The story of the day is best summarised by the map and the elevation profile:
The distance cycled was clearly more than I would normally do in one day; 178 km. You do need to bear in mind two things; the weather and the terrain.
The weather? How was today for you? I see there was no play at the test match in Manchester so I am not alone in having suffered. Incessant rain. From the moment I stepped out of the doors of the hotel in Edinburgh to about 4pm. Mercifully the final three hours or so were in the dry although the evidence of the earlier rain was there for all to see in the local flooding of the cycle paths and in the torrent of water flowing in the River Irvine:
At that point last night I almost fell asleep in the bar of the hotel. My iPhone subsequently started playing up and repeatedly shutting down. It’s still doing this so I attempt to finish writing up yesterday’s cycle with some trepidation but here goes…
Although it was a long, long ride, it was not a difficult one to navigate. In Edinburgh I picked up the cycle path beside the Union Canal. I had been reluctant to follow this route as my experience with canal cycling back home in West Yorkshire is a bit hit and miss. As things were, the route surface between Edinburgh and Glasgow was 98% excellent. Much of the remaining not-so-excellent 2% was as I approached Glasgow itself (although they do seem to be doing lots of canal towpath work in the city so this may improve over time).
Of course it rained all the way, or almost all the way between the two Scottish cities. Peak wetness was reached shortly before my arrival in Falkirk. Up to this point the engineering marvels of the Union Canal we’re keeping my mind occupied. Amazing viaducts carrying the canal – one of them over a modern-day motorway – and a very long tunnel:
I suppose the highlight should have been the Falkirk Wheel, and it is an impressive piece of modern day engineering (what did the boats do before it was built?) but in my sodden state it was difficult to get too enthused. I bumped into a touring cyclist from Portsmouth along the canal and he was at the wheel when I arrived. I think he must have been an engineer as he seemed far more enamoured by the contraption that than I was. I went and dripped in the café. The fury of the woman serving me – she was not happy with people discarding their empty cups on the counter – brought a smile to my face. She was clearly in the wrong job.
I also chatted with a Swiss chap who resembled a young Bill Bryson (with an accent). Upon inspecting the bike he told me that he was the first ever person to combine a Rohloff gear system with a Gates carbon belt drive. Wow! Cycling royalty? He also said he was on his way to meet a Scottish friend who had invented the Ortlieb ‘click’ system. I’ll have to Google all that when I get home.
The Falkirk Kelpies remained unseen. I had imagined them to be next to the Falkirk Wheel (for no good reason) but a sign said they were 4 miles away. That was never going to happen in those weather conditions so I joined the Forth Clyde Canal and continued cycling, in the rain…
On an engineering level, a bit more bog standard than the Union Canal. In fact as I type this 24 hours later, I’m struggling to think of anything that may be of interest. I may come back to you on that.
I was now following route 7. Via the centre of Glasgow (I didn’t hang around) I plunged into the southern suburbs of the city on the very well signposted albeit very twisty and turny route. After perhaps 20 minutes of ‘admiring’ Glasgow’s inner housing estates a voice begins me called out ‘don’t go fast on my behalf’. Here started my police escort for the remainder of the suburbs. The man calling out to me turned out to be Jason, a sergeant in the Glasgow police who was on his commute home. He made for affable company as I cycled and helped take my mind off yet another example of the urban horrors in which British cities could give masterclasses.
The third and final part of the journey was from Glasgow to the coast. I had set my mind on achieving that coastal goal as on my map there appeared to be little between Glasgow and the coast to merit my attention. That turned out not to be the case as I made my way along the disused railway line for much of the route to Kilbirnie. It was a pretty valley with a few lochs along the way and… it seemed to have stopped raining. There was even blue sky!
With the kilometres now we’ll beyond 100, accommodation was on my mind but, as I was heading for an area with places such as Troon and Ayr on the map, there must surely be heaps of campsites, no?
Well, no. This was not to be another North Berwick. The next time the British Open comes from Troon I will be watching carefully. The golf course sits next to run-down towns, Prestwick Airport and (famously) a train line. I wonder what all those golfers think when they arrive fire the first time. My first impressions weren’t great and camping was clearly off the agenda so I went online and found a cheap hotel option. The Adamton Country House Hotel was comically bad but the staff were friendly enough and the bed comfy. Food in the bar consisted of microwave meals. This was let slip by the chap on reception who then gave me a 50% discount as a result of his admission. As I left the hotel this morning I noticed it had been given some culinary award for its food. That might need reassessing in the post-COVID world…