It has been a diverse last two weeks of cycling after the outer Hebrides! From city exploration to braving the rain on rough hills in the countryside to canal bike paths for over 100 kms. Staying in one of the hostels in Obon was a nice treat and we met some fantastic people from all over. One of the highlights was talking with a North Irish bagpiper who was playing and competing in the highland games in Scotland. We missed the games by a few hours but it would have been expensive anyways so making a dockside pb&j in the sun and exploring Obon was a nice trade. It was a beautiful little city along the water and a major hub for many of the ferries so we saw many people coming and going to locations all over western Scotland.
The ride out of Obon was a a tough one with what we saw to be some steep hills and rough weather. We opted for avoiding the busier road directly south for one further inland along some Lochs. I got zero pictures from that day since it was raining the whole day and I was using my phone for navigating but it was a good challenge day. Ups and downs and honestly it looked so much like cycling along the Columbia river gorge in the rain for many parts. Up and down up and down with rain constantly coming and going making us play the game of what to wear every hour. Sweat in rain jacket? Just get wet not in rain jacket? Is it to warm for waterproof cycling gloves? Oh look the sun is out! Oh wait there it goes…. It was a long day. We met some great people while cycling and three other cycle tourers. One was a woman Miriam from Germany cycle touring north along the same road. We chatted briefly and exchanged info and with a recommendation from her we headed right to a cafe a few kilometers away. There I met another duo cycle touring and we all had the same look on our faces from the hills and rain we were all going through.
After the cafe we continued south and eventually the weather began to clear and we came into a beautiful valley with some ancient burial mounds, just off of the bike path. These were thousands of years old and there was even a stone circle not to unlike stone henge just off the side of the path. This I was much more excited to see for some reason than all the castles I have been passing! as we continued south we eventually got to the Crinin canal and had dinner on a park bench right next to some sail boats docked on the canal. It was fun to see it and little did we know that we had lots of canal cycling in our near future! With so many points of land jutting out into the ocean the canals all make it much faster for small vessels to move from on place to another and they are all rather scenic. We ended up camping right next to the canal in a nice grassy patch and enjoyed bits of sun as the clouds blew by.
The next day started out along the canal path and it was a beautiful day to ride! We had sunny weather and a tailwind and flew down towards our ferry to the Isle of Arran. I took my time taking pictures, and enjoying the nice views of Arran as I dropped down from a good climb that took me towards the ferry. Luckily, right when I pulled up to the ferry terminal they were beginning to load so we just walked right on and off we went with no waiting, perfect timing! After the quick ferry ride we cycled up a good climb from the dock up towards the base of Goat fell, the highest point on the Isle of Arran. We flew down the other side and enjoyed the little communities along the coastline as we made our way to the town of Brodick where we were planning on spending a zero day to wait out some nasty weather, then ferry over to Ardrossan. the following day we pretty much haunted every single cafe we could find, charged our electronics and watched the rain fall outside the window. At a nice little pub we ran into a couple from Canada and we had a great time talking, they even gifted us some Canadian flag pins to be able to avoid some potentially tough situations in the future if we ever needed to pretend to not be from the U.S. haha.
After a rainy night and one last battle with the midges we packed up a wet tent and made a run for the ferry. It was a large one and they were extremely nice to hold it for two minutes while we ran to buy our tickets! Once in Ardrossan we began cycling towards Glasgow to stay with a warmshowers host right in the middle of downtown. I was nervous about the city cycling to come since it can be busy and stressful. With our phone cycling apps though we had a great route into the city on mostly bike paths and even had time to wait in a library near downtown Glasgow to wait before heading over to our hosts house. Mark was an awesome guy and we got to chat about everything from fencing to learning to back country ski in the Alps. He gave some good recomendations of places to cycle in southern France and we had a great salmon dinner while sampling some delicious Scotch! It was a wonderful evening and a real treat to stay at his place!
