The Hebridean Way….by bike. Day One

10 Islands, 6 Causeways, 2 Ferries….

185 miles of rugged coastline, machair, white sandy beaches, remote moorland, townships, flatlands, steep hilly sections.
I often mulled over the route, Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis and thinking ‘aye’.
Having retired over two years ago and taken to cycling in a way I’d never have imagined. Over 5,500 miles in year ’16. I’d planned this from 2015 and in the months of June, July I got busier to put in regular 50 miles plus, I’m not the lean flying machine like the Froomes of the word, more your MAMIL and not known for having a sylph-like figure.



I enjoy all my cycling around the back roads of Renfrewshire but ’17 has seen me spread my wings and visit places like Arbroath, Forfar and the Angus area basing myself occasionally in the area. Runs across the country to the Falkirk, Edinburgh, Dunblane areas.

Mrs M has joined me in retirement, I had a plan, let her holiday in the sunshine then ask her to join me in my Hebridean odyssey. I should have planned this meticulously but this time everything had been so random.

Bernie the Bull's legacy

Bernie the Bull’s legacy

A visit to the Lake District was soon followed on the drive home by a ‘Do you fancy the Outer Hebrides?’, there was no hesitation, ‘When?’, ‘Soon’.
A month passed and I pencilled in September to mid-October, the problem is trying to find good weather for at least four to five days. I don’t mind the rain, the wind is another matter especially on such exposed terrain. A family birthday attended to and that night on the way home, ‘Let’s go tomorrow!’, with one of Calmac’s excellent Hopscotch tickets soon booked online.
The next day was Oban to Barra ferry…
The first piece of advice, PLAN and BOOK ahead.
We booked accommodation at Breibhig for the night, hoping to wing it as we headed north, I’d cycle and Mrs M would scout ahead and get things organised. advice for dining out, once again for Barra, phone and book ahead as we struggled to find a table.

West Barra beach

West Barra beach

We packed Polly (my bike) into our small Chevy and left earlier than needed on our journey north to Oban. Last minute shopping and lunch before boarding and setting off on a five-hour sail, now Mrs M gets seasick looking at a glass of water but the crossing was a gentle one with sightings of dolphins along and at one point deciding on giving us a display of leaping in and out of the water.  We had spent the first couple of hours on the outside deck watching Oban, Lismore them Mull disappearing behind us. Time to catch some coffee then later, I stood outside watching Barra and the Bishops Isles coming into view and thought ‘Tomorrow starts my biggest adventure’, I’d complete this before I’d turn 64(I’d 15 days).

We arrived at Castlebay and with the words of our landlady advising having dinner first before heading but no, we did the opposite, bad move.

We booked in and back over the hill to Castlebay, at the third eaterie we were lucky, last table. Tucked into a pleasant meal before having a walk around the bay,  the one thing I found was the randomness of everything, houses etc. The village is well named by the impressive ruin of Kisimul Castle.

One building dominates over the bay, the Lady of the Star of the Sea Chapel HERE. It was back to prepare.

Day One.

After a good sleep, I looked out on a still, calm morning and thought midges. Prepare to meet them throughout the summer months, I normally use Avon Skin so Soft as a deterrent but not when cycling, I just hope I go fast enough to avoid them. A filling breakfast and it was off up over the island and the causeway to Vatersay and my starting point. I readied Polly at the community building and 13 miles later I’d meet Katie at the ferry terminal. A slow rise and descent to my first causeway, one built after the loss of Bernie the bull HERE and now back on Barra, a trip around the west end of the island and it was just over an hour travelling when I drew along the Chevy. I’d stopped midway around the west side of the island to marvel at the first of many white sand beaches en-route. I spoke with an American couple from North Dakota who was doing the same trip on their tandem, impressive. Other cyclists were also boarding the ferry heading north.

Third island

Third island

We could see a vehicle moving up the sands to the north at the airport then caught sight of a Loganair Twin Otter plane descending to the unique airport at Traigh Mhor HERE, a trip now planned for ’18.

A calm, smooth ferry trip and we had arrived in Eriskay, the island of ‘Whisky Galore. I found out that not only did the SS Politician carry whisky, it carried bicycle parts and banknotes on board. Whisky would be more popular, I’d think. As we headed towards the ferry terminal, I could see the outline of a ruin high on An Stac, Casteal an Reubadair HERE. It was a short stay in Eriskay and I was crossing the causeway which brought me into South Uist, I looked across to the area where the boat had grounded and thought of the delight in the islands when a cargo of whisky salvaged. Katie had headed north to find us accommodation in an area I’d estimate I’d finish my day (Benbecula) and with an intermittent mobile phone signal, I stopped occasionally to check texts etc. For reference, I was on EE. Coverage was better than I expected.

Hecla, Choradail, Mhor

Hecla, Choradail, Mhor

I moved up quickly through a sunny but breezy South Uist, impressive hills to the east on my right I headed north on the B 888 then following NCN 780 signs, I left the road passing through South and North Boisdale, Kilphedar and joining the road again at Daliburgh, It was back onto the main road with only an occasional car passing, I passed through Askernish and the location of a ‘lost’ Old Tom Morris designed golf course being rediscovered, story HERE.  Just a few miles on is the track leading to Flora Macdonald’s birthplace, an inspiring woman whose life changed after helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape the Redcoats, her story HERE.

Heading still northwards, another left off the main road and a gentle flat run through Bornish, Ormacleit then eventually joining the A865 once more. Near Gerinish you join another causeway which takes you across Loch Bi, a short run before thenext causeway which takes you into Benbecula.

It was on to Linicate, the 780 takes the route to the west off the main road. I stopped at the hotel where we would overnight, I decided as it was still early, a quick snack and drink to head a bit north on B 892, passing Benbecula Airport, I stopped after fifteen miles, just north of Caranis. Headed back to a well-earned meal and some chilled cider.

Tomorrow would be another ferry day leaving North Uist over to Harris and the first of its serious hills.

Day One was over 62 plus miles of mostly flat terrain, elevation graph below.

Vatersay to North Uist

Vatersay to North Uist

Elevation data courtesy of VeloViewer

Click on any image to embiggen.

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Red Screes and, the regular

I’d missed my previous annual trip to the Lakes due to family commitments.

Once all was over we contacted our regular base but full rooms and work then called for Mrs. M. No problems this time as we are both now retired but we decided to just head down at our regular time.

If possible with the Lakes, a watch on the WX forecast hoping to catch four decent days in a trot. A quick call and we back at our regular base in Keswick.

I’d 2016s maps and routes printed off and loaded on to the Etrex. I’d a few weeks earlier taken a day off the bike and made a now annual visit to the summit of Beinn a’Mhanaich just to test the legs, a little ache the next few days. I think a lack of serious walking played its part.

Two hills, four days to get them in, if possible.

I had a late change of mind en-route and thought Red Screes from the top of Kirkstone Pass, any excuse for an after walk pint.

Kirkstone Pass summit

Kirkstone Pass summit

We headed down on what looked not too promising with varying weather en-route and as we crossed the border, light rain was falling. A stop for breakfast then to Penrith and then down past a tranquil Ullswater before ascending Kirkstone Pass.

Red Screes trig

Red Screes trig

Wispy cloud was scuttling over the upper part of the route and literally as I stepped out of the car, a military transporter came roaring overhead. It was the first of a few planes that day out practicing low-level flying. I’d arranged I’d get picked up later on either The Struggle or in the town of Ambleside.

Looking down the Struggle

Looking down the Struggle

There had been torrential rain in the area the previous day but there was no evidence on what is a steep sharp ascent of just over a mile, a 1200 ft rise in height, with a good path and the odd light scramble but easily ascended. I met a lad who had just left before me with his young ‘un in a carry-pack on his way back down ‘ A couple of minutes will have you at the trig’, just under 50 mins of my usual slow pace I was standing drinking in the views at the summit trig point.

Middle Dodd and beyond

Middle Dodd and beyond

A photo shoot, 360 video before setting up the radio equipment and antenna. A quick bite to eat then it was ‘CQ’, I worked 17 stations, first one was in Liverpool on 4m FM, the rest on 2m FM calls on 70cm FM went unanswered. I’d worked in Wales and an almost 300km contact into Gorey, Co.Wexford in Eire.

Looking across to Helvellyn and others

Looking across to Helvellyn and others

Half way through, I heard the scream of a jet coming up the pass which flew below me followed by a slower training plane.  Two days later, the flyby would be more exciting.

Rydal Water

Rydal Water

90 mins later, I broke down and packed everything away. Time for the rest of a late lunch and speaking to a couple who told me they were geocaching,  we headed just off the summit to log the cache.

I left and head down a gentle descent path towards Ambleside with views to Windermere in the distance, a steady, slightly damp in places with a few crossings of glaury mud with a constant stream of people ascending the track. The previous day’s rain had left its mark and my boots were deciding to get wet. I took the odd detour to try stay dry. I soon came to the gate which leads you on to The Struggle.

One thing I don’t like is walking on the tarmac after a hill walk. Wires crossed with Katie who has returned to the drop-off point, some one (me) had given the wrong direction after a text, the wee red car drew up and we were on our way back to Keswick.

The next day, I felt the regular ache in my thighs, an easy day doing tourist stuff but I would go and get new boots fitted the next morning, a pair of mid leather boots now lying downstairs with a layer of wax waiting for the next outing, the old boots placed in a recycle bin outside a local shoe shop.

I swithered all day as to whether the other hill was a possibility on our last day, I’d sleep on it. I woke early and although I still had a dull ache that I’d visit my favourite fell,  Dale Head. You can see why in the panorama video at the end of this post.  It was up over a busy Whinlatter Pass, Newlands Pass then over to Buttermere, which are the most picturesque roads in this area, a narrow track in places but worth the stop start effort.

Local sheep

Local sheep

One of the endearing things about the lakes is Herdwick sheep. Buttermere and the slopes of Honister Pass did not disappoint. Cyclists passed on a hill I would love to have a go at, from the west, yes. from Borrowdale, no. One bloke on a fat bike towing a young ‘un on his bike was at the base, they cycled over the Pass summit two hours later, I’m told.

At the summit of the pass, it was into the Honister Mines car park, Mrs. M could have a look around the shop, we have slate everywhere at home and I wondered what we would be taking home this time.

Boots on (the new ones) and off across on to the path and upwards.

As you rise the views down Honister and across to Fleetwith Pike, Brandreth and on to Great Gable come into view and the air clarity was good, I made steady time, I tried slowing my ascent but legs felt okay. I spoke with a couple of walkers on their descent and soon was on the last stage of the ascent when I saw the now familiar summit cairn.

The view towards Skiddaw and the north never tires, standing at the edge where the north slope fall quickly away, is stunning.

Dale Head cairn

Dale Head cairn

A chat with more walkers and it was time to set up the radio station and I used the handheld to call on a WOTA station across the Pass from me on Brandreth, a quick chat and I threw up the 4m JPole but as the previous hill, only one contact, Jim in Berwickshire. I made STS (summit to summit) to two stations activating Pikethaw Hill north of Langholm in the Scottish Borders. In total, one Welsh contact in Cardigan and the rest to the S and SW.  12 contacts in total, the station who had been on Brandreth was now on Grey Knotts so another WOTA contact.

I called and made arrangements to get picked up but no problems this day on my descent. A quick change and it was a return trip heading N and home. Time to rest the legs but no flare up the following day.

Oh, and the fly past?

Three jets in order came screaming up Honister Pass and veered dramatically to their right at the top of the pass heading towards to the left of both Green and Great Gable and as they disappeared, a solo jet flew the same route. Amazing how they twist and turn at these speeds.

Red Screes 360°


Dale Head 360°

The hill I ‘missed’? first in line next visit!

Treated me to one of these HERE


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The Union Canal and others

I had another trip through the Central Belt planned, a stay in Falkirk for a few days.

The run through was dependent on the weather which looked a bit hit and miss but after having a run down to Elderslie,  up high over into Paisley but avoiding Gleniffer Braes although I’d a look and thought ‘No’, I travelled down into the centre of Paisley, past St Mirren Park, through Ferguslie and my regular escape route along Candren Road to Linwood and a food break. The home run was via NCN 75.

Falkirk I intended the next day BUT after checking the latest forecast which said rain AM, I decided to just head through.

I got ready to leave, checking the bike over before heading down the hill and my route through Langbank, Bishopton out to the Erskine Bridge. Up over and down Lusset Glen and I joined the Forth & Clyde Canal and headed east. A busy track before I dropped down to join the opposite track and the canal path towards Falkirk, I’d a slight breeze occasionally at my back but with the added weight I still made a good time and arrived at the entrance to Falkirk Wheel Basin. I carried on up at the start of the Union Canal, I resisted the Dark Tunnel this time so up to a short rise and I’d reached my destination.

A 75-mile day and I felt fresh.

The following day? it rained heavily most of the day, handy for watching the Le Tour and baseball, I looked at the tablet OS maps and thought tomorrow, aye, that’ll do me.

Union Canal to Edinburgh

The intended route loaded into the Polar, if, I headed off track.

Canal stretch east of Falkirk

Canal stretch east of Falkirk

Scran, water loaded and on my way, I was soon skirting up over Glen Village and the drop down to the canal towpath, the canal builders denied to use their original route so they tunnelled 620-metre through solid rock (see the earlier post), I joined not long after the east entrance to the tunnel. I rode along a leafy path but not too far from a built up area. I soon passed the high walls of HM Polmont and before long, I was into open countryside. I wondered as I rode east how many bridges I would pass under as it seemed one after another, over 60 apparently so with the return a reverse, well over 120, a few, eh? I soon found out, that you had to warn those coming in the opposite direction of your approach as there is not much room under the bridge (see image).

I slowly cycled over the odd overflow uneven cobbled sections, innovative in their day, I can’t remember seeing anything like this on the Forth & Clyde.



Next was the impressive Avon Aqueduct crossing high over the River Avon with its rough cobbled towpath so I took the decision to walk the 250 metres across, just in case.. The aqueduct stands over 90 feet above the river, a fine piece of architecture, more HERE.

Avon Aqueduct

Avon Aqueduct

Next landmark was the ‘stables’ at Woodcockdale, now sectioned off with wire barriers and not long after I was passing through Linlithgow Basin which was a hive of activity with boats heading mostly west. I stopped as I spotted an OS NBM Bolt, took a photo, position logging.

St Michael's Church tower

St Michael’s Church tower

Linlithgow Basin

Linlithgow Basin

St Michael’s Church with its ‘metal’ sculptured tower was prominent along the skyline, interesting as it is timber coated with aluminium, erected in the 1960s., more info HERE. Not long before more open countryside and still a fair bit to Edinburgh.

I was making a good time even with all these bridges, old and numbered, I met the occasional cyclist, all coming towards me, I assume a regular out for Edinburgh folk. I glimpsed my first view of the new Forth Road Bridge just before Philpstoun, all three occasionally came into view at varying points as I headed East.

Near Winchburgh, I could see Niddry Castle, info HERE. with its backdrop of a now ubiquitous shale bing. A cooling breeze was welcome as the middle of the day neared.  The canal at this points snakes through Broxburn, Ratho before entering the urban sprawl of Edinburgh’s suburbs, the track was clean and free from the usual debris you meet in some built areas, one overfilled litter bin but at this point the track was quiet as I headed towards the eastern terminus of the canal at Fountainbridge, the canal originally carried on towards Port Hopetown. The canal has a variable history, read the timeline HERE with a more potted history HERE

The last couple of miles were busy with people out enjoying what I assumed was a lunch break, a wide track at this point. The basins were busy with boats either starting their journey west or on a few, sun worshippers. I’d travelled 31 miles along the canal back, the canal is 32 miles in length and I had enjoyed the run east.


The end, Edinburgh

I sat and enjoyed a scran break, plenty of options for food though in the area. I decided and not let the old bones stiffen I’d head back.

The return journey I interspersed with breaks every so often to enjoy the solitude, I spoke with a couple of anglers but nothing was happening for them. I headed up the approach over to Falkirk but took a diversion to explore more of the area.

60 odd miles which were most enjoyable, I’ll do it again.

The next afternoon saw me being lazy and watching Le Tour, it had to have inspired me as I decided a run late afternoon, I headed south passing through Slamannan, Limeriggs, Avonbridge and a visit to California, no sun, no sand just a rural village. I decided to head back via Shieldhill and a welcome descent toward Glen Village where I traced my steps over into Falkirk.



I treated myself to a takeout meal, I’d deserved it.

Over 20 mile of an up and down, a circular route but an excellent leg stretch.

The next day was run back home…

A 200-mile plus week.

I could get used to this.

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Aye, it’s been a week………..

Monday was a day off the bike, parcel duty plus other stuff took priority. The legs would be rested for the following day with its forecasted high temperature.
I’d decided a run down NCN 75, turn right down NCN 7 to Glengarnock then decide the next move, it would be down to the conditions.

