The Travelblog

Day Four: Crianlarich to Crawfordjohn

Stats for day:

  • 99 miles, about 7 hours 45 minutes (average would have been higher without dodgy cycle paths with kissing gates, bit of time spent cruising trying to find the right route, excuses excuses)
  • Total ascent a mere 2,800 feet
  • Calories consumed – just under 5,000
  • Saddle sore status: 7 – Hoss from Bonanza
  • Felled tree impressions: 1 (again)
  • Motorist altercations: 0 – in and around Glasgow, so discretion better part of valour
  • Wrong direction taken because of Garmin – 0
  • Wrong direction taken because of Andy – several

I think the blog’s been a bit dull for the last two days.  Sorry about that, but with a couple of late finishes I got a bit behind with it and ended up just writing about the key facts for the most part.  I hope that hasn’t put you off reading it.  If today’s installment doesn’t redress the balance it can only be down to the narrative skills of the blogger.  It’s been an action-packed day, full of thrills and spills.

Although we’ve covered more distance today than the other days, it hasn’t been a tough cycling day.  If day one was Lee Marvin, today was more Hank Marvin.  We’d expected heavy rain all day with a strong westerly, but neither really materialised.  We started out in heavy rain from Crianlarich and expected a soaking, but by the time we reached Loch Lomond it had stopped and it stayed dry for the rest of the day.

A word – or maybe a couple of hundred – on road surfaces.  The smoothest roads we’ve been on so far have been up in Caithness and Sutherland.  Sorry to go on about the A82 again, but considering what a major route it is, it’s dreadful.  There is resurfacing work going underway at various points on the A82 at the top end of Loch Lomond, and we went through a few stretches where signs warned of a “temporary road surface”; you know, the type where they have raised ironworks and the road is dimpled and looks like a golf ball that is flat rather than spherical and has sticking-out dimples rather than ones that go in.  Couldn’t come up with a decent simile.  Anyway, these were the best bits of the road!  After an hour or two cycling on the A82, your wrists and forearms feel like you’ve been using a pneumatic drill for a day, and your bike has a new range of rattles.  We tried out the cycle way that runs parallel to the A82 along the middle to southern section of Loch Lomond, but that didn’t work out either.  Charles got so upset with it that he did his “felled tree” thing again, this time into some long grass, so less painful. 

We met up with Steffi and Cara at the De Vere Cameron House Hotel near the southern end of the loch.  When we arrived they were doing battle with a gaggle of vicious geese.  Steffi had tried to ward them off by throwing bread and sachets of sugar at them, but for some reason this didn’t have the desired effect.  Charles soon put the geese in their place, and he had a quick early lunch before Steffi and Cara went off to enjoy the delights of the Cameron House pool complex and Charles and Andy headed off to tackle Glasgow.

Finally, we got off the A82, but were soon wishing we were back on it when we headed down the Sustrans NCN7.  This route is essentially a series of interconnected towpaths running alongside the River Leven and then, after Dumbarton, the Clyde.  In some places it was fine, and generally it was well signposted, but really it didn’t work for us as it just got in the way of making decent progress, what with all the gates and dodgy rotting plywood bridges.  Then disaster struck.  Charles’ bike computer came adrift from its mounting at some point, probably in one of the gates we had to dismount to go through.  We retraced the route, but to no avail.  So we pressed on, and near the Erskine Bridge came across Magic Cycles, where Charles bought a new computer.  We also took the opportunity to ask the owner, clearly the pre-eminent local cycling sage, if there was a better route than NCN7.  He looked at me like I was mad for choosing the route we were following (a reaction I’m getting used to in the sense of the JOGLE versus LEJOG thing), and gave us an alternative that avoided the centre of Glasgow.

Some time later, having crossed the Clyde via the Erskine Bridge and headed south, as the signs started to indicate places we really didn’t want to go towards in the remotest way, we decided to let the Garmin do the work for us and chalked up another lesson learned: stick to the route.  The Garmin did a great job, and got us back onto our route.  It took us back over the Clyde and through the centre of Glasgow, which worked well for Charles, who is in his element with urban cycling, weaving between buses and artics, anticipating lights and generally demonstrating courier-like skills.  Eventually, having crossed the Clyde three times, we were heading out through Hamilton and onto the B7078.

By now it was getting late, what with all the route issues in Glasgow, and Steffi had gone on to our hotel, the Redmoss Hotel near Crawfordjohn.  So at about 7pm, as we were climbing out of Lesmahagow, I heard my mobile ringing in the rack bag.  We carried on cycling, as normally we don’t stop unless it rings more than once, and sure enough it rang again.  It was Steffi, parked outside the Redmoss Hotel.  Now, maybe I’m guilty of not having explained very well where we are staying.  It is a truck stop in the middle of nowhere (not in the Crask Inn league, but getting there), a really nice one as it turns out, but Steffi was a bit hesitant about checking in.  Then someone came out from the hotel, intrigued as to why there was a silver BMW parked outside.  So she had to check in anyway, and found out what a great place it is, a real gem.  I can’t recommend it highly enough, but if you were driving past you wouldn’t really think about stopping, unless you knew about it.  The food is great, the rooms are great, the owner Eddie and his staff are so welcoming. 

Discussion over dinner revealed that Steffi and Cara had followed their swim with some retail therapy, and had bought a new digital camera in a Tesco superstore.  She said she was surprised by the reaction of the girl on checkout when she insisted: “Can I have English money please” in her cashback…

Last day in Scotland tomorrow.  Feels like we’re making great progress.  4 days, 358 miles.  Only real physical problem is the saddle sore, but I’m hopeful that has peaked at the level described above.

To view pictures of Day Four click here


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