This time tomorrow we will be gearing up for our 2016 tour of the St Lawrence.
This time tomorrow we will be gearing up for our 2016 tour of the St Lawrence.
Although it has only been a couple of days I can’t recall where we stayed. I do know, though, that we took a train from Kendal to Crewe to avoid riding through the busy roads around Newcastle and Manchester.
Tbe Crewe railway station had a bike maintenance facility that we could not believe. Everything from
A high pressure pump to a pedal wrench, including a maintenance stand. Look at this:
We went needlessly out of our way for this “attraction”.
And then we spent a couple of hours riding on the towpath beside a canal, admiring the locks and the narrow boats. Bought the best shortbread in the world from this little stand.
And finally got a Lorry Turning sign.
In the middle of all this nothing, a mailbox.
Since we couldn’t follow the game we didn’t stay to see how it turned out but we watched for a few pitches. Cricket matches can apparently take days.
Took the obligatory photo of the marriage chapel/black smith shop in Gretna Green, and another of a bizarre statue across the road from it. We were here years ago in a car, on our way to catch the ferry to Northern Ireland and it really has changed. Guess 20 years or more can do that to places as well as to people …
The ride from Gretna Green to Bassenthwaite was pretty uneventful, though we did get directions from a man with the biggest border collie in the world. Much bigger than Zak!
The man recommended we stay away from the main roads and suggested a route that would take us through Dalston. In Bassenthwaite we stopped at a butcher/deli and got some food for our lunch. I asked the butcher where we should have our picnic, and he told me the views fro Caldbeck Hill couldn’t be beat so we went there. Getting there was also pretty spectacular, with rolling hills and big puffy clouds everywhere.
The Caldbeck Hill is a steep climb, averaging about 12 % for long enough that we were glad of our lunch by the time we reached the top. A good half kilometer is at least 15 %, which I would have found tough without bags. But the view was splendid.
This caught our attention.
We have no guesses about what it could be. Would love to hear some though.
This gallery/tea shop was a little ways off the country toad we were on but well worth the detour. The art was surprisingly good – quirky pottery and some exceptional paintings – and the bake well tart was delicious.
By now we were closing in on The Lakes District and Lori was exclaiming “wow” at 30 second intervals. We couldn’t stop for a photo every time she saw something she liked but we did get a few.
Keswick, which is where we spent the night, looks like a perfect place to live. Sports fields, walking paths, and lots of pubs and restaurants. Despite this we wandered for hours looking for a place to eat, and at last settled for mediocre food at a restaurant with pencil crayon portraits on the wall. The portraits, which I guess we’re done with Derwent crayons, were exquisite. The fish and chips were ok.
Our bed and breakfast was ideal. Bruce, the host, is a cyclist so we could use his pump, and that was a bonus. By the time we got back from town and dinner I was feeling lousy, with the head cold from hell. Remarkably I didn’t keep anyone but Lori awake, or at least that is what the other guests said at breakfast. I think they were being polite, but perhaps the rooms are just that sound-proof. Certainly the folks sleeping in the rooms around us tonight will want earplugs because I am still not feeling the best.
If you guessed that we missed the single turn we had to make in order to get from Abington to the Day’s Inn in Gretna Green, you would, of course, be correct.
The road we took was a B road so not very heavily traveled. It was also part of the traditional Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) bicycle ride, which meant that we met several cyclists. The first was within minutes of leaving the hotel. By the disgruntled way he talked about the wind I gathered that he had been fighting it for a while. We, on the other hand, had a fair tailwind and we took full advantage of that as the weather forecast called for thunderstorms in the afternoon.
The photos below are about an hour later. It rained a few drops but we didn’t need our pink gloves.
I haven’t got many other photos because there was nothing to see. This was by far the most boring day of our tour. I don’t know what the rest of the LEJOG route is like but if it similar to this then I don’t see the attraction. The only thing that this road had going for it was the lack of traffic. Otherwise the road surface was horrible and the scenery was non-existent. It wasn’t hilly and it didn’t require any navigating skills, so perhaps that is the criteria if you just want to ride from one end of the UK to the other, but for a tour it had nothing going for it.
We did almost beat the storm though. If we had not missed the turn-off we would have made it without getting damp. But we did miss the turn, and the extra 10 minutes we spent on the road were all it took. It wasn’t a thunderstorm but it started to hail without warning as we were about to turn back to find the hotel entrance. And just before we saw the last tourer of the day.
We got back on our bikes and it started to rain! Still we really enjoyed the day. The road to New Lanark was not very busy, and the scenery was grand.
New Lanark is a Unesco World Heritage site so we decided we would drop by and find out what makes it so special.
It is a village of about 200 people on the River Clyde. It was built in 1786 by David Dale, who was later joined by his son-in-law Robert Owen, a Welsh social activist. The cotton mills and workers’ housing formed an industrial village that was seen as the “epitomy of socialist utopia” and it’s success was evidenced by the fact that it remained operational until 1968.
