A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad


By the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

Day 7
Cycling distance: approx. 120 km

day7map.pngI woke fairly late, but feeling surprisingly well rested having slept so close to the main railway line - I don’t remember being woken at all during the night. Maybe trains stop running overnight, but I thought freight trains carried on; maybe I’m wrong, or maybe I was just that tired! I followed what was now the rapid routine of packing my tent and getting a quick bite to eat - not really breakfast, that comes later on, after an hour or so’s riding. I was back on the road heading north through rolling hills and soft moorland, different to both the lowland plains and the higher Scottish mountains proper. By the time I was starting to think about eating again the countryside was giving way to towns and the outskirts of Glasgow. Fortunately I’d had my second breakfast (I think this could be the second reference to the Lord of the Rings in this account, as I think I’ll soon be stealing all the hobbit’s name for meals) by the time the rain started. It seemed quite appropriate for the descent into East Kilbride, a run-down, grey concrete wasteland being all that it looked like from the roads I was on. The scenery and the weather were doing their best to dampen my spirits, and making a damn good job of it too. My mood was not remotely improved when I reached the river and found a cycleway sign pointing to Loch Lomond, but in completely the opposite direction to the one I thought it ought to be in. Turns out that between the multiple rivers and the twists and turns I’d managed to completey confuse myself, and approached the Clyde from almost West instead of East. I was wet, as lost as it’s possible to be in a big city - turns out not very - and a bit fed up. Even though i’d known that this would be the worst part of the trip it wasn’t much fun. It would have been a lot better if I hadn’t been in a rush, since I wasn’t at all sure there’d be anywhere suitable to camp anywhere within ‘Greater Glasgow’ and I wanted to get at least as far as Loch Lomond by nightfall. Fortunately I more or less worked out where I was, or at least which direction I needed to go in, and set off once more following the blue cycleway signs.
The rain eased off, and with that my luck seemed to take a turn for the better - the cycleway, up to this point a hideous mishmash of pavements, kerbs and broken glass left the roads and went up onto another disused railway line. It wasn’t so nice as the one through Liverpool, but I certainly wasn’t complaining! This didn’t last long before the railway line gave way to a canal towpath made of fine gravel. The rain mixed in with the dirt was making an awful mess of my legs, shoes, bike, back, panniers - in short, everything - but it was off roads, it was smooth enough and I was making good progress for what felt like the first time today. After a few miles my spirits had improved markedly. I passed a floating chippy and would have stopped, but it was already starting to get late and I didn’t want to waste any more time. A little further along - and still on the canal towpath - I came across, of all things, a bike shop! The chap there very kindly gave my bike’s chain some oil and topped up my tyres, all for free and with a smile. (Magic Cycles in case you’re going past, and I’ll happily recommend them!)
By the time I reached Alexandria I was happy with the day’s progress, although the earlier part had definitely taken its toll and I was feeling pretty tired. I reached the end of the cycle route - and the canal - at Baloch, and stopped at the tourist information office to ask about up-to-date campsite information, but it was closed. With a sigh, I sat back on my saddle and set my face to the North once more: the only path onwards was a busy A road. From now on, I would be sharing the route with the general abomination that is the Scottish driver (whether or not he or she actually is Scottish). Fortunately, the road was not too busy, but the remainder of the day’s ride was still a far cry from the rest of the afternoon. (I don’t think I’ve said enough about that - although a lot of the canal towpath was bumpy and unsurfaced, there was a long section inbetween two canals along a smoothly tarmaced forest path, which was an absolute joy to cycle along late on a summer’s evening, with the smell of freshly-washed leaves hanging in the air.)
By the time I reached the village of Luss, about halfway along the length of Loch Lomond, I was pretty shattered and ready to stop. Fortunately the campsite marked on my map was still there; less fortunately, it was a mosquito-ridden, jumped up Caravan Club site charging £8 per night. However, the thick trees on either side of the road seemed pretty much impenetrable leaving no options that I could see for camping out. And at least the campsite had showers. I pitched my tent and made myself some rice and bean chilli, then wandered back to the campsite’s reception to find a phone. I called Polly and Simon, wondering whereabouts they’d got to. I’d made pretty good time I thought, afterall I’d been pushing myself on fairly quickly, so I hoped I wouldn’t be too far behind. Still, as they were taking A roads all the way I was fully expecting them to be at least as far as the North end of Loch Lomond. Crianlarich was 40km away, and if they were this side of it, there was a chance I could make an early start and catch up with them in the morning. I was in for a surprise - my big effort the day before had paid off, and instead of being behind them I was 10km ahead; they had stopped for the night in Baloch. I happily arranged to meet them the next morning, saying I would wait for them in Luss. I gave them my address - 1, Mosquito Alley - and turned in for the night, relishing the prospect of a lie in. It would be good to have company again!