48 hour adventure from Edinburgh – collected inspiration and memories

Leave work.

Pack. Forgetting stuff is likely as only have 10 mins turnaround.

Cycle to Waverley. Usual aggressive person shouts at me on bike. Oh well!

Take train from Edinburgh Waverley (1630) to Berwick upon Tweed (1711) – Virgin. Staff delightful. Send them a tweet to tell them I love them…@Virgintrains

Remember it’s one occasion bike is treated nicely – even gets own ticket. Enjoying this moment.

Arrive hostel. Find big bike shed.  Trip going well.

Check in. Find hostel to be a re-used granary complete with art gallery, community cafe and great rooms.  Reflect on the power of hostels. Charitable place to stay. Free meals for kids under 10. Supporting good stuff for a really long time. Forget towel. It was inevitable. Remember toothpaste. It’s a bonus.

Walk City Walls.  Feel a part of history. Reflect on shortness of life compared to history that’s gone before and will follow after.  Visit local Spar crossing one of the brilliant bridges.  Talk to lovely woman in Spar. Reflect on warmth of people in North of England.

Walk some. Spend a moment watching a small canoe fight across the Tweed.  Feel power of ocean. Think how world can be at once overwhelming and at once inspiring.

Return hostel. Cook dinner. Read a book from library about a woman who walked England in a bee suit to bring to life disappearance of bees. Note to self to buy book. Forget to make note of name. Find letter in book thanking YHA Berwick for being so lovely when author stayed.

Go to room (no 405). Chat to roommate. She’s off to Mull to volunteer for a week with National Trust.  Looks 45 – actual age 58. Tell her this. She says waits till morning. Next morning she still looks 45 – actual age 58. Tell her this.

make and eat huge bowl of porridge with 3 dates. Man from Hexham offers to make me a cup of tea. Leave hostel after borrowing bike tool to fix my rapidly dropping seat!

Cross bridge out of Berwick.

Get to a beach bit. Have lost blue and red cycle signs. Ask nice guy collecting bins. He points me in right direction where he often does his running he says.

Cycle. Terrain rough, weather rubbish. Feeling good though. Reflecting on choice.  Choice to get out of bed and head off on my bike in crap weather.

Cycle past a farmer. Reflect on mashed up path. Hard for bike. Necessary for his work though. Reflect on balances of our world. Pass a strange house with a message about a cat.

863 Keep cycling. Have to open lots of gates. This is hard as keep losing balance. Pass some cows. Reflect on story read about people being crushed by cows. Decide to cycle past not looking at them.  If I cant see them they cant see me.

Pass some sheep. A pheasant is hiding under some greenery. Reflect on Roald Dahl somehow…and those birds hidden under the cape of the pram. Reflect also on how much see when on bike. How much hear…the smell of green wet landscapes !

Reach causeway for Holy Island. Tide times in hostel seem to bear no relation to the ones here – probably me! Speak to some people. Decide to go across an hour before official time as locals assure me it’s fine. Cycle cycle cycle. It’s flat. Expanses of sand increase my calmness. Blanket of small pink flowers draws my eyes.

Reflect on magic of a place you can only access at low tide.

Drink best coffee of life. Eat best cheese scone. Later tweet to let Pilgrims Coffees know of their new world records.

Walk out to the beach seeing the lime kilns first. Many people build cairns. Why?

Cycle back along causeway. See pilgrims walking over sand in bare feet.  Reflect on pilgrimmages.

Use small hand written map to find route to Wooler. Cycling is nice. Quiet. Hedgerows. Arrive Wooler. Hostel in converted army barracks. Used for womens land army during WW2. Bought out by local community at 2007 after YHA wanted to sell it. Walls decorated with wonderful murals. Rooms named after women who worked in land army. Great to be surrounded by inspiring women🙂

Little by little people arrive. Great conversations.  With Fiona from Dundee walking st cuthberts way with friends. We reflect on model of hostels – she’s going to tell people to stay in hostels not hiltons. we talk about juicing while she prepares a million juices from lots of really green leaves and avocados. kitchen smells of lime and mint.

