Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dunoon.The North Clyde Estuary Tour.

Much better day today.Sunshine Scotland apart from a few thundery downpours.Needless to say I`d keep clear of them but for once there was no need to let the weather window pick the location.
Alex was away trying to buy a car to replace his van.I was under instructions not to go anywhere he`d want to go. Bossy or what!
Given the choice, if it`s hot, I prefer cycling anyway.Its much cooler and seems to leave you less tired next day.
This route is one from the top drawer though.A real five star classic,hugging the coastline for miles then a climb up into the high mountains before a flat freewheel along a Scottish fiord.
Maybe its far fetched but I`ve always thought of it as Scotlands very own Amalfi coast (Italy) as the grand villas climb the hills in the same fashion although the roads are far quieter which is no bad thing on a bike.
This is the route taken.
So. Car to Gourock.Parked in large free car park next to open air swimming pool.Took bike on ferry and had very pleasant crossing over to Dunoon.

This town was fairly jumping.It was 11.45am and full of life thanks to the Argyll Hillbillies Motorcycle Club with loud rock music, market tents and big collection of static bikes and bikers milling around the promenade for their annual charity day bash.
Great sunny day it turned out as well.As usual these past few weeks I`d left it late just to give the weather a chance to stabilise and cloud to burn off. No point cycling in dull conditions when I didn`t have to.

Although it was the other side of the street where all the biz and bike action was just took this to show the difference in the 10 minutes it took to dock.Its now a sunny day after a dullish morning.
The stalls, tourists and bikers looked interesting but I was off round the coast while it was nice so I swept past intending to see them when I returned.
Years ago I`d read a cracking book I`d got from my local library.The North Clyde Estuary.An Illustrated Architectural Guide By Frank Walker and Fiona Sinclair.
It was an real eye opener giving something of the history of this area and its many buildings,ancient and modern.Fasinating stuff and I was soon off exploring it on my bike many times in the years that followed.
This would be a wee tour of an old favorite then.
If you are into wild scenery and grand gothic revival villas hugging the steep hillsides this is the place for you.
Flat cycling took me round the first headland into the Holy Loch so named as a ship carrying a cargo of sacred soil from Jerusalem bound for Glasgow Cathedral was wrecked in the bay and the loch became blessed as a result.An early version of spin perhaps , trying to make the best of a bad situation.
There is a wide assortment of houses around this coastline, big and small, but I was pleased to see that many of the larger houses which on prevous visits had a negleged but sad charm had been given much needed love and attention as if some new money had rediscovered this beautiful corner of Scotland.
At one time ,before cheap safe air travel, the rich families of the central belt built these villas and mansions to get away from the noise and grime of the factories and smoke of the cities.
This was their Eden and they created a long string of pearls (Houses) from Dunoon right round to Ardentinny where I was headed.
The variety of styles seemed endless.Scottish Baronial villas,modest but pretty council cottages, turreted castles , modern suburban plots,wooden holiday homes and alpine style chalets.Like an Architects box of liquorice allsorts set in stone.I took a few pics but if you want to see them you`ll need to go there yourself .This isn`t a property page.Besides I wouldn`t like a picture of my house on here.Its a tad intrusive.
I had lunch in Ardentinny then set off for the big challenge of the trip, the pull up Glen Finart over the pass to reach Loch Eck.I remember this as being slow and easy to start off with then getting steep and twisty near the top. I also remember doing it in a oner without getting off.....
Ah for those young pup days again!
It was easy to start with and I felt fine.
But it went on.......
And on.......
And I had to admit I was getting old and got off well before this bit for a spot of footwork.
Still I had the great freewheel down to Loch Eck to look forward to (would have stopped for a pint at Whistlefield Inn if Alex was here) but sped down instead to the picnic bay halfway down Loch Eck.
Luckily I`d missed any downpours in this vicinity.
An easy run down this narrow loch past the Benmore Botanic Gardens (well worth a visit) with the giant redwoods towering above the bike then up over the wee hill on the back road into Dunoon again.Just had time to catch the ferry at 4.00pm along with a friend I bumped into from Glasgow.
A final word must be said about Greenock.It can get a bad press at times mainly by folk who don`t really know it.

Back in the car it was a fine evening so I went out to capture the glory of one of my favourite towns. As a keen snapper I like any town or city that throws itself up hillsides with gusto.I love this place.

Sure it has its rough areas but it also has its fair share of large villas and amazing buildings.The grand Mount Olympus mansions and the tough schemes climbing up the hillsides together,hand in hand, each with a stunning view over the Firth of Clyde.
And so to bed.


blueskyscotland said...

I done this wee trip years ago with a few others.Instead of turning south at Whistlefield ( did have a pint..! ) we turned north and then went down the land rover track on the west side of Loch Eck.Excellent way of gaining free entry into the botanical gardens as well..!
I remember the bike computer recording 38mph on the descent of the hill from Ardentinny to Whistlefield :)

The Glebe Blog said...

The bit about gaining free entry Bob..spoken like a true Scotsman

Jane said...

Wonderful post, loved reading it and seeing the photos - what a treat to stumble across it today! You mention so many of my favourite places. I took the same route as you - through Glen Finart - quite recently, but ashamed to say only by car! I haven't got around to adding those photos to the blog yet - still sorting them out.
Best wishes from Wales,