One final island

Dunoon to Rothesay

Distance: 30.51 miles
Average speed: 10.2 mph
Total distance: 565.96 miles
Maximum speed: 30.9 mph

After two “high mountain” stages and then our second longest day in the saddle yesterday we were practically falling asleep into our pizzas at the restaurant in Dunoon last night. For the second night running we failed to make it through to the whisky course – apologies, dear reader.

Dunoon seems to be the favoured overnight stop for coach parties. Despite its natural advantages (in particular a spectacular location overlooking the widest part of the Clyde) and the proximity to some remarkably beautiful mountains and lochs, it seems to be a fairly down-at-heel sort of place. Fast vehicle ferries ply their trade over the Clyde to Gourock from two different harbours. Our hotel, too, had seen better days, although the service was friendly and the attached Italian restaurant was very good.

We rescued the tandem from the basement this morning after a leisurely breakfast – no rush this morning as we only had thirty miles to complete today. Clouds were scudding from west to east, with sunshine interspersed with small showers, all of which we managed to avoid. With stiff legs we warmed up gradually around the sea front for three or four miles past Hunter’s Quay and Sandbank before striking inland and turning due west on a beautifully quiet B road onto our first climb of the day. It was stepped and gentle, on newly re-surfaced roads – just what we needed for an easy start to the day.

We have been very impressed by the state of Scotland’s roads. They seem to be thoroughly well maintained and often extremely smooth, and the maintenance is often accompanied by a sign pointing out that the work is the result of strong cooperation between Scotland and the European Union. Methinks someone is making a subtle political point – would that Yorkshire had an equally strong relationship with the EU!

A long and gentle descent towards the head of Loch Striven was the result of our striving. We’d been chatting during the descent and had worked out that we only really had one remaining climb for the rest of our trip, after which the profile of our route would be pretty much flat. What a climb, though! Almost all of the climbing we’ve done in Scotland has been at a gentle 8 to 10 percent. This is rarely the case in our native Yorkshire Dales, where the standard response of a road-builder when presented with a steep hillside is to plot a route straight up! So we launched ourselves into this climb in the expectation that it would be quite easy, only to find ourselves scrambling for the smallest gear we could find. The gradient was reminiscent of that we tackle regularly at home on the twenty percent Laund Oak hill in Strid Wood, Bolton Abbey. We’re not normally carrying panniers up there, though!

Red-faced and thirsty we finally emerged at the top, stopped for a drink and then headed down a fairly steep descent to the head of Loch Riddon. Shortly after joining the main road we dropped onto a tiny loch-side road, barely metalled but otherwise great fun, which took us for most of the six remaining miles towards our ferry. We emerged near the sign for a Sculpture Park, to find some very confused Lancastrians (no obvious comment to be made here) looking for said Sculpture Park. We couldn’t really help, as we hadn’t passed anything remotely resembling a sculpture park, although we may have mentioned in passing that there’s a very good one in Yorkshire.


The ferry was waiting at the quay when we arrived at Colintraive, so we marched the tandem on board and secured it to the railings with stout cord, before looking across to Bute and realising that the journey was going to take all of five minutes, and that the stout cord was probably therefore surplus to requirements.

Bute is relatively low-lying, compared to its neighbours, and the flat loch-side road made for easy cycling, despite a stiff breeze. We soon reached Port Bannatyne, a massive three miles from our ultimate destination today, and stopped for lunch in a water-side café.


After that we cycled through Ardbeg (not the whisky-producing Ardbeg, of course) to Rothesay, a most attractive looking place with some fine stone-built houses, a harbour glinting in the sunlight, and a rather fine-looking castle. As we cycled toward the castle we realised we were inadvertently about to cycle the wrong way down a one-way street, so we dismounted and walked. It was a good job we did, too, as a moment later a police car came the other way down the same road.

We spent about an hour in the castle (a fine one, with a real moat), and learned much about the overthrow of the Norwegian ownership of many of the Western Isles from an informative video.


Then we climbed back on the tandem and cycled the final mile towards the Ardyne Guest House, where we received a very warm welcome and were shown to a room with an outstanding one hundred and eighty degree view over the loch to the north, and, even more importantly, with a bath (showers just don’t cut it when tired muscles are in need of soothing warmth). Rothesay looks to be an excellent place in which to spend our final night of the tour.


Tomorrow we plan to catch an early ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay, north of Largs. This will leave us with an easy eighteen mile coastal cycle to Ardrossan, where we hope our car will still be waiting for us. Assuming it is, we then have a four hour drive back home.

Click here for today’s track.