Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 6, There is beauty in not knowing, Lochranza to Port Ellen, Islay (Not)

I must say today was the best day of touring Scotland so far. Great weather and stunning vistas. Great weather does not mean no rain. It rains all the time so far everyday. Its about how often it rains and how heavy. Overall the rain today was minimal and a welcome change. There is truly beauty in not knowing. Well I thought this might ring true in daily life wouldn’t it ? Some of the greatest surprises and delights come from the unplanned. Share your story at the comments section below. What was the unplanned delight you have experienced so far.

Back to my trip. The initial plan got wrecked because after cycling furiously 17 km from Claonaig to Kennacraig ferry terminal, I was told the ferry to Port Ellen was cancelled. What! Anyway the next ferry to Islay ( Land of peaty single malts) was 1pm to Port Askig instead. Port Askig is around 30km north of Port Ellen. Oops. Change of plan. So decided to ride off to explore the area a bit since I had about 3 hours to spare.

I headed for the next town called Tarbert. Delight no. 1, what a quaint little town. Walk around it for awhile and decided to go into a bistro for brunch and bumped into a lady tourer from UK called Linda. I meet her on the big climb to Lochranza a couple days ago. So I join her for a great chat while trying to finish of the humungous serving of Scottish breakfast. I only manage half and the other half I kept for dinner.

We parted ways, she heading to Oban up north on the mainland and me back to Kennacraig to catch the ferry to Port Askig.

This time the ferry was even larger and very comfortable for the 2 hour plus journey. I spent the time mainly updating my blog and catching up on social media while plugged in to power up all my devices.

While on board, I was thinking what should I do for 2 days. My ferry to Oban from Port Askig is scheduled to leave at 12 noon on Saturday.

I finally decided to head for the Isle of Jura. Big reason is at heart of Jura in Craighouse, there is a campsite that cost only £5. Also I am told there is a music festival starting on Friday.

So on checking there is a short 5 minute ferry ride from Port Askig to

Feolin. From there it’s around 13km ride to Craighouse where the campsite is.

I am told that Jura is rugged and barren and the least populated of the Hebrides. And it looks like it.

On reaching Craighouse which have one hotel, one pub and one post office cum grocery and that’s that. Oh it helps that the Jura Whisky distillery is next door as well.

Paid the camping fee. I decided to stay for 2 nights since it’s value for money. Also there is a music festival starting tomorrow so a chance to join the festivities. Tomorrow my plan is to explore Jura further by riding as far north as possible before the road runs out and double back.

Tarbert, a unexpected find

Huge Scottish breakfast £6,90

Distillery visit No 2

Best value for money campsite. £5 for camping and £1 for shower. Next to hotel and pub and store and distillery. Can’t ask for more. Anyway in Jura this is the only “village”

Mini Tour of Scotland- Day 5, Still alive at Lochranza, Arran

You might have read about it. Yes a big storm just ripped through North UK which includes Scotland. We were not spared. The storm already brewing last time as strong winds was battering my tent the whole night. I am told earlier that gale winds of up to 90kmh will hit us and likely ferry would be disrupted. I am told that I could take the 815 am and might miss the storm which is suppose to hit after 10am.

My plan was to take the ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig and ride 17km to Kennacraig and take another ferry to Port Ellen in Islay ( you know, where the famous peaty single malts come from). It’s probably foolish to try to make a run for it so I decided to stay put for another night at Lochranza camp.

It started to rain in the early morning and I was glad I decided not to decamp. Over at breakfast some guy told me I should take down my tent as the winds are going to pick up to 100kmh. So I panicked and decided to quickly take it down. The winds already are slamming hard which made the taking down difficult. But I managed finally and stored all my stuff in the common day room. This is where most of us hang out during the storm.

The storm comes and goes and finally late afternoon the intensity was reduced significantly and it was safe to walk. Still a bit gusty but safe.

I decided to spend the time by visiting the Arran Distillery next door. After that I went for a walk to the ferry terminal and visited the castle nearby.

Had a simple dinner and call it the night. Tomorrow is reported to be great weather.

Looking forward.

Best remedy to ride out the storm.
Water of Life in process.
The calm after the storm. Nice view of the Lochranza castle.

Even the deer comes out to play after the storm

Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 4 Kildonan to Lochranza, Arran, There’s beauty in bad weather.

Having enough of the Arran coast, I decided to take longer route to Lochranza via the Central Valley. Weather wise it started raining as I pushed off from Sea Shore Campsite in Kildonan. Oh well just a typical Scottish day. Being properly drenched I took refuge at the Arran Creamery but unfortunately it was closed. So I just dried off on their balcony before moving on. The sky cleared up a bit but still cloudy and grey. However the scenery became more and more spectacular. The route is hilly but it’s up and down and the rewards are worth the climb.

