The ferry to the Isle of Arran gives you the first taste of the popularity of the island as a destination for cycling. There were easily as many bikes as there were cars boarding from Ardrossan. It was a bank holiday weekend mind you and it was also one of those lesser spotted and very rare blue sky days in Scotland.
We decided to take the mountain bikes across for a road training ride. Without skinny tyres the 56 mile round the island trip was made a bit harder. This was part of the training routine we’re now in for the Ae7 Milan to Glasgow ride which commences in a matter of weeks now.
I’ve been to Arran before but not for a while and this was the first road trip. The cross country biking trails are growing there. The Arran Bike Club have good info on the riding over there as well as details of the Arran Trails Project and what they’re doing to make riding XC in Arran a bit different from the usual trail centre options.
Arran is often known as Scotland in Miniature however after 20 miles of hills we weren’t feeling that miniature was an accurate representation! Getting off of the ferry in Brodick we took the clockwise option heading for Lamlash then Whiting Bay. The route is basically up and down for about 20 miles and the climbs are great for getting the muscles working. The heat was making the workout tougher although there was a welcome coolish breeze blowing through for most of day. The views were an amazing distraction though! Arran really is a stunning place and off the coastline we could see the likes of Ailsa Craig in the distance as well as the Kintyre Peninsula. I defy anyone not to sing Paul McCartney’s Wings number as you look across in the direction of the Mull of Kintyre! We almost came here 2 weeks ago, deciding against it as the forecast was pretty bad. As we peddled over another peak to yet another spectacular view, we were so glad we waited. Blackwaterfoot was the lunchtime stop and the Kinloch Inn provided a mini feast and a cool pint whilst the legs got a brief rest after 23 miles. The next 20 miles along the west coast of the island is pretty much flat with the exception of one short sharp climb that catches you by surprise on route to Lochranza. Sea vistas and palm trees line the route and after hours of constant sun on the skin it felt like we were cycling somewhere in the Med. I jest you not, we had to put sunscreen on and it’s not even June!
Lochranza gave us some more photo opportunities, a stunning location on the coast with steep mountain slopes rising behind it. The Distillery there could easily be a tempting distraction that would numb the mind slightly before the challenge of the climb ahead. Leaving Lochranza after 40 miles you are suddenly reminded that you are here to ride and the next climb goes on for several kilometers and I don’t mind saying that for the second half of that hill I slipped into the granny ring! The views at the top as you come over the rise are worth the effort. Arrans highest peak Goatfell is off to the right and at moments like this you get the patriotic rush of being Scottish as you take in the landscape. The climb was a good work out, however the next few kilometers were pure fun. It’s simply a case of getting into your highest gear and spinning your pedals as fast as you can until gravity takes over. Then you lean forward to lessen drag, get a big smile on your face and enjoy the ride downhill. Even the cyclists climbing the hill from the other side couldn’t help but smile as we hurtled past them. The only thing missing were some cars to overtake!
At the bottom of the descent you reach Sannox and from there it’s plain sailing all the way back to Brodick. With several hours to wait for the ferry we decided to have the bottle of Prosecco I’d been carrying (it was a bank holiday weekend!) and the Wineport Bar just outside Brodick provided the last food stop of the 56 mile journey.
All in all a top day, the weather definitely helped make it a bit special. With plenty MTB trails and more road options it’s safe to say to be back out Arran way before long. There are some shorter loops for road rides and a great little 72 mile figure of 8 circuit to be ridden, however that one will be on skinny tyres!