Tuesday AM, it was hot and humid.

Ben Lomond from Balloch Pier

Ben Lomond from Balloch Pier

I put ice cubes into the bidon, spare SIS tabs in the bar bag as I’d have to get a refill or two en route on such a hot day.

After a quick climb up to NCN 75, it was downhill literally the way ’till Linwood. The track was surprisingly quiet considering the WX conditions, too hot for folk?

22 miles later, I arrived at Glengarnock and mulled over the options, up to Beith, over Caplaw, followed by a swift descent down the Gleniffer Braes into Paisley?. Back to Lochwinnoch, up over Clochodrick, Kilbarchan? Nah, it was a return up the track, I reached the high point at Port Glasgow and thought, ach, why not back down but 5 miles later, at the ‘Lost Legion’ I decided just to turn back, it was getting a bit stifling.

Wednesday was another day taken up odds and ends, I’d decided a run to Loch Lomond the next day. The usual drop down to sea level and out east through Langbank, up the Hatton Brae, Bishopton, over the Erskine Bridge down Lusset Glen then head west to Dumbarton, up along the river Leven path to Balloch. I’d thought I’d have a lunchtime special fish and chips, I arrived outside the chippy to a road and pavement all dug up, no hot food here, ah, well.

I grabbed a baguette and coffee down at the services on the A82 at Dumbarton whilst mulling over my next move.

Home over the bridge or Glasgow?, but I decided Yoker, the ferry across to Renfrew and head back home on familiar roads down past Glasgow Airport.

Passing through Clydebank, I met a fox, I slowed, he looked at me, me at him and he nonchalantly headed on his way, me too.

I dropped down to the ferry slip at Yoker where a big notice informed me that due to technical difficulties the ferry was off, a minibus was in place.

Back to Erskine then home.

XVII Legion

XVII Legion

It was frustrating but I’d logged the first metric century of ’17.

114 miles on the past two runs, no bad.

I got home and found out we got an invite to a BBQ the next evening

It was in Falkirk, aye, the computer quickly switched on, yes, Bob checked the WX, aye, looking good I thought.

‘I’m going to cycle through, okay?’ I asked……

Falkirk Wheel in operation

Falkirk Wheel in operation

Friday lunchtime arrived,

The wee rucksack packed and off I headed, over past Clydebank then not far up after the usual escape point down the Kelvin Walkway, I met the canal junction which heads to the East or Spiers Wharf.

I dropped down on the road and 100 meters away I cycled up the track along the east branch of the canal, I’ve been previously as far as Twechar Bridge but today I’d be on ground I didn’t know. I stopped at Twechar Bridge where a barge was heading west through the bridge, interesting to see how the bridge lifts and how quickly the barge gets through and everything get back to normal. I carried on past Auchenstarry Quarry, I was now in an area I’d done some fishing. I’d a feeling it wouldn’t be long until I was at the spot where I caught my smallest ever pike, it must have been 9 inches at the most, a red maggot if I remember rightly. A day remembered for one of the lads suffering a hangover falling asleep in the pouring rain whilst we sat dry under our brollies.

It was soon under the busy M80 and it wouldn’t be long until Falkirk. Along with a quiet track at Bonnybridge, I soon saw my turning which took me into the Falkirk Wheel Basin.

Falkirk wheel

Falkirk wheel

An impressive piece of machinery, and a busy area with visitor buses in the car park, I cycled up the hill for a better view. I hung around waiting to see it in operation, I’d seen it on TV but surprised how quiet the operation was, it took roughly 5 mins from lift to finish.

Tunnel roof

Tunnel roof

Time to find the start of the Union Canal, I knew of a long tunnel in the area, a quick cycle through a smaller one and I came across the longer one, a 600-metre long tunnel impressively dug out of solid rock underneath Callander Park. I should have taken the off track to the left but couldn’t resist a trip through.Space is limited and with wet cobbles, I didn’t fancy a swim so I walked through. I just reached the end and heard a group of students speeding through on their bikes..brave lads.

Hmm, where do I go now? I left at the next off track, saw a bridge and was checking it for a CBM, I got asked if I was lost but I had seen a sign for Slamanan Rd so I knew that was where I had to go. I got further directions and 10 mins later, I had reached my destination.

A good run?

Aye, most enjoyable 44 miles plus.

The track from Old Kilpatrick through to Falkirk is an excellent mix of surfaces, tarmac, compressed dust with the odd dusting of surface dressing, the odd road crossing but generally all single track. I found it busy at Kirkintilloch and the usual traffic as I passed through Glasgow. A good run.

I’ll do this again.

Scottish Canals blurb HERE

Wikipedia on Falkirk Wheel HERE Forth & Clyde Canal HERE Union Canal HERE

To embiggen images, feel free to click for full size.



Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Riding towards Dunblane

Another trip up East, I wrote about Monday’s, the first day run back over the country roads of Angus, then down to Carnoustie, finished by a dash into a strong breeze to Invergowrie in the last post.

The next day was taken up by the reason we headed E.

The first plan was to grab what I could and had only just the two days BUT a slight mistake WE made (I’m not taking the full blame).

We were to drop into my oldest daughter for a meal on the way home plus our Ailsa was to get a lift back home.

Nope, driver, passenger and a bike, no room for anyone else.

I offered to stay another night, I could finish the work and have a free day following, my options were a cycle, cycle and train home but after a quick check of the map, I’d meet Katie at halfway, Dunblane.

I created my route and downloaded to the Polar.

I woke early, opened the laptop and studied the route over and over, I wrote a crib sheet with towns and villages en route.

The forecast was for temperatures in the 20s, light breezes, not the best for a longer run but.

I arranged a meet-up time around 17.00 and I normally estimate a 10 mile per hour which gives me time for any hiccups etc.

I left slightly later.

I’d slathered my face in sunscreen, packed some scran in my top back pockets. I must remember not to put too much sunscreen on under my eyes as flying downhill along with it being a hot day meant the occasional nippy eye.

A check of the bike first, the Polar route screen on and it was off along Riverside Drive, Dundee first, a bit of diversion stuff before arriving at the lift on the north side of the Tay Road Bridge. This lift is fun. Rumbling across the raised platform that is a shared path which was busy this time across, I soon dropped down and I was in Newport on Tay. I pedalled up and through Newport on into Wormit. I spotted a CBM on a bridge so stopped to record and emailed myself the OS coords (I got another one later outside Bridge of Earn). I was following NCN route 777. I used OS Locate to email the location to me.

Tay Bridge cycle lane

Tay Bridge cycle lane

I was now enjoying the open countryside with occasional forays through cooler wooded areas.

I knew there was a big climb after Balermino but boy, my heart fell when I saw this as I rounded the bend, so it was down the gears, I pedalled steadily up and reached the bend, it looked even steeper now, oh boy. I finally topped out just under a mile at an average 8% gradient, tasty to have done that. I soon reached a junction, right and the Perth road, a quick sarnie then off again. I soon came out on  an open hillside with cracking views across the Tay Estuary, north, west and east. It was a slow descent to Newburgh, the route map was carefully watched to my next point, I passed by a new shopping development and I felt what felt like light rain, they had laid turf and were watering it with a sprinkler, I passed through this 3 times being laughed at by a couple of locals, it was cooling.

The Tay north west

The Tay north-west

Passing through the town, I headed along busy roads towards Abernethy, Aberargie then on to Bridge of Earn.

At Bridge of Earn, a break to take on some milk, sandwiches and a bag of Haribo.

Heading out the B935, my next port of call would be Dunning, it was now hot, very hot. I was glad of the odd woody area, passing Forgandenny, pedalling through the farming country I’d met more than my share of tractors on the road. About half a mile outside Dunning I stopped to ask a cyclist who was having gearing problems if all was okay, we headed towards the village, I asked him where the local shop was, I said I needed some water. We stopped at the start of the village, he took my bidon, filled it with ice cubes and water, an act of kindness I appreciated.



Passing the centre of Dunning it was out the B8062 and a stop to check out the site of Maggie Wall’s burning before heading for Auchterarder, this isn’t as it seems apparently see HERE and HERE. I placed an item on the stones, just for when. I was soon on the old main road heading into Auchterarder, boy, I never remembered how much of a drag uphill it was plus I knew Orchill Road, my next branch off point would be the same. The town was busy, I resisted a stop for fish and chips. I soon spotted Orchill Road on my right, it would take me up behind Gleneagles Hotel, funny, eh, in my last two ‘outs’ I’ve passed two championship golf courses, my next stop would be Braco, the road was a bit of a rollercoaster, strangely quiet with only a couple of cyclists passing but after Braco, I’d be within touching distance of Dunblane with the last part a downhill run. Braco was reached and out the B8033 I would head. I was surprised by how quiet these roads were especially as it was now late afternoon.



I stopped for a water break at the highest point of the road before dropping down through Dunbuck, a windy road. I soon could see the main A9 in the distance. I passed along a tree-lined road, welcome cooling run among a tree-lined road, I soon reached the top part of Dunblane, a downhill finish.

A quick run around M&S car park, I was early so a quick run out to the roundabout, back then up the hill out past the tennis courts, I wonder who learned his trade there?

Another clip downhill and I saw Katie was waiting.

The bike dismantled and soon I was in M&S getting cooled by the air conditioning which blasts you. Lovely!

A tub of fresh-cut pineapple and ginger beer for the journey home.

I made another boo-boo, I missed the first 100 km of the year by meters, I never thought to check the distance and just stopped the ride, ces’t la vie!!

I’ll be honest, due to the heat and the need to get to Dunblane on time, I never took as many photos as I would have liked.

I enjoyed the run even up over Balmerino, though next time I’ll take the main road through Gauldry.

I’ve another run planned along some of these roads but that will be for another day, I hope to explore some of the roads to the N of the A9.


Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Mmm, Where Today?

Arbroath, I think.

Polly was sitting all nice and cosy in a dry garage recovering after her Monday tea time run from Newtyle up over Collace, Abernyte, whizzing down The Braes, Inchture and another run along the Carse. An enjoyable leg stretch followed by a swift descent to almost sea level and a race for dinner.

I’d a day off so the legs would be fresh for an explore. I’d preplanned this one and the Polar had the route in its memory. I’d probably and wing it even as I had studied the route well, or so I thought, more on this bit later.

Invergowrie Bay

Invergowrie Bay

The sun was shining and a light SW breeze was at my back as I left Invergowrie on NCN 77, I took a detour down through Riverside Country Park which was busy with pets and their owners. I could see both Tay Bridges and the hills of Fife to the south of me.

Passing Dundee Airport I’d a quick look through the boundary fence to see mostly private small planes and one prop plane. One or two small planes took off while I was there.

Onward along to Riverside Drive but I’d a few diversions due to sea defence work going on. I stopped to look at the stone memorial to those lost in the Tay Bridge Disaster HERE, I’d earlier passed the scene of another major rail accident at Invergowrie HERE.

I carried on, avoiding the ongoing works and arriving at the Tay Road Bridge, I couldn’t resist the chance of a quick dip of my feet in Fife then back across. You access the footpath by using a lift, I like that and I headed across and back on a shared path running along the middle of the bridge,

Tay estuary

Tay estuary

On the return, I could see the waterfront of Dundee back west to Invergowrie and beyond, I’d head east after I descended the lift and looked for signage to get me on my way, the signs now said NCN 1, It carried me along the back streets of the dock and arrived a what I thought was a dead-end fence, I saw a button and pressed it and the gate opened and I was on my way thinking ‘Mmm, am I allowed in here?’ A blue ‘1’ sign let me know I was, I reached the other end and an automatic gate let me out, a quick wave to security and I was on my way.

I didn’t have time this visit but I must make time and visit both the Dundee Heritage ships, the ‘Discovery’ and ‘Frigate Unicorn’, I passed the RRS Discovery Point Centre and the boat in its dry dock with scaffolding around the stern of the ship, history of the boat HERE. The Frigate Unicorn is not too far away at its berth in nearby City Quay, history and info HERE

Looking to Broughty Ferry

Looking to Broughty Ferry

It was now onto a quiet stretch of road before reaching a shore path into Broughty Ferry, I could see Broughty Castle ahead. I stopped to have a drink and have a quick look around. It was now to head NE, the Esplanade was busy with mid-morning walkers, I kept a careful eye for signage, I’d been known to miss plenty in the past.

A steady breeze blew across me which was welcome as the day was warming up, the track so far was flat although that would change on my return journey over the back country roads of Angus. The track now took me past Monifieth with the golf course between me and the town, plenty of golfers were out taking advantage of the fine weather.



I stopped at the entrance of the military area at Barry Buddon, my ‘squeaky’ brake bought out the sentry. I could hear rapid gunfire in the distance. I had a quick chat before heading on my way through wooded areas until I reached Carnoustie. I’d a blip as I never noticed the sign, a quick ask for directions and it was on my way, I missed an obvious sign, Doh!

I entered the track which would take me along through the hallowed links of Carnoustie Golf Links, famous as one of the Open venues.

I soon made my way past and headed up and along a shore path with views out into the North Sea,  I met the odd dog walker and passed by West Haven taking a quiet path until East Haven, I spotted a CBM under the bridge so a quick log, photo and the next stop was Arbroath.

B10202 East Haven, Railway Bridge

B10202 East Haven, Railway Bridge

This part of the path gave the sense of remoteness but still an excellent surface to pedal along, I occasionally could see the remains of concrete anti-tank cubes placed along the shore during WW2 HERE.

It wasn’t long before I could see the town of Arbroath in the distance, I headed along Eliot Links, where I’d my first holiday away from home a half century ago, a 2-week camp. It hasn’t changed much, the burn I tried to catch small fish had a bridge now.

Looking to Arbroath

Looking to Arbroath

I wouldn’t be heading into town but a cut back along a busy main road before heading northwards up past a retail park before winding through country roads to first Forfar (although this wasn’t the original plan), I reached RM Condor high above the town before heading through Woodville and onwards to Carmyllie, this is where I messed up, I blame the lack of road and direction signs, honest!  I should have carried on the west but no, I headed along quiet roads until I reached Redford, west this time joining the B9128, Forfar it was. I passed through Craichie,  soon after I was enjoying a swift descent into Forfar, I reached a junction, a quick look and I recognised where I was, not too far from the local football ground. I stopped for a bite to eat from a supermarket, I also bought a bar of chocolate. I intended to ration it a small piece a mile but it never works out that way, does it?

I was now almost on the homeward stretch (or back to Newtyle), I headed out towards Glamis, I joined a rough pavement for most of the ride but soon reached and bypassed the village and took a country road passing through Eassie, Balkeerie then past the entrance to the Den (see earlier blog post), Newtyle was only minutes away.

56 mile logged, I had to look and I could see where I’d gone wrong but hey, that’s what life is all about.

I headed the opposite journey a week later almost the original route but via Glamis, back roads through Charleston, Gateside, Inverarity, Whigstreet then a downhill run into Carnoustie then a reverse on NCN 1 and 77 to Invergowrie, there was a strong headwind this time which made it a bit less fun but It was well worth the visit, I’ll be back? you bet!

40 odd this time.

Thanks go to Wikipedia and any site I have linked to, all photos can be embiggened with a click.




Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Third Day In the Carse area……Kinpurney Hill

Kinpurney Hill.

On the previous day’s cycle around the area to the north/west, I could see the tower on the summit from every possible direction, and on the final stretch before Newtyle, I thought tomorrow.

Nearly 40 years visiting the area, always threatening to climb the hill but never getting round to it, I had time to spare and on such a crisp, spring morning, why not?.

Den Path

Den Path

If you are visiting the area to climb the hill, there is no parking at the entrance to the Den.You can park in the village, it only involves a short walk. See the end for parking information.

I was lazy and got dropped off.

A slight breeze, blue sky and the sunshine, what more could I ask for.



I set off up the steps and entered the Den, the start of the path to the summit, a woodland area alive with birdsong, I could see Chaffinch, a pair of Grey Wagtail flitting down the burn, low water due to the recent dry spell. I could hear a Jay ‘screaming’ and caught a quick glimpse but I’d left the binocs at home, tut. The Den has steps and gangways across wet areas, The path obviously well-kept and free from litter, with benches to sit and enjoy the tranquillity. The wood floor with its patches of wood anemone and occasional wild primrose. A slow gradual rise through and I soon opened the kissing gate on to the open hillside.

Kinpurney Tower

Kinpurney Tower

The path which you can see from lower is more just trampled grass, I assume used by the local farmer on a quad bike but today with the recent dry spell, an excellent walking surface, the village started to show as I ascended, another gate to pass through, There are regular marker posts to follow. It is steeper in places but today with the cool breeze and views made it all worthwhile, a handily placed bench as the tower starts to show to catch the breath if needed but I carried on.  Not before long I could see the tower as I approached the easier ground near the summit, sheep scurried everywhere. I had made the top.

