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 Post subject: Arran odyssey 1/2
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 7:00 pm 
MacRetro rider
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Joined: Sun May 24, 2009 9:55 pm
Posts: 573
Location: Orkney, and the moral high ground
Arran trip report

by Steven Heddle, aged 45 1/2


I awoke bright and early on Saturday morning at 6.30 am, ready to head from Edinburgh to Ardrossan, intent on a solo circumnavigation of Arran. The bike had been stowed in the back of the car the night before, and a pannier was packed with a range of unncessary and heavy tools just to make things a bit harder. Full length mudguards iced the cake.

Personal preparation of the Human Machine had followed my familiar tactic of carbo loading the night before, in this case on Czech lager from the Filmhouse bar. Food supplies were packed in the form of two cheese rolls, two Tunnocks Caramel wafers and a rather black banana. A pair of water bottles were addedas ballast, making no nutritional contribution. I wasn't worried- my map (torn from the road atlas in the car) showed lots of little settlements around the island, every one of which would surely contain a welcoming shop or hostelry, as celebrated in Neil Young's 1977 album, Arran Spars and Bars.

Sadly, like the record, both food availability and the road surface would prove patchy and uneven.

I'd never been to Ardrossan so allowed 2 hours to get there from Edinburgh and for navigation. But as my navigation is flawless I arrived there after a mere 75 minute drive, parked in the long stay car park down the pier, and surveyed my challenge.


Ardrossan, 9.40 am by therealkw15, on Flickr

Weather was cool, wind light, need for jacket borderline. I got my tickets (£9 odds return) and wheeled onto the boat for the 9.45 departure, with only a few other cyclists for company. I bantered on this site, and resolved to go anticlockwise, thinking I'd get the big hills out of the way first and enjoy a rapid tootle around the rest. This was because I had forgotten to take the route profile with me.


Coast road anti-clockwise from Brodick by therealkw15, on Flickr

No photo ID required for embarkation, despite Calmac being a sister company of Northlink who require travellers to Orkney and Shetland to provide photo ID before they are allowed on the boat. This makes me mad. The journey across was pleasant, only marred by having to put UHT milk in my mug of tea, and discovering that my black banana had turned to a pervasive goo and had to be binned.

Returning to the car deck I found another 30 cyclists- a road club seemed to have shown up at the last minute. Strangely I never saw them again, even on the way back. They were in front of me though, as I paused to establish my location.


Brodick by therealkw15, on Flickr

I was on Tufftrax 2, the big one, El Grande, la velo di tutti velo, das Uberrad. Well, it has a frame a bit bigger than my normal one. I'd picked it up from its storage location earlier in the week and stuck v-brakes, stubby bar ends and a rack on it. I think the reason it adhered to the road so well was because of the mutual gravitation attraction between it and Earth. Actually it's a reasonably light frame on its own.

It was 11am. Time to go ...

Last edited by therealkw15 on Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Arran odyssey 2/2
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 8:49 pm 
MacRetro rider
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Joined: Sun May 24, 2009 9:55 pm
Posts: 573
Location: Orkney, and the moral high ground
Setting off through Brodick's leafy suburbs, the tone is one of Victorian seaside opulence and lush greenery as the road follows the shore, and bone-jarring lurches as you fall into a hole in the road while admiring the flora and fauna. The road is basically flat for the first 6 miles, but the surface is hellish, and this continues to be the case for about another six or so. Dodgy when you are admiring the seals on the rocks, as you drive on, or looking up at Goat Fell on your left.

I was indeed driving on by this point as a guy on a Specialized road bike had the temerity to go past me, so I followed his wheel from about Corrie, until near the top of the The Big Climb. The road heads in from the shore beyond Corrie and gives you a taster climb along the side of North Glen Sannox before dropping to a brig, then really heading up. The climb up to 205m takes just under two miles, then you have a good descent into Lochranza, with great views back on the way up, and ahead on the way down. I didn't take any pictures.

Coming into Lochranza my chain came off, and wound itself twice round the crank, which did cause me to wonder if I'd knackered it. I hadn't, so I mosied onto to Lochranza Castle for a nosebag of a cheese roll and TCW.


Lochranza Castle by therealkw15, on Flickr

It had been shirtsleeve weather to this point, but in the shadow of the mountains it was rather parky. The road is right next the shore around the north end though, and quite flat, so progress back into the light was good. Same story for the first half of the west side with a few short but steep rises thrown in to keep you awake. I was cracking on here, burning my calories and not noticing that there were No Shops.

The next best thing though did show up at the Mochrie Bay Golf Course, just past where the String Road across the island has a northerly branch to the shore. I was practically past their clubhouse before the magical words Tea Room registered in my consciousness. I screeched to a halt and headed in for a pot of tea and a bacon roll, and essential toilet stop.

N.B. The tearoom is now closed for the winter- it was the last day of the season when I was there.

Emerging back into the light I found the way to my bike barred by two charming ladies with whom I bantered. Apparently I have a noticeable regional accent, which they identified correctly as Orcadian, and likened to that of Torquil. Now I know Torquil and his partner Beccy, who are top Orkney triathletes, so I enquired whether Jo and Charlotte (the charming ladies) were triathletes too. They were, and knew T&B from training camps in Lanzarote, and were over for the day to tackle the island in a figure of eight stylee, going over the String Road twice!

I felt a bit enfeebled at that, until I learned later that they had come over on the boat before mine. I recorded the historic meeting for posterity.