The hill and crater like structure in the background fascinated me for miles. It seems that others were also fascinated by “The Hill of Fire”. Tinto Hill, as you can see below, has played an important role in various cultures throughout the ages.
Abington, which we reached using roads that do not exist on any maps, is the highest village on Scotland. At least that is what the sign said, but it seems hard to believe as it is only 275 meters above sea level. We decided to stop there for the night and tried the Abington Hotel. The very considerate and proper older gentleman at reception told me that he was very sorry but he did not have a room available. He went on to say that he would love to help but he had a girlfriend. I was shocked but then I thought no, I must have misunderstood because that would be very inappropriate. I asked him to repeat himself and was relieved to hear ‘I have a group in’. I grinned and told him what I had understood, and there was a hoot of laughter from the bar and a woman’s voice said ‘that is too funny’. He said ‘yes, I have a group in, and I also have a local woman who eavesdrops’.
I got us a room at Day’s Inn over the Internet and we stayed for a hamburger at the hotel.
When we got to the Day’s Inn, the manager was very friendly. Probably would have been anyway but in our case it was because he was Swiss and knew from my online reservation that I lived in Switzerland. Yann manages the Day’s Inn at Abington and Gretna Green, so we said we would stay there the next night. He gave us a very nice discount for the Gretna Green room and very clear directions on how to reach it. We had to turn once in 80 kilometers. Stay tuned to find out how we did…
We took the train from Edinburgh to Dunbar to pick up our bikes at Chris’s farm. He remembered that Lori wanted to pick up some fossils so he picked us up at the train station and took us across one of his ploughed fields in the Land Rover so that we could climb down to the beach and fossil-hunt.
This photo is especially for Chris, a real sweetheart!
As Chris was dropping us off at the railway station there was a couple from Germany looking at the tourist map. They were touring on a BMW and we’re looking for a place to stay. Acting as translator I passed on Chris’s message that he would escort them on his BMW to the Home Arms in Eyemouth, which is where we stayed. They were happy for his help, as they should be. He is an excellent tour guide.
We took the train to Edinburgh and then got another to Glasgow, got out a stop early and rode to Hamilton where we stayed in the stinkiest bedroom ever. The hotel was otherwise ok but the room was awful. On the bright side, the restaurant around the corner made excellent fish and chips, and the best ice cream I have ever tasted.
Matthias met us in Edinburgh for a long bicycle-free weekend. Lori and I took the train from Dunbar then caught a taxi to the beautiful Prestonfield House hotel. The doorman, resplendent in kilt, helped us out of the taxi and politely inquired if we were staying for afternoon tea. I told him we were staying for three days and he almost managed to hide his surprise. Then he wanted to help us with our luggage but couldn’t really figure out if we were carrying handbags or suitcases, so he just let it go.
Matthias was not yet there so I registered us, got the keys for the rooms, and ordered a taxi to take us shopping. Our cycling clothes were not going to be suitable for the weekend Matthias had planned!
Suffice to say that we ate well, drank well and slept beautifully. We had two full days to visit the city and it hardly rained at all. And in honour of his birthday, we let Matthias lead us through all of the military museums the city has to offer! It wasn’t even that boring.
The Prestonfield House is described as opulent, decadent and even over-the-top. Don’t know why …
We woke up early but got away late – why does it always end up that way? And Matthias was expecting us to be waiting for him at the hotel in Edinburgh at 3:00. It would have just been possible but it wouldn’t have been fun and we wouldn’t have been able to visit Chris and Ann at their farm. Fortunately we found that there was a train every half hour from Dunbar to Edinburgh so we decided we would just ride to the farm, visit for a short while and then ride to the train station. From Eyemouth, that gave us a 35 km ride which we managed to stretch to about 40 km because we are good that way.
Chris keeps a spotless farm. It looks like a gentleman’s hobby farm and not at all like a working farm though that is what it is. Beautiful place.
Zak the giant collie isn’t as big as I told Lori he was but he is still a fair size. And he plays football. He liked me a lot. I think he would have been happy to have me scratch his head all day but he is Ann’s dog and seemed pretty attached to her so I couldn’t lure him away.
He also has a few larger bikes, motorized, and of German rather than English construction. The largest is a 1200 which is gigantic, but both he and Ann ride 650 BMWs as well. I didn’t get a photo of Ann but she is very petite – hard to imagine her on any kind of motorbike but I guess she does ok. They do adventure cycling with big loaded panniers etc. And she handles the bike by herself.
In the end we stayed so long at the farm that we had to take advantage of Chris’s kind offer to drive us to the train station. We left our bikes in his shed and hopped onto the train in Dunbar making it to the hotel in Edinburgh before Matthias!
These are some photographs I took in and around Eyemouth. The first few are at the Eyemouth Harbour, where a big fat seal begs for food. After that we had our bicycles out for a 45 kilometer tour with the goal of seeing the Chain Bridge. After several false alarms we finally found it. Worth the looking.
The photos above are all from the Eyemouth Harbour. Below you can track our hunt for the Chain Bridge, the oldest iron suspension bridge in the UK.