The Tower is joined on the summit by a trig point and viewfinder. Hills visible on a good day are the Lawer hills, Ben More, Schiehallion, Beinn a’Ghio, Glas Maol, Lochnagar among many others, unfortunately, it was a bit hazy.

The Tower built in 1766 by James Stuart-Mackenzie.  I’ll refer you to a blog with an interesting twist on the reason for the Tower HERE. It was built as an observatory.

I had a quick bite to eat and a drink about then set off down.

Tower and TP4242

Tower and TP4242

I’d grabbed a couple geocaches on the way down, not planned but phone internet got patchy the near the foot of the descent. I found the surrounding area a dead spot for calls and mobile internet. Beware.

I was up and down in less than two hours but it would be a perfect place for a leisurely day out with a picnic.

To finish the day, I grabbed the bike and repeated the previous day’s run around Strathmore with a slight difference, a wry smile as I saw the hill en-route.

Further info on this walk and others in the area, the Newtyle Paths Network are available in leaflet form from the local store in the village on North St. there are 5 in total covering walks and the wildlife of the area. A good buy, full of information, local history and helps fund further work, please support  HERE

Further info on the walk and tower HERE

Parking info.

There is a designated area at Commercial Street in the village, there is parking available at the Park. A short walk of a kilometre from the village to the Den but no footpath so take care.

Usual rules, click on the image to embiggen.

Newtyle walks map

Newtyle walks map

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Three Days in the Carse

Day One….

I’ve threatened to pack the bike in the wee Chevy and head East to the area around Newtyle. I’ve been beaten, a combination of things but the forecast was looking good and this time, the bike was ‘squeezed’ in as I soon found out I had to.

It was a slightly (?) cramped journey as we headed through Glasgow, Perth then up the A94 and the back roads I’d soon be pedalling on, I’d two routes created and loaded the V650 (more on this later).

We arrived just before lunchtime on what has been a regular run for us the past 40 years, so with a quick bite of lunch, a finger in the air to check the wind and it was south-west towards the village of Kettins. As I left the village, I could ‘smell’ the wild garlic growing prolifically along the edge of the road in places, pleasant.  I passed the impressive KInpurnie ‘castle’ with its tree-lined avenue as I left the village (HERE).  It was here I first felt the effects of a considerable breeze but it was sunny, the roads dusty and I was happy.

Looking over to Fife, River Tay below

Looking over to Fife, River Tay below

I had no set route and mulled over where to go and as I reached the village of Kettins and I decided a back road route so it was a left on to the A934 and cycled uphill for just over a mile before a right turn down the unlisted road which would take me through Kirkton of Collace, Kinrossie and join the B953 which  would lead me to the Perth end of Balbeggie. En-route I had views of Lundie Crags, King’s Seat, a hill I’d previously ascended (and did a SOTA activation) HERE and the nearby hill of Dunsinane, the ancient hill fort with Macbeth/Shakespearean connections HERE. I still have to make a visit, maybe next trip up as I’ve other walking plans in the area. There was plenty of activity in the ploughed fields, tattie boxes on trailers as it was time to bury the seed tatties in the drills. It seemed every farm was out working on this Easter holiday Monday. I passed fields of daffodils just before Collace,

Signal box

Signal box`

Fields of rapeseed covering the landscape everywhere with their yellow flowers, awfy bright. Yellow a predominant colour today.

I soon met the busy A94 at the Perth end of Balbeggie where I cycled along a sometimes overgrown footpath on the opposite side of the road, before long I was passing Perth Airport, no flying activity though.

It was downhill towards Scone, a town with long connections to Scottish history, the historic capital of Alba, short history HERE. I joined the cycle lane which I was grateful for as buses, artic lorries rumbled past. I soon was in Perth,

At the traffic lights in Bridgend, it was a left turn and long plod up a steep brae to join NCN 77 which would take me over Kinnoull Hill, a long drag easing at points and I stopped near the high point to admire some free-range bacon running about in a roadside field, they took great delight in making an awful racket and chasing each other.

I reached the road summit and took a quick look at the Kinnoull car park information boards, I was running late and a table booked for early evening so a trip to the tower would have to wait another day, I always leave an excuse to go back.

I swept down towards Glencarse passing through varying landscapes, oh, and this ‘breeze’ seemed to persist,  views on my right of the river Tay, the estuary and back to Friarton Bridge and over towards the Fife hills.

Polly packed away

Polly packed away

Passing through the village of Glencarse, I followed the classic blue NCN signage and was now on the flatlands of the Carse of Gowrie, I passed through the villages of St Madoes, Errol and I could see the sandbanks of the river which have names like Cartagena Bank, The Turk, Sure as Death Bank, Dog Bank, Eppie Tae’s Bank. Sure As Death Bank sounds ominous.

The road was flat and that wind was still in my face. I cycled along passing fields, more rapeseed showing its yellow flowers, more farmers were out preparing the fields. I pedalled on thinking I could stop in Invergowrie for some sustenance, I reached level crossings which made me remember Paris-Roubaix ’16 and the scramble to get through even after the gates came down. A nervy feeling as you cross them even though you see it clear in both directions, I stopped to have look at the signal box at Longforgan, KIngoodie passed and up the hill into Invergowrie. I reached my destination but no one was at home…typical, reminded me of making a surprise visit to an Aunt on a visit down south, she wasn’t in either as she was back in Scotland. Phone first, Bob!

Decision time, I left Invergowrie pedalling to the junction of the A90 and the Kingsway roundabout, nose to tail traffic and no obvious crossing point, I was intending to head over Liff but I knew an alternative route up via the ‘Birkie Dykes’ (Gourdie Brae), first a slow slog up towards a crossing, I struck off left past a local industrial estate before a sharp left and a constant hill which my legs weren’t appreciating, I did cut off the road to allow traffic to pass by at one point then finally reached the village, passing where I’d dine not much later. The last 6 miles to Newtyle was testing, I tried to call ahead to give an ETA but no answer. I thought I’d sweep out the village and head towards Auchterhouse but in the headwind, I’d to pedal even downhill, I was tiring.

I could hear someone ‘tooting’ me and a wee red Chevy drew to a stop in front of me, it was Katie. I took my bike off the road and as I did a car stopped to ask if I was okay, ‘Tired legs only’ and I thanked the fella for stopping. ‘Throw the bike in the car’, ‘No’ I was determined to finish the last 3 or 4 miles.

I knew the last mile into the village would be a clear run downhill, with the breeze strengthening it wasn’t but I was glad when I finally reached the village. Leg weary, 47 miles cycled, the distance wasn’t the problem but the constant headwind which seemed everywhere I turned.

I met this fella in the eaterie (not much later). The meal was certainly worth it and a couple of pints, much deserved.

Oh, and guess what. I’d forgotten to pack the Polar, HRM and my bike lock key…

Enjoyed it? of course, I did.

Inner Tay info leaflet (PDF File) HERE

Oh, and met this fellow later.

Oor Wullie

Oor Wullie

Day Two…..

An almost rectangular route this time, heading right out of the village toward Glamis along a well-kent road, I’d double checked if I’d meet any big hills but as I reached Balkeerie, the first rise of the day was pedalled up with no problem, I’d printed off a map of the area and had a quick look and down heading towards Craigton after crossing the A94, open fields with a single track road splitting them and the wind again, on my regular roads there are hedgerows, dry stone dykes to ‘hide’ behind but here was mostly just flat open countryside. The tower on Kinpurney Hill was in my vision at every turn, prominent at the top of its hill. It was a good marker later on as it let me know that Newtyle was getting nearer.

River Isla bridge

River Isla bridge

I joined the A923 at Craigton, heading south (I’d guess), passing through Airlie and Ruthven where I saw more daffodil fields in full bloom. I had to stop outside Alyth to check my route, I noticed a maintained area, flower beds, benches with a woven figure in a flower bed, the beds were in between planting.

Near Alyth

Near Alyth

I reached the junction where I’d head back across the country to reach Ardler, sweeping country road until I came across what, I thought was an odd, type of bridge over the River Isla, a metal bridge at Aberbrothie, possibly a replacement for a stone bridge as this area has a history of flooding. The road was quiet until I reached the busy A94 again, crossing at a dedicated bike crossing. Of course, Kinpurney Tower was still in my eye view. I soon passed through Ardler, I’d choose the road towards Keillor, just before I reached the road junction I stopped to look at a roadside ruin, I could see it could have been a doo’cot.

At the junction, it was left and a couple of miles back to my set-off point, 20 odd miles on new roads. I felt good after Monday’s run. One day left in the area.

Day Three to follow.


Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Up the Scottish Khyber……..

Carry on? on one of her many jaunts to the north of her queendom, Queen Victoria christened Glen Ogle ‘Scotland’s Khyber Pass‘, and after cycling up (us not her!), then back down through the glen. Who am I to disagree? A bit more peaceful I reckon.

The Roddy fella suggested an ‘oot’ but this time, I wasn’t told the venue, start or finish. I did remember one or two of his suggestions so it was off to find where I’ve stored his ‘ideas’ (and mine). I narrowed it down to three, Loch Katrine, Callander/Killin or Drymen/Aberfoyle.

I did get a hint the night before when I asked the food situation, I’d asked ‘carry’ or ‘dine out’. Callander it was.  A supermarket ‘Express’ store is located at the start, the same shop mentioned a few days earlier by Lora . You can’t fool the Mhor. Touche, Mr Rod.

The bike was ready to go at the designated time but in true fashion, he was late.

The bikes fitted to the back of the yellow Land Rover and we were off northwards on a crisp, frosty morning.

Leaving Callander, old railway bridge

Leaving Callander, old railway bridge

Getting dressed for this trip in a cold, ice patched car park next to a river is not recommended, this before heading north out of the village. NCN 7 to Killin, into the unknown (for both of us). I’d only briefly read a little of this section, I wish I’d read some more. The climbing legs would be needed on two sections. The grass edges were showing white frost rime as we travelled along a flat slightly uneven surface before hitting some icy stretches travelling through the Pass of Leny, the nearby Garbh Uisge was in good flow, I’d came upon a couple of patches just before the Ben Ledi car park and with flashbacks of a recent spill in mind but no repeat. the car park was busy with walkers heading up to one of the Trossachs high points.

Looking down Lubnaig

Looking down Lubnaig

Soon we were riding along the west bank of Loch Lubnaig, heading out past holiday cabins, the track started rising higher above the loch before meeting a forest track before dropping down through the village of Strathyre. We left Strathyre on a recently upgraded tarmac track before passing views opening down to Balquhidder, there is an alternative path which takes Balquhidder in but today, we carried on across the road and headed up past the old station area, the track at this point was mostly compressed whin dust. The track at this point is a cracking run, slight rises, falls with sweeping bends before running straight towards Creggan

Looking towards Balquhidder

Looking towards Balquhidder

but we had now left the original railbed which wound high above us but it was on to start heading up the ‘Zig Zags’, a rise of over 220ft in roughly half a mile, a constant climb up a tarmac track before meeting the original track bed, a welcome water break. As you rise excellent views of Loch Earn start showing to your right, soon we crossed the bridge to start the constant rise up through Glen Ogle, I was surprised to learn later that it was a Cat 3 climb, mind you, it was a good free run back down on the return journey. The green glen and road are a bit below the old railway track but the jewel of this track is the short run across the spectacular Glen Ogle stone viaduct,

Glen Ogle viaduct

Glen Ogle viaduct

this must have been an achievement to build this in so isolated a place, trains must have laboured up this route at such a gradient. Nothing stopped the Victorian railway pioneers. You could almost imagine the conditions the navvies must have worked and lived in. Their camps, conditions and winter working must have been tough. No ‘Health and Safety’ in those bygone days.

The sun was shining on the opposite side of the glen which made for keep a brisk pace up the chilly open hillside, The viaduct was soon passed after a quick look at its structure.

Its popularity as a walk was soon clear as we met many family parties heading in both directions. A ‘ting ting’ and a ‘good morning’ passed

Finally, Glen Ogle conquered and it was across the main road to ride alongside before through a gate and a three-mile descent to Killin, down first a steep tarmac track, a run through a rough grassy, edged forestry track riding along one of the two-wheel ‘grooves’ before heading down a wide roughish forest track to the village of Killin. Ice still showing in puddles as the thought of the climb back up to Ogle was playing on my mind.

Looking North

Looking North

The track now joined the main road with a stop to have a quick look at the Falls of Dochart then it was off to find a chippy, no joy so we headed back the way we had come but stopped at a picnic bench to stock up on carbs and liquid. It was chilly in the shade but after a quick coffee and sarnies, it was back to the busy track.

Fish and chips aren’t the healthiest of food but I don’t care, I’ve been watching the calories but I needed carbs for the haul up from Killin.

Looking towards the Lawers range

Looking towards the Lawers range

The run back up was a steady climb with the steepest part at the head of the glen but after crossing the road it was almost a 5 mile downhill run, the legs being pleased about that. It was now mid afternoon and we would be fighting the light to get back to the start. A short stop to look at the views above Lochearnhead before sweeping down through the ‘zig zags’, easier than the climb, then along the bends with their switchbacks, up and downs was fun. Climbing up through Strathyre, the light was fading fast. My thoughts of icy patches at the path between the car park and the Pass were at the back of my mind. The forest lodge resort was alive with people out for a pre-dinner stroll and as we left the Ledi car park, a couple stopped us to say ice was forming on sections of the path. Roddy proposed I led as my light was brighter, aye, right, you go first old yin and I’ll know its icy when you fall on your erse. I shrugged my shoulders but the return trip into Callander was incident free. One twitch of a back wheel on a wooden slatted bridge at the edge of the village was all, thankfully.

It was pitch dark now but we were safely back.

An excellent day, good company and one I’d gladly do again.

My thanks as always to Wikipedia and all I have linked to.

Further info on the old Callander/Oban/Killin railways HERE HERE

The video is a (2x) descent from the top of Glen Ogle down NCN 7 to Killin, this gives you an idea of the various surfaces the track throws at you. I have other sections on film which I may add to this post in the near future. A big thanks go to Sustrans and its volunteers who do such an admirable job on their network country-wide.

I mentioned navvies and work, camp conditions earlier. I’d recommend Patrick McGill’s ‘Children of the Dead End’ which gives some insights, part of the book has local connections as he worked on the Greenock-Ayrshire railway line which now is part of NCN 75. A track I use daily. The book is available online HERE, hard copies available from the usual places.

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Local Quirks

I’m always keeping an eye out for any photo opportunities when I’m out on the bike, here are some of the quirkiest things I’ve come across this west of Glasgow.

I think I’ve cycled every side and back road in this part of Renfrewshire, I see a track, I have a nosey, more often it just goes to a farm or dead-end. About turn and back out.

The ‘quirks’, two are on the same stretch of road, one I’d describe as a gazebo (Google said it was), one a ‘metal’ plaque which has become obsolete by thoughtless later planning (IMO) and the others? an odd thing in an obvious place, a stair which ends halfway down, another ‘Rest and be Thankful’ and an ornate fountain.



I’ll start with a ‘odd thing in an obvious place’, a ‘Stone Throne’ found at the top of Gallahill Rd, high above Langbank. I’ve been over that way recently ‘enjoying’ the Wall’, an 11% average short climb on the road heading west. A Strava segment makes a mention of ‘Stone Throne‘, I took this to be a reference to a local landmark but it took a few visits to realise what. I’ve taken photos but they do not do this man-made ‘throne’ any justice. It’s positioned at the apex of two steep ascents on this country road and has excellent views in a 270-degree vista.  A place to sit, enjoy the views N and W.  A work of rural art, perhaps.

gazebo at barnbeth rd

gazebo at barnbeth rd

The gazebo is next to Barnbeth House in what I assume was an old orchard but the land is presently being built upon, the gazebo shows the ravages of time, a fixing of the broken slates, a repaint and voilà.

Hopefully, it will be restored to its former glory, I’ll keep an eye. I’ve another post or two of ‘oddities’ in the pipeline so if repaired I’ll post an updated image.

Golf course plaque

Golf course plaque

Slightly further along the same road which splits a golf course, you come to a stone with a ‘silver’ metallic information plate, it stands at the 16th tee on the roadside. The tee named ‘Rothesay Pier’ see HERE

It has inscribed all the 54 hills and landmarks that would have been seen at one time from this viewpoint. Tree planting has taken place over the years and has obscured most of the views west and north. Course management coming into play. Someone has filled in the lettering with black paint at one time but unfortunately, only traces remain although the plate is perfectly readable. I normally stop there for a water break before dropping down into Ranfurly.

stairs to?

stairs to?enlarge

The stairs that go nowhere, cycling between Kilbarchan and Lochwinnoch on NCN 7 in a cutting, there is a set of metal stairs (with handrail) but as the photo shows they just stop. On a closer inspection, there is a small concrete square in the rock face near the old track so I’m assuming at one point the stairs have been cut to the present level to prevent unauthorised access the logical explanation. Why not remove them completely?

the other

the other

Mention ‘Rest and be thankful’ and thoughts immediately go to the road which winds its way up from near Arrochar and drops down to Glen Kinglas, this one is a stone built shelter on the Beith Road as you pass through Johnstone, it was reputedly built by a local worthy in the 19th century.

the fountain

the fountain

Finally, I recently was on a geocache hunt which took me into Fountain Park near the centre of Paisley, I came across this ornate and colourful fountain, walruses guarding, cherubs holding crocodiles, dolphins, herons among others.Oriental? I’ll let you see more about it HERE and HERE. An impressive statue of Robert Burns stands nearby.