Chat to Lucy and her husband. she’s director of a mountain festival . i’ve missed it this yr but shall go next yr. we exchange details. we’ll meet again. spend some time looking at my maps…next trips!

earlyish start. weather rubbish. Start cycling. Stop after 300 metres to check map. Find route. Head up a big big hill. Look back. All around green. Recall a conversation in Burma about green being easiest colour on eyes. Starts to rain. Continues to rain. Keep going. Dont want to stop. Waterproofs are overrated.

3 miles later.

Stop. Legs freezing. Put on waterproofs. They feel a bit tight. The unkindness of the Scottish Winter!

Keep cycling. It’s quite hard. Reflect when it feels tough on the little birds who come in and out of the hedgerows. If they can be bothered to fly about I can cycle! They never have a warm bed to go to. and still they sing.

Finally reach Bamburgh. Castle????? Oops = it’s gone.

ask man with a dog. He points to a vague outline. It’s just shrouded in mist!

enter a cafe. worry immediately as it’s really busy and there are no small tables

staff make me really welcome. Get me a seat next to the heater. Eat a Seahouses crab salad and a large cappuccino. Sit for as long as seems appropriate to dry off.  Go back out. Weather no better.

Continue cycling. Sing in my head Gnarls Barclay Crazy. Makes me laugh! Cycling taking me much longer than usual. Unfit or conditions?

Reflect on choice. Bike v Sofa. Bike wins…..easily.

hedgerows…little birds with a sparkle of yellow. trees. not many cars…not bad!

Arrive Alnmouth. it’s been 40 miles of damp damp damp. Sit in a semi heated waiting room. Read my book. Eat a kit kat. Reflect – happiness.

1705 train arrives. Bike on. Step up feels like a one metre climb. Reflect – fatigue. walk through first class to my standard class seat. a man reads a book called mindfulness for depression. another works on a spreadsheet. it looks dull.

Get coffee. Listen to man in next seat thanking his friend graciously for buying him  a kindle. says he’s using it all the time. when i next look over he’s on his phone.

get off train. collect bike. step still feels high. meet a lecturer getting her bike. offer to help her with it. we walk out platform together. she asks about my trip. she says i’ve got “grit”. I say it beats the sofa! She’s been at a wedding in London. She’s wearing shorts, a t shirt and a nice jacket. I’m wearing cycle leggings, waterproofs, and 4 layers on top! She assures me she’s not cold.

Go to lift at way out to Calton Road. Meet a woman wearing shorts again. She tells me she’s been to church today. She’s a midwife. She says she’s just off a nightshift. She loves her job of bringing people into the world. She couldnt sleep as her neighbour decided to hoover at midnight. She’s feeling tired.

Cycle home.

Reflect – it’s been a good 48 hours.









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My love for Leith….beauty captured!

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Out and about around Islay without my big bags…

And so off I went around Islay to catch (well I mean see) some geese…the cycling felt easy without my paniers so up to Machir Beach felt like a dream…as did the beach itself…

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Atlantic waves coming in across the white sand..swimming at own risk given the strong currents.  If only I’d had a message in a bottle to send out across the Atlantic!

Then it was on the equally beautiful Saligo Bay..

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cycling around Loch Gorm’s quiet roads a cute little cottage caught my eye…

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And then it was time to catch those geese.  The RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart has a cute little visitor centre manned by a lovely girl from Wales who’d just started a few days before. She was full of enthusiasm telling me about the choughs she’d seen a few days before at the other reserve in the South of Islay the “Oa”.  She said it’d make a lovely cycle to go out to Ardnave Point.  By this time it was positively tropical conditions so a beach sounded like a nice idea!

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I didnt quite make it to the point as it said it was a 3 hour walk so I just wandered around a bit and enjoyed the swirling patterns in the sand.

