Route plan for the day’s ride:
I was rudely awoken at 7:30am by shouts of “Hello? Hello? Are you awake? You need to get out! The river’s burst its banks and the water will be in your tent any minute now!”. Needless to say, I dashed out of my tent, quickly stuffed everything together into my bags and ran as fast as I could to the nearest shelter. The volume of overnight rain had swollen the river, which channels off the mountains down steep glens to sea level at the small village and ferry port of Lochranza, where I was camped right on the riverbanks. The water was flowing over the containing walls, and the floodwaters were rapidly rising. By the time I returned to my tent, only a few minutes after I had taken my belongings to safety, the water was 2m away from my tent. I grabbed the tent as it was, fully assembled, and dragged it away from the burnside. I then attended to my bike, which was by that time in the river, the water reaching about halfway up its wheels. I was not even aware of the river when I had pitched the previous night, and had chosen my spot because it was close to shelter from the wind – trees were hugging the banks of the burn. Fortunately, I managed to rescue everything, and did not lose anything, although quite a few campers lost tents.
In shock, I spent a good few minutes standing gormlessly in my pyjamas, barefoot, soaked to the skin. It was suggested I ought to get some waterproofs on, and that seemed like a good idea, after which I decided to brave the floodwaters again and endeavoured to help a lady rescue belongings from a tent which was rapidly being encroached upon by the water. When I returned successfully, the campsite owner was in the process of directing people to shelter in the village hall. As a drenched “refugee”, I was happy to take advantage of any dry space into which I was welcomed! By the time I eventually headed towards the village hall, I discovered that the road was impassable beneath a foot or two of water. However, a kind man from the Lochranza field studies centre allowed me (and several other stranded campers) to take refuge there. I heaved all my stuff into the drying room, before gratefully enjoying a breakfast of porridge, cereal, toast and hot coffee. I then showered, dried out my kit, and was allowed to use the laundry facilities. I was and am still extremely appreciative of the generosity of the people who took care of me! Whilst at the study centre, I took some pictures of the flooded village – police cars and fire engines on standby – before retiring to the lounge, waiting for my clothes and tent to dry, and deciding what to do.
Whilst recovering in the lounge, I had my picture taken with a group of other campers by the local “Arran Banner” newspaper. I was later slightly disappointed to discover that our picture didn’t quite make it into print, although it was certainly an experience to remember! The campers I met in the field centre were all abandoning their plans and working out how to get home. However I was completely determined not to let the experience affect my trip, and once my tent and clothes were fully dry I tried to catch the one o’clock ferry to Claonaig, and finally get off the island which seemed determined to finish me off! I would then see how much time was left to cycle to Oban for the ferry to Mull.
Frustratingly, I missed my intended ferry, and the next ferry was cancelled due to the bad weather, which continued for most of the day, with heavy showers and gusty winds. The wind had whipped the waters of Kilbrannan Sound into a frenzy, and it was too rough to make a safe crossing. Irritatingly, there were reports of dry and even sunny weather just a few miles away, on the other side of the island at Blackwaterfoot – a prime example of an island microclimate and the effects of orographic rainfall! I spent four hours until 5:15pm sitting and waiting at the ferry terminal for the next possible ferry crossing. Luckily, by early evening the weather calmed down enough to make a crossing negotiable, although there was still quite a heavy swell. In need of some comfort, I contacted the nearest accommodation, Crossaig Lodge on Kintyre, four miles from Claonaig where the ferry landed. Although they did not have any rooms made up, I was kindly offered an “emergency” room in the attic. I braved the four mile cycle in the rain and wind, and when I arrived, the “emergency” room felt like heaven. I was thankful to be safe and dry. The B&B was very welcoming, and I met a friendly elderly couple and a German couple, so we talked for a while until dinner. Dinner was an absolute dream – three courses of freshly cooked home produce – delicious, and a real treat after six days living on cold Co-op food save the occasional meal out! When I had recovered, I was able to admire the location, and although it was still raining, I appreciated the scenic, wild and rugged beauty of the nearby coastline. I then collapsed into bed – luxury!