Scotland’s mountains and islands were always going to be the tour highlight for me. Leaving them behind was like waving goodbye to a friend at a railway station. Your time is up and they have to leave, so reluctantly, you pull away and go back into your world with new memories of things you’ve done and places you went together.
Between the day that the isle of Arran disappeared from view and now there has been a transition taking place. A readjustment to being in a different landscape, less powerful and emotive, but still beautiful.
The first day was the hardest. I was in limbo. Ardrossan to Culzean Castle used a Sustrans cycleway and then the main A75. The cycleway was fine and i bumped into some Sustrans Volunteers who were out checking signs and looking for damage to report.
One had seen Eva earlier who was now on her final Coastal ride before turning inland to get to Newcastle via Hadrians Wall Route.
People, enjoying the sun, wandered around in the towns, and shore, the beaches were packed and I felt like I’d been beamed into another world. Culture shock!! All of a sudden I was invisible again as ice cream licking children and adults walked across my path without noticing the cycling equivalent of an ‘artic’ coming their way!!
The campsite At Culzean Castle was beautiful. That evening I sat looking across to Arran where I’d been that morning, I watched the Sunset with another camper, Helen, who was there with her son, having ‘ an adventure.’
The sky went purple, mauve, red, orange and all shades in between, I felt Arran was saying goodbye to me, so I snapped a shot or two,’ for the album’, as they say, before a well earned sleep.
The next day was spent entirely on the A75. Arran soon disappeared from view for the last time. The traffic was very good to be honest, but the speed and noise assaulted my senses to the point of despair. I had to have a conversation with benefits people, just to burst my bubble totally. It was bizarre talking to somebody about why they couldn’t get me at home and how I’d sent them a letter saying how they could (they say they havnt received) whilst sitting opposite Ailsa Craig watching Gannets!!!
I was so glad to escape from them and the A75. I’ll have to sort the mess later, but for now it’s in s box marked ‘whenever’. I survived to make it onto onto minor routes at Stranraer, then it was ‘ over the hills and far away ‘ to Port Patrick actually. All would have been well but for four lads returning home pissed up, playing music really loud at 2am whilst shouting and something a bit like singing!! They were threatening to “kick my head in” for having the audacity to be so selfish as to ask them to turn it down. I felt really threatened as they’d been smoking too, but eventually all went quiet as they collapsed into drugged sleep.
In the morning I complained, along with a crowd of others, and they were told to shut up or bugger off!! Not managing to do either, they were thrown off the site. In defiance put their tent up on the rough, private ground, next door, and were thrown off of that too. Karma at work, I think.
But for their noise, I may never have got to know John and Sharon. I helped them move their tent away from the danger zone and chatted to them when they were around the site. Lovely folk from Sheffield, John climbed Sharon did tai chi and both pedalled, a bit.
Back on the road I toured the coast known as The Rhins to The Mull of Galloway and back up again. Rugged beauty at it’s best, I was beginning to adjust as I rode to Glen Luce where the campsite hides in a walled Garden. Just lovely.
The following day I pedalled the empty roads around the coast of ‘The Machars’.
So different from the mountains, soft and gentle, warm and open, littered with pretty villages and dry stone walls. I began to really notice it, and what’s more, feel it.
Seabirds wading on sand bars replaced the birds of prey. Rushes grew in the rivers and the cottages all hunkered down, kept low to withstand the winter gales that must blast these low lying areas. There were even palm trees in places, a testament to the climate.
The riding was much easier here and everyday I could easily manage distances of 50 miles or more.
As the weekend approached I headed for Castle Douglas, not knowing it was summer festival weekend. People were everywhere, most of them completely blotto by mid afternoon. The Glaswegian contingent treated it like any other Saturday, getting smashed and then fighting each other or anybody else that came along. Once the fireworks had finished, I went to bed, stuck my earplugs in, and was oblivious to it!!
I’d noticed the ‘weekend fever’ driving again on Friday/Saturday, so I opted to stay off the Coastal route until after Dumfries. Sustrans NCN 7 weaves across the countryside over hill and Dale and is a pleasure to ride. A tarmac cycle path leads you into Dumfries and right through alongside the river past lots of tributes to Robert Burns. Then its out onto country lanes that hug the coast all the way to Gretna Green, and a few miles further on, a campsite that takes tents, something that’s becoming worryingly illusive!!
The mountains are long gone now. 326 miles to be exact. I still feel them and breath them as if they are part of me. I’ve absorbed a little bit of them, perhaps they have done the same. I could not have written a script where the West Coast would have been that kind weather wise. I could not have imagined all the wildlife I saw whilst there. I would never have believed I could pedal that far and enjoy every day of it., but I did, and still are.
The transitions complete now. I’ve got used to traffic and noise, people and litter, dogs barking rather than Arctic Turns wailing. I’ve got used to buildings and main roads, towns and industry. I don’t like it, but it’s as big a part of the trip as the Highlands were. I just sneak through quietly waiting for the next piece of open countryside where I can breathe a sigh of relief and relax.
This time was special. The people, places, sunshine, wildlife and the fact I cycled here made it something I shall never forget. I still have a thousand miles plus of the West Coast to go. What an island we live on.