The following morning we cycled back to the main bike paths and after some tricky directions found our way to a great canal cycle path that would lead us all the way from Glasgow into Edinburgh! It was one of the easiest days of cycling and we covered 90 kms on just canal cycle paths. It was varied enough with some interesting tunnels and nice little towns with a tail wind, so it was another fantastic day. Always the good days stand in such stark contrast to the tough ones but all are fulfilling. We stopped near the Falkirk wheel, a really cool piece of engineering to move canal boats from one canal to another. While there I met another cycle tourer, Davyd from Belarus! He was deaf and after some google translate exchanges we had a great conversation! It was amazing to hear about his story and how far he wants to go! For me, it was an inspirational moment and it has helped me to calm down about language barrier issues a bit in the future with someone who speaks a language hardly anyone knows, technology wins the day in this case.
Upon arrival in Edinburgh we headed over to the house of Philip and Ruben. Immediately we felt right at home and we spent a wonderful two days exploring Edinburgh by day and having great conversations with Philip and Ruben about their appreciative countries of Nigeria and Spain, and also hearing about Philips awesome cycle touring exploits biking from Edinburgh to Athens! With my plans of cycle touring through West Africa it was a great chance to talk to Philip and hear his thoughts! He has hopes to do a cycle tour through West Africa as well from Nigeria west and northwards. With the talks came reassurances and excitement aplenty for me towards what is to come, but still day by day!
My father and I walked around the Royal Botanical gardens in Edinburgh, which were mostly free entry other than the glass buildings and a few other sections. It was beautiful and it made me nostalgic a bit for Red Butte Garden, where I worked for several years, hope all are doing well there! They had education programs going through the garden while I was there and I laughed while one teacher had to reprimand some students goofing off, I know all about how that goes haha. The diversity was amazing because of the mellow climate and I loved the gigantic hedges they had, some were three or four meters tall at least! We then walked through downtown Edinburgh, ran some errands, got my dad a haircut from a very nice Turkish man and we each explored the old section of the city. It was extremely touristy but beautiful in a gothic kind of way. downtown we ran into Davyd of Belarus again while he was asking for donations to continue his journey! it was great to see him all be it briefly and then we walked back to Philips for our last night in Edinburgh. We also treated ourselves to a delicious Indian food dinner, which after so many nights of Macaroni and other pasta variants it was scintillating for the taste buds to say the least!
Our cycle out of Edinburgh was fantastic with more bike routes and we made it to the town of Dunbar where we discovered it was the birthplace of John Muir and got a small tour of the house he was born in. This would explain all the John Muir themed parks and trails on the way in! Cycling south of Dunbar we found a perfect place to camp right along the coastline not to far from a light house just south of us. It was on a large refuse mound from an old mine and there were fossils everywhere in the rocks that dated from the pre permian! We stayed an extra day since we had so much free time to wait before our ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam. While I stayed to keep an eye on the stuff my dad cycled into town to spend time at the library and explore, while he was there someone stole his helmet and sunglasses and cycle mirror!
With this sore loss we then continued south and crossed the border of Scotland to England. The weather was quickly changing so we found a great spot to hide in the dunes near the coast and set up camp to wait for an extra day since the following day was going to have very rough weather. I have never kept such an eye on the forecast except during ski season in the United States!
After a whole day listening to the rain in the tent we finally continued on and made our way south through nice little towns to a campground just outside of Walkworth. It was a pretty spot but there were sheep roaming the field where you set up camp so there was sheep crap everywhere…. Next time we will just wild camp somewhere and save the money and the mine field of sheep dung.
Upon approach of the river Tyne we had great weather and cycled in along the coastline enjoying the sights and soaking up our last day cycling together in the UK. For me getting back into the cycle touring groove was broken in nicely with no language barrier, and beautiful cycling, but i’m excited for getting to mainland Europe and having everything connected! Currently I am in Newcastle staying at the home of a couchsurfing host Alex and his girlfriend before heading to the ferry for my ride to Amsterdam. They have been wonderful and we went out for a trivia pub night, which seems so appropriate as a goodbye to the British Isles.