Thanks  to Wikipedia and the sources I have linked to. Click on images to enlarge.






Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Into the (Arrochar) Alps…..

It was a welcome return visit to the head of Loch Long, the last twice I’d cycled in to the Arrochar area via Kilcreggan, the last was a left and up over the Rest and Be Thankful, the other a right turn across to Loch Lomond. I’d last been into the Arrochar Alps three years earlier when the iconic the Cobbler was the hill of choice.

I’d asked Lora if she fancied a hill over the weekend and due to the WX, plans were left but Sunday evening, a photo produced and ‘That one, please’, Narnain it was then. I had to hurriedly look out and get my radio equipment ready as the days of having a ready-to-go pack seemed over.

Check, double-check, mentally putting up the mast and antenna, connections and it looked all ready to go, handhelds to finish charging. I had packed everything, charged by early AM..

Loch Long

Loch Long

Waking up to a cloudy sky which soon cleared to show patches of blue, and off we headed.

Arriving at the roadside car park outside Arrochar, there were many cars already parked, the early birds were out. I’d alerted for around 12.30 local but was running late for once. oh, and a quid for parking? excellent, hats off to Argyll & Bute Council.

We’d stopped to pick up lunch (and another coffee) en-route at Dumbarton.

Off we set in sunshine, the first mile and just over 1,000 feet of ascent through the lower steep treeline, being passed by a pair of runners whom we would see later on the summit. Soon, we were on the open hillside, the view as you emerge for the treeline is one to enjoy, the high cliffs of Narnain on your right and the impressive faces of the Cobbler to your left, it made the hot slog through the breezeless forest worthwhile as a fair breeze was blowing down the Allt a’ Bhalachain which made for a pleasurable ascent along a well made and kept path.

The Cobbler from the ascent

The Cobbler from the ascent

A short break at the Narnain Stones, the ‘sleeping quarters’ of some of the early climbers to the area,  a drink and off up to the bealach where ‘tracks’ to the three hills merge, the Cobbler path was busy and the odd walker could be spotted ascending the highest hill, Beinn Ime. We took the first path up Narnain with over 900ft still to ascend, slowly over a varied broken path, with boggy stony patches everywhere. Soon we were making our way through a fallen stone field, it levelled, the stone shelter and the trig point let us know we had arrived at the flattish rock strewn summit. Narnain means ‘Hill of notches’ in Gaelic. The views today were excellent in all directions as on my last visit in 2012, I had ascended in poor visibility due to the clag being down, I had one fleeting glimpse down Loch Long that day but the return trip made up for it. There are too many hills on the horizon to mention so have a look HERE. I use the app which is handy when just on even local hills.

Beinn an Lochain, Luibhean and Binnein an Fhidlheir

Beinn an Lochain, Luibhean and Binnein an Fhidhleir

I found a grassy spot, set up the radio equipment and thought I have a better look after I’d finished. I first called out on 4m FM and surprisingly worked 2 stations, MTJ and USI, Paisley and mobile in Glasgow. I kept calling but nothing, between calls I built up the 3 element quad. A quick changeover of antennas and I logged another 10 contacts on 2m, Rob YTS on Tinto, YMM and AXY through in Edinburgh, UYE in Stirling, HQC Largs, KSJ Wemyss Bay, ROT Port Glasgow, next were two contacts into Northern Ireland, AZA and AZB both on Loughermore in the Sperrin Mountains, finally IPO in Knightswood, Glasgow. I’ll take that, 12 contacts on a weekday isn’t shoddy. 3 were STS (summit to summit), excellent. I’d normally have a break and try again but when I’m with someone non-radio orientated I can’t spend too much time but I’d been on air for over an hour. I sat and took in the view down Loch Long, Ailsa Craig stood out in the far distance over 100 kms away. Time for lunch, a certain bakery ‘tuna crunch baguette’ was enjoyed, Bob is going through a calorie conscious time in his now later life, a target has been set and hopefully the ‘Mhor’ can be renamed.  I wonder what the gaelic for ‘slightly less than big’ is. I’ll never achieve a pro cyclists body shape.. but I’m doing fine.

Looking down the Loch

Looking down the Loch


With everything packed away it was time to take took a wander around the summit plateau, snapping the views. Dark clouds were now scuttling above us, it was time to descend as light rain had been forecast for late afternoon. We retraced our steps and not long were at the bealach and turning down the Allt.

Ascent panorama

Ascent panorama

I knew of a geocache at the Narnain Stones HERE so it was a stop and soon we found the container, the log signed and placed back in its hidey hole, no. 275 logged.

Bob and Lora

Bob and Lora

As we dropped into the treeline, the first spits of rain started and it was a steady walk down, this area is midge heaven and I didn’t want to stop for I’d be eaten alive by the wee beasties.

There are other routes up Narnain, the traditional direct one from the car park, which takes you past the well-known ‘Spearhead’, some light scrambling required HERE

I was glad to reach the car, I must work on lightening the load, age? lack of fitness? I dunno. Boots off and trainers on, relief!

An hour plus later, we were home, a coffee poured.

A great day out, pleasant company and with views this time, happy? yeah.

Oh, I’ve still more images to sort out so pay another visit and see what else there is.

Beinn Narnain info HERE

Interesting article on climbing history in the area (mostly the Cobbler) HERE

My previous posts in the immediate area HERE HERE HERE

As usual, click on each image to embiggen

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Where Next, Indeed…………………

Aye, where?

I’d been asking about NCR 755, the Strathkelvin Railway Path, from Graeme as local knowledge always helps. I had decided at some point to visit the area and tying in with my last blog post that I’d made the trip out 754 to Kirkintilloch which handily would allow me to tie in with the path and its journey along westwards along the edge of the Campsie Fells.

At the end of the path, would I take the busy route down through Glasgow or enjoy a reverse of my NCR 7 journey to Drymen, remembering this time to avoid the main A811 road to Balloch. Croftamie was my chosen turning home point and a run down NCR 7.

I choose what turned out a perfect day weather wise and set off down to sea level, it’s good dropping almost 500 ft but not returning. Soon I was through Langbank, Bishopton and crossing over the busy Erskine Bridge.

A quick drop down the Lusset Glen and a turn on to NCR 7, travelling eastwards along the Forth and Clyde Canal working my way through Clydebank, into Glasgow then up past the Kelvin Walkway over Maryhill Locks and soon I was down, under and on NCR 754 heading east to my first destination, Kirkintilloch, I’ll link to earlier blog posts which have info and images of the in and outwards journeys HERE HERE HERE



The track along 755 at this point is a mixture of whin dust and tarmac, today I met a few cyclists and walkers as it had been a quiet journey last time. I mulled over to explore a bit further thinking maybe out to the Carron Sea Lock but nope, I decided to turn back at Twechar Bridge retracing my steps to Kirkintilloch. The canal out from Glasgow is a bit bland in places with very little to break up the route but except the occasional canal boat. I spotted a well weathered stone pillar with the initials ‘FCN’, it was ‘Forth Clyde Navigation’. An old marking stone. I saw the sign for 755 but carried on into Kirkie to pick up something for lunch, soon stuffed into the back pouches on my cycling top, and in pro-cycling fashion, it was a filled baguette. it was now to find my way down to 755. I’d checked street view so it was easily found.

I set off along a tree covered tarmac path, I stopped at the first bench to have lunch, a healthy one to boot. No chippy for Bob. I was soon passing through Milton of Campsie with its ornate well designed tunnel frontage, the track although tarmac here is a bit bumpy in places. I skirted Lennoxtown as the path runs parallel to the Glazert Water as it heads down to meet the Kelvin.



I was soon in open countryside with the Campsies prominent to the north and  I stopped to admire an impressive basalt volcanic plug which is Dunglass, one of the few in the area. An impressive landscape feature. The track is part of the Thomas Muir Way, not the well-kent Muir but I’ll leave it to this to tell about him HERE and HERE, a bit of a lad indeed.

Glengoyne distillery

Glengoyne distillery

Too soon, it was the track end and the town of Blanefield, on road again, I took my choice, the A81 westbound. It was busy and surprisingly, I was glad of the odd rise and fall in the road after many miles of ‘flat’ cycling, I passed the eerie ruins of Killearn Hospital en-route. I was to look for B834 and A809 which would take me to Croftamie. I carried on past the twin plugs of  Dumgoyne and Dumfoyne and stopped for a water (aye, water) break outside Glengoyne Distillery, lots of tourists visiting today. Busy snapping photos with themselves and the distillery in their background. The West Highland Way runs parallel at this point.

It was off again and I turned into B834 and set up a long ramp to head west at the junction, views of Ben Lomond and the north were stunning. I thought that I’d maybe missed the road I wanted but soon I could see the village ahead, I looked for the 7 sign, I previously been up this way and along an old railway bed  (Forth and Clyde Junction) I headed. It was on to quiet country roads and could see an occasional stretch of obvious old railway en-route. I did think of heading down Auchencarroch Road into Jamestown but I’ll save that for another day. I met a few cyclists wending their way NE. I was in familiar territory so I knew I’d be heading down before crossing the A811 and uphill into Balloch Castle Country Park, an impressive grassland area.  I would find a now regular run down the side of the River Leven, busy with anglers today even with bright sunshine. I passed through Dumbarton, skirted Milton, through Bowling where I’d meet the canal again.

Looking west from south of Croftamie

Looking west from south of Croftamie

It was over the bridge and down through Erskine, I’d join the Houston Rd at Inchinnan end and make my way to  NCR 75 and home. I spent part of the journey speaking with a Dutch couple who were heading across to Argyll, where’s my bivvy bag?

85 miles travelled, a new Bob record although the mileage is irrelevant, I had a great day out, new places visited and all enjoyed. Where next, indeed.





All things Sustrans HERE Sustrans Scotland HERE

Previous posts HERE HERE

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Up The Kelvin Walkway, Where Next?

I’ve since as noted on the last blog post ,I did a reverse of the walkway run with the Roddy fella.

The legs had been resting after a month in which I reached over 700 pedalling miles, I’d realised that I was just over 8 short as I uploaded my latest ‘oot’ on the 31st and pondered ‘will I or won’t I’ to go out and nab the ‘extra’ miles, I bit the bullet after teatime and had a run of just over what I needed. 700 bagged and a new high monthly total, I now think I’ll take it easy.

The following day, I did absolutely nothing, never moved.

I set off with the intention of joining NCN 75 and following the well-signposted route through Elderslie, Paisley, Pollok Country Park then over the M8 and into Govan.

Kirklee Bridge stone

Kirklee Bridge stone

I joined Govan Rd. just before Kingston Bridge and made my way to the excellent two-way cycle lane which brought me out at the Squiggly Bridge, poshly known as the Tradeston Bridge.

I wandered westwards through walkers, workers on their break, runners, tourists towards the SECC area where just past, I’d walk over a bridge spanning the busy A814 which takes you into the lower half of Kelvinside.

I made my way towards Kelvinside Park before heading upwards via the Walkway to the Forth & Clyde Canal at the Locks, having reached the canal, and after further reading about the area after posting my previous post. I found it amazing to read that the first ‘Puffer’ was built at the nearby Kelvin Dock, the ‘Puffer’ was a traditional Clyde boat, a potted history HERE. The most famous ‘puffer’ was, of course, the Vital Spark the command of a certain Peter MacFarlane (Para Handy). 

Firhill Stadium

Firhill Stadium

It was off eastwards and once again, I missed the turn off which would take me along the Falkirk branch of the canal, there is a trend here but I never planned the route, honest! Winging it is much more fun although later I would find that a preread would have improved my understanding of the area I could be passing through but hey, it’s an excuse to return and explore.

I soon was travelling along an excellent pathway, this was the Glasgow branch, just NE of the city centre passing Firhill Stadium and the basin where I once fished on an odd occasion, a few anglers were ‘waggling’ today. I soon arrived at the impressive Speirs Wharf (named after Alexander Speirs, one of the Glasgow Tobacco lords) and it’s converted buildings, I was now in Port Dundas the end of the Glasgow branch of the canal, time to head back I. An area steeped in industrial history.

Speirs Wharf

Speirs Wharf

I stopped at the canal junction, a sign pointing to Falkirk when I came across the obvious junction with its navigation sign, sod it I’m off to Kirkintilloch and I could have a late lunch to boot. Down onto a short stretch of road and, I was soon pedalling on a narrow canal path eastwards, I passed a very occasional walker and canal boat, mostly pleasure cruises.  I skirted Bishopbriggs, Cadder and just before the Stables I came across the weed cutting boat hard at work,see previous post for an image of. A never-ending job in summer months. With the ecology on the canal, a much safer and cheaper option than chemical means. The Southbank Marina bridge (the ‘pointy bridge’) just before Kirkintilloch was an attention grabber as I cycled past.

I arrived at Kirkintilloch where I proceeded to find my lunch. The path from Glasgow had been quiet, the odd drop of rain in the air may have been the reason. I cycled back along a short stretch and found a bench where I fueled up with a healthy baguette washed down by Scotland’s other national drink, the sugar was needed, you see. I’d watched two canal pleasure boats pass and thought an idea for another day.

Pointy Bridge

Pointy Bridge

I’d passed through an area with a strong Roman history with the Antonine Wall crossing the canal at one point. Another excuse for heading back. The canal engineer John Smeaton had followed the route of the wall in places.

The skies were now becoming awfy dull and I hoped that I would avoid the worst of any rain. It was a reverse back to north Glasgow and a run along a now familiar north bank towards the Erskine Bridge. I passed the fish and chip boat at Clydebank and quickly made my way west before temptation set in, calorie counting is taking its toll, I shall try the wares someday.

On the last stretch heading into Old Kilpatrick, the rain lightly fell and climbing up Lusset Glen, I sensed a wet journey home but after I crossed the Erskine Bridge, I took my normal run of over by Bishopton, the Barochan Road to Houston and the short run to Bridge of Weir. The heavens opened at the viaduct in BoW and the last six miles was done in the pouring rain.

I arrived home with 75 miles clocked, a new furthest distance for me. My limit going by the aches and pains but funnily not the legs, age showing its face I think, we’ll see.

I read this HERE and having no experience of the areas mentioned, I have to say the state of the cycle tracks I used on this trip were nothing short of excellent, very little broken glass encountered but I accept you must and will meet this on your travels, the litter problem is well looked after by certain councils and Sustrans volunteers whom I met a group of on the stretch west of Canal St, Paisley. If you meet any workers/volunteers, please always say a ‘thank you!’.

Another day, another adventure, where next?

Further reading, I recently read and enjoyed Last of the Puffermen by Keith McGinn, the story of a life spent working the ‘coastal tred’ and of course, the Para Handy books.

Sustrans Scotland HERE

Cycling Scotland HERE

Scottish Canals HERE

To embiggen any image, just click on it.


Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Down the Kelvin Walkway

I was cycling along the B788 mid-week when I was rudely honked at.

I thought ‘I know that vehicle’ and at the next junction, a smiling face was offering me toffees, the whole packet, but I resisted accepting only a handful as I needed some sugar, you see.

It was the Roddy fella so a ‘get up to date’ chat and the thought of another cycling adventure was hatched.

‘Where ?’, ah, Roddy had asked at one point about the run along the north bank of the river from Glasgow. I thought as I’ve been up a few times we’d catch the one down Route 75, 7 across the river and back along 754 (Sustrans routes). Sustrans info HERE.

A day was arranged, now yep, you guessed the WX was watched so the intended route was reversed but it was suggested (by R) to incorporate the Kelvin Walkway so it was off to read up as I’d never ventured to that area. A visit to and I soon had the route planned and loaded into my v650.

It promised rain later and strong breezes but as we left and headed down to the A8, it was dry and making excellent time along through Langbank and up to Bishopton, heading out and soon up over the Erskine Bridge.

River Kelvin

River Kelvin

A quick drop down Lusset Glen and it was east along the Forth & Clyde canal, a cracking surface and today, busy with both walkers and cyclists. An excellent facility, the cycle counter at Clydebank showed plenty daily activity so far. I did the usual tourist guide and pointed out stuff (stuff? You know what I mean), all other bikes seemed to be heading west today and soon we were on virgin ground (to me), stopping to look at this and that before Bob missing our turn off at Maryhill Locks (duh), a quick check and back to our downward drop through the said walkway, impressive structures en route. My excuse is the map shows cycle tracks in a broken red line, the route? is a solid red track.

