Saturday, 15 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 6: Kinghorn - Dunbar

What a way to start the day- waking up and looking out your window and seeing this view. Almost enough to make you forget the fact that your inflatable roll mat had a slow puncture and needed refilling every hour (poor Nick). 

With the feast of food kindly provided by Ann, the wife of  Alan, Kinhorn's LOM including granola and bacon rolls we also had the best breakfast of the week so far. Packed up our bags and rolled out of the station at 8am enjoying every bit of sunshine, thinking how much better the weather has been than last year. 
For the majority of the 15 miles to the Forth Road Bridge we took the coastal path which meandered around the south coast of Fife. All the time we could see far on the horizon the Bass Rock an island that glimmers white entirely due to the local bird population!

After a photo outside Queensferry RNLI station we topped up our breakfasts with a coffee and cake at a nearby cafe, chatting about our challenge to a couple on a tandem who kindly donated their change. 


Continuing on the coastal path, diverting from the planned route above we saw Dalmeny House and the surrounding grounds before skirting past Edinburgh via Leith harbour. On our way out of edinburgh we picked up a couple of cyclists from Dirt School who kindly shielded Nick and I from the slight headwind most of the way to North Berwick, taking in some surprisingly beautiful scenery. 

A hearty burger and chips was needed to finish off the last 35km to Dunbar, via North Berwick RNLI station, we got our heads down and arrived just after 4pm. After a cup of tea we met Henry Weaver, RNLI's Scottish Press Officer, who coordinated a photoshoot and penned a brief press release covering the fact that by the end of tomorrow we will have cycled the entire Scottish coast. 

Tomorrow's forecast look ominous to say the least- heavy rain all day. Let's hope Nick gets a better night's sleep. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 5; Arbroath to Kinghorn

We woke this morning after another slightly broken night's sleep, and are definitely starting to feel the accumulative fatigue of our legs after four days on the road. A coffee seemed to hit the spot however, and after a quick pack up, we were on the road by 7.15am. The forecast for the day was set fair again- we are certainly appreciating the weather this year, after last year's relentless rain and gale force head winds....

A view below of Arborath Lifeboat Station crew room at 6.30am, just before the alarm went off. 

Our first stop of the day was Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. The station was shut up, so a quick photo and bacon sarnie from a local bakery and we were under way again, crossing the Tay Bridge and heading further south....

Passing through the beautiful St Andrews about 20km later, we stopped for a 'brunch with a view' (at least a view during the short windows between the hoards of American and Chineese tourists walking past...!)

We pressed on, through the countryside, tackling a couple of more challenging hills... The sun was out though so no room for complaints, and only a short while later, we arrived at the picturesque, if not rather tourist filled, town of Anstruther...

Rad's navigation now becoming somewhat alternative, we soon found ourselves cycling down farm tracks and over grass again.... 

The numerous locked gates which we had to lift our fully laden (c 35kg) bikes over, made me question if these really were  'cycle paths' (as Rad was insisting!). After 5km of off road there was no turning back. 

As you can imagine, progress was not especially fast. This was further slowed by Rad, who within 2 minutes of cycling had to stop three times, firstly with cramp, secondly with a bee getting stuck in his traveller style hair and stinging him (see below) and thirdly for going into a large pot hole.

We eventually arrived at the wonderful Kinghorn Lifeboat station, which sits in a quiet sandy bay with a few houses, a church and a cafe, overlooking the Firth of Forth. This was to be our home for the night.

We received a very warm welcome from Alan, the Kinghorn LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager), who showed us around the station, and settled us in. A short while later Alan dashed away, and returned soon after with the most incredible food package for us from his wife Ann. This included an incredible three course dinner! and an amazing breakfast for the following morning. We were extremely touched by their generosity and hospitality. 

The view from the crew room balcony was absolutely sensational. 

After chatting with various crew members who kindly dropped in to say hi, we were soon ready for bed, and rolled out our mats for another night on the floor....

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 4: Aberdeen - Arbroath

After another broken nights sleep on the ferry, involving a stop off at the Orkneys at 11.30pm (and accompanying announcements!) and few drunk lads playing games at 1am, we woke rather bleary eyed. 

Following a good breakfast on the ferry, (again, courtesy of the very kind North Link ferry crew), we were refuled and on the road by 7.30am. Cycling out of Aberdeen, there was a quick change from city to countryside as we headed south along the coast, and we were soon back in the countryside.

