Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Three Ferries Tour.Kyles Of Bute.Tighnabruaich.Otter Ferry.

Where to start.I had been looking forward to this tour all summer.I last did it 10 years ago and it was one of the best cycle rides ever.Quiet and serene.Would I still be fit enough for it? I,d been in training recently putting in the miles and waiting for a good day to arrive.Its around 60 miles at a guess but it has a lot of ups and downs throughout its twisting duration.
On a sunny day like it was you have to arrive early to stand any chance of getting parked so I was up at 7.00am to catch the 8.45am ferry from Wemyss Bay to Rothesay for the first leg of the tour.
Bute was as beautiful and quiet as ever as I arrived in early morning sunshine around 9.30am.A free Friday. Crisp and fresh but with the promise of a hot day ahead. I cycled past sleepy Port Bannatyne with its Russian Tavern then along an empty ribbon of tarmac to the 2nd ferry of the day between Rhubodach and Colintraive.This is one of the shortest crossings in the UK.They used to swim the cattle across here as it was quicker.Cows were harder and much fitter back then though.
Only had a five minute wait for the ferry then I was across.The next stretch was very scenic.I took the small yellow back road up the shores of Loch Riddon.It was starting to heat up so I was glad to have the trees and shade down here.Loch Riddon is tidal and the cattle were taking advantage of this heading out across the mud flats to the edge of the River Ruel to cool down.
Next came the famous Kyles Of Bute much loved by writer Neil Munro and his wily highland creation Puffer Captain Para Handy.
I was really enjoying this section and it was as good as I remembered it.This is not  part of route 75 but I would link into this soon at the B 836. As soon as I did this my mood changed slightly.This whole area is signposted as" Argyll,s secret coast" Instantly ,as soon as I turned onto the A8003 I went from few cars to many.Under one a minute on this tarmac to Tighnabruaich.Most were large 4 by 4s,open topped sports cars or big six seater plus jobs.It always strikes me as odd that we are fast running out of oil and gas yet the cars seem to get bigger and bigger each year.
The scenery was still outstanding though so I wasn,t too bothered.Tighnabruaich came next. A lovely place and fairly hard to reach.Or so I thought.It seemed like everybody had seen the forecast and decided that this was the weekend to visit their holiday home. The place was jam packed with cars. Fair enough. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine. This is a popular place to sail into and moor the yacht just off shore. I,ve boated in here myself on more modest craft and had a great time.It was a lot quieter then though.Cant blame anyone either as it was a spell of good weather after a mediocre summer this year and everyone was keen to make the most of it.I was now on cycle route 75 which takes you around the "Secret Coast".By this time though,getting zoomed past at a car a minute, I was thinking secret from whom? A lifer in prison? A hermit on a desert Island? The people who put the signs up?
There was even a search and rescue helicopter buzzing about overhead.Might as well have the blackpool illuminations and the circus here as well I was thinking as I had my lunch on a bench.To be honest It was not that relaxing or peaceful.Not on a bike.Maybe I just picked a bad day in peak summer conditions though.
Next up ,to get away from all the traffic, I took the minor road loop to Ardlamont.Route 74.This was a very bad idea. Now I was on a tiny road with passing places and still had frequent cars. I,m not the brightest bulb in the showroom but even I could detect a pattern here.I should have cut my losses ,turned around and headed back to Bute to go cycling on empty roads there but I,m a stubborn bugger at times.I had my route in mind and I would see it through to the end.
I kept on going to Kilbride Bay where there is a stunning beach.It had a long line of cars in the lay by.Over 20 crammed into spaces for 5. Now I knew where all the passing cars had been heading for. It did look amazing though.Unfortunately I couldn't stop and had to keep pedalling.The amount of traffic on the roads had slowed me down.In a game of Rock, Paper,Scissors a speeding car will always beat a slower bike and I,d had to wait at every single passing place thus far as cars shot by.Also as a single guy on a beach with young children splashing around I was aware I would not be welcome and would be greeted with immediate suspicion by any parent watching.I,m always surprised there is any room left for anyone else on the planet with the number of paedophiles supposedly lurking round every corner,outside every home these days. As a teenager growing up in more innocent carefree times I would be a good samaritan occasionally if someone younger was hurt, lost or injured and would either help to find the parent ,hand them in to a large store or find a nearby police station.Now I avoid any contact whatsoever like the plague except to inform an elderly couple maybe if they look ok ,a women passerby or a family group if these are available. Then its up to them what they decide to do about it.Children,If  I,m not a  close relation of, have been a completely alien species to me now for many,many years.In this modern world they are to be avoided and shunned at all costs.Never,ever to be alone with one.Like standing next to a ticking bomb.This may seem harsh but I suspect many men outside of their own family group feel the same way.So I naturally try to avoid  placing myself on a suspect list.Society seems fairly  relaxed about breaking and ignoring every other value and taboo from years ago though. Good manners,patience, swearing and getting legless in public,aggressive driving attitudes towards complete strangers,promoting idiots as role models but this one is still written in very large letters. The number one bad apple.I,m not downplaying it but it  seems just a little unbalanced in the media and in peoples perceptions.
Hardly a mention about the real killer of children lurking in every street and town. Road deaths.Which I,d imagine outnumbers any lurking paedophiles by a million to one.Just a thought which probably sprang into my head after taking this picture below and remembering my own recent van knock down accident.Also getting passed by at speed by almost every car on the way down from Glasgow to Wemyss Bay and I,m not a slow driver. I was doing close to 70 ,the speed limit,yet got passed by a endless string of cars touching 80 to 90 miles an hour.I parked next to one that had passed me doing almost 100 yet they were still getting out when I arrived. We all seem to be in an increasing hurry to get places that don't actually move.Like hampsters on amphetamines placed in cars instead of inside big revolving wheels.Modern life is one big constant race to no where in particular.


