I tried to put a bit of air into my front tyre, but the pump had the reverse effect and all the air hissed out. Something pinged out of the top of the pump and fell over the ledge of the platform. Whatever this small thing was its disappearance permanently malfunctioned the pump.
My bike was out of action and I hadn’t even started cycling! I was waiting for the 5.33am train from Edinburgh Haymarket to Aberdeen to take me to the start of my route and now I had a limp tyre and no means to fix it. In fact, this was a triple disaster! It was pouring with rain and I was dripping wet, even though it was almost July.
Sometimes travel does not turn out the way that you planned for, but there is almost always a way to rescue it.
At first I was miserable and almost gave up. I thought there was no point in getting on the train if I couldn’t actually cycle once I arrived. What possible pleasure could be derived from cycling in heavy rain anyway? But I conjured up plan B, thanks to the miracle of mobile Internet. Whilst on the train I tracked down a shop near to the station that had bicycle pumps in stock. It was not the perfect plan B, they never are perfect- I would have to wait 40 minutes for the shop to open and I would miss my connecting train to my final destination, Dyce.
In Aberdeen Station seagulls swooped and squawked. Through the glass canopy I caught glimpses of the granite buildings that this city is famous for. I killed time with a coffee and very dry, bland blueberry muffin. Then I pushed my wounded bicycle to Union Street as commuters rushed by with hoods and umbrellas and buses splashed through puddles.
I was the first customer of the day at the store. I think the staff could detect my desperation when I asked for a bicycle pump- I was walked straight to the product’s location, rather than being given directions. On the way I made small talk about the weather and said I hoped that it would stop raining for my bike ride. The woman’s cheery voice was at odds with her prediction, “Oh, I doubt that. It’ll be pouring all day!”
I had to wait almost one hour for the next train to Dyce. A long wait for the sake of a short ten minute train journey, but my bike was back in action and that was the main thing. At Dyce I started on the Formartine and Buchan cycle way, each peddle stroke all the sweeter because Plan B had worked out.
There is nothing quite like it. Boarding a Cal Mac (Caledonian MacBrayne) ferry with your bicycle is one of the best things about cycling in Scotland. There is excitement about the quiet roads on a far-flung or not so far-flung island. There is a sense of escape that the separation of the island from the mainland provides.
Now there is a new ferry route that opens up new possibilities of discovery. The summer only sailing from Ardrossan to Campbeltown was inaugurated this year. It is a three year pilot service so we should all try to make use of it so that the trial is a success and it keeps running.
A short BBC report recorded the first day of the ferry’s operation.
There are plenty of reasons to take your bike on this ferry. It gives direct access to the southern roads of the Kintyre Peninsula. Before this ferry service the most direct way to reach this area involved two ferry crossings, a 14 mile cycle on the island of Arran and then a 38 mile cycle south to Campbeltown. Then you have to come back the way you came. This, of course, is a great route if you have the time. But if you are short on time and only want to explore the south of the Kintyre Peninsula then the new ferry is ideal.
The route also gives another option to reach the island of Islay. From Campbeltown to Kennacraig where the Islay ferry departs is a 33 mile cycle.
For me, the excitement of this new ferry is that it will make it easier for me to reach the island of Gigha. This tiny island is only 6 miles long and 1.6 miles wide and has a population of about 110 people. There are not many roads to cycle on, but this is a place to combine cycling with other attractions. There are beaches, standing stones and walks. There are seals, otters and seabirds to watch. Achamore Gardens has over 50 acres of unusual plants and there is even a golf course.
To get to Gigha from Campbeltown involves a 20 mile cycle to Tayinloan from where the island ferry departs. The ferry crossing takes 20 minutes.
Looking at the Ardrossan to Campbeltown ferry timetable there are early evening departures on Thursday and Friday. These arrive in Campbeltown for 9.20pm, meaning staying overnight in the town will be necessary. The next morning I could cycle up to Tayinloan to catch the ferry across to Gigha and spend one or two nights on the island. On Sunday there is a ferry from Campbeltown back to Ardrossan at 5.55pm. From Ardrossan there are regular trains to Glasgow.
This sounds like a perfect weekend of cycling. Why not give it a try? I will be.
Calmac website and ferry timetables
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.