I decided to
travel with my bike so as to attempt a biking of ‘Neptune’s Staircase
impressive set of 8 locks on the Caledonian Canal just outside
Fortwilliam. That morning I had the good
luck to have been able to buy a second-hand folding bike, a Brompton, but was
not sure enough of how to fold it or whether it had a slow puncture so took my
big bike. I am fast coming to the
conclusion that life would be less adventuresome if travelling without a large,
clumsy, old-fashioned bike.
adventure was changing trains in Dumbarton.
The rear carriages would go to Fortwilliam so I found a door with a bike
symbol and was interrupted by the train manager saying ‘you can’t put your bike
in there’. Experienced train travellers
know not to argue with a train manager so, in spite of being able to see the
bike spaces just inside that door, I asked where I should put it’. ‘At the end’ she pointed. I raced along to the end but the door
wouldn’t open and I couldn’t see any bike spaces there anyway. Suspecting a plot to keep me off the train
(why? – I had a bike reservation) I raced back to find another door with a bike
There were lots of such doors,
this being one of the trains with plenty of bike storage, not like the
Inverness ones. The dragon was back
telling me that I couldn’t put the bike there – I presumed, throughout, that
she may that I may not. I said that the end door didn’t open so she
grudgingly agreed that I could put it on there, alongside the other bike in a
six-bike space. I know that the train
can leave without me while I am faffing about so I just put it on and later I
tried to ask gently what the problem had been.
‘It’s just that it would have been easier for you at that end’ was the
After a stunningly
scenic few hours to Fortwilliam, I headed off on my trusty steed to find the
‘Guest House’ which I had chosen for its proximity to the station. I need to be more selective but it’s
difficult to judge places from a web-based entry. When the door was answered I cheerfully
introduced myself and asked if there was somewhere to put the bike.
Is there a
national hatred of people with bikes?
The forbidding-looking lady-of-the-house said I could put it around the
back and this is exactly what she was offering.
In such a large building here in the ‘country’ there will absolutely be
an outhouse or shed that she could have offered. Instead my gallant steel companion spent the
night outdoors, where, of course, it rained – this is the Highlands, after
all. I was able to protect the saddle
with my European Greens saddle cover but the rest just had to take its chances.
house’ is a blast from the past with its dingy entrance, bathroom on another
floor and a list of bad things that I am not to do. In among the bad-things list is the wish that
I might have a pleasant stay but it is camouflaged, with not even a full stop
to separate it from the emergency instructions (ring the kitchen bell??). Happily, breakfast was a more positive
experience, being cooked and served by a cheerful young woman. Two of the other
guests are setting off on a two-week walk to Cape Wrath so I feel that my
bridge-biking ambitions are very manageable.