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One of the RSPB farmers gave me some water on the way back since it really was dead hot!

I was talking to a birdwatcher with really big binoculars..I really just fancied seeing what he was seeing…an eagle very far in the distance…when the lovely brother and sister from the ferry passed me! So we cycled together back to the road end and shared stories of our adventures so far. It’s funny but on these trips each day can seem to hold many adventures!

At the junction they headed to Port Ellen to camp there for the night before a ferry back over the next day…I headed back to the hostel to see what the evening held…

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A funny ole night at the Port Charlotte Hotel

There’s not much in Port Charlotte but it’s gorg and has an amazing hostel run by a lovely couple who could not be more helpful. It also has a hotel. I’d been once before to the hotel bar on a sunny afternoon when I’d chatted to an american guy who’d travelled specially to drink whiskey..such is the call of this intoxicating stuff! After drying out and chilling out in the hostel I decided to head to the hotel bar for the live music. I sat myself down at the bar chatting to the barman and owner for some cycling tips for the next day. I think they thought I was Victoria Pembleton..they kept saying I could just do loops around the island!

A man with a beard and perhaps a dutch accent sat next to me with a little black book into which he made copious notes…what was he writing my curious mind asked! The musician arrived amidst much ado  – sound testing, set up…he said himself the pub looked so busy he was worried guests thought “sting” was playing!

He started to play and then Julie and Colin arrived so we had a good ole night chatting in the increasingly hot pub. Three french guys arrived at the bar every so often, spent an age studying the whiskey menu, then ordered 3 whiskies each time! Their faces looked gravely concentrated like it was some kind of exam.  I stuck to the local ale!

As the night passed laughter came from behind us….a man wearing cool specs had picked up a piece of tartan carpet being used as a doormat, wound it around himself and was Scottish country dancing! I’m laughing even as I type this…it was so funny! His “group” who were well on were killing themselves laughing!  It turned out they were Swedes from Southern Sweden and were over on a long weekend.  This somehow seemed incredible. They’d flown from Stockholm to Edinburgh then hired a car and driven over to get the ferry. They then hired bikes and were cycling around!

I saw the son of the man with the “kilt” back at the hostel later. He was wandering the small corridor unable to find his room! He eventually woke the lovely warden who told me the next day he kept insisting the hostel had two floors and he was on the wrong floor.   Next morning at breakfast, as only Scandinavians can, they were up bright and early, crisp and fresh in their neatly fitting cycle gear..they half recognised me from the night before.

After a brisk and efficient breakfast they sailed off on their bikes, their long legs spinning the wheels fast and neatly!  I felt a bit clunky on Orbit and certainly nothing like Pembleton….

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Whisky whiffs on Islay

And so leaving Lochranza behind with her deer and pretty castle I was off on the Calmac to Kintyre.  Some other cycle tourists caught the ferry with me..a brother and sister who loved cycle touring though their bags were awffy heavy and they were tired after a hilly 45 mile route round Arran the day before.  I was also feeling the weight a bit after the climb up to Lochranza. It’s been a while since I’ve hardly been able to sit down on the bike!

A wee short ferry trip and then a dash over the hills to Kennacraig for the Islay ferry to Port Askaig – my fav point of arrival up the little bit of water between Islay and Jura.  We shared cycle stories on the boat over and drank lots of tea and ate toast.  I’m usually proud of my lightweight packing though on this occasion it did have the downside of me no having maps!!!! It couldnae be that hard I reckoned…there aren’t too many roads on Islay and Jura after all! It was brill to chat through our routes right enough and compare cycle stories. The only bother with these conversations is I end up adding even more “routes” to my list of “musts”! One life, many adventures I guess!

It was a bit grey when we arrived in Port Askaig…even the paps of Jura were hidden in the greyness.

