Saturday, 10 August 2013

Leg 4, Day 7: Largs to Campbeltown

We're absolutely broken. 185 km cycled today the last 60 of which included 17 hills of over 15 % gradient. So until I have the energy to type all you're getting are pictures. 

Saturday 10th August UPDATE: We are currently sitting in Tarbert ferry terminal waiting for our ferry to Islay and are having a chance to reflect on yesterday's patience testing, reserve challenging, leg destroying, bum numbing challenge. 

As you can see above it was always going to be a big day. 185 km of cycling with 4 ferry crossings all of which all had to be perfectly timed was a big ask but we managed to make it...just. 

Largs was the start of the day, looking above at that photo it seems like last week. The rain that fell during the night had thankfully stopped but it made for a somewhat soggy cycle up to Gourock 20 km to the north where our first ferry of the day was departing from.

Annoyingly due to our pre-planned route which is loaded onto my Garmin watch suggesting that we should cycle up 3 flights of stairs which was clearly a footpath incorrectly marked as a cycle path, we decided to stray from the route and work out our own way to the ferry terminal. This was a mistake. Numerous stops to check google maps on the iPhone cost us 10-15 mins and resulted in missing our first ferry! 

This is what we navigate by, the idea is to keep the arrow on the line. You can zoom in and out quite easily. When you stray from the line it usually results in a world of pain. We are slaves to the line. While this isn't as romantic as carrying a big folding paper map, we think it saves us more than an hour each day in navigation stops. 

We did however use this opportunity to get breakfast and elevenses (a highly under appreciated meal) from the local bakery, served by a remarkably grumpy woman. 

Aboard our first ferry from Gourock to Kilcreggan. 

Once we arrived at Kilcreggan we began our second critical stage of today's cycle- having to cycle all the was around the loch to Helensburgh RNLI station which was a touch over 40km in time for the return ferry (back to Gourock) which was leaving just under 2 hours later. Missing this ferry simply wasn't an option as it would have had knock on consequences to the ferry crossings scheduled later in the day.

We got our heads down and made it to Helensburgh in just under an hour... A quick photo and we were back on our bikes. 

Cycling past the MOD base on the east coast of the loch.

On our way back to the

Which we made...just and as a bonus we were joined by some quality facial hair, something the Scos seem to do quite well. They are real men up here. 

We had 15 mins in Gourock before our next ferry to Dunoon which would take us onto Bute. We had been in touch with my good friends Thierry and Pith who were spending the week at their loch side house which was only a mile from our planned route, but before we could enjoy some coffee and cake with them we had the small matter of climbing the only serious hills of our trip so far and we got that familiar taste of leg burning fun, often coupled by unexplained hysterics which would usually inhibit any form of climbing whatsoever. 

This was spectacular scenery and the roads were either fantastic (clearly benefitting from some obscure EU subsidy) or horrendous. We heard that this particular road was voted e most beautiful road in Britain and I can attest to the views that distracted us from our tired legs during the journey to Tignabruaich.

After an hour or so chatting with Thierry and Pith over a cuppa. Photos to follow from Thierry! We had an hour in which to cycle the remaining 18km to the ferry terminal at Portavadie which when announced was greeting which raised eyebrows! Did they know something about the road ahead which we didn't? We decided not to take any risks and cracked on, stopping briefly for a few photos, one of which was the RNLI station in Tignabruaich. 

The Portavadie-Tarbert ferry was a welcome sight...

...which provided a welcome change of seat.

With the last ferry of the day done, a weight was off our shoulders and all that remained was a 60km jaunt down the Kintyre peninsula down to Campbeltown. Or so we thought. 

There are two routes down to to Cambeltown, one on the east coast and one on the west coast. We opted to go down the east coast and up the west coat the following day. Little did we know that the east coast B-road, which happens also to be a national cycle route, was reminiscent of North Devon in the sense that the road was single track, gravelly, and contained no less that 17 ascents of greater that 15% gradient. 

We had planned to do 40km, have a brief rest then do the remaining 20km.  We soon realised what we were in for when we had taken 4 stops within the first 4 km! 

One of the few flat spots, albeit with a fantastic coastline.

Eventually, nearly 3 hours later we got to Campbeltown RNLI station. We rolled down the hill (visible in the photo below) with a sign of utter relief after what was a very hard day on the bike, saw the familiar RNLI flag blowing in the breeze and smiles spread across our faces. We had made it. 

After a quick shower, we headed to the nearest restaurant which turned out to be simply fantastic. Rare rump steaks and a cold beer were our reward for the days efforts and I'm not sure food has ever tasted so good. 

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