aberdeenshire coastline. I thought I might have to wild camp so wanted to make sure I had enough carbs – was nearly out of reserve flapjack! So armed with bananas, apples (Pink Ladies no less) more pasta, pasties, pork pie, snickers, pitta bread and other assorted goods, which to my relief all fitted in my panniers – Orltieb panniers just absorb stuff but bike does get heavier, I left Aberdeen in glorious sunshine. I assume you don’t have to toast pitta breads incidentally? Could be tricky on my stove. Also splashed out on some houmous, how very middle class. Forgot to buy oatcakes though, d’oh.
Wanting to avoid the A90 I cycled over the Bridge of Don, and up through the countryside to Potterton, then on to Belheavie, before heading back down to the coast at Balmedie. At that point I had to cycle along a bit of the A90, past a few traffic jams, before turning on to the A975 to Newburgh. Is ‘burgh’ in Scotland pronounced ‘burg’ or ‘borough’? I’ve been going with ‘burg’ but don’t really know! There are a few words I need to look up too which are repeated on signs – Slains, Mains, and Links which I assume must be golf associated. Anyway it was a relief to get off the A90 which was far too busy, even if most Scottish drivers do look out for cyclists.
The Ridgeback was running well post the morning’s puncture repair and general maintenance – de-griming the gears etc, and my legs were feeling good post the big feed the night before and morning off. I think rubbing in Emu oil to tired muscles is also proving effective – look it up if you don’t believe me. My spirits were generally higher due to the sunshine and nearly no wind for a change, even if it was still chilly.
On a high I continued on to Collieston, where I stopped for a bit. It’s a lovely village on the coast, again reminding me of Cornwall. I lay in the grass up at the viewpoint, overlooking the bay and harbour, and admired the view. I nearly dozed off it was so peaceful, and for the first time in a few days I felt all the tension leave me, completely relaxing. I felt a real sense of calm descend over me, and would have stayed their for longer hadn’t the chilly breeze finally roused me; I climbed back down from the bluff I’d clambered up to earlier and got back on my bike. (Again reminded me of Cornwall as a kid, and rock hopping about)
About halfway out of the village I realised I didn’t have my sunglasses, and must have dropped them when lying in the grass or climbing back down. Stopping suddenly I skidded on a patch of gravel, feet slipped out of cleats and bike went sideways. My shins were duly whacked by my pedals, and leg covered in grease from the chain, great way to shatter the tranquil state I’d achieved earlier. My lower legs are covered in scrapes and bruises from my pedals or cassette hits, resulting from manoeuvring a heavy bike, it tipping over, or my feet slipping out occasionally (must tighten cleats a bit). They look like they’ve ‘been in the wars’ as my mother would say, a few battle scars I reckon. Does anyone else have this problem or is it just me being clumsy? Anyway I went back and found my sunglasses where they’d fallen whilst I was climbing down.
I passed a lot of cattle on my way out of Collieston, bullocks mostly, who seemed very interested in my progress. Passing one field of particularly frisky bovines, I noticed they started following me, slowly at first, before speeding up until the whole herd were steaming along beside me; maybe it was my red panniers. I was very glad of the solid fence between us. Not sure they were being particulary aggressive, maybe just interested, but I wouldn’t have liked them on my side of the fence.
It was a great cycle along to Cruden Bay, another lovely coastal town with a great beach where waves were rolling in; I could have surfed, if I could actually surf that is, and had a surf board which unfortunately wouldn’t really fit on my bike.
I left Cruden Bay intending to wild camp, perhaps up at the ruined castle (Slaines), but within minutes I saw a sign to a campsite with a tent symbol on it, bonus, as fancied a hot shower. I cycled with a bloke on a mountain bike for a bit, whose friend took part in the recent Perthshire Etal and came 50th, pretty impressive. The same friend apparently has 8 bikes in his garage; I only have two and was slightly jealous, but sounds expensive.
We parted ways as I reached the campsite, Craighead, a nice surprise considering I wasn’t expecting many campsites out this way, however the owner said there are quite a few on the coast and gave me a map which was helpful. Good campsite, nice and quiet, no wifi but warm showers and only £9. He let me charge stuff too, lucky considering the lead from my solar panels to my Power Monkey has broken – need to get a replacement in Inverness. Dinner consisted of Morrisons pasties, fruit, biscuits, and a medicinal whiskey as the sun went down.
Aberdeenshire is impressive so far, a hidden gem in my humble opinion. The campsite owner said a lot of tourist traffic gets directed towards Balmoral etc up the A96/A947, rather than around the coast, their loss I reckon, and my gain, with its thus far gentle hills, lovely countryside and picturesque coastal villages – which although lovely could do with a few more pubs. Great to have sunshine too.
Post real morale boosting day, covering 45 miles, I wrapped up warm in my tent and fell soundly asleep pretty quick. Long may the good weather continue.