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.
, 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
, 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
, 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
, 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
, 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
, on Flickr
It was a grand day out.