Ardrossan to Lochranza
Distance: 24.22 miles
Average speed: 10.5 mph
Maximum speed: 36.4 mph
In improbably warm weather, car stuffed to the gills with dismantled tandem, we set off for Ardrossan, a four hour journey in the car, but soon achieved. The scenic long-term car park at the ferry port provided views over to Arran as we set about the task of re-assembling the tandem (and making sure we hadn’t left anything in the car). All of this was finished just in time for the 2pm ferry, so we wheeled ourselves onto the car deck, tied the tandem to a hook and headed to the top deck for a refreshing bottle of Arran Gold (captain) and 7-Up (stoker) and some stunning views across to Brodick.
The captain first visited here on a sixth-form Geology field trip in 1978, a visit chiefly remembered for magnificent scenery, constant pouring rain and a lot of laughter and good company. Oh, and a good telling off for under-age drinking in the Lochranza Hotel. We also came here a couple of years ago for a most enjoyable three-day visit, so today’s roads were not new to us, but we welcomed the chance to see it all again.
There was no time (or particular need) to warm up, as after a couple of flat miles through Brodick we launched straight up the String Road in stiflingly hot temperatures. This road girdles Arran’s waist, and involves several miles of climbing followed by a long exhilarating descent to Blackwaterfoot. The climb was hard hard hard, mainly because of the temperature, but we hit high speeds on the descent, riding into a refreshing breeze for several miles.
Eventually in the distance we spotted the Mull of Kintyre. Go on, sing along, you know you want to. The Mull is tomorrow’s destination; today, once we reached the coast, we turned hard right towards Lochranza.
The coastal road is breathtakingly beautiful. On the left, flat calm seas, seagulls, herons, occasional brave swimmers, and constant views over the Mull of Kintyre (here we go again). On the right metamorphic rocks, raised beaches, U- shaped glaciated valleys. Perhaps some of that sixth-form geology penetrated the captain’s preoccupied teenage brain after all.
We were joined, briefly, by a Hamiltonian bike shop owner, spending his day off cycling around the island on a single-speed bike. Rather him than us – we used every one of our 27 gears today. Eventually we reached the “Twelve Apostles” at Catacol (twelve rather lovely identical sea-side houses) and gazed up Glen Catacol (scene of a rain-lashed “forced march” on the aforementioned field trip) before cycling onwards and turning south into Lochranza.
We headed straight for the distillery. As a service to our reader, and at considerable personal cost, we intend to sample a whisky each night of our tour from the nearest available distillery, and to provide tasting notes. Today’s whisky is an Arran 12-year-old, to be consumed later this evening.
The final link with the 1978 field trip is our residence of choice for the evening: Lochranza Youth Hostel. Though no longer youthful, we were permitted entry, to an en-suite twin room rather than a dormitory, thankfully. It’s actually very comfortable and civilised.
Tonight we dine at the Stags Pavilion, which looks good, and ought to be – it is a BYO (bring your own wine) establishment, and we’ve been forced to lug a decent bottle of red with us all day today!
Tomorrow we catch the Lochranza to Claonaig ferry, before meandering gently down the Mull of Kintyre (humming to ourselves, no doubt) towards Campbeltown, which, happily, also has a distillery!