Monday, December 5, 2011

Scotland IV - A Near Miss & Isle of Arran

55 miles, Friday, July 8

Andy and I tested our first Scottish bakery. I chose a deep round pastry filled with apple. Surprisingly it was not overly sweet and the filling reminded me of our friend Ellen Lane’s pastries. It was more satisfying than the sugary deserts we’d become accustomed to.

Today was our first truly hill ride. Up and down all day, in and out of bays, over ridges to the next. And always, sheep bleat or stare inquisitively from the roadside. My favorite sheep scene was a pair sitting side by side, their forelegs tucked beneath woolly bodies. One nibbled on the other’s back.

Leaping aboard the ferry to Isle of Arran.
23 miles, Saturday, July 9

Leaving Tarbet, we headed south then east to catch a ferry to the isle of Arran (pronounced Erin). The final stretch of road to the dock was single track (single lane), winding downhill through open sheep pasture. It’s common to find a few animals clustered in the road. I tap the brakes and play chicken, wondering who will give first. Eventually we compromise and go our separate ways. I’ve found it best to be humble. I cannot imagine what would happen had we tussled - the curly horns are intimidating.

In somewhat of a rush to catch the ferry – from our high vantage the boat moved steadily towards shore – I began cutting corners, propelling myself into a maddening headwind. Ahead, Andy yelled “Car!” I panicked, braking, but I was in the middle with a vehicle headed right at me. My first instinct was to stop and head to the right, which I did, and quickly corrected and turned left, skidding the back tire. The car stopped, fortunately, or I would have been propelled over the hood. When I regained my composure and balance I passed the vehicle, spewing apologies and thanks to the driver. I shook as we cycled the remaining mile to the water, just making the ferry. Egad - one week of cycling and my first near miss!

With the gale and darkening sky, four days of nice weather came to an end. We pushed our bikes and leaped big waves onto the ferry ramp, trying to keep our feet dry.  The half hour crossing was rough, placing Andy and me on the isle of Arran in gusts and horizontal rain. We had no set route and headed south with the wind, but after a mile the gusts shifted direction so we turned around. We passed a youth hostel, wondering if we should take refuge, but then realized it was too early - hostels do not open until 4 or 5 p.m. Instead we holed up in a smelly cement bus shelter. We had to laugh at our predicament, munching on a snack as graffiti and pungent sheep dung added undue ambiance.

Having no other option, we plugged on. The rainy gusts forced us three feet off the pavement, in one spot, plastering our bikes and bodies against a hedgerow. We said little, realizing our need to get to the next town.

Area between Lochranza and Sannox - Glen Chalmadale.
Photo credit:

Climbing a steep road over the island’s interior, the trees disappeared. We fought the wind and weather, rising through high open pastures, edged in clusters of ferns. The raw country held a precarious beauty, yet our exposure was unnerving. When vehicles grumbled from behind we yelled to each other and stopped, letting the automobile pass. Our bulky forms buffeted and wavered unsafely.

Ferns on Glen Chalmadale Passage.
 Photo credit:

It took two and a half hours to travel 13 miles. The outlook was still nasty when we arrived in Brodick. The hostel was beyond pedaling distance and we were miserable, never considering setting up the tent. We are currently in an old funky hotel, drying out everything. Enjoying the warmth we watched a TV show about a party ballooning over the summit of Mount Everest. I spied a huge spider on the pink wall behind the set. Feeling cozy and sleepy I pleaded for Andy to remove him, but he waited until the show finished then placed the creature outside the door.

The weather shakes the windows bellowing eerie howls as we nod off. If it clears in the morning we’ll walk on paths to the Brodick Castle, otherwise we’ll take a ferry back to the mainland.

Brodick Castle and grounds. We were able to walk around
 the following morning. Photo Credit: Sarah Charlesworth


  1. Wow, what a ride! The words tour de force come to mind. :)

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  3. Oh man, the lush scenery. But I can imagine how terrifying that near miss was! Yikes!

  4. I like the pictures

  5. These are all such lovely places and you are so lucky to have travelled there on your bicycles and walking. The only way to appreciate and really see the world. I've been googling some of the places you mention to learn more.


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