Iron bridge

Iron bridge

I liked the fact the Walkway was a downhill drop, I like downhill.

Bridges?, there are quite a few, grandly built in a style which sadly isn’t used nowadays, Kirklee Bridge, a red sandstone bridge with grand pink granite columns,  Gibson St Bridge with its ornate cast iron metal work and city coats of arms, Ha’penny Bridge which was swept away but replaced with a modern version amongst others. There is pillar remains the entire length of the river walkway.

The Roddy fella

The Roddy fella

One intriguing ruin is that of the old North Woodside flint mill which has been preserved after closure in the 1960s, the river was once littered with mills along its length which used it as a disposal point for their effluent and had killed the river of its wildlife, now salmon and trout and many species of birds have returned.

It was a quick run down before a tentative run round the BMX track in Kelvingrove Park as a bit of fun, I should act my age, before finding our way down to the city waterfront.

The city waterfront was quieter than normal, it can be chaotic at points during the day, we cycled to the squiggly bridge and sat and admired the view.

Boat at Dalmuir

Boat at Dalmuir

It was on to the 2-way cycle lane on the south side of the river, under the Kingston Bridge and a stop for a burger lunch.

It was now to find Route 7, a job that I keep failing in, I can find the way to Kinning Pk but keep taking the wrong path but finally it was up over the M8 and onward to Pollok Park, a steady run through parkland and along the bank of the White Cart before a run through housing estates before meeting up with the dedicated path at Hunterhill, through Canal St and soon we were in Elderslie, not long to home, 11 miles.

It was a now very familiar run up Route 75 from Linwood and back home.

50 miles logged and a fun day out.

If you had told me a few years ago, I’d be now regularly cycling to Glasgow city centre, I’d have scoffed but this makes a good circuit which has a few different routes home on the north bank of the river.

I have since made the trip going the opposite way with a grandstand finish last few miles over two steep rises I hadn’t attempted before from the back of Langbank to Kilmacolm, I’d forgot the Barochan Road was closed, oh well.

Rather than me prattling on about the Kelvin Walkway and its history, I’ll link to HERE HERE HERE

Botanic Garden heritage trail (PDF) HERE

Sustrans Glasgow Waterways Loop map HERE

Scottish Canals Cycling HERE

Maryhill Locks HERE

Thanks go to Walkhighlands, Wikipedia, Scotcities, Glasgow City Council and Sustrans.

Kirklee Bridge photo © the Roddy fella

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Glen Fruin (on a whim)

My impulsiveness shows no ending when I leave out on my bike. I check the weather before I head to get prepared. Uphill or downhill?  I decide a rough route after the first rise as I see what my legs are saying. I come to a junction and at 50% of the time, I just choose what way. I have been known to preplan something but rarely. I see a side road, where does that lane go to?  Plenty of time to explore.

This run was no different, I’d left mid morning a little later than normal and stopped to chat with old workmates. I’d mentally made a thought of heading up, over and back over the Erskine Bridge.

10 miles later, I was topping the bridge and as I swung under to return, I just dropped down  Lusset Glen.  A quick left, right and I was on Route 7 and heading west alongside the canal and its boat harbour and up over on to the track built on the old Lanarkshire and Dumbarton railway. I decided as I was later out than normal, I’d drop into a nearby service station for some lunch but it was busy. I thought there must be somewhere else (it turned out to Roseneath).

Forth and Clyde Canal

Forth and Clyde Canal

I headed towards Bonhill where I’d drop down and join the track which runs alongside the River Leven, yes, the last and other posts have this run. Soon I was in Balloch, I keep missing the path but after a quick run through the Shores car park, I was soon passing through Duck Bay, I saw two portable barbeques being used and the skewers on one looked inviting.

The Arden roundabout was crossed and next to the B831 to Helensburgh, there is an excellent cycle path which runs to above Helensburgh but today, I’d head off into Glen Fruin at the Crosskeys roundabout.

Heading down into the glen

Heading down into the glen

I was soon pedalling up, and up until finally, I could see the glen ahead. I have been along the newer Haul Rd which runs parallel just a few hundred yards to the north with its rollercoaster of hills and dips. It was done on a June ’14 day but WX was much different, I’d suffered from the sun and heat that day and as I dropped down the first hill today, the rain came on, heavy.

A stop at the bottom and a throw on of a waterproof top but in usual sod’s law, the rain stopped. I could see activity on the road ahead and I got waved through by the local estate shepherds who were ready move a flock to the west side of the glen.

Oh boy !

Oh boy !

I could see work taking place on the new John Muir Way path which comes over from Helensburgh and runs along the Fruin hillside. I could see the route up Auchengaich Hill and a figure in red jacket moving down, I assume coming from Beinn Chaorach.

I could see the road slowly rising out of the glen and a quick drop before the slog upwards, I came across a sign which told me ‘troops may be training, expect loud explosions or illumination’, I did try to see if the red flag was flying on the nearby Strone (the ridge up Beinn a’Mhanaich) which indicates if training is taking place but low cloud masked any view.

The road surface was far better than I’d expected, a smooth surface and a joy to plod on even the hills which I’d really meet as I exited the glen, finally at the top, I’d the choice of dropping down or taking a short MOD blocked road.

River Fruin

River Fruin

The short cut it was although looking back I should have taken the direct road, next time! I just wanted to whizz quickly downhill into Garelochhead. The main road was strangely quiet and I passed Faslane Naval Base then into the village where I took the road to down the Gareloch towards Kilcreggan and my intended ferry trip back to Gourock on the south bank of the Clyde. The road along the loch was busy as I neared Clynder, a rumbling tum and a lack of food meant the next food stop I was filling up. I spot a sign for Polly’s Cafe but as I passed, it was closed. I cycled up into Roseneath, I saw a Co-op, I parked up and headed in, a BLT sandwich and a can of Irn Bru.

I sat on a nearby church dyke, enjoying the sandwich and drink and thought not long until the pier. I forgot how steep a rise was between the villages but I soon topped and freewheeled to the pierhead. I’d 30 mins until the ferry left. I sat and enjoyed the view.

Kilcreggan hasn’t really changed much since I spent my ‘holidays’ with my dad in an old canvas tent, a couple of old army blankets and my days spent on the beach fishing with a handline, gathering whelks and mussels for a ‘boiling’, aye, good easy living. We’d spend a fortnight (or near enough) unless the weather really got bad.

Polly at Kilcreggan

Polly at Kilcreggan

Soon the ferry arrived at Gourock Pier and it was 7 miles until home, I cycled towards where Route 75 would start to go uphill but instead of following the recommend route, a detour cut out some of the steep stuff and soon it was the track to almost home.

53 miles in the log and a great day out (they all are).

I’ll certainly redo this outing.

I’m really peeved at missing the stone commemorating the Battle which took place in Glen Fruin at the west end just before you rise out of the Glen, an excuse to return, eh?

I’ll link to HERE HERE for further info on the battle.

My thanks to Wikipedia and other websites linked to.


Click on any image to embiggen.

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

A Few Days In Life Of…….

We have had sun, sun, sun which has made May one early summer month. (yeah, I know it’s now June)

Lora, my oldest daughter took the plunge and bought herself a bike. It looks like being a winner and has me touring around showing her some routes and destinations.

We’ve been east, west, south and now it was the turn to head north, to the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. I’ve been to Balloch on more than a few occasions but this would be Lora’s first 40-mile plus run. I’ve tested out my Polar v650 new routing facility so it was to and creating a route using the cycle tracks and roads we would take. One variant on the return journey from the normal route would let me see the mapping in operation (worked well, bright sunshine kinda made it a bit harder to keep an eye on)

Loch Lomond from Balloch Pier

Loch Lomond from Balloch Pier

Bikes had a quick check over and off we headed, a day for first putting on sunscreen and even as it was a Bank Holiday Monday the initial roads were quiet, I did put in an effort up Hatton Brae but only equalled my 3rd best time, I’d thought I’d cracked it, another time. We met at the top and cycled through Bishopton, up over the Erskine Bridge and a drop down through Lusset Glen (kudos to the volunteers who keep the glen neat and litter-free) to join Route 7 at the Old Ferry Road in Old Kilpatrick. The track was busy, walkers, dogs and cyclists aplenty all heading one way, west. Another excellent surfaced track.

It wasn’t long before we were heading through Dumbarton and heading on to the track which runs along the west bank of the river Leven. For a sunny, blue sky day, the river was busy with anglers, bait, spinning and fly fishermen but the river was flowing through at a fair rate.

Lora and the Maid of the Loch

Lora and the Maid of the Loch

It wasn’t long until we reached Balloch and headed through the busy parkland paths and reach our destination at Balloch Pier. We parked our bikes next to the Maid of the Loch and enjoyed the view of the Ben, slightly under cloud.

A quick break then it was a return down the track to Bonhill Bridge where we’d detour south along the A813 to Dumbarton and our lunch break at Greggs. Coffee and a filled roll, one thing out cycling together we eat well. I’m nromally guilty of buying chocolate.

The route I’d planned in now came into use and we followed it through Dumbarton and not before long back on familiar ground. We headed back the reverse direction which I knew would be interesting as the rise to home from sea-level is up some seriously steep rises but a quick last water break and a slow plod up and I’d made it to home. The legs would be feeling this later. An excellent day out and just over 45 miles logged.

Bogside gun emplacement

Bogside gun emplacement

I headed out the next day and thought the time to test the legs again, I headed to Kilmacolm and the steep climb over West Glen with its welcome downhill drop and your choice of the route but instead of heading south towards Houston, I’d travel across to Gallahill Rd and up to the telecommunication masts. I knew there are constant steep rises before I’d stop and check out a geocache site at Bogside. I gradually worked up and came to the last rise before the top, aye, this looked a steep ‘un but I just turned the pedals and made the top. I now know the steep rise is locally known as ‘The Wall’, I made my way over to the gate where I’d head in and check out the WW2 anti-aircraft battery of Bogside (Gallahill Wood). I parked the bike and made my way over a nearby fence and wander about the buildings and old gun emplacements, still in good condition considering the 70 odd years they have been in place, graffiti covers some of the buildings, maybe a couple of bulls which live in the field containing the nearby High Mathernock battery buildings would help keep people away. The battery was built on a hilltop which has great all round vision, communication masts are nearby now being surrounded by conifer trees and sadly more than a few spoil heaps of discarded fly-tipping.

View from top of Gallahill Rd

View from top of Gallahill Rd

I’ll leave the history of Bogside (Gallahill Wood) AA Battery to these HERE HERE

It was then back and down to meet Old Greenock Rd and its long drop down to the back of Langbank, where next? Bishopton, Houston? a last second swing right and Netherton Rd was next, another hill, I was pushing today, into the lower gear and a stifling ascent along a breezeless narrow tarmac road, once topped the breeze returned and it was off to head towards Houston and home. Good leg stretches which I recently reprised.

The geocache? it had been muggled and not replaced, time to place another in the area, I think.

I’ve recently been venturing further east and now just disappearing down side roads, industrial estates just for a nosey. I’ll document a few of these soon, an excuse to return to some of them.



Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Images……from my week

Dipper in Gotter Water

Dipper in Gotter Water

Cycling over the new bridge at Quarriers Village, I spot this wee fella and a quick turnaround and he waited patiently on me setting up. Every bridge seems to have a Dipper but can be hard to spot, the white breast gives it all away.



I was dropped off at the Greenock Cut car park early the previous Saturday morning and just as I crested the Waterman’s Road, I spotted a Wheatear, another patient subject.

Lazy day

Lazy day

These calves never seem to move far from this spot on the south side of Devol Rd…nice and clean until the midweek rain and glad I snapped them at this point.

Glennifer Braes car park view north

Glennifer Braes car park views north

Last Thursday, I headed up to the well know ‘Car park in the sky’ to catch someone on the radio and whilst I waited I tried out the panorama feature on my camera. Oh, and what a hill to climb on a bike.

Grey Wagtail at Gryfe

Grey Wagtail at Blacksholm bridge, Strathgryfe

and finally two local

North from Port Glasgow golf course (Devol Rd)

North from Port Glasgow golf course (Devol Rd)

North West from Devol Rd

North West from Devol Rd

Click on each image to embiggen

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Doon The Watter………….again

It’s back to Wemyss Bay on Easter Friday, I had to enjoy another trip down the river from Gourock to Rothesay. Pier renovation work has been taking place down at Wemyss Bay over the winter and Gourock was the port in use. Gourock is much handier for me as for Wemyss Bay (no shame) I normally catch the train and it is a rush to buy a ticket then board the ferry.

The week ahead promised to be dry so first day available it was. Parcel deliveries killed Monday, Tuesday? yeah, why not….

Bike checked, then off down through (and past!) commuter traffic heading west, around 9 am is not a good time, I’d ahem, used the empty pavements then down along the waterfront joining Route 75 at the harbour then along shared use walkways, pavements until Greenock Esplanade where dog walkers used the cycle path and I kept to the main path until ‘Billy’ attacked me, a dog the size of my trainer decided Polly was the focus of his anger. His owner apologised for his bravado, I smiled and went on my way, it wasn’t to be the only dog ‘attack’ this day.


Gourock Pier


Not before long, I was cycling onto Gourock Pier where tickets bought, I was soon in line waiting on the good ship ‘Argyle’, a busy day with cyclists as another 6 were making the crossing, three were to do the ‘Three Ferries’ (see HERE) route.

It was down to park the bike on the car deck then up to find a seat and enjoy the 45 min trip ‘doon the watter’. A chill breeze rippled the water, some snow still was showing on the Arrochar hills, a scattering on one or two Cowal ones. Dunoon soon slipped by followed by the Cloch, Inellean and soon Toward was on our port side and the turn into Rothesay Bay. I could see Largs, the Cumbraes, Holy Isle et al to the south-west.


A life on the ocean wave

The sun shone as we berthed, a warming glow sheltered in the car deck, cars and lorries were first to leave followed by us cyclists. I’d thought about the route, the strong breeze was from the east so I thought 50-50 no matter whatever route I’d take. I decided on Ascog, Kerrycroy then round to Ettrick Bay, and lunch. The road was quiet on the trip round to Ettrick Bay, a trip of just over 20 miles. Lunch was the usual, with homefries and a chilled juice. I chatted whilst sitting looking at the view across the bay to Arran, one you could never tire of. It was time to take the 5-mile trip back to the pier, I had no idea of ferry times so I decided to head over and if I had to wait, I’d padlock the bike and I’d pass time strolling along the prom, ice cream too. Coming through Port Bannatyne, I saw the ferry berthing so a kick up the gears and I drew into the boarding area with plenty of time.


The sun made the decision that I’d sit outside on the return journey and enjoy the rays. I watched the ropes being loosened and taken on board  and the boat edged out then picked up speed and Bute was quickly left behind summer visit? hell, yes.


Loading up


Back in Gourock, I had 7 miles to home but as my usual route was off limits, off I went wondering the easiest climb would be.

It was into a now stiff breeze, I retraced my morning route and I decided on local roads, after almost 40 miles my legs were not for steep and I did walk up some of the hills.

In the back gate, just over 40 miles logged, a good day, a great circular route, life was good, legs weren’t too weary. Oh and the other dog?, ‘Bailey’ took exception to me at Ettrick Bay.

I’ve not included many images as there are plenty in my last two trips, click HERE  HERE and of course, the Three Ferries blog already linked.

A time lapse excerpt of my trip around the island…..

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

A Busy Week Indeed…………………

A busy week indeed for yer man. Interspersed with a couple of bike rides to the east and south of the county, I had daily walks over hills and dales, one day venturing to my old stamping ground of Corlic, two reasons which were, I hadn’t been on the hill for a month or so and to catch Iain WJZ, doing  an SOTA activation just to the north of Corlic on The Brack. A pleasant journey via Garshangan Rd and a direct route from the higher Gryffe dam whilst being entertained by a pair of Reed Buntings who seemed to follow me at a safe distance as I walked the grassy path up from the dam wall.

Looking from the Pencil

Looking from the Pencil

I headed down via the south-east moorland. Other walks were a trip to Largs, an on the spur moment, it depended on whether the Largs or Gourock bus arrived first if Gourock I’d have crossed to Kilcreggan but as the Largs one drew in, I was soon heading to North Ayrshire.

I got off just before the mouth of the Noddle Burn(apparently called the Noddsdale Burn) and walked the esplanade paths to out past the marina at its far end, I did some geocaching en route, 4 bagged and one to return to. Regular readers will know I stayed there for six years in the 70s, it was a trip down memory lane in a sort of way although I do have an occasional visit but mostly car, a few on the bike I may add but in warmer weather, The sun had disappeared but a slow steady pace kept me warm and there hasn’t really been all that much changed except as you approach the marina.

