Keith – “It seemed like a good idea when it was first suggested, catch 5 ferries and cycle 70 miles over 2 days. ”
The convoy left home on time at 7:30am to be immediately fractured by a fuel stop for the lead car. The third car sailed passed the filling station and went to a different one… By some fluke of nature we regrouped on the Glasgow Road, only to be broken again by the Cherrybank Inn. Somebody forgot to close a fuel filler cap! Regrouping on the A9 the run was smooth with the lead car going the way the satnav said in the second car. The only stop on the way to our free parking in Largs was a comfort break at Morrisons in LARGS!
Finally, parked up, bikes assembled, panniers attached, strava’s set, BUTT Butter applied, cars locked, Sandra Whi'(SWI) distributed her fab home made tablet in wee bags and with some trepidation we were off to Ardrossan. The wind was blowing in our faces the whole way, the 8 bike peleton became well spread out, a pattern that would come to define this island hopping adventure. As a result of the wind (and the first comfort break) the proposed coffee stop in Ardrossan was cancelled. Alan, using the red lights to cross the ferry junction, sped off to get the tickets. Sandra Wha’ (SWA) pulled a similar stunt only to get caught at the next junction. Asda this time for the second comfort break.
All aboard the first ferry, and the cruise with the slight swell to Brodick. SWI pulled out a Buff to discover “toothpaste” on it, it was her teenage sons Buff.
The first disembark at Brodick, and a spot of lunch in the Littlerock Cafe. This is where the talk of “the hill” become more evident – nervous chatter you might call it. We set off, the wind on our backs, and our pace good. We stopped at Sannox and pealed off the extra layers steadying ourselves for the obstruction. At the bottom of this hill, there is a defibrillator unit… is this a warning? The pack was soon dispersed up the hill. The first regroup was at a viewpoint. We set off again. The group quite quickly gets strung out as we all go at our own pace. The climb is hard. A cyclist going the other way shouts “good luck”… now I am a wee bit worried. Pressing on and breathing hard the hill was slowly dragged under my wheels. The hill has a number of significant ramps and a few false summits. The hill crested, I start the swift descent to Lochranza. We regroup in Lochranza, and wait for the second ferry of the day. As we board the Ferry it starts to rain.
Disembarking in to Clonaig, I know there is a bit of a climb to get over to Tarbert, I don’t let on. The climb is sort of stepped, we don’t really do another full regroup. A wee shower blows through. Some of our number find this a relief rather than an annoyance. The road to Tarbert feels longer than its signposted distance. As I roll in to Tarbert, I realise I have no idea where the hotel is or even what it is called. Going along the front I hear a window being rattled. It’s Ashley either trying to escape or she is telling me this is the hotel. The hotel has a faded grandeur about it.
The lounge bar is where I find SWI, Suzanne, Keith, and Ashley. Alan gives me my key. SWA arrives. We go to our room, there must be some mistake, this is has to be a single room. And going by the red marks on all the walls, somebody did try to swing a cat. Keith – “Tarbert Hotel to find our enormous room very comfortable, and a nice bar with spectacular views of the Paps of Tarbert”
We all meet up in the lounge bar, there are a few characters in there, one of whom tells us that you should never climb a hill with a name… think Ballo, Bursie. she did name the one to Lochranza but I forget what it was. We go out to a local Tandoorie restaurant, you can tell Alan booked this… its dry! (secretly I think this is a good idea) We eat, drink soda, and leave. Going back towards the Hotel we decide to use its public bar. Its a bit of a Star Wars bar. Suzanne – “ I wasn’t allowed to play pool!!” Keith – “We then retired to the bar for some beer and to listen to a jukebox which was unusual as the main choice was duelling banjos and skipped forward when outsiders tracks came on” But I can think of a couple of outstanding features, that came into view after one of the locals spilt his pint on to the floor and the low cut barmaid was down on all fours wiping it up 🙂
Alan – “after getting up at 4am thinking the sun had come up as I opened the curtains to find out there was a large orange sodium filled streetlamp shinning through the window and rain bouncing off the road, back to bed to dose for a few hours until daylight, showered again and out for a walk up to Tarbet Castle lovely views a bit like the views out of our large bedroom with its bath, shower room and large bay window looking over the harbour, (well I did do the booking so I was entitle to the best of the four) ” Next morning, cooked breakfasts, mountains of toast and gallons of tea. The server was brilliant. (his tattoo’s not so much) Everybody treks up to see the cupboard that SWA and I had for a room. We check out and set off for the ferry to Portavadie.
Portavadie, Its funny, there is a long climb out of this port too! and a sublime descent to Kames. As we headed through Kames, the splitting of the group occurred again. This time I called out to go left. Yes, left is also up, and a steep up at that. Kames/Tighnabruaich were a bit like Eassie but on a steep hill with no sign of life. But there are scarecrows every where. Once more this steep little rise was the preamble to Tighnabruaich (a named hill we were warned about in the pub)… sea level to over 200m in one go. But the views from the viewpoint are so worth it. Bute-iful you might say. The viewpoint was the latest regroup area. It was also the place where “skin so soft” was being liberally squirted, applied and rubbed in. The descent from here, took a couple of minutes. Heading for Colintravie, I make sure the lead group know of the little road to the right – Its a good shout. It saves going near the monster climb we had spotted from the viewpoint.
Crossing to Bute (ferry 4) there were at least 14 bikes (easily outnumbering the cars) We were as usual first on but last off.
Bute was flat, very flat and the road surface smooth, very very smooth. I was told to cycle with SWA. I did until she dropped me on the descent into Bannatyne. My problem was a rapidly softening tyre. At regroup and yet another photo op, I had the job of fixing the irritating little puncture. I have to do the rest of the days riding on a softer than I would have liked back tyre – it slows you down! Suzanne – “how many men does it take to change a tyre… 2 fixing, 1 with terrible jokes and 1 observing!!”
In Rothesay now, and I discover I have little to no brakes. The problem stems from turning a bike with hydraulic brakes upside down…
We eat at the Palace Hotel in Rothesay, in our own eating area (did we smell that bad?) then grab an ice cream from Zavaroni’s (Lena’s family business – yes her picture is on the wall).
The final Ferry boarded, and we all stand and chat on the car deck, not realising that until we clear the deck the cars cant get on… A friendly Cal-Mac deck hand told us to leave. We sat in the lounge just waiting for the tannoy to announce the late departure of the ferry was due to some pesky chatting cyclists… it didn’t happen.
The last disembark, and we are in Skelmorlie. 6.5 miles down a main road, with a wall on one side and the beach on the other… every man for himself… we go, we cause havoc, we arrive in Largs. Largs has to be the longest town in the world. We cycle through it for another 2 miles to get to the cars.
We try to eat in Nardini’s, but leave… forgetting that Suzanne and Keith were in the rest rooms. Ending up at Marini’s we go to the front to eat. Quickly seagulls surround us – they get nothing!
The drive home is uneventful. Home now tired by happy.
Sum up in three words
Keith – “must go to the organiser despite the fact he genuinely couldn’t organise an actual piss-up in a curry house. Great Trip Alan (my second choice would be Barmaid’s Cracking…Smiles)”
Suzanne – “Surreal Steel Seals”
Andrew – “Picture Perfect Puncture”