Going by the diamond pattern I think this was once an adder.The road from Millhouse to Otter Ferry is mainly single track.Its the B8000.It should be quiet as its not particularly scenic,much of it is covered in conifer plantations with poor views out to sea.I was intending to turn off at Otter ferry then go up over the tiny minor road to Glendaruel then take the B836 back to Dunoon.Ten years ago this had been a great, well remembered trip.What a change in ten years though. All along this road animals, birds,insects and butterflies lay dead or dying in their hundreds.
I cant be too much of a hypocrite as I have a car myself but its only when you walk or cycle along a country road slowly you see the carnage motor cars leave in their wake.In places the tarmac looked like a trendy modernistic wallpaper with  nearly every species in Scotland flattened into the road surface.Multiply that by the number of roads in Britain and you get some idea of the scale of wildlife destruction UK wide.That's the ultimate carbon footprint and its a very heavy one. On wildlife and on people.

It was a  friday, not even a weekend but it was a living nightmare on a bike.Easily the worst three roads I have ever done on a bike in my life.I ended up walking large sections of them getting off at practically every incline. Not because I didn,t have the energy in my legs but because cars were so impatient.I was passed by over 100 cars on this stretch alone. Not one slowed down to respect a bike,some even tried to nudge me over onto the grass verge before I,d reached the passing place.Most regarded me as a bloody pest in the way.On a single track road I had cars overtake me at 50 miles an hour inches away from my body.I was clipped three times by wing mirrors which is why I started walking up any hills as cars would drive behind me inches from the end of my bike willing me to go faster towards the passing places trying all the time to squeeze past.
Put it this way. The only time I will ever do the B 836  again is if I win a lot of money buy a 2nd hand chieftain tank then get the chance to flatten every arsehole in a car that doesn't get out of the way fast enough.See how they like it.This is the tiny minor link road from Otter Ferry to Glendaruel though even here traffic passed me.How anyone can put this road (the B836) down as a cycle route is a mystery.Have they ever tried it in peak summer traffic? Zero out of ten as a cycle route except in grim conditions or in winter when cars are few. As anyone who visits this blog knows I usually look for the positive aspects in any place I visit,even areas others would  normally dismiss but I hated the B836 with a passion and couldn,t wait to get off it.Cycling the main Loch lomond road during an Easter holiday break would be safer.Count to ten.Relax.
This is Dunselma.Built in 1886 for the  powerful Coats family as a sailing lodge above Strone point by architects Rennison and Scott.It is now privately owned.
The multi millionaire Coats Family owned a Cotton empire based in Paisley.The Large mill in the centre of this town still stands today.
As a result of this  traffic I was well behind my predicted time and have never been so glad to to reach a main road again where I could cycle without coming to a grinding halt every time a car approached .Red Western ferry back to Gourock then a mad dash in the near dark along the pavements back to Wemyss Bay.I,d parked in my usual spot,The Garage car park which locks the adjoining parking compound at  9.30pm.Never having been this late before I hadn,t the phone number and hadn,t bothered to remember when it closed. I didn,t think time would ever be an issue.It was now almost 10.00pm and everyone had gone home.No emergency number.
It was either wait on the beach til 6.30am in the morning or get a train back to my house.
Luckily I managed to get one of the last trains departing from here along with my bike and arrived back in my house around 1.00am. An 18 hour day in total,10 of which had been spent in the saddle avoiding cars.Now I remember why I dislike cycling single track mainland roads in the highlands in summer.They may be B and C roads but being the only way in and out of communities many of them are no fun on a bike at peak periods in sunny weather.
Ironically, the myriad of minor  roads in the more populous central belt and east coast means that these roads are empty and far more peaceful.I will never do this route again...Ever... on a bike.
In the morning I took the train back down to get my car, happy to be a mad speed freak once again and get my revenge on any aggressive drivers that passed me. The sword of obsidian swung on more than a few occasions as I forced them into the ditch for a change and spilled their blood with my sharp stick out appendages instead. A lesson well learned.
Beam me back to the safety of the city and the estates and schemes of the central belt.At least if they run you over there they usually have a reason for it other than shaving five minutes off a journey time.
(This is a revised post. My first attempt was far too extreme and had far too many swear words in it for public consumption)


Carol said...