The Pencil

The Pencil

This once had been an excellent shore walk alongside a railway banking to almost Fairlie but now a shared used path is in place, I must head back down with the bike to explore. The hills of Arran were snow capped showing behind Great Cumbrae, the views to Ailsa Craig and north to Bute and Cowal were excellent. I headed back via the back streets to see some old stomping grounds and after a quick bite to eat, the rain appeared so it was off home…

On Friday, I had headed late afternoon to try to catch some SOTA stations to the east from the local trig point, I caught one on Cairnpapple Hill almost 70 km away, I waited on the other but no joy then I decided to head a different way home and as I started the walk back, I spotted a short-eared owl hunting in the expanse of grasslands to the west of me. I stood and watched it soar over the rough ground looking for its supper. It disappeared after 5 mins. I spent an hour the next evening in the same area watching but nothing.

View from Conic Hill along boundary fault

View from Conic Hill along boundary fault

I had been thinking of heading out for an SOTA activation and had looked at both my regular Luss hills but Lora had just bought a new pair of walking boots so a choice of Conic Hill at Balmaha was made. The boots were new and as Conic is a short, sharp rise it would be a good test. I quickly got everything ready for the next morning.

It had been six months since I last activated but everything was still packed in a state of readiness but a full check had to be done and handheld batteries charged.The usual double check just in case…

Luss and Arrochar Hills

Luss and Arrochar Hills

It was off mid-morning towards Balmaha, a return to Conic Hill which I’d first activated in 2009. The day was sunny, light breeze with a sharpness to it, excellent walking conditions. A stop en-route at a Greggs for a coffee and bacon roll and onwards through Balloch, Drymen and we were soon turning down to Balmaha.

The car park was now busy and a constant stream of folk heading out the forest path which soon takes you out onto open countryside. There has been great work done on the lower access path with wooden and stone steps being used to combat the erosion caused by so many walkers. It was busy.

Lora and the view north

Lora and the view north

We made our way up the final path and took the short sharp rise to the viewpoint summit, I’d thought of heading to the nearest high part to do my activation where it was less busy.

I threw up the antenna for 4m and gave a few calls, in between I built the 2m beam but 4m wasn’t a success so it was off with the antenna and quickly the beam was in place, I called and worked Jim GLM who was on Bishop Hill just east of Loch Leven in Fife, an STS start to the day, next was a station in Greenock followed by Neil NCM out for stroll with Cat CNC on the banks of Loch Bradan (or Braden?), a quick chat with Neil and next in the log were stations in Mauchline, Kilkerran, East Kilbride, Ayr, Shotts, Glasgow, Paisley and two stations on Cold Fell, one of the north Pennine hills SE of Carlisle.

Stations worked

Stations worked

Finally, I worked Brian HMZ in Howwood, Roddy IOB in Gourock and one in Milngavie. A total of 17 stations in just over an hour, a break for some scran then time to go back over to the busy ‘view’ hill.

Rocky path

Rocky path

The 270° views were excellent, the hills above 1,800ft were snow capped as if someone had drawn a line along them. A haze in the distance but I could still the Old Kilpatrick hills, the North Ayrshire hills, the hills of Arran and the south basin of Loch Lomond spread out below me. It really is a ‘must see’ hill. Conic is part of the Highland Fault Line which I’ll leave to the experts to relate to you HERE

Time to head down, a lazy saunter and not before long were getting ready to leave a now full car park.

A sunny day from start to finish, a cooling breeze on top of the hill, tee shirt weather..not bad for the end of February. A good week in all with lots done in good weather, it will take a lot to beat this in the following weeks!

Thanks go to those sites whom I’ve linked to…


Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

The first signs…………………of Spring?

I was heading west along Route 75 from Bridge of Weir and came across this happy family

Mum and her lambs

Mum and her lambs

Mum and her twins

Twin trouble

Could this be a sign Spring is almost upon us?

Snapped this en route

Dumbarton Rock and Ben Lomond

Dumbarton Rock and Ben Lomond

A day of sunshine, free of frost.

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

A ride through the local area to the west.

I’ve never really thought of writing a piece which shows the excellent cycling available in my local area, I have written about some of the counties to the east , north and west of me so it was the turn of the coastline running from Greenock to Inverkip where I then returned home via higher parts.
Polly had been in for a few new replacement bits, it cannot be much fun hauling my sorry overweight butt about.. so I headed down to collect her. A quick whiz around the car park to check if everything felt okay. It did.
I picked up my bag, etc from Katie, ‘I’ll see you later’ and off I set past the Container Terminal along a shared path, I did my slow-down for any pedestrian I met but the usual looks of disgust, hey ho!
A trip along Greenock Esplanade where dog walkers walk on the allocated cycle lane and cyclists cycle on the wide walking path. The cycle path merges onto the grass area between the road and the main path….dog heaven…the gulls have been dropping mussels onto the hard surface, tyre shredders…weaving essential.

Fella in a boat

Man in a boat

I stopped to check out the bird life just off the prom. I could see one keen fellow rowing westwards, moving at quite a lick. I stopped to catch a photo and a chat. I was almost ready to leave the Esplanade when I spotted someone standing on top of an old public toilet block and typical I just had to know him, an ex workmate. Don’t ask, please.
Battery Park on the boundary of Greenock and Gourock was the next diversion plus Route 75 is signposted through it, I headed down to the shore path on what was familiar territory when I was pre-teenage years, I laughed as I cycled along the very path where I gained my cycling proficiency award approx 50 years ago…
It was a slow run around Cardwell Bay due to traffic and pedestrians mid road before exiting on to the road that leads to Gourock Pier, busy today with ferries going to Kilcreggan, Rothesay and Dunoon. I stopped to watch ferries docking then unloading compliment of cars and passengers.

a pair of Eiders

a pair of Eiders

Oh, I was tempted. A quick walk through the station area according to rules and it was along a new shared use pavement at Ashton car park before a short road ride to the local promenade, the lunchtime regular dog walkers were out enjoying the mild, calm weather. A bit of weaving required, a ding of the bell or a ‘Passing on your left, please’ seemed not to work today. I gave out a hearty ‘Good day!’ as I passed.

Cloch Lighthouse

Cloch Lighthouse

It was soon back on the shore side pavement where I watched  ferries from McInroy’s Point making their crossings to Hunters Quay, 9 miles from home if I remember correctly. The Cowal hills were showing well in the crisp winter air and snow could be seen dusting Beinn a’Mhanaich and Beinn Chaorach in the Luss Hills. Warship activity in the water off Kilcreggan, a few warships have been in the area for a week I’m assuming an exercise. I stopped short of a well kent Cloch Lighthouse, another with a Smith/Stevenson connection now private housing and the scene of more than a few all night fishing sessions for its then large cod catches. In days gone by, the shore marks would be busy with anglers looking for their supper, I saw a solitary one at Gourock Pier.

Route 753 Lunderson Bay to Inverkip woodland section

Forestry section of Route 753

Onward until cutting down into Lunderston Bay with its large car park, a place well-used by dog and other walkers. I headed along the coast looking out for feathered friends and the odd stop to add another species in my notebook. The path is a mix of hard packed whin with rougher parts which have been worn away by water either from the fields or from high seas, not before long I was heading through the woodland stretch, finally arriving on to Kip Marina.
The marina was filled with boats and yachts of all sizes. I stopped at the old bridge over the River Kip where I’d broken my ankle as a six-year old, memories of before the marina got sculpted out of fields cut through by a fast flowing river. Progress? I dunno.

Kip Marina

Kip Marina

A left back along the A78 towards Greenock and I was glad to cut off on to a roadside path, a bit manky in bits, but safer. I took the path on the opposite side where at the top of the rise, I would head up Shielhill Glen to Loch Thom, I stopped for a last water break before setting off up a steady but up, up and uphill, the thought of a coffee at the Fishery café spurred me on….no latte, no americano just a white instant Nescafe… and a Toffee Crisp for the sugar, of course. A busy hut with the mild calm weather. Scroggy Bank was tempting and only just over a mile away but I’ll leave that for another sunny crisp day, I have raved about the views on many blog-post, it is worth a visit, trust me..
I spoke with another cyclist who’d cycled up from Fairlie, he mentioned the surrounding countryside and how much he enjoys the roads and forest tracks, vindication for me writing this piece, eh? I can see his point as the area is moorland interspersed with excellent surfaced single track roads and rough tracks to enjoy all types of cycling, mountain biking on the forest tracks and small tracks around the old reservoir systems. A choice for everyone.. the Loch Thom area has one drawback… its at the top of a hill either way you come, but some sadists like that.

Ardgowan Trout Fishery

Loch Compensation

I set off knowing roughly 10 mile to go, firstly up and alongside Loch Thom which dominates the area before my cut through Garshangan and its forest tracks..
A hard packed whin, but potholed wide track brings to a junction, left would be home and the now single track was now a cycle round and ‘miss’ water filled potholes. I could see a small car ahead of me and thought ‘not a good idea, pal’, the track isn’t really that bad and soon I reached the top part of the forest track and there was the car, front bonnet up and steam pouring out..a quick exchange with the driver, then I dropped slowly down swinging from side to side to a cattle grid that had tarmac on the other side, a rough tarmac track which rises slowly, a busy track with vehicles today and rather than fighting for space I just drew in.
I was soon heading down towards Mansfield Bridge where soon I was joining the B788 for 150 metres..Auchentiber Rd, familiar cycling and walking ground for me, the odd rise, but a good downhill run until Penny’s Arch, a red sandstone bridge on which Route 75 runs. I was just over two miles from home, but Route 75 could deliver me into the centre of Glasgow, south to Irvine mostly on a good surface tarmac ex-railway track. I keep promising a guide to the local track, someday.
I was soon was off the track and heading home…
24 mile the GPS said, it felt more probably to my lack of any serious cycling….I must remember drink the coffee and don’t hang about keeping the legs from stiffening up (an age thing)
The route I had taken is a mix of shared tarmac path, esplanade paths, hard packed whin dust with forest tracks… all capable on my hybrid. Any questions on the area, feel free to ask. The video below shows part of my journey (from a previous trip) from 35 secs in and does let you see the variance in track surfaces around Loch Thom. The video finishes at a local landmark ‘Penny’s Arch’ (see above).

The sky was looking ominous so I headed home without taking any images of the area around the Loch although the time lapse video gives you what you need to see, I will add to this post in the near future.

Thanks to all sources linked to…

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot | 2 Comments

2015..the radio and other bits

Radio stuff…

Ill start first with my SOTA activations which were less than I would have liked but due to circumstances, I enjoyed the ones I did, well almost!

It took me to June, first activation was Beinn Dubh, my first hill accompanied by my oldest daughter, Lora. I chose Dubh as a easy tracked hill and I knew with the WX forecast, plus a hill to let her see what excellent views were to be seen with a little effort, I could take my radio gear as well, bonus. The WX stayed excellent the whole trip, I first bagged two contacts in the Mourne mountains of Northern Ireland to start the log, 5 contacts in all which can be the norm in midweek. I didn’t want to spend long on radio but after 30 mins I had my contacts and I tried a few calls over the next 30 mins, nothing. Time to head home, a good day and quality time with Lora.



As is now a yearly event, Beinn a’Mhanaich was my second activation, I used the tried and trusted (and easiest) route starting from the A817 Haul Rd, a stiff ascent to start and a steady ridge walk followed by a couple of short rises. A cairn marks the summit on a large plateau. The WX was ideal, a good day with contacts as far afield as Northern Island and a group activating Ailsa Craig, Robin PKT had come down to active the other Luss Hills to the NE and E of me..

It was off to the Lake District on the annual short trip.

The WX was not looking good even though we’d hung off to choose our days.

I’d chosen my hills but as the last trip, it went all up in the air.

We arrived to steady unsettled weather but I decided to go to standby(and fave summit) Dale Head, I’d planned a round trip there and on to Hindscarth (a WOTA hill) then the short walk to Robinson and drop into Newlands Hause to get picked up. It never turned out that way as the walk up from the top of Honister Pass was to say the least, interesting and windy, very windy.

I arrived at the summit and it was blowing a hooley. It was a handheld activation as the beam had no chance of being erected. I snuck into the side of the large cairn and called on both 4m and 2m. One contact to North Wales on 4 and the other three on 2m, I was ever so glad when John TDM replied so I could bale off the hill, I worked two other lads descending off Blakes Fell, I think according to what they said, I’d the best of the weather but off down and a welcome drive back to Keswick.

Bob about to start descent


I’d been planning this hill since a long time and finally reached the summit in what can only be called a pea-souper..

Katie had dropped me off at Scales car park and off up into the cloud I headed, there is no missing this path as it is a well built stone staircase to the last slow rise to the summit, for once I appreciated the not seeing where I was going but soon I was on the way along the slow gradual rise to the summit, a trip to bag the trig and the geocache which required info off the plate on the trig. Due to a strong breeze at times, I did a handheld activation yet again and the same fella on 4m, I got the other contacts 0n 2m and the last contact was a 216 km contact to John on Stiperstones in Shropshire. More than happy with that! If only I’d used the beam, next time?

As I descended the cloud slowly was being burnt off and as I started down the stone path, views cleared to the W and N..

Another one of the higher Lakes fells ticked off.

That was my SOTA activity for the year, sad really as I now have the time but other circumstances have come into play. I did acheive my 300th ponit.

I’ll be back in ’16.


Carrying on the year as I left off ’14, I was active most early evenings on 12 and 10m when open, I’d arrive home head to the radio and try see what I could work, WAS is now sitting at 47 with three states to get, 2 to verify, I’ll send QSL cards for those, 45 LoTW verified. The cycle is dropping back down with activity over the latter months of the year falling back on those bands, there is always the next peak in about 10 years time.

The rest of the year spent on JT65, JT9 and various PSK modes mostly 31 and 63, a steady stream of new contacts with a drop off late Oct into ’16 as I was now playing with other radio stuff. I did keep my hand in by occasionally having a CQ..

I now achieved 8,000 logged contacts by the end of the year since my return in 2009 (I’ve just worked a German station on 30m to give me the total)


Nothing new planned or tried, I kept up my SOTA chasing and finished the year within reach of 4,000 VHF chasing points (I’ve just made it, 4,001 and counting).

I didn’t do as much portable work in the local hills but that was more down to lack of activity on my part, I’ve still to fully organise the bike for carrying everything. One trip to Scroggy Bank was successful so maybe more planned, it will depend on my reckoning the best LOS for working some of the further N SOTA activations. I’ve a wee thought to trying some of the VHF 2m and 70cm RSGB but it’ll be down to WX and mostly, midge status.


Another foray back into the SDR dongle with the newer R 8202T/2 chip, this is ongoing as I find new ways of using..

I’m doing more listening between VHF and HF and as you may have seen in one of my last blog posts my foray into AIS which is still toodling away on an old laptop, I’ve now hooked my WX station to the APRS and live weather from GAX towers, more plans to go further with this.

I’ve a box with more stuff to get round to but I never do anything in a hurry, I first looked at AIS over seven-year ago and look how long it took me to get round to it, can anyone let me borrow one of the USB AIS rx units to try to see how it performs against dAISy…

I’ve also been playing with PSK on Android tablets, AIS, SDR on Windows Tablet….2016 could be interesting

I think that is it…

If not I’d add as I remember..


Posted in Musings

2015, a momentous year



It started slowly and gathered momentum.

A year in which I retired from the daily grind, plans to do anything else?, mibbes aye, mibbes naw.

A year in which I spread my wings further out on the cycling trail, a year in which radio latterly took a back seat, a year one small ambition realised – a climb of Helvellyn, a year in which my youngest graduated with a B.A., the oldest gaining his Ph.D…A year in which I realised that I must pack in as much time doing what I want (after housework, of course.)

The cycling bit first, folks..

I’m a nerd who logs everything, radio contacts, mileage either walked, cycled, hiked etc.

I look constantly at my Polar v650 placed on the stem, I see time out, mileage was done, speed, ave speed, Heart Rate, ave HR, ascent and descent, obsession? maybe.

2015 cycling highlight?

Looking down Loch Fyne

Looking down Loch Fyne

Too many to choose.

I rarely plan a route, I decide how I feel and some days I do hills, on others the local track does me.

There obviously are high points and I’ll note these as I go.

Making my way up the A82 Rest and Be Thankful taking it easy in the small ring knowing each bend and foot ascended was getting me near the top, I had approached Ardgarten with much trepidation. I punched the air as I topped and promptly got cheered by a large group of middle-aged bikers who had cruised by me at a far greater pace on their motorised machines. I bowed as I came off the bike. I could have gone up a gear or two higher on the lower part but better saving the legs, just in case. I later looked at Strava segment times and I wasn’t the slowest but there were many much more quicker at the ascent, I was happy. Me in my 60s, a hybrid, 700×40 tyres and a body not made for speed.

