Lochranza to Campbeltown
Distance: 29.54 miles
Average speed: 9.2 mph
Maximum speed: 39.8 mph
Total distance: 53.76 miles
It was a lovely stroll along to the Stags Pavilion last night in the evening sunshine with our bottle of red in hand, and an excellent meal with very friendly service. It was still really hot, but the open windows helped, albeit screened against the fearsome midges. We headed back to the youth hostel to sample our Arran 12 year old (miniatures, not a whole bottle!), a delicious light dram, pale straw coloured, with a very fresh taste. Not new to us, we would have to confess, but a very pleasant acquaintance to renew.
So a good first day, a nice evening, and after our early start we were looking forward to a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately the child in the room next door had other ideas, screaming “I CAN’T, I CAN’T” over and over again for hours… At breakfast this morning, alongside all the other bleary-eyed under-slept guests was the poor warden of the hostel. He was mortified for his guests, having been kept awake by it all even on the ground floor, two floors below us. And the family were staying a second night…
The breakfast was really good, though, and the coffee very reviving. Lots of the other guests were also cyclists heading off in different directions, some of them joining us on the ferry to Claonaig at the top of the Mull of Kintyre. One was doing a circuit of the Mull, and promised to give us a wave when he passed us on his way back up, and another was doing a trip really similar to ours, but much faster, heading straight for Oban today, 90 miles.
We landed at Claonaig and all pedalled off on our different routes. It was much cooler than yesterday, thankfully, and even a little early drizzle was quite refreshing, we had a lovely view back to Arran, quite spookily misty.
The road was lovely, narrow and quiet, very undulating with beautiful views of the frilly Mull of Kintyre coastline at the top of each short climb. Some parts of it were impossibly smooth new tarmac, it looked like it had been newly laid by the companies building a new 132kV OHL, whatever that is. All the explanations we could come up with involved the H standing for Haggis… Probably overhead power lines really, we decided. We stopped for a drink and a bun (thanks Dianne!), and pushed on.
We turned inland slightly, and cycled through a lovely valley, then after a long climb we really enjoyed about 5 miles of gentle downhill through the forest. We’d taken our rain jackets off at the top, but it started to drizzle a little again, so we re-donned them. Just in time – it was like a tap had suddenly been turned on, the rain was bouncing right back up off the road, and we were soaked in seconds! There were a few very sharp climbs and descents, still feeling like hard work while we acclimatise to the weight of the panniers. As promised, our fellow ferry passenger passed us on his way up the road we’d come down, giving us a cheery wave and a “why are we all doing this in the rain” grin.
Arran, to our left, completely disappeared in the downpour, and it didn’t really let up much until we got to Campbeltown, and parked the tandem outside the Cafe Bluebell, where we had lunch. Campbeltown had been described to us as “a funny wee place”, and it was really. It had an industrial past, apparently, and the area around the harbour showed that, but the town itself was a strange mixture of scary-looking pubs and standard high-street shops.
So we’re all checked in to the Craigard House Hotel now, and planning to stay for dinner, there’s a lovely view of the loch from the dining room. Tomorrow we’ll be cycling right down to the very end of the Mull, from where we might be able to see Northern Ireland if the weather permits, then across to the other side and the ferry to Gigha.