And I really felt the climb out of Port Askaig…up, up and up some more…from a sitting start! Thank goodness Orbit had it in her to get me to the top….and then it was off…well kind of..it started to rain..and it was that cunning rain…the kind that you hardly feel until you’re soaked through and know that later your legs will resemble corned beef! So a stop for my rain trousers which flap in the wind! I never seem to have quite the right stuff but try not to let it stop me.  It was a bit of a damp and characterless cycle until I got to Bridgend where, mapless of course, I took the turn to Bowmore instead of Port Charlotte. It was only a few miles and I got to cycle round the lovely bay…my first real “glimpse” of “Islay”.

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Bowmore gave me my first whiff of whisky and it was so nice! A perfectly intoxicating wind. I wandered around Bowmore a bit. It’s the biggest place on Islay and has a nice little round church at the top of the hill..round so the devil has no place to hide!

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I got some provisions from the local coop and spoke for ages to the nice lady in the tourist info asking her where I might find the geese! She said “just look up”.  She had that warm Scottish accent that takes the corners off harsh words and just makes you feel welcome and good.  I met Colin and Julie in the tourist info. They were car camping and seemed like a laugh.  They were looking for some live music and the warm accent advised that the Port Charlotte Hotel had live music from half eight.

After walking up and down the little streets, admiring a garden with a stream coming right through it and passing loads of folks on the way to the local baths (heated from the distillery) I got back on Orbit and headed to Port Charlotte.IMG_4260 IMG_4262 IMG_4263 IMG_4264 IMG_4269 IMG_4274 IMG_4275

I saw some geese on the way over. How clever are these guys? Each autumn they leave Greenland via Iceland and come to Islay for the hotter climes.  Awesome…and we think we’re clever…I pondered whether they liked the whiffs of whisky too?

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Pushing through the wind to Lochranza….

In Scotland it’s better to ignore the forecast and just get on wi it.  So Easter weekend and a few days off work time to get Orbit packed up, complete with tent and stove, for a few days touring the West Coast Islands.

Think I was half asleep when I boarded the train at Glasgow Central for “Brodick” as I managed to get on the back train on the platform and ended up in Gourock! Thought the scenery looked a bit different from my previous trips!  The conductor was also half asleep as he checked my ticket and didn’t tell me to get off. The route back to Paisley Gilmour Street was punctuated by my bike falling (why are there never bike racks when you need them) and the banter of a few mums:-

Kid – “Can I go to the toilet?”

Mum – “You’re pure at it. You always wanna go on the train”.

Mum to other mum – “Is that yer ringtone, nae danger”.

At last I was leaving land behind and on the ferry to Brodick on Arran.

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The ferry was packed with holiday makers eating chips (they smelled great) and drinking beers and rose wines.  Coming into Brodick the racing biker snakes soon flexed their muscles and their carbon forks and left me and Orbit stuck behind a camper van. As usual I had to coax my mudguard to get itself away from the wheel…those guys just always want to be together…and then it was on the quiet road to Lochranza.  IMG_4228 IMG_4230 IMG_4235

The wind was a bit strong right enough.  I always find the first day back on the bike a bit tough. It’s almost like my mind says “right what are doing here fighting through this gale force wind, are there no other options?”.

The hill up out of Sannox was a toughie…wish I’d paid more attention to those tiny little arrows marked on the route in my bike book…I had a comedy fall at one point when I stopped to adjust my headgear only to forget I had 2 huge bags on the back…thankfully no one saw this! 199 metres up with a headwind all the way….if you’ve ever cycled in Scotland you’ll know it’s always a head wind even bizarelly when you go back the same way you’ve just come. How does that happen??????

Here’s me at the top of the hill….see it really is windy!!!!! I’m not exaggerating!!!!!