Jo and Charlotte, Mochrie Bay Tearoom by therealkw15, on Flickr

As it was such a nice day I thought I'd take a picture of my bike, and also ate my last TCW. I was halfway around, with only a cheese roll left.


Tufftrax 2, Mochrie Bay by therealkw15, on Flickr

Setting off from Mochrie Bay you go inland until you get to Blackwaterfoot, which is a bizarrely Agatha Christie like seaside resort, with a big Deco-esque hotel. The road twists up past that and climbs steadily, and you go round the south west corner of the island on an ascending shoulder for while. To be honest the terrain here is a bit boring, though Ailsa Craig does heave back into view.


Ailsa Craig, home of the curling tongs by therealkw15, on Flickr

There is a wake up call in the form of a 20% dive and climb at the bridge at Lagg, and while I was starting to feel a bit tired at this point, I didn't yet realise the onset of the bonk. However the road climbs relentlessly to the second highest point of the day from here, and by the time I reached Kilmory I realised I would have to eat everything I had, which was only my cheese roll. By now I was despising water for its uselessness and resolving to use energy drinks from this day forth, and getting slower and slower, as the terrain was up and down the whole time now.

I got to Kildonan and realised with some shock that I must be still about 12 miles from the ferry, which was due to leave in one hour. With loading time factored in, it wasn't looking good for catching the 16.40 boat. I resolved to bury myself, and moved things towards the red. The cheese roll must have metabolised by this point, as I now achieved a respectable pace, and was passing others on the road. The idea of a gentle tootle back to the boat was laughable though, as the road constantly dived into and out of gorges.

By Lamlash I had been feeling sick for half an hour but my spirits rose at 16.05 when I saw a sign saying 'Brodick 3'. This glee was kicked in the nuts by the fact the road immediately turns and climbs at about 10% plus for at least half of that, but I dug in and got there by 16.20, much to my relief. Jo and Charlotte were there looking chirpy and fresh.

On the ferry trip back I chatted to an Arran veteran, who assured me I was insane doing it anti-clockwise. Better to go clockwise and get the ups and downs out of the way when you are fresh, enjoy the rest from Mochrie Bay, and then just have the one big climb out of Lochranza to face.

He's got a point.

But you hardmen can prove him wrong!


The ferry at Ardrossan, 5.55 pm by therealkw15, on Flickr

Getting back to Ardrossan the sun was setting. By the time I had the bike in the car the queue to get out of the car park was immense, so I walked around and took some pictures.


Sunset over Arran by therealkw15, on Flickr

It was a grand day out.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 9:00 pm 
P.o.T.M. Winner / MacRetro Rider
P.o.T.M. Winner / MacRetro Rider
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Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:03 am
Posts: 5698
Location: In the foothills of the foothills of The Cairngorm Massif :D
"Apparently I have a noticeable regional accent"

Nah - don't see it :lol:

Crackin' weather you had 8) Guessing Jawny hit by a few squalls today.

Top marks.

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:37 pm 
Dirt Disciple

Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 12:36 am
Posts: 64
Great report therealkw15 8) ........

Here's mine (no photies sadly) I set out to pick me mate up this morning with the intention of catching the 9.45 ferry but my mate's a renowned faffer!!! He faffed around so much we arrived in Ardrossan to see the boat leave! :cry:

So we went to Asda for a nice big fry up and caught the next boat......12.30 :shock: So that left us the problem of facing a potential 4 hour ride, thus making us late for the 4.40 boat :roll: The next AND last boat was 7.20. NICE!!

Anyway, logistics aside, we set of anti-clockwise in the cold but lovely autumnal sunshine with a wee head wind, convinced we were in for a sunny day!!!

We were soon leaving sannox and on the big climb with a blustery crosswind, making me reach for my bottom gear on my winter road bike of 34x25. By half way up the climb, i turned round to talk to my mate but he was feeling the pace and was a few hundred yards back

We were soon over the top and the sky on the other side of the island was Black. By the time we reached Lochranza it was a completely different picture from the climb. The heavens opened and it poured pretty much constantly for the next 20 miles!!

We made great progress despite the heavy rain, pushing on with our 23mm tyres at speeds of 21- 25 miles an hour for a good 40 minutes!!

Before we knew it, we were in Blackwaterfoot at one of the VERY few shops on that side of the island. Some Lucozade and water bottles refilled, we were off again. All hopes of making the 4.40 boat were quickly dashed when we realised we still had 22 miles to go and on 1 hour before the boat sailed!! So we accepted our fate in the freezing, wet conditions as we climbed out of the village. We were going to just plod back and await the 7.20 :roll:

The last 22 miles were pretty difficult. Rolling roads with short hard efforts and still the rain came down, albeit not as heavy as earlier!

One last sting in the tail awaited us at Lamlash with the 3 miles to Brodick sign....A virtual wall of tarmac, OUCH!! :shock: Over the top and then a fast descent on the new tarmac into Brodick. We made it!! Epic, is a word that comes to mind! An hour and a half to kill, so we headed to wee pub and had a much needed pint of Guinness and an angus burger! yum!!!

Did we have one of the best rides in recent years??? YES, we certainly did

oh, and we nearly missed the boat again :lol:

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Oct 20, 2010 11:44 pm 
Gold Trader / MacRetro rider
Gold Trader / MacRetro rider

Joined: Thu May 21, 2009 11:02 pm
Posts: 5341
Location: Falkirk! But I am a Fifer so that's OK...
Great pics Steven and good writeups... almost had me convinced that there might be something to this tarmac lark, then I remembered how good Arran's trails are :)

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