Along the way, people asked us why we had chosen Scotland for a summer holiday. I can’t recall the initial reasons, but journeying by bike across the country brought new reasons into focus – specifically the awesome beauty of the country, the accommodating people, and the infrastructure designed to accommodate bikes. At times, the difficulty of the terrain blurred my ability to appreciate its beauty. The sheer volume of miles to be covered stretched each day into the next and prompted bouts of amnesia – is today the sixth day or the eighth day….?
The trip was truly a bike trip. Nothing more. We saw the Scottish Highlands from between bars. Some days we pedalled for twelve hours. Rarely did we pedal for fewer than eight hours and even a major mechanical breakdown about three quarters of the way through the trip didn’t even allow a full days rest from the relentless pedalling.
We started at the airport. Assembled our bikes beside the baggage carousel, threw the cardboard boxes in the rubbish bin and set out to navigate the streets of Glasgow. Narrow! Challenges always show up in unexpected ways. Google Maps had directed us to follow a particular route to get from the airport to the central train station. The River Clyde flows through the centre of Glasgow and of the three options for getting to the other side of the river- ferry, tunnel or bridge, Google directed us to the ferry.
Discovering the ferry was high and dry was our first challenge. It didn’t appear to be running today or any day. Low water? Insufficient passengers? Whatever the reason, we were not going to be getting across the river by boat.
Consulting the map, the next option was the Clyde Tunnel. I had some trepidation because I pictured the George Massey Tunnel in Vancouver where cycling is prohibitively dangerous and a free shuttle is offered five times a day. Handy, but still a a nuisance when plans require fording the Fraser River and it can only be done at certain times.
The Glasgowians, in their wisdom, have circumnavigating this problem by creating a tunnel for cyclists and pedestrians. Even more clever, the cycling part is one way only. You press a button to request access and when it’s safe (ie no cyclists are bearing down from the opposite direction), you will be granted access through an automatic gate.
Next up – a train north from Queen Street to the first of many villages. Once again I had great trepidation that it wouldn’t work, that there wouldn’t be space for the bikes, that we’d miss the train. But the efficiency of the Glasgow transportation system impressed me. There were bike hooks on the train, the staff showed us how to load the bikes (easier to push the bikes onto the train backwards) and we had our choice of seats.
We arrived in Glasgow at 6am local time and by 3pm, after navigating the city by bike, finding our train and journeying north from the city, we were checked into a Hobbit House in the tiny village of Tyndrum.
Twelve hours of sleep now and the real adventure starts tomorrow.