Cycling the Coast & Castles North

For the last few years it seems that I make Barry go on at least one multiday cycle trip with me.

This year, the weather forecast helped us choose the Sustrans Coast & Castles North, which largely follows the Route 1 which ultimately runs from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

With Edinburgh being one of the end points, this had the added bonus of starting in Aberdeen and cycling to Edinburgh so you know exactly which train to book your cycles on (an absolute must given the number of times Barry and I have been turned away at a station because of our bikes).

So, we booked our train and hotel (no camp grounds in Aberdeen) for a Thursday and prepared ourselves for a three day, 277km ish cycle back home to Edinburgh. It still seemed like a good idea to go in this direction despite the headwind forecast (there might be a reason the route is normally done Edinburgh to Aberdeen). At any rate, we do love a train ride. And train snacks.

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Hebridean Cycle Way

Scotland in the summer time means cycle trips. Usually with a waterproof. Unusually, this year, a waterproof was not needed. Such luck.

Barry and I knew we wanted to do a week or so of cycling once I’d arrived in Scotland. Outdoor time during the easing of pandemic restrictions meant that I wanted to stay away from large indoor crowds. We landed on cycling in the Outer Hebrides, mostly due to the great weather and the lure of nice beaches to camp on. It was the least planning I have ever done for a trip. Having two weeks to complete a one week cycle meant that we were very relaxed about how much or how little cycling we did (or how many times we stopped for cake).

The weather and the beaches did not disappoint. Neither did the lack of planning.

Vatersay
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Midsummer Shetland

More cycling! I wanted to go as far north in the UK I could possibly get for my birthday on 21 June. And without flying. So, Barry and I took our bikes on the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and rolled onto the overnight ferry to Shetland.

Shetland feels like a cross between Scotland and Iceland. There are no trees, and lots of rolling hills. Shetland ponies look a bit like Icelandic ponies, only smaller. Apparently there were (are?) also Shetland sheep and cows and pigs, also small in stature so they’d need less nutrients to stay alive during a harsh winter (which is every winter, right?). Clever.

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Cycling the Caledonian Way – Sustrans Route 78

The Caledonian Way, Route 78 is lovely. Sustrans do an excellent job of finding fab quiet roads, and constructing off road paths. Caveat – my enjoyment was probably helped enormously by the uncharacteristically excellent weather over Easter, April 2019. Five days of sunshine, no wind, 4 drops of rain and temperatures that had me in shorts and t-shirt for five days straight.

The first section of Route 78 is normally cycled from Oban to Campbeltown. As we wanted to do the Oban to Inverness leg as well, we decided to start from Campbeltown. The best way to reach Cambeltown from Edinburgh is a train to, then ferry from, Ardrossan Harbour. Unfortunately, that ferry doesn’t run until 2 May. We didn’t want the hassle of boxing up our bikes to take on a four hour bus ride (that was the point of sticking to a UK cycling holiday and the number one factor for not cycling to Italy), so we planned our own first leg.

First, a train from Edinburgh to Gourock on Good Friday. We managed to get our bikes on the train with no problems and no reservations. Once in Gourock it was a short cycle to McInroy’s Point, timing our arrival perfectly with the roll on ferry to Hunters Quay in Argyle and Bute. From there, only 44km across Argyle to Portavadie and a short ferry to Tarbert where we’d pick up the Route 78.

Ferry number one: McInroy’s Point to Hunters Quay
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All That Jazz–Edinburgh Carnival

To open the Jazz and Blues Festival in July, Edinburgh puts on Carnival Sunday, a parade of performers, musicians, etc. This year, thanks to a friend who was involved in the organising, I was one of the ‘etc’.

Anna needed a bunch of folk to be in the parade, wearing elaborate costumes. Brouhaha, from Liverpool, made the amazing costumes and basically we had to walk and dance around Princes Street for a few hours.

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