Shout out to the Scotland Police service on Mull. That the Busessan Police Station looks squint in this photo is a reflection of it being on a hill and me doing this on my phone.
Following the aggressive motoring incident the police at Bunessan were very sympathetic. Because of the lack of signal I was only able to get back to them by dropping in – more like jumping up as the station is up a steep incline. Cyclists categorise roads by steepness of course. The police officer on duty took my complaint seriously and said that she could take it much further if I had video evidence. That’s a real incentive to get a camera thing for my helmet. Meantime I hope that their call to that murderous driver gives him something to think about when he next encounters old ladies on bikes on a single track road. I really appreciated the support from the police here.
I feel the need to give a shout out to the wonderful Pennyghael Stores on the way West from Craignure on the Island of Mull. Open six days a week, the cheerful owner makes everyone welcome. She makes wonderful soup and sells a good range of groceries and gifts. It’s worth cycling over that mountain pass just to call in for soup, coffee or cake -or all three.
Things went downhill after Pennyghael, though not geographically. Bad driving, which is common, turned murderous at one point. The driver was a bit disconcerted to find me taking a photo of his car further down the road . Police HQ were not too interested but the local police were and are coming to Iona to take a statement. The driver clearly mistook me for someone he could try to kill . Wrong call.
Scotland has been having unusually warm and dry weather and the result is the worst midgie season on record. These are tiny black insects that can drive a reasonable person wild, itchy and sore. Like me. Fortunately I’ve brought my midgie repellent with me to the West of Scotland because Oban is sold out of all midgie-related products and has been for several days.
The favoured midgie repellent is a body lotion, Skin so Soft, by Avon which was found to sort out the midgies and is now sold as a repellent. It smells lovely! Lia wants to export some so we hope that the shops can restock soon.
Isn’t this cute? The three-year old mostly sat in a child seat on the cross-bar, in front of his Dad. The little fellow’s bike fitted quite neatly into his Dad’s backpack. When the situation allowed, three-year-old Ollie got on his own bike and had a cycle around or down a suitable traffic-free hill track. Meeting this family and their bikes was icing on the cake of a lovely sunny day at Rothiemurchas in the Scottish Highlands. Check out the café there when you are in the area!
I am not sure that you can see this particularly well but this bike (not mine) has a bluetooth speaker in one of the water-bottle holders. The cyclist plays music from his phone as he pedals along. It’s handy on the canal towpath where other path users can hear him. I had some adventures with this cyclist. First he helped me to do a photoshoot with a banner at Falkirk Grahamston station where we arrived. He had been explaining that he didn’t like hills and was just out for a day instead of ‘sitting at home watching the telly and growing old’. If he didn’t smoke and did eat breakfast he might manage hills a bit better, but I refrained from sharing that insight.
After the photoshoot I caught up with him at the top of the hill to Falkirk High (the clue is in the name). He decided he was going to cycle with me, all 30 miles back to Edinburgh. To my subsequent shame, I wasn’t too keen on that but didn’t object. We headed West and our first challenge was the very-long and very-dark canal tunnel. Happily I have integral bike lights which helped a lot and I emerged safely at the other end. My new-found friend didn’t. After waiting a bit, I went on and had a lovely ride. I sat to eat a sandwich at Linlithgow where a kayak race was starting and my cycling friend pedalled past with his bluetooth pop music. He didn’t see me then but I came upon him further along the canal, having stopped for a smoke. I stopped to chat and found, when I restarted, that I had a puncture. He very kindly did most of the repair for me. I was prepared enough to have everything I needed except wet wipes, which are environmentally un-friendly anyway. Half-an-hour later we were on our way again and I managed to get home, showered, changed and to the for a delightful concert that afternoon.
Everyday problem, right? Here’s an elegant solution from The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. A stream runs into a bamboo cane, blocked off at the end. When the water in the cane reaches a certain level it tips over and empties. It then crashes back onto a strategically-place stone, making a gong sound. It clearly works as there are no boars in sight, other than this elegant sculpture. He is called ‘Tacca’ after the artist who made him and he is a copy of ‘Porcellino’ who resides in Florence.
PS – these gardens are gorgeous at any time of year and worth a visit. Buses run to and from Victoria and you can take you bike on the bus. What’s not to love? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to pop your bike on the front of a bus in Edinburgh? *sigh*
Not me though! I have trouble being outside in that weather, though the air sparkles in the sun and that is just magical. These cyclists are amazing. One of them chatted and I took a picture of his studded tyre. Most bikes don’t have those tyres, but mostly they do have fat tyres, so that connection with the path is more stable. It is all relative, though.
The cold is such that some cyclists wear full face masks. At least, in these temperatures there are not many others out, though joggers are still jogging.
I loved the sign that suggests we should not cycle on the seat – just imagine it!
I normally cycle in Scotland where wind, rain and midges are the major challenges and not necessarily in that order. How exciting then to come upon this ‘Group Cycling’ event in Florence – on a hill above Florence to be precise. Here hundreds of people cycled on gym bikes (I think this might be ‘spinning’) to music and loud encouragement. The moves were demonstrated by chaps up the front doing what the gang should be doing.
This seems a very strenuous activity and it was being done in 34 degrees Celcius. I can hardly walk on the flat in that heat, far less pedal furiously. At least one person looked as if he was about to have a heart attack. Emergency services were all around, as they needed to be. Respect!
On the final day of our ferry-themed jaunt around the West of Scotland we went over to Lismore, by ferry of course. Lismore is an island, ten miles long and about one mile wide, lying in Loch Linnhe at the southern end of the Great Glen. Of more immediate interest to us on the wet and breezy Sunday morning was the ‘Nippy Chippy’ van which sold HOT tea/coffee and home bakes, made by the young woman’s granny. Delicious.
We had been told of a ‘coffee shop’ in the North of the island (otherwise why would we be there?) but it is way more than that. It is a heritage centre with a museum depicting life on the island in the 19th century. It was eerie in its stillness and the recorded conversations of the time. The café there is so welcoming! There is good wifi (how do they manage that?) and they don’t mind you sheltering out of the wind and rain all day.
Since this was a cycling holiday, we did go a bit further afield and came to the charming high street of Port Ramsay – not a Starbucks to be seen! The local phone box is being turned into an information centre. There is a ferry from there to the mainland but not often on a Sunday so we gave it a miss – – another time.
It was a great start to a day that deteriorated badly later on. But it started with a free trip on the Corran Ferry – bikes and foot passengers travelling for free. We needed coffee and something for lunch on a 30 mile trip with no shops. The guys on the ferry told us about the Clovullin village shop. Yes! What a find. As well as coffee, bacon rolls and fruit the owner made us the best-ever ham rolls for lunch.
The wind whipped up after the first hill and it was the hardest ride we’ve ever done. Finding a place to eat that lunch was a challenge because it was impossible to be standing in the wind and rain for long before getting hypothermia. When we did find a nook we enjoyed those rolls as no food ever. So do call into Clovullin when you are on Ardnamurchan. It’s not technically Ardnamurchan but Morvern … maybe.