We left the Arran whisky distillery, full of haggis toasties and single malt samples and continued on with the 5 ferries cycling challenge in the highlands of Scotland.We boarded the half hour ferry with our trusty cycles from Lochranza to Clonaig across the calm blue September waters. Clonaig looked jolly pretty as we landed. We were presented with more beautiful wild and woolly Scottish countryside, but what was that looming up ahead once more? Another very, very long hill!
|We love hills!|
After the previous thigh busters we had tackled on the Isle of Arran, we eyed the killer incline apprehensively as it kept promising to flatten out, would gently turn a corner and then start to rise again and again. The scenery was certainly breath taking but my muscles were by now protesting loudly and I was already in the lowest gear possible. I negotiated a turn on the electric bike and the odds increased that I would reach the top without dismounting. I made it to the summit of the interminable slope, plonked myself down on the grass verge and waited for the others to catch up. I even kindly took a short video of them reaching the top by pure pedal power.
We then started our descent. Even this was taking longer than we thought it would and there was a ferry to catch to our destination and accommodation for the evening. I was back on my regular bike and at the back as usual. Then my chain came off. In theory I knew how to put it back on. In practice I couldn’t remember how to do it. Not with all those gears. Maria, a much better cyclist than me was summoned to return to me apace on the electric bike and get me up and running again. While she was doing that I was then to take the electric bike, step on the gas and try to get to the ferry we were meant to catch before it sailed and make it wait for us. It was a brilliant plan!
|Pretty Port Talbert|
As I pedalled like fury and the electric motor gave me an energy boost, I descended at speed into Talbert, a very pretty fishing village with sailing boats bobbling around in a picturesque manner. As I approached the ferry landing shouting ‘Stop the Ferry!’ to no one in particular, I watched it slowly pulling away into the stunning bay of Loch Fyne, exactly on time and oblivious to my plea.
|The missed ferry|
For some unknown reason I imagined that the next ferry was two and a half hours away and so I felt rather deflated. However, once my fellow riders had caught up – they had actually read the timetable – it turned out there was another one in an hour. Time to get a bottle of wine and put it in the panniers and watch the boys from Prentiss fisheries sort the beautiful blue lobsters and the creamy crabs fished from the Loch. Loch Fyne sea food is famous all over the world and much of it gets sent to Spain and France. I did feel a bit sorry for the lobsters with the elastic bands round their pincers destined to be boiled and consumed far from their watery home.
|Lobsters at the last chance saloon|
Meeting us from the ferry we finally caught was the lovely Bridgeen from Portavadie where we were to stay for the night. Portavadie is a high end hotel and spa on the shores of Loch Fyne. There is a beautiful marina to park your boat in, should you be a ‘yachtie’ and some gorgeous waterside apartments you can rent alongside a stunning brand new purpose built Spa.
Portavadie caters for everything from large scale events to family visits, from romantic short breaks to plucky cyclists passing through, such as ourselves.
Attention to detail is exceptional and the staff are dedicated to making your stay as comfortable as possible. One of the undoubted highlights of the trip for me was my early morning dip in the heated infinity pool overlooking the stunning Loch Fyne. It’s quite a special place. If we got the chance to go back there in the snow I would take it. And I hate winter.
|Hot pool, very cool Loch Fyne|
Next up was a truly monster almost vertical incline which we discovered had defeated many a professional cyclist. It was gruelling. I did have to get off and push this time, and I wasn’t too keen on the cars whizzing past me either especially on the single track road. The going was getting tough.
|The route has its ups and downs|
Our goal was the Colintraive to Rhuboddach ferry across to the island of Bute. This is where we went a bit wrong, missed the coastal path and did another gut busting climb which we didn’t even need to have done. We were so tired by the time we got on the ferry – which was a very short crossing – that we forgot to get off it. The tannoy boomed out ‘There’s a couple of cyclists still on board!’ and we realised they were talking about us. Hastily, we disembarked with some sheepish smiles.
The last part of the journey was now in sight. We pedalled down into the coastal town of Rothesay for the final ferry across to Weymss Bay, which we actually caught – hurrah! Ill prepared as I had been, I greatly enjoyed the 5 ferries cycling challenge, it was a real achievement and with the rare Scottish sunshine in evidence, the islands and highlands were shown off at their most beautiful. If you fancy trying the five ferries challenge check out the information at Ayrshire and Arran tourism or the 5 ferries challenge website.