With Barry running his own company, HappyPorch, it means I sometimes get to go to lots of interesting places when there’s a team meetup. Places like Madeira, Bulgaria, Porto, the French Alps, Morocco. And, in 2019, Liverpool. Doesn’t sounds all that exciting in comparison but I’d never been and Liverpool was named European City of Culture in 2008. And of course, The Beatles.
As I’d finished my contract with the University of Edinburgh and was now a footloose and fancy free tourist (also known as a lady who lunches a lot with friends in Edinburgh), I was free to join the team for whatever Liverpool might bring.
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.
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.
Would you believe it – our two favourite things in one place. Soon after we arrived in Flic en Flac we discovered the little village of Tamarind, about a 15 minute drive away. They had a lovely café/bakery that was open most of the new year week. And three doors down – a Coworking office.
We spent many happy hours in the bakery café. It was one of the few businesses open during the lengthy New Year period. I fell in love with vanilla infused black tea (the tea was grown locally so that made me feel good). A napolitaine is the treat of choice in Mauritius according to my guidebook and sometimes we’d share the cakey shortbread jam sandwich covered in pink icing (I think it was mostly sugar). Sometimes we had one each. We became quite addicted to them. There are no photos. We ate them.
When the Coworking office eventually opened we sampled that too and started wondering if Mauritius was feasible for the next work meetup. Very clever electric cords hanging from the ceiling which meant that we didn’t have to fight over space on a power board where our extra chunky adaptors occupy one slot but cover another two.
After taking a road trip to the capital, Barry and I were pretty happy that weren’t staying there. Initially, Barry was attracted by the existence of Coworking offices but Port Louis is a busy, relatively unattractive port city. It was kind of fun to explore the port area and read a little about the history but after an hour or so, we were done.