Route plan for the day’s ride:
After the previous morning’s rain, I was relieved to wake up to good weather. A kind lady in a caravan offered me a cup of tea, which I gratefully accepted, and I was on my way by 9am. The minor road to Dumfries was fast, flat and pleasant. In the town, I stopped at a cycle shop to fix a problem with my front shifter and buy a new bottle cage (the old one had broken). I also stocked up on inner tubes, figuring there might not be many bike shops as I headed further north. Next, I treated myself to a stodgy Scottish breakfast before speeding off in the hope of catching the Ardrossan-Brodick ferry at 6pm. It was already 11am, and with 80+ miles to cover I did not want to waste time. I was looking forward to reaching the Isle of Arran, my first “destination”, where I was planning to spend a day or two exploring and climbing mountains.
From Dumfries, “B” roads covered rolling hill country to Moniaive, where I began the long but gradual ascent to the top of a 309m pass. This was soon rewarded with a long descent to Carsphairn where I stocked up on food. The views were scenic, towards Merrick and the Rhinns of Kells in the Southern Uplands.
I did not dawdle, and cycled quickly along the main road towards Ayr. This wound downhill into a splendid gorge before passing through the rather less inspiring mining communities surrounding Patna. Turning off on the “B” road towards Drongan I met two touring cyclists, who were attempting LEJOG on mountain bikes. I spoke for a few minutes but explained that I needed to hurry to catch the ferry in time. Wishing them luck, I sped on towards Ardrossan and thankfully arrived at the ferry terminal with time to spare. However, I was ravenously hungry and in my haste had not eaten properly during the afternoon. In a rather embarrassing moment at the ticket station, I almost collapsed off my bike, and spilt change from my wallet on the ground in front of a large queue of waiting vehicles. I was glad when the ferry finally got going and I was able to feast on a surprisingly good steak & ale pie and chips! On the approach, I enjoyed fine views of the Isle of Arran, and pondered how the landscape could be so different (rugged island mountains versus low mainland hills) across such a short width of sea.
Three more LEJOG-ers disembarked from the ferry when we arrived. I greeted them and found that they would be following my future route to Lochranza and then catching the ferry to Clonaig and cycling up Kintyre. The west coast LEJOG route via Arran helpfully bypasses the urban sprawl of Glasgow and includes some excellent scenery. I advised the cyclists of the excellent location and cheap price (and basic facilities) of the nearby campsite at Glen Rosa, where I was planning to pitch overnight. They told me they would consider it, although their target for the day was Lochranza. I then went to find some food, which I enjoyed whilst sitting to admire the view over Brodick Bay (see first blog entry). Afterwards, I made my way to Glen Rosa campsite and pitched my tent. The situation was truly spectacular, and lived up to my expectations. The campsite is nestled alongside a river, beneath sweeping hillsides in a narrow glen, amidst beautiful mountain scenery.
In the evening, I embarked on a short walk (3-4 mi). As I left, I saw that the three cyclists I met earlier had taken my advice and were pitched nearby. I didn’t stop to chat, and instead headed along the valley before cutting left up a hill slope, in an attempt to find a good vantage point. My efforts were repaid with a fine sunset and excellent views over the Goatfell range.