The descent down to Lochranza is magnificent.  As I reached the flat just as the castle came into view a few deer silhouetted themselves right in front of the castle.  I’ve arrived indeed I thought! A quick meal then a local ale down the small pub..had to do something to escape the lack of “youths” in the “Youth Hostel”.  IMG_4238 IMG_4239 IMG_4240 IMG_4248 IMG_4249

The elderly “youths” managed to be up out of their beds most of the night so it was a weary Angie who caught the 0815 ferry over to Claonaig…to continue the adventure…IMG_4250

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A Half Dram in Dundee…

When is a dram not a dram??? When it’s a half marathon in Dundee. I’ve been looking to do a half marathon in ages and was kinda attracted to the small size of this one and the setting….Dundee….I’ve visited Dundee many times but never fallen in love with it somehow. It seems somehow back-to-front – a bit like Fort William where the road feels in the wrong place.  Couldn’t they move the road back and the nice buildings to the front to over look the water?

Anyway back to the run. As usual I was last minute to decide. Story of my life. Set the alarm for 6.15 am (in Edinburgh). It didn’t go off so only left the burgh at 7.30 for the trip there.  Made it to Camperdown Park just after 9 and set myself into one of the many queues to see if could enter on the day. Managed to persuade the nice, friendly organisers to let me do so, taped on my number 875…and looked at the huge queue for the portacabins.  Wow! Decided against the huge queue and entered another queue to start the run. Then suddenly the queue all moved in the other direction so then I worked out what direction the run  was going in! Phew! As my phone was playing up (hence the alarm issue) had to ration the music. Thought would need it for the start so as the gun went (I couldn’t really work out whether I was in the right place or not) I put it on.

The start of the run seemed more like Tough Mudder than a half marathon. Mud, mud, mud…and the nettles which I’d seen mentioned on one of the sites I read were in abundance. The first miles seemed up, up and up and I was slow, slow and slower.  We eventually got out of the park and onto some routes through housing estates. It was quite nice actually. Local folks lined the roads and the police people at the junctions did a great job of keeping traffic at bay. Hadn’t really realised how much park land there was in Dundee but most of the 13.1 miles seemed to be through these little trails through parks…one was particularly nice with a wetlands area and houses overlooking it. There was a long loop back at one point (obviously to get the mileage in) and then a bit of an uphill. I think this was about the 10 mile mark.  On the approach to 11 miles, which was an upwards one, in the by then excessive heat, some peeps looked to have run out of gas. It was a lot hotter than I’d expected and promised myself shorts for the next time.

After 11 miles (or round about) it was a nice downhill with highlights being some folks with jelly babies standing in the street (or was this a mirage) and sprinklers directed to hit runners with some cool water. I wondered also whether it was a mirage during the run that I only saw peeps with “FULL DRAM” numbers next to me. At various times, I chastised myself for not checking the route in more detail but resisted the temptation to disclose my silliness by asking anyone. I’d just stop at 13.1 miles on the dot I’d decided….no matter where that was! No one would see me…I could disguise by pretending my lace was out. That’s what I’d do. Then I’d find out where I was and make my way back!

The final road crossing seemed a little haphazard as it was at the bottom of a downhill and runners and cars weren’t sure what to do. I got across ok and then there was a nice bridge and a view of the water. This part of the run was glorious. On one side the Firth of Tay, on the other a wildflower meadow complete with poppies. We crossed a funny bridge at about 12 miles (or maybe a bit after). It seemed fine at first then wobbled gently underfoot – kind of a nice sensation really. A few cyclists seemed awkstruck by the number of runners.

And then it was along a bit of road, a pavement and to the end. The end was lovely.

Take a right for the HALF DRAM, take a left for the FULL DRAM.

I took the right, with relief. The sun was high, it was super hot and it was kinda nice to cross the line! It truly was time for a dram to celebrate my first half marathon!

TIME 1.48.51

CONSUMED 4 plastic cups of water, one gel.

BEST VIEW coming along the First of Tay (with the breeze in the face)

TOENAILS LOST- only one – result!

NEXT EVENT – mmmmmm we’ll see!IMG_2130 IMG_2140 IMG_2151 IMG_2154 IMG_2155 IMG_2156 IMG_2158


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