Parts of that trip was on roads never cycled, I took the Barbour Rd out of Kilcreggan and when I reached Peaton Rd, I gulped and had a go but not for long. I got off and milked it.

It’s the thought of the return home from the west. Sea level to just under 500 ft ASL, local knowledge then comes into play.

I returned again to Bute to catch the roads I missed first time round, a magical island to cycle (as long as you check the wind direction first), the ferry journey was a highlight, Gourock to Rothesay due to pier works at Wemyss Bay, memories of being 5 or 6 going ‘doon the watter’.

Best view.

Later that day I’d cycled high above Loch Fyne as I headed to where I’d turn south at Strachur, I decided on a late break to have what originally was my lunch, I parked Polly and sat down on a bench on the shore side, it wasn’t sunny but with the solitary noise of small waves breaking on a rocky shore, I sat back and soaked in the view.

Ettrick Bay

Looking down Loch Fyne

Other views, sitting at the café at Ettrick Bay on Bute looking across to Arran, looking west and south-west from the Haylie Brae above Largs are among too many to mention. It makes all the pedalling worthwhile.

The view from Scroggy Bank above Greenock has to be one of my favourites and I never tire of being there, an uphill cycle on a rough track then an obscure tarmac single track road to the mast area.

I can leave home and have a 20 mile plus run and be back home in under 2 hours, some days it takes 3, 3½ maybe 4.

I’ve got to know folk along the routes I travel and we spend time, talking about this and that. I do a weekly check on all the geocaches I have placed along Route 75 and other areas…

New places visited.

I headed one day with Balloch in mind but nagging for a few months in the back of my mind was the thought of heading further among 7 to Drymen. A case of ‘I’m here, lets go’, a cycle designated route but no level tarmac path, just the up and down of country roads. I sat in the square in Drymen and spoke to a passing cyclist, he asked where I had left my car..’My car? I’ve cycled’..a look of shock as I explained I just point the front wheel and go.


I try and vary my runs so I never get that feeling of ‘not this stretch again’, I have ran out of side roads to explore and meet all sorts of happenings, I occasionally meet the river watchers who check samples of river life, the replacement bridge builders, the taking a trip along ‘paths’ I took the Mill Lade path between Crosslee and Bridge of Weir and cycled around 60% but I’ll walk the next time, the bike and myself were a bit muddy to say the least. I’ve still a geocache to find midway.


A drudge it could have been but December has been a month of heavy rain and constant high winds, I’d headed out more as an escape of the house, it looked okay but as I got to the end of the avenue, it rained BIG rain blown horizontally into my face as I pedalled towards the cycle track , I wished lads I knew a ‘Good morning’, a ‘WTF are you doing out in this?’ came back but off down the track where 5 miles out, I decided to turn back.

I stood sodden at the back door, every item of clothing straight into the washing machine, the bike? ironically got a natural ‘jet’ wash..It’s been a ‘weather window’ hunt. as I write this, I’m 5 mile short of 3,500 miles or 5,632 Kms. I’ve still time to break this total.

Next year?.

I spent last winter making all sorts of plans and never achieved many of them, I’m not making plans this winter as I’m going to dig in to what is already stored by.

I’m writing this in the dog days (alternative world) of December, gales have been constant, rain? more than normal and I’ve been grounded..a light dusting of snow lies outside.

Over 3,300 miles logged, surprisingly not much more than 2014.

Earlier Jan, Feb and March weather restricted my ‘oots’, top month saw over 550 miles logged.

I’ll take that…..

Part 2?

Radio and others, sometimes.

I used the full image of Scroggy Bank as this is one view which continues to astound me no matter how often I stand there. Please click on image for a fuller image and appreciation of the view.

Posted in Musings


You read it correct..



dAISY is an AIS receiver.

What is AIS?


I’ve meant to give AIS monitoring a try for years but being honest, the cost of the USB receivers put me off if I found the coverage would be poor.

I was just googling this and that one evening when I came across a forum and read through all pages on the development stages of the dAISy. I thought this sounds a way of entering the dedicated RX market although I already have the facilities to use a data cable and 9600 rates on a radio needed to decode AIS but as I use that radio for my HF data work, a separate wee box would do nicely.

I read all I could about her and decided to bite the bullet and get one sent over from the US.



I knew the capabilities of reception, knowing that it would not be as sensitive as a dedicated box. It allowed me into the world of AIS rx’ing at very reasonable price.

I bought the little beauty at the Tindie store and I exchanged emails with Adrian who is the developer, excellent quick helpful replies!!

I tracked the package and it soon arrived, I’d downloaded a trial copy of Shipplotter so I could run dAISY and see whether I would keep or possibly upgrade at some point.

The unit was ‘plug and play’ on Windows 10, support is there for other versions, and after a short set-up, I fired up the programme, one or two settings later, I clicked on the green circle. Instantly I was seeing ‘messages’ being logged, I could see the positions of each ship on the map (you do have to calibrate a map when first running Shipplotter but there is ‘How to do this’ online.

I knew dAISy had limits of 8 to 12 miles due to the internals used but that would be enough to me, I did mail Adrian who pointed me to a user who has coverage of up to 59 miles, this user is on the Columbia River which uses an AIS repeater system. My best so far is 16 miles N to Loch Goil, I’m located at just under 500 ft ASL but there is higher ground between me and parts of the river and lochs. My limit seems to 16 m N, 9 miles W and 8 miles E, local geography comes into play. I’m sure if are suitably placed with a clear view, much better distances could be achieved.

Clyde Estuary


The 21 day trial period of Shipplotter was coming to an end, decision time.

I bought it although you can use other freebie progs such as AISMon, OpenCPN, AIS Decoder among others. I’ll be keeping an eye on the further development of these programmes.

Clyde Estuary

Clyde Estuary

I also did some experimenting with my SDR dongle which I can use straight audio to pnAIS which uses voice to report each message and shows you on a separate open window ships info.

I’ve stuck with it is KISS.

I run an old Toshiba laptop and watch the ship movements on the river and am presently ‘following’ a ship making its way down the river from just under the Erskine bridge, my limit to the E.


I’ve now begun uploading my AIS captures to the Shipplotter server and am receiving other sharers input, I have just expanded my map some to ‘catch’ the boats 15 to 20 miles away. It gives me much more info than before, my own RX’ed ships are still distinguishable from the others.

I also incorporated my AIS info into which I use when out and about, I have recently been uploading my weather station output 24/7 under my ham radio callsign, I’m weighing up running both the AIS and WX but will decide at a later date.


I’m not going to explain all the techy details, see below.


dAISy specs.

  • Single channel receiver
  • Receiving on channel A (161.975 MHz) and B (162.025 MHz)
  • Quickly alternates between both channels through frequency hopping (<10ms)
  • Sensitivity down to -100 dBm
  • Very low power consumption, less than 100mW in receive mode (<20mA at 5V)
  • No drivers required for Windows 10, Mac OS X and Linux (driver available for older versions of Windows)
  • 38400 baud serial over USB
  • Optional TTL serial output (3.3V, requires soldering)
  • Message output in industry standard NMEA format (AIVDM)
  • Small size: 63 x 44 x 23 mm
  • Sturdy aluminum enclosure
  • BNC connector for 50 Ohm VHF antenna (antenna not included)
  • Mini-USB connector for data and power (USB cable included)
  • Made in the USA

dAISy is © Adrian Studer…

Thanks go to Adrian for developing a cheap entry point into the world of AIS and you can buy one HERE

Further information on ongoing development HERE

Shipplotter HERE

All links and info are given in good faith.

© Google, Shipplotter, dAISy, Terrametrics.


Posted in Musings

Get Your Kicks On Route 7

Doesn’t have the same cache as Route 66 though?

This weather has been unbelievably good, an Indian summer methinks.

I spent the time after last weeks Bute run noting further places with easy reach to explore and this wasn’t one of them. I thought with the colder months fast approaching I’d get some ‘outer’ trips in the log.

I did think of returning to Bute but that will be for another day before the ferry returns to its regular Wemyss Bay run. I threw my front lights in the pannier which was a knowing sign I would be out longer. I was still swithering about where to go and what to do.

Hatton Brae

Hatton Brae

I set off to look up my old work crew before the intention of crossing the Erskine Bridge with Balloch in the back of my mind. I headed downhill and took the path along the A8 where I soon passed through Langbank before the ascent of Hatton Brae. I stopped to look at the view through the Leven valley towards Ben Lomond and beyond, an inspiration of course not tired legs, those would come much later.

I swung through Bishopton and soon I was on the cycle path on the bridge, I see it has had a good sweep since my last visit. It tends to get all the crap flung sideways off the road. A turn under the bridge and I were heading down Lusset Glen where left in 200 yds I’d turn right to join Route 7 at Old Kilpatrick. It was a busy track although I had left much later in the day than I normally do, as I’d forgotten to charge my phone, doh!

The canal was still and it was down to the river viewpoint at the canal entrance at Bowling where I hoped for a few photos but construction work had safety fencing up everywhere, I had a quick chat with a couple of anglers and I was soon heading west.

The track surface is excellent although a wee bit rattly canalside from Old Kilpatrick to Bowling Harbour, and not before long I was passing through Dumbarton, this time, I followed the official signs which swung me south then north, I normally take a short cut which keeps you off most of the roads.

I stopped at Dalreoch then up along the path which runs along the River Leven, it was busy with cyclists heading back, I assume early birds plus there were plenty of anglers taking advantage of conditions more likely as the season closes soon and not good water.

River Leven

River Leven

I reached Balloch at the Cruise Lomond berth past the Barrage, decision time.

Okay, Route 7 north-east it would be…

It was a case of following the blue signs and off up through Balloch Country Park, winding my way up whilst sign searching, I left the park onto a single track road which after a quick downhill took me to the A 811 junction but I could see my next side road, a drag uphill.

I was now on country back roads, I could see occasional glimpses of the Luss hills to the west and Ben Lomond to the north. I knew the next village would be Croftamie so I took in the scenery and smells as I passed fields full of cattle, sheep, and the occasional horse. This was good as it gets, the sun just kept shining and with a slight chill in the air, it made pedalling along comfortable. I wound this way and that and soon dropped down to the path which would take me through Croftamie, the path was a bit rattly and I arrived at the village. Look right left then across the A809 and I left the village, a fleeting visit as I must have spent 20 secs there, through another gate and the same rattly path. The path is a converted old railway track, the Forth and Clyde Junction Railway which ran from Balloch to Stirling. History HERE. The grass is encroaching the first path and it is not more than two feet wide in places, the second part is wider.

Oops, mmmm, a ‘long’ metal bridge. This bridge has been built on the remains of the old ‘Endrick Viaduct’, not much width for Bob and ‘Polly’ but I made it with a stop above midstream for obligatory river photos. I looked for signs of any fish movement but only the odd rise to an early afternoon fly further up the river in a deeper pool.

It wasn’t long before this part of the track ended and on to tarmac once more, a sign said ‘Drymen’ 2 miles, I had now joined the ‘West Highland Way‘ so I started off downhill, I was thinking all downhill would be nice until I met another sharp rise and another.

Tin Bridge

Tin Bridge

I saw a sign randomly placed on a wire fence between the roadside hedging with an arrow pointing to where I’d come from and the words ‘The Shire’ and I looked for Bilbo and the lads but they must have been on an adventure.

I later discovered I’d passed an old Roman Fort at Drumquhassle which I never saw signage for so one reason for another visit.

Ben Lomond

Ben Lomond

I crossed the main road, up some steps and soon I was sitting in the square. 33 mile gone.

The last time I sat here, my old Superdream had collected a slow puncture and it had been another impulse ride where I intended to head to Balmaha but I felt the wobbly back tyre as I turned into Drymen, I had not brought my usual tin of Tyreweld which had got me home on a few occasions but the local garage called a local agricultural dealer just outside town who soon got me going again with the premise of not going over 30 mph home, today I’d manage just over 10 mph average on my trip.

A visit to a nearby shop for scran and a decision to make, the route home?…

It was the A 811 down to Balloch, the road was busy and a bit ‘up and down’, I stopped at one bit to look down on an old Endrick fishing haunt at Mains Farm but carrying on, I met road works and traffic lights at Gartocharn, it was onto the opposite pavement and I rejoined the road just outside the village, this made the following traffic worse as they were all rushing past obviously to make up time. I was glad to meet my cut off to Route 7 again above Balloch.



A long haul uphill at first and meeting a BMW who thought of cutting a 90-degree corner on a single track, tut…

Entering the Country Park. it was a leisurely downhill run this time. I resisted a Palumbo’s fish supper, I must be getting soft in my old age.One was always the highlight of a stop heading home after fishing the loch.

I’d thought if I’d made this trip a couple of weeks later, the autumnal foliage would be good to see, today just the odd signs of it on the banks of the Leven. Mention has to be made of upkeep of these tracks as I met no broken glass and almost litter free. Hats off to the volunteers and local authority workers en route.

I made reasonable time through Dumbarton and when passing the animal home at Milton, I’m sure it was still the same dog howling that I heard on my outward journey. It had an eerie sounding howl.

The next thought on my mind, the route home after the bridge, I mulled this all the way over the Erskine Bridge to Bishopton and the thought of one hill in particular made up my mind to head over the ammo fields past Formakin to Houston, Bridge of Weir and Route 75 home.

My legs were feeling the last five miles as I rode towards home….

Just slightly over 70 miles on the Polar.

A hot bath, the Radox poured and a long, long leisurely soak was had…

and, of course, a chilled cider followed.

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Isle of Bute……………………reprise

The legs thought it was time for a change of scenery, Renfrewshire’s back roads are a fine place to spend an hour or more toodling but I’d been thinking outside the local comfort zone. A chat with the Roddy fella reminded me that Wemyss Bay pier was out of action and the ferries were sailing from Gourock to Rothesay. A easier way for me to travel over.

I had hoped the night before to load on geocaches to my GPS but I had followed the progress of a geomagnetic storm, at 9 in the evening it was ‘raging’ at G3 (5 is the max intensity) and was planning to head out around 10ish. Twitter reports were ‘trending’ of Aurora sightings.

Just before 10, an email popped in to my inbox from fellow blogger Hugh was cycling over the Green Rd at the back of me and saw the ‘lights’.

Almost immediately, we hurried out and finally ended up above Greenock and waited for a glimpse and it finally arrived, faint at first but then the sky started dancing green to the north above Helensburgh, a green haze with the odd flare began moving, I’ve included a couple of images but I haven’t mastered the art of long exposure yet plus shaky hands, next time I’ll be ready.

Hello Bute

Hello Bute

Unfortunately Lora had work the next morning and I had this adventure planned so back home we headed.

Ah, the Island of Bute..

Most folk who visit never see past Rothesay and never realise how scenic the rest of the island is.

I read recently it is the second windiest place in the UK, read HERE .

Using the excellent Traveline Scotland app, I checked ferry times and hurriedly packed my pannier. I noticed it an excellent bus route which runs from Kilchattan Bay to Rhubodach with hourly buses (Mon-Fri daytime) to and from Ettrick Bay. Timetable HERE (2014 onwards)

Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle

There was an autumnal nip in the air as I headed westwards towards Gourock, a quick ‘hello cheerio’ to an old workmate en route and soon I had travelled the seven miles to Gourock pier and with tickets bought, the ferry was loading, I waited on the lad waving me on the car deck of the ferry. The bike parked up, I headed upstairs to the top deck to enjoy the sail. It brought back old memories of the days when steamers plied the Firth in greater numbers, days of boats such as the Duchess of Hamilton and her ilk, today it is either car ferries or the PS Waverley. The sea was still, the sky free of clouds as we left Dunoon, Cloch Light and Innellan behind before turning past Toward Light and into Rothesay Bay reminding me of a verse from ‘The Song of the Clyde’

‘Oh the river Clyde, the wonderful Clyde
The name of it thrills me and fills me with pride
And I’m satisfied whate’er may betide
The sweetest of songs is the song of the Clyde
Imagine we’ve left Craigendoran behind
And wind-happy yachts by Kilcreggan we find
At Kirn and Dunoon and Innellan we stay
Then Scotland’s Madeira that’s Rothesay, they say’

60 minutes of sitting soaking the October rays and the view, I’d braved the hard metal outside deck seats but the view compensated missing out on the soft plusher seats inside the boat, it was down to walk the bike off the boat.

Last off the boat, I cycled to the traffic lights and waited and waited..

I’m convinced traffic lights never ‘see’ any cyclists so it was a quick nip back and on to the pavement where I joined the main road and headed up the B881.