I left the coastal roads after Blackwaterfoot. A small coastal town. From then onwards the roads were constantly sandwiched between massive hills , meandering and snaking its way around them. The views were spectacular and so was the climbs. The winds started to pick up on the climb up the last hilltop just before Lochranza. But the downhill was exhilarating. Finally reach the c,ampsite at around 430 and checked in and the owner said if I had a good tent. I asked why and he told me that it’s going to be gusty tonight, winds of over 60kmh. He added that tomorrow there will be gale winds of almost 90kmh! And ferrries are likely to be cancelled. He says I can try the first ferry as it forecasted to be high winds only after 10 am.

I wondered what is the maximum wind force can a MSR tent face. Well I will know tonight. I am prepared for the worst tomorrow and likely will be trapped in Aran for one more night. Maybe not so bad since the Arran Distillery is just next door.

Tonight I got wild stags for company. First they checked out my tent and then later at night there were plenty of grunting or was it snoring?

Wild rabbits welcome you in the morning.
There is so much kelp washed ashore. Is this normal ?
Beach flowers

My campsite to shelter from the wind

Closed. But a good place to dry off

l

Beautiful roads ahead
Massive amount of water. Wonder why it’s brownish.

Yippee. It’s downhill all the way to Broderick !

Baby Seal basking

Long climb awaits.

Awesome country side
A dram is calling.

Checking out my tent.

Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 3, Scotland is testing me ,Glasgow to Isle of Arran

The game plan is to see a few of the Hebrides Island and head as Northwards as possible. First Island on the list will be Arran. The closest Island to Glasgow. You will need to take the train at Glasgow Station to Androssan Harbour to board the ferry to Arran.

The morning started great with a tiny wee bit of sun. I said my goodbye to Adrian. The ride to Glasgow station was short. After getting the train ticket I was informed that the 1018am train was cancelled. Aiseh, Scotland also like Malaysia. Suka Suka cancel. Anyway the next one is 1118am so with some time to spare and hang around, I parked my bike at the entrance of a nice cafe at the station and went in to chill for awhile until time.

When the time came to head to the platform for my train, I went to get my bike and to my shock it was gone! First thing that came to my mind was it was stolen. Damn, I was staring at a disaster in the face. And it appears that my tour is over. I quickly head towards a police and told him that my bike was stolen. He calmly replied that it is likely to have been removed by train station staff for security reason. Wow, I hope that is the case. He did mention that he is sure that it’s been taken away by the train staff. I was hopeful and felt better but still anxious. The police took me up to see the train station master and told him I was looking for my bike and it’s likely taken by them. After 10 mins the staff came and took me to the store where I saw my bike ! Yay! Ride continues. Anyway they told me I was not allowed to park my bike inside the station for security reason and that is why they ‘towed’ it away.

After all the drama, I was finally in the train heading towards Adrossan Harbour. Once at the Harbour I went to buy the ferry ticket and was directly to a waiting area where there were already 6 biker waiting to board the ferry. Bikes board first. After parking our bikes we went up to the passenger deck. The ferry is huge but only because it’s carrying cars and lorries. The passenger deck is nice but only one floor. The ferry ride was about 1 hour and as soon as we arrive it started to pour. Welcome to Scotland.

Undeterred I decide to ride and headed for my camping site south west of the island. The whole day was rather grey and wet but there were some marvellous sceneries no matter. Anyway the campsite was nice and costed £9. The site is clean, there was free wifi and charging station and hot showers. Tomorrow will be heading North west and then swing back east through the Central Valley.

Glasglow Station
Train cancelled
Bike comfy inside the train

The mighty ferry to Arran
Trucks
Bicycle
Cars
Bikes first

Nice lobby on passenger deck

Kelp washed ashore all along the beaches.

Stormy but stunning.

Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 2, First taste of the Scottish Weather, Banknock to Glasgow

Hovering helicopter, light rain, fireworks, more rain, heavier rain, strong wind, flapping tent, more rain, cold, shelter, rain,shelter some more, paradise. That pretty much sums up yesterday’s ride.

It was to be a short 30 km ride to my Warmshower host home in Glasgow. Short in distance that is. Time wise it basically took me the whole day. That’s intentional as my host Adrian will only be home after 6pm. Just as well, the constant rain slowed me down. At some point I left the canal and hit the country road and then A80 all the way to Glasglow.

The ride was pretty ordinary with scattered showers here and there. I stopped at factory area to take shelter from the rain and also wait for a marathon race to pass. No rush no worries. What was interesting was I found a great place coffee. What’s great is great restaurant offers unlimited refills of Costa Coffee for £2.59 ! You can have double espressos till you drop shaking. The place is called Brewers Fayre near Stepps. Here is the link https://goo.gl/maps/ETt47huxFxu Great place for shelter and use of clean toilet and plenty of caffeine. I like.

After about 2 hours I decided to head towards Glasgow and since I have some time I decided to go to the Glasgow Art Museum. I am told all Museums in Scotland are free. This one was no exception.

My hosted in invited me to join them for dinner at home so I dropped by the grocer to buy wine and finally headed to the host’s home.

Adrian and Laura have a wonderful home. They are really friendly and accommodating and gave me one of the best room I ever had warmshowering. Wow. Nice dinner, great conversations and down comforter. Couldn’t ask for more. I was a happy tourer.

All set to get to Glasglow. Goodbye wild camp.
The day looks promising.
Then again this is Scotland.

Best place to chill. Free refills of Costa Coffee!
Glasglow Art Museum
Museum main entrance

What a wonderful room so comfy. Will have a nice rest tonight.

Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 1, And so it begins.

Bag pipers playing in the background and the whole of Edinburgh was up in the morning cheering me on. The momentous journey I am to embark is the talk of the town. No la. Where got. Dream on. My cheer team was actually the incredibly kind, generous and talented show runners of Neoone Associates and Social Enterprise Academy Malaysia. For the past 12 days I was hosted by the family of Juara and Yasmin. I thank them for their friendship and kindness. I got to know them better through this experience and I am grateful for this as our business relationship together now is s mo much more meaningful and rewarding. A real dream send off.

The weather forecasted to be great and it was. Some cloudy moments but in general the weather was perfect for cycling. Temperatures were around 15C average. My plan was to get close to Glasgow and find somewhere to camp. So really no plan but just a general direction. I followed the Union Canal most of the way. The canal was built in the 1800s and reopened in early 2000s. It was constructed to bring coal and minerals from the mine to Edinburgh. Along the way I passed by several aqua ducts which you will have to dismount and walk across. Also several locks that brings boats up and down with the Falkirk Wheel being the biggest and most impressive lock. It’s actually a massive boat lift that rotates and lift a boat up almost 25m to the Union Canal from Clyde Canal below. The Wheel is a sight to behold. It’s like a massive ferries wheel but only with 2 massive car filled with water and a boat. It’s truly an impressive engineering feat and I believe only kind in the world. No wonder there were many tourist there to watch the wonder at work.

I did not stay too long as it was getting late and also I am told it might rain in the evening. So I needed to find a suitable wild camping spot before it pours.

I found a Tesco Express in Bonnybridge to stock up for dinner. A quick dash and £3 later I scored 2 litres of water, a packet of assorted meats, small bottle of cooking oil and a nice bottle of beer.

Finding a suitable camping spot was harder that I thought. There were not many flat areas as most of them were already farmland. But finally I found one. Not ideal but if will do. The spot was full of thorny plants and bushes which I had to clear. I managed to set up my tent and cooked my dinner before it began to drizzle. Thankfully I managed to finish cooking and eating dinner before it started to rain lightly. So I just snuggle up inside my tent and drink my beer and just chilled till I dozed off. Shower? Well no sweat so no smell no shower la. Maybe tomorrow.

For details on this ride check out https://www.komoot.com/tour/46407483?ref=itd

All set to go. Yay!
Goodbye and thank you to Yasmin., Juara and Family. Thanks for sending me off.
All packed

One of the many aqua duct crossing. Bikers must dismount and push across.

Autumn is near
Canal and tunnel

The Falkirk Wheel
Bike canoe. Is this now the thing ?
The awesome Falkirk Wheel in action.
My wild Camping spot for the night. It was indeed wild.
Ok dinner is on the way.

Mini Tour of Scotland – Day 0 Biding farewell to the Conference and saying hello to Happiness.

Hello happiness. Thank you for a great week of learning and networking. Today was the last day of the Social Enterprise World Conference in Edinburgh. The baton is now passed to Adis Ababa Ethiopia. Wow. Exciting. I hope to attend this one as well 2019. Let’s see. Scheming now.

Just finish packing and I am all set to bike. First stop Glasgow. It will be a late start for me as I will need to run some errands before heading off. I have a host in Glasgow but he can only host me on Sunday. I might just cycle a slower and reach Glasgow on Sunday instead. Glasgow is doable in one day but maybe I just take it slow and do it in two. Well let’s see.

Conference all done and dusted.