Back in January I signed up for a wee cycling adventure in Arran with the wonderful local group Lothian Cyclists. After several months of waiting and excitement I took to my bicycle along with 25 other like-minded souls and we headed off to this most beautiful of Scottish islands at the beginning of May.
I had been looking forward to the Arran trip, mostly because I had never really cycled out with the boundaries of my local area and was keen to challenge myself with a 60 mile loop around Arran. The group element was also something I was keen to experience – with over 20 fellow bike fans to ride with I was looking forward to the banter and friendships that might blossom.
Upon arrival on the island I had positive vibes that I was going to thoroughly enjoy my challenge of a 60 mile loop around the circumference of the island. The map that greeted me at the ferry terminal gave me a few concerns, what with red triangles peppering the route like an unwanted pizza topping, but I shrugged them off and pedalled the six miles to the Corrie Bunkhouse along with my fellow tourers.
The Corrie Bunkhouse was at the top of a horrendously steep, unmade road. Traipsing up there with a loaded bike in tow was no fun, but the views at the end were most certainly worth the trouble.
Accommodation was basic (what do you expect for £12 a night?) but after a bad night’s sleep due to excitement, nerves and a weird place I positively sprung out of bed, loaded up on porridge and prepared myself for my ride.
60 miles might not seem a lot for some folk, but this was a big thing for me. Having only managed 40 miles in one go prior to my adventure, I was a bit concerned I would have problems keeping up and managing the route. But once I got started the views and experience melted my worries away.
Arran is a spectacular ride. I cannot recommend it more. The scenery, the locals, the route is stunning. Even with a crummy road surface and tonnes of hills it was the best route I’ve so far traversed. Drivers were patient and courteous and did I mention the views?
We did the route clockwise, and after a hilly start there was a long, straight stretch which was parallel to beaches and the sea.
And although the straight was energetic and beautiful, I actually found the hills to be one of the most satisfying elements of the run. You just dig down and deep and keep going. They are a fantastic tonic; you are focused and concentrated and are set about the task at hand. Everything else just disappears into the ether. Although challenging and lung burning and red-face inducing, in retrospect they were perhaps my favourite parts.
The hill out of Lochranza was killer and seemed everlasting, but we were rewarded with peaks at the summit. And of course, the descent. The wind was strong on the way down and at times I felt like I was flying. I wonder how the folk on road bikes didn’t just take off into the air!
All in all, Arran was a wonderful trip. I feel like I have been bitten by the touring bug now and it’s imperative that I get out on the bike to see more of Scotland.
So thank you to Lothian Cyclists, who I heartily recommend to you. They do all kinds of runs all though the year so you should check them out and get along on a ride with them soon.
More cycle touring beckons! Have you done this route before? If so what did you think? And I’d love to hear any recommendations you might have for other Scottish cycle tours and routes. Especially the islands. I think that seeing Scotland by bike might be the only real and proper way to see our fair country. Don’t you think? 🙂