Day 11 - near Ardrossan to Kilmelford


Waiting to board the Arran ferry

Last night's B&B was the most splendiferous yet. A dairy farm, with part of the premises converted to high-class accommodation by the farmer's 34 year old wife who (along with rearing 5 children under 8) uses her degree in catering to provide first-class hospitality. You should have seen the size and quality of the breakfast I was served this morning!

I cycled down the 5 miles to the Ardrossan ferry, and bought a ticket for the 1 hour crossing to Brodick and the half hour crossing off the other side of the island to Claonaig - all for the princely sum of 7.80. A couple from Penrith, complete with two classy bikes, were waiting for the same ferry, starting off a tour of the islands. They gave me a 5 pound contribution for my charities.

It was lovely and sunny, with the mountains of Arran in the distance, but the weather changed during the crossing and for the first hour on the island it rained, though not hard. A charming 15 mile ride round the north of the island to Lochranza took me first along the sea shore, with the waves lapping the coastline just feet from the road - and then over a 675 feet road pass with magnificent views south to the large mountains of the north part of the island. In Lochranza I had a few minutes before the 1.15 ferry, and had a Scottish Pie in the cafe by the jetty.

The ferry was one of these small ones that holds about a dozen cars. It lowers its car ramp onto the stone ramp on land, and then holds itself in position while vehicles disembark and board. On reaching Claonaig it was particularly windy and the waves were splashing over the point where the car ramp meets the stone ramp - and it felt quite brave to steer my bike down into this boiling cauldron of sea and up the other side. A rather fancy Jaguar sports car, waiting to board, decided not to run this obstacle course.

It was nearly 2pm when I reached Claonaig, and I had only done 20 miles so far, with over 45 still left. The heavens opened and I set off in full waterproof gear - first over the hills to the main road, and then north to Tarbert where the heavy rain relented. A couple crossing the road passed me and said, in a very poncy English accent, "I hope you don't get blown over."

The 14 mile run from Tarbert to Lochgilpead was fairly flat, and with a following wind I was able to make good time, though it continued to rain. In Lochgilpead I popped into the bike shop where Kevin kindly used his floor pump to bring my tyre pressures up from 80 to 100 psi (it is hard to get that kind of pressure with a hand pump). I then visited the fish and chip shop and asked what they recommended. The lady pointed at a haggis, but I chickened out of that challenge and ordered sausage and chips which, as the sun had now come out, I ate sitting on a bench looking out to sea.

Then back on the road for the final 22 miles to Kilmelford, first very flat, and then a couple of hills. But virtually no rain. The evening sun was trying to break through when I reached Loch Melfort, and eventually into Kilmelford just before 7. I took a wrong turning, looking for the B&B, and stopped a car to ask for directions. The occupants couldn't help me, but the driver (having presumably seen my flag) said to his wife, "I think we'd better give a donation to his charity!" A ten pound note was produced, my second donation of the day.

When I finally found my B&B place there was no one at home, but there was a note by the door explaining that the proprietor had had to go to town - could I please come in and find my room and make myself at home! A novel experience.

All in all an enjoyable day, in the wonderful Scottish countryside which I love so much and which not even the bad weather can spoil.

Total: 68 miles, average speed 10.7 mph. Total mileage so far: 752. Total ascent today: 3520 feet. Interesting statistic: my average heart rate on the ride today was 110, higher than expected, due to my keeping up a high pace in the afternoon in order to make my B&B in good time.