Yet again, the weather was firmly on our side- although we had a gentle head wind all day, the sun shone as we headed south along the coastal route and through beautiful undulating farmland.

The first station of the day at Stonehaven. A picturesque fishing village, with large sweeping bay beyond the harbour.

In Stonehaven, we came across a man, sorting through a basket of Chanterelle mushrooms on the waterfront.  A short chat, revealed that he was a French Chef who works out on the oil rigs, but was hartbroken, having recently returned from his 3 week shift at sea, to find that his wife had run off with another man. He had picked a basket full of Chanterelle's from a nearby wood, in 10 minutes and was off to cook them with some Mackerel he had just caught from the sea. 

We cycled on across yet more picturesque countryside, with a couple of slightly more challenging hill climbs until we reached our next station of the day- Montrose.

A quick photo, and refil of our water bottles and we were off again, churning our way thefoug mile upon mile of countryside.

With Rad opting to take the coastal route for a large chunk of the day, including some fairly rustic off road cycling paths, we were fairly knackered by the time we reached the final stop of the day- Arbroath. 

We arrived at Arbroath in good time, for the afternoon. A late seafood lunch on the harbourside of 'smokies' (locally smoked Hadock) gave us the bit of extra fuel we needed for the afternoon of washing kit, fixing broken phones, mending bikes, meeting crew, sorting photos and videos and getting bedding sorted. 

A pub supper down the road and a beer with the crew at the station topped off a great day, and we were certainly ready for bed by the time our heads hit the pillows. 

Leg 6, Day 3: Lerwick - Aith - Lerwick

Day 3; Lerwick to Aith; Lerwick, Aith, Lerwick, Aberdeen

We were woken at 6.30am by an announcement from the Captain of the ferry that we would be arriving in Lerwick (capital of the Shetland Islands) in one hour. 

A full Scottish Breakfast on the ferry (courtesy of the very kind staff on the North Link Ferry), hit the spot before getting underway. Today was something of a rest day with only 70km to cover, crossing the main Island to Aith and then back to Lerwick again.

Lerwick RNLI station itself was a beautiful old building set on the waterfront within the old town, just off the picturesque high steet. A quick photo outside the station and were on the road. 

The ride across the island was hilly, but we were blessed with good weather again and the summits gave some stunning views across the isles. The Shetlands had a very different feel to them from other Scottish islands we have visited, with a strong Scandinavian influence. Most notably a scattering of very colourful Scandinavia style houses (intermingled with the inevitable Pebbledash everywhere in Scotland...)

Having taken the advice of a local who told us about a short cut (saw us coming!!) we slogged our way up and down several hills, only to find out later that it was anything but a short - more like a long way around (c. 3-4x further than our planned route!) I suspect the local lad who gave us the advice may have had an aversion to Rad's new traveller hair style!!! 

None the less, we eventually reached Aith- a small village on the north eastern side of the island, in a beautiful position on the waterfront, where we were given a warm welcome by a few of the crew and a fantastic cuppa. Tales of a rescue missions in the winter through 75ft waves, were more than enough to make us realise what these lads go through in this isolated and exposed environment. 

A number of islanders commented about the weather today, describing it as 'the best day of the year yet'. Being 10th August- 18 degrees with sunny intervals and 15 mph southerly wind- it was hardly something we would write home about down south, so this gave us a pretty good idea of what the weather must be like up here most of the time....

We cycled back across the hilly terrain in good time, taking in the views, and then spending some time in Lerwick for a late lunch, before boarding the ferry for our return night time passage. 

As we didn't have a cabin booked, we were very quick boarding the boat to bag a good spot in the front bar, and put our roll matts for the night! A rather rougher start to the journey (physically impossible to walk in a straight line) prompted us to ask one of the staff how this rated from 1-10, with 1 being calm and 10 being the worst atorm hey have encountered on a crossing. The response was 1-2, which put us firmly in our place, and gave us some idea how horrendous the weather (and ferry journeys) must get in winter.

We quickly made the upper deck look like a Chinese laundry to dry all of our hand washed kit. Following a beer and dinner on the ferry (again, courtesy of the very kind North Link ferry staff) we settled in for the night crossing.