Loch Ken to Lochranza
Distance: 133 km
After yesterday’s skipping gears, today we had a mission: to get to the bike shop on Ayr and fix Monty.
Just after 6am I poked my head out the tent. Streaks of white cirrus cloud over a fresh blue sky, what a beautiful morning. Another bowlful of porridge and some fresh coffee (me) and two cups of tea plus a flapjack (my Dad) set us up for a busy morning’s ride.
Coming here, you can understand why dispossessed Scots felt at home in Canada. On our left was the end of Loch Ken, still and calm in the morning, a single yellow canoe floats undisturbed on the water. Conifers fill in the gaps between lake, sky and road. A moose here wouldn’t feel out of place.
Having spent yesterday focusing on getting to the campsite on time, we’d neglect to stock up our supplies for today. After an hour of cycling we passed through a tiny village. On the outside, the post office looked like it had seen better days, but inside was a cyclist’s dream selection of homemade cakes, flapjacks and tiffin, all neatly wrapped in clingfilm. With our panniers and bellies a little heavier with goodies we began the long climb towards Ayr. We passed three hydroelectric power stations as we ascended through forest. Each small summit would reveal a new vista, and a new line of hills beyond with perhaps a new river or loch. When I stopped, all I could hear was the wind in the grasses and the trickling of a stream.
The decent was pure joy. Long, easy, sweeping bends took us down towards Ayr, past an old coal mining village with rows of old houses, identical in their peeling paint and matching satellite dishes. Thanks to good flapjack and a tailwind the whole way, we pulled into the bike shop in Ayr before noon, having cycled 70 km.
The man in the bike shop had the parts I needed to fix Monty but not the time. However, being a kind and wonderful person, he lent us the tools so my Dad and I then spent the next 45 minutes on the street outside the shop (there was not enough room inside) taking Monty apart and putting him back into one, happy piece. I took him on a short spin around the Aldi car park: all was running smoothly again.
We took lunch on the sea front looking towards the blue outline of Arran. A woman came up to say hello. She’d just been looking for driftwood and bits of glass on the beach with her sister for a project she was working on in the garden. I’d asked in town about the weather and been told it was going to be “wild”. I was a bit worried.
“Nah, just a bit of rain,” she said, “the ferries will still be running unless the wind gets up.” She recommended that, since we were headed to Arran, we push on to the campsite in Lochranza, at the north end of the island. “It’s a beautiful place, good pub and the views are lovely.” She told us about her own cycling trips out to Barra and South Uist. There seems so much here to explore, if you have a good enough waterproof.
Convinced by the woman’s description of Lochranza and now with a ferry to catch we pushed on to Ardrossan. We followed the coastal bike path which weaved back and forth over the railway and in between one, two, three golf courses en route.
This is the fifth long day of cycling but a good bit of food, clear skies and a beautiful view always inspires me to keep going. It was 7pm by the time the ferry arrived in Arran.
We had 15 miles to cycle across the island to reach the campsite. A storm was forecast to arrive later in the evening and as we set off around the coastal road the grey cloud lowered and soft, fine rain began to fall as gently as breath. In the quiet of the evening, the road was empty save for two cyclist. On our right, the distant blue of the mainland disappeared as we headed in land and up into steep open hills, gushing streams, and wildflowers.
Here you can measure distance in colour. As we reached the summit of our climb, the northern end and the land beyond was visible beneath us. Beside us was the lush, bright green of wet grass, the green rounds of the hills beyond faded in the rain, until the land turned greyish-white and disappeared into the sky.
We arrived at the campsite just as the wind was picking up. My tent flapped with each new gust as I fought to pitch it. I hastily heated and gulped down a tin of beans and sausages while the midges began to bite. It began to rain harder and my Dad, still halfway through his beans, dived for the cover of his tent while I scarpered to the bathroom for a hot shower before bedtime.