I'm so sorry to read that and hear you had such a bad time on the single-track part of your ride. I'm always patient with cyclists - unfortunately, I'm not very often patient with other car drivers and I positively hate 4x4s - we have nothing but around here, and I wonder where on earth they get their fuel money from. I also wonder why they don't realise fossil fuels are running out!

Very sad to see that poor squashed adder :-( I've been known to move them off roads when I've seen them lying basking (using sticks, not my hands obviously).

I think my trusty old Zenith camera came from Tighnabruaich...

What are the mountains on that first photo?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol.
Thats the Arran Ridge Behind Rothesay. I,m still trying to tone the post down a touch but I,ve never hated a road so much in my life.I was nearly killed twice on it by drivers who obviously couldn,t give a **** if they hit me or not.
Still one bad trip out of hundreds is a good result.But I,ll never do this one again.

Robert Craig said...

Great post and sad to read about the traffic. No wonder cycle clubs always go out before breakfast on a Sunday. Argyll & Bute do have form on inapporpriate cycle routes. Look at the road past Faslane as an example, where the cycle route switches from road to pavement in 90 degree turns, weaves around bus shelters, stops and starts suddenly, etc. I'd be amazed if anyone from the council had ever ridden a bike on it.

I was on a bus home (drunk) handing out flyers for my book and got talking to a bunch of teenagers. "Are you a peado mister?" piped up a voice from the back, "why are you talking to a fourteen year old boy?" "If he were an eighty year old wumman would that make me a granny grabber?" I replied, but was pretty embarassed all the same. But things will eventually swing back as society realises that fear of strangers is causing more problems than it solves.

On a positive note I have just been for a ride round the Rosneath peninsula, an old favourite from my childhood. When the sun is out (and the motorists patient) you can't beat the Firth of Clyde. Great variety and scenery just a stone's throw from Glasgow. I love Kilbride Bay, has to be visited at low tide though. Sounds like the marketing people have been successful in promoting it, it was deserted when I was there last (at bramble picking time). Also nearby is the world's most northerly lavender farm apparently.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Robert.
On reflection I,ve come to the conclusion that certain parts of the highlands are just too busy for me in high summer.I was amazed at the numbers on both Rum and knoydart(though not on the hills,just milling around at low levels)and certain other places I,ve been too.
Did notice loads of teenagers hanging round the train stations late at night in all the smaller towns on my way back from the ferry just chatting.Was puzzled by this then worked out it was cos it was bright,under cctv supervision and a safe place to hang out where you might bumb into other freinds coming off the trains.
Was also amazed in Glasgow central station bookshop to note an entire wall to floor display of best selling books all written by women for women inspired by 50 shades of grey with heavy S and M themes of abduction,sexual domination,and forced intercourse.
Silly me. no wonder I,m still single,I grew up in an age of womens lib to always treat females with respect.Too late to change now I suppose. I should have been anal fisting them on the first date.
Mind you I,m not a multi millionaire which seems to be the abductor of choice in all these books.
Write a book about female Abduction,Anal fisting and being held prisioner in a cave While halfway up a rock climb and you,ll be onto a winner Robert.
Ah Modern celebrity, sex obssessed culture.Dont you just love it?
Mind you if you,ve read Evelyn nesbit,s sad history or Tallulah bankhead.a scandalous life you know there really is nothing new under the sun.
Best of luck with the book.

The Glebe Blog said...

I remember my mum's sewing box was always full of Coats reels and bobbins of thread.
That's a fantastic picture of Kilbride beach Bob, the tourist departments pay professionals to take pictures that aren't half as good as that one.
As a widower of ten years, I too often wonder what parents are thinking when they see me with my camera case. I'm not even allowed to video my own grand-kids any more. It's a sorry suspicious world these days.

Glad you got back to the metropolis safely. Maybe you should have taken some registration numbers and reported them to the metro polis.
Another enjoyable post Bob

andamento said...

When I eventually get time for longer rides I'll be avoiding the B836 then! I have cycled round that area in the past but it would be over 10 years ago now, and it was quiet then, it sounds very different now. Even here where the roads I use are generally quiet I still like to get out early to avoid what traffic there is, but that's not always possible, especially when going for a decent mileage.
I enjoyed your post, sorry though that you didn't enjoy your trip.

blueskyscotland said...

Been learning a lot about Coats recently Jim as I had a wee cycle tour of Paisley and Renfrew last week.
Hope you enjoyed your holiday yourself.It looked good.
If you dont know the details already You might find "American experience.Murder of the century" interesting on google.I always felt sorry for Evelyn.Beauty can be as much a curse as a blessing sometimes.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anne.
I suspect its peaceful at other times but once was enough for me.
In a strange way I enjoyed getting the train as thats something I don,t normally do.I usually take buses as the bus stop is right outside my door.Last time I was on the train to Wemyss bay I was about 10!

Neil said...

A great area, pity about the traffic. Now that the schools have gone back it might be a bit quieter. I've never been keen on road cycling, I'm afraid that my bike has been used only as a means of getting along tracks to the foot of remote mountains, or along the canal towpath near home.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil.
As you say probably just picked the wrong time of year for a visit.