Arran view B881

Arran view B881

My route was to take me past Rothesay Castle, I had a leisurely walk round the outer fence and saw scaffolding placed all along one side, the image I took was the only area free of it and not before long, I was heading upwards on the B881 to leave the town behind and now on open countryside, the views at the top were just as stunning as I expected. I’d decided to take in some B roads I’d missed last time I was over and view the island from its high parts. Arran dominated the skyline as I dropped down, seeing Loch Ascog on my left and soon arrived at the A814 junction where soon I passed the turn off to St Blane‘s Church(worth a visit!) I rode round to the junction at the Kingarth Hotel where I turned right looking for a single track but carried on to Kilchattan Bay, just for a nostalgic look (memories of the 70s). I turned back up to the junction and headed out along the single track Bruchag Rd, mostly riding high above the shore then heading back inland to the A844. A lot of farm detritus along this road. (Polly needed a good wash down when I finally reached home)

Ettrick Bay

Ettrick Bay

Once I rejoined the main road, I resisted the temptation to turn left and cycle back the short distance to the War Memorial where the views to Arran are in my opinion the best on the island(so far), the vista opening out as you head down the road are stunning but it was a right turn today to give me a straight run back to the centre of Rothesay, I descended down past Mount Stuart before swinging off to have a quick look at old sandstone jetty at Kerrycroy.



I cycled through Ascog, Montford and Craigmore past the mix of Victorian villas and newer builds. The long cycle along the prom soon took me to my starting point where I carried on through towards Port Bannatyne, the town centre was busy as I passed through. I passed the old Pavilion which is due for an £9 million facelift. A now familiar road took me through Port Bannatyne, I noted a petanque ‘terrain’as I passed a play area as I headed out to the junction at Kames Castle and to my next destination 2 miles away at Ettrick Bay and my lunch. Note..I used the B road but there is a track which runs to the bay from the junction of the A844 and B875 which has been created on the bed of the old Rothesay and Ettrick Bay Light Railway

Fully sated with the obligatory burger and home fries, I sat outside the tea room and drank in the views, I’d recommend a visit for both food and the views. I did a reccy for a future project before leaving on what would be a roundabout way back to Rothesay and at the junction I headed right and a long steady drag for a few miles before heading north at Greenan on the B 878.

Off home

Off home

I stopped to take a photo of three Clydesdale horses in a field but they took off to the far side of the field and obviously weren’t impressed. Greenan Loch was on my left , Barone Hill on my right before a sharp right turn and drop, I got passed by a car at the bend and I wondered if I was going to pass the same car on the descent as I hurtled towards it, Miss Daisy was out for the day. This was the shortest stretch of road for the day as I soon quickly headed downhill into Rothesay town centre. 30 miles covered on a day which could be called idyllic although the wind had been breezier than expected on some stretches. A good day once again. I’ll be back sooner next time.

I purposely left out other side roads/areas I intend to go back over and explore on my next trip especially whilst the ferry is still leaving Gourock.

I’d landed in Rothesay at 11.00 (I’d left the house at 9 am) and even with an extended lunch break, I returned on the 14.50 boat and was back home around 17.00 hrs…

I thought I’d add Jack and Toms version of the above song,

I’ve received feedback on the aurora ‘chasing’,

My ‘go to’ sites and apps for this…

For the forecast and present conditions HERE HERE

I use Twitter HERE

Facebook is useful (I am not a user)

Oh and my previous blog post… HERE

My thinks once again to Wikipedia….(please support)

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

A ‘Been Before’ And A Hill….

Time to get back to some local places to visit…..

The hill in question? Cairncurran, a local TuMP in among surrounding higher ground. Cairncurran is situated in rural Kilmacolm and is only just over 4 kms away from my home as the crow flies. I’d received an email about the hill from fellow blogger Hugh and thought mmm, one that I’d never really visited although the hill is recognisable for its distinctive summit shape depending on what angle you look from. If you look at the summit as you come over west via Garshangan, it looks like two power poles are planted in the middle of a stone summit but in other views it looks as if the summit is cut across with a sharp knife.

Cairncurran Hill

Cairncurran Hill

It was time to go look and after the usual checks on Google Maps/ Google Earth. I’d decided to cycle over Auchenbothie Rd and on to the B788 towards Kilmacolm where I would take the single track farm road to look at a couple of access points. A ride to the top of the road at the farm made my mind up to reach the hill lower down up past a conifer plantation. I thought that I’d nip over the next suitable day weather wise but in true Bob fashion, it was a week later plus I got Katie to drop me off at the entrance to the farm road on the B788.

I could hear cutting activity going on in a nearby wood, more on this later. I started up an open field and crossing at a well made stile, the next bit of ground was rough to say the least, I made my way through reeds, long grass and an uneven surface before finding an easier route to the next stile. It was much easier going the short distance to the summit, I’d hadn’t really walked that far so I was soon on the summit, I found a rock, sat down and had some scran while taking in the views.



To the north I could see nearby Corlic and the Luss hills but unfortunately anything higher covered by cloud, the sprawling urban landscape of Paisley and beyond to the south-east, the hills and moorland to the south with Creuch Hill rising behind me to the south-west. I had a walk around the summit area and could see it was like most hills in the area, I’m not going to talk geology but this was obviously the result of volcanic activity which most of the hilltops in the immediate area are, fun fact (as far as I know) is no gold has ever been found in Renfrewshire* although I would like  proved wrong so I could bring out my pan and ‘Henderson’ pump which have never been used in earnest.

I came off the summit and walked around the stone ‘wall’, I saw what at first looked like a very small cave, sadly it wasn’t, I had a quick look before taking some summit photos then it was time to head home, once again another local hill with cracking views, I’ll be back.

I headed back down with a slightly altered route and headed towards where I’d heard the forestry work being done, I came across one of the ‘do everything Timber Harvester’ machines working, I spoke with the operator before he got back to work. Interesting machine.

Time to head back home and as I headed I saw an intriguing obvious ‘entrance’ into a conifer plantation, nosey time.

It was a pheasant rearing pen, I’ll let the images posted below tell the story, I was surprised this was so openly findable but I guess not many people will walk and pass this area. I followed the main road back to where I would head east and take the turning to the Green Rd and head back home via the golf course.

A good walk plus I’d enjoyed my day out.

*The ‘gold’ fact comes from ‘At the end of the rainbow’ by G.F.Adamson ( I read this a few year ago when loaned a rare copy).

I checked a local book for the meaning of ‘Cairncurran’ and it came up with ‘cairn of cairns’ although ‘curran’ has other meanings.

The ‘been before’ bit..

I originally was going to add on a piece about a local ruined church but I took a trip to do some checking on the ‘rail’ bridge over the Blacketty Water deep in Muirsheil Park.

I’d been in touch with Mark who has blogged and has(is) built a scale replica of said bridge, I offered to head out and get some more detailed information on the bridge.

Mark’s blog is HERE

I’d been doing more miles than normal the past week so the legs were slightly heavy but off I headed, the bridge is only 3.5 mile as the crow flies but sadly not by bike. I took a left of B788 down Gateside Rd and soon I took the ‘road’ (I use the term loosely) up the where it joins the open hillside past Hardridge Farm. I opened the gate and headed slowly up a good-sized stony track, I soon passed the old railway shed which is showing signs of years of high winds, the roof looked as if it is open at one corner.

trusty steed at Blacketty

trusty steed at Blacketty

I pedalled up where it was possible and I just walked the rest when it got too rough for the bike. I have been up here a couple of times before but I think the track has deteriorated.

I passed the heilin coos’ and as they were on the track, slowly as those horns look deadly sharp.

I arrived at the junction with the Muirsheil Park track.

I parked up the bike and got out the tape and measured various parts of the track setup, I laugh now as I had written things down as I thought they would be called but obviously not the technical terms. All measurements taken, I took out the camera and snapped it from all angles.

A slight shower passed and I sat and had some scran and thought, I must head up here some crisp winter night as I could see the urban sprawl of Paisley and beyond.

Decision time,

Muirsheil or back to Hardridge.

The last time I’d cycled over from Muirsheil so I thought I’ll do the return journey, wrong!!!

bridge 4

bridge 4

I walked roughly half the journey, I waded through a couple of burns and many ‘puddles’ up to knee-deep and I could see no activity signs except an odd bike tyre mark but no vehicle tracks like the last time. Erosion? This track is slowly heading back to nature. Up, down and finally I reached a locked gate leading me into the main park area, the bike lifted over the fence and a quick look at the Calder Water bits and bobs before a quick run down then up into the Ranger Centre, no coffee today as I had soaking trainers/feet, I’d have been welcome, not.

I knew I’d an almost downhill 2.5 ml run to the main road, I met nothing so I coasted to where I had to decide Kilmacolm or Lochwinnoch, my legs said right but I knew it was 17 ml before I’d get home so it was off uphill then more uphill before a sharp drop from Carruthmuir, the road ahead was closed but I knew the work was nearer Kilmacolm and I could have a couple of options to leave en-route but I reached the junction where I’d head down to the outskirts of Quarriers Village.

A quick down then up and I was on the cycle track, 5 ml from home…

Next time?

I think I’ll walk up.

But how to get there?

There are two tracks to reach the bridge,

a track winds up form the Hardridge Farm area but parking is not advised on the tarmac section of this road and TBH there isn’t any parking areas along the Gateside Road. Personally I’d get dropped off as near as possible and walk up the broken tarmac track before heading on to the open moorland. A return journey to the Gateside Rd of 6 km.

The other option is to head to Muirsheil Park, off the B788 near Lochwinnoch. There is car parking at the Rangers Centre, a long walk along the Hardridge track a 10 and a half km return walk along a rough track with occasional deep puddles along the route with at least one running burn to cross.

The bridge is situated

Ordnance Survey approx NS 301675

Lat Long is N 55 52.269  W 004 42.917

If you need further directions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you…

Blacketty Water bridge map

Blacketty Water bridge map

My previous blog post on the area HERE

Cairncurran Hill….

The ‘Pen’

‘The Been Before

Posted in Local Interest

I’ve been to Hel…………vellyn and back

First of all, no apologies for returning first to what is my favourite Lake District fell, Dale Head.

It now seems to be my first place to head to each visit to the Lakes, it was my first fell (1981) that I climbed in the area and the view north is still my favourite.

We had waited on trying to grab some good weather to head down to Keswick and had watched the forecasts for a couple of weeks but nothing seemed to suit, time was running out so with B&B booked, it was off down south we headed.

The journey down was the normal, with Asda Carlisle our brekkie stop but the weather on the way down wasn’t too promising.

Fed and fuelled up it was off to Penrith before heading west along the A66 to Keswick, the base for our stay.

Stairway to Helvellyn

Stairway to Helvellyn

The rain had disappeared but it was windy, very windy, I checked the latest forecast for the area and the wind was to drop…

But it didn’t, we headed down Borrowdale towards Seatoller and then up the steep road to Honister Slate Mine, Katie was to go shopping, I was to hike up Dale Head, the path starts at the highest point of the pass and just under an hour later, I was standing, nay kneeling behind the summit cairn because I was struggling to stand, yes, it was that windy, the gusts were horrendous, I was glad of the shelter but it seemed the wind was coming from more than one direction. I got the handhelds ready, a short activation which is not my thing, I had originally intended Dale Head, a quick WOTA activation of Hindscarth then on to Robinson and getting picked up later at Newlands Hause. Oh and I managed to find the cache just east of the summit cairn.

I worked 3 stations on 2m FM, one on 4m FM, the fourth was most welcome as I then called over the next five minutes but no one came back. It turned out to be almost a hit and run but conditions seemed to be getting windier, I faced into it on the descent and soon we headed back to Keswick, the cobwebs well and truly blown off.

Yer man at the shelter

Yer man at the shelter

I got MWIS forecasts each morning from our landlady and between this and the Met Office app, I put off my next trip as it wasn’t looking promising for Wednesday BUT they got it totally wrong, there was still a good breeze at low down but the sun appeared late morning so we just headed to check drop off points for a couple of hills and to visit our friends in Keswick, plans were afoot for Thursday but what hill, a choice of two….but there was no choice, Helvellyn it would be.

I’ve planned this hill after visiting Scafell Pike in 2012 and the forecast was for it to clear late morning, I was to find out it didn’t follow this promise.

Everything was double, treble checked and we set out after another monstrous brekkie to travel the 7 mile down the road to the car park at Swirls on the A591. It was in drizzle and low cloud that I set off and I switched on my GPS (I do carry OS maps and compass) and headed upwards but I wouldn’t have needed it as I set off crossing Helvellyn Gill before heading on to the open fell-side.

Helvellyn summit shelter

Helvellyn summit shelter

It was to what I have now christened ‘Stairway to Helvellyn'(sorry Led Zep), a massive thanks has to be given to the volunteers who improved this path by paving and creating what is a stairway which lasts until you reach the higher levels of the ascent, a magnificent job. The stone was wet so I took care and made note that I would have to be extra careful if I met the same conditions on the descent. It was steady going upwards in visibility which may at best got as good as 40m, I met only three figures descending in the mist, each encouraging me upwards. The last lad said I had only 200m of the steepest part to go before the slow gradual ascent to the summit.

This was most welcome as I’d ascended almost 2,000 ft in just over a mile, quickening my pace I headed up what now was a wide, worn path. The trig point was soon reached and I made a note to bag the virtual cache on my way back down. The summit shelter was my target, I soon was sitting having a bite to eat and deciding what to do, it was raining and the wind was gusting strong at times. I decided to do as the same Tuesday, handie only..

I called and got John TDM in Penrith, a short chat whilst he put a spot on the SOTA website, thanks John! Next in the log was Derek MIX from Whitehaven whom I worked the previous hill and this pattern was to follow as John FGQ in North Wales replied to my call on 4m and was my only contact on the band on both hills. A short break whilst I chatted with various people who appeared and wondered what I was up to. If you can get an interested party to take the hobby up and are keen hill walkers the better, I think an information sheet would be a good idea, I’ll get busy..

The wind and rain lightened and I just carried on and notched up another 5 contacts, Rob HRT in Southport, Paul WTT in Elwoe, John ZPL/p nr Bangor, Brian ZRP in the Wirral and finally a STS (summit to summit) with John TQE/p on Stiperstones in North Staffordshire approx 216 kms to the south of me..nice one!

I aint going back

I aint going back

I called on both 2 and 4m but nothing more. The rain had stopped by now so I packed everything away and got ready to head back the way I’d ascended once I called Katie and arranged a pickup time, I had factored in extra time for what could have been a descent on wet stone ‘steps’.

Off to the trig point, and I noted the info I needed for bagging the cache and noticed three padlocks on top of the trig, so it wasn’t just Ben Lomond this happens on, see HERE. I set off down the gradual wide open summit path trying to catch a look down Swirral Edge but I soon reached the slopes of Little Man and soon I was passing Browncove Crags, not long after I passed I could see the cloud lifting and as I reached the top of the ‘staircase’, a quick look back and the cloud had lifted, will I go back?

Nope, it was down the ‘staircase’ which thankfully was now dry, gently picking my way down and having a quick word with the throngs now ascending the hill, I met Magda, a Polish woman I’d spoken with on the summit. She had decided to sit and enjoy the views.

I slowly worked my way down the paved path before heading through the gate and bridge which led me in the car park where Katie was waiting on me.

1 hour 54 minutes to ascend and 1 hour 40 minutes to descend, I was more than happy at this.

I was happy to have done this fell, the third highest point in England. I’ve now done three of the seven 3,000 plus hills in England.

Skiddaw and Blencathra

Skiddaw and Blencathra

It is now down to planning my next venture to the area….

Katie did ask on our last day if I wanted to catch another hill whilst she did her last shop, I could have nipped up either of the Mell Fells but I thought, another day…

It was then a quick run back over the border to home.

I logged my activations and pleased to see I have now reached 300 points.

There are no images of the Dale Head activation due to the weather conditions.

Another memorable visit to the Lakes, what next?

The Wikipedia page on Helvellyn makes for interesting reading HERE

The blog post title?

It wasn’t a trip to Hel..vellyn, I just thought it was a good ‘un.

During our visit, we took a trip to Surprise View above Derwent Water past the famous Ashness Bridge, I took this photo of Expedition Driver Katie…

Katie at Surprise View

Spotted this in a Cockermouth car park, do you know the answer?

I dont know the answer

I dont know the answer

Posted in Oot'n'Aboot

Six Not Out….

Six not out?

Nah, it’s really seven not out as I was on a’Mhanaich April ’14 but no activation.

This was a last-minute thought as no arrangements made until late Friday evening. I had planned a slightly longer bike ride for the Saturday morning when I mentioned that the weather would have been ideal for a hillwalk. A rush then to charge everything as I have lacked in my used to having everything ready to go..

The FT817 and SLaB were forgotten due to time constraints so it was handhelds only and with charging the handie batteries during the night, I was ready just to pack the rukkie first thing in the morning. The plan was an early, early start so I could get back home to catch the next to the last stage in the TdF which finished on Alpe D’Huez. It never works out the way I plan things as it was the back of 9 we left. Like last time I did a hill (Beinn Dubh) across the water, we had nipped into to a garage en route for an excellent coffee and bacon roll, we stopped again. Still good.

The roads were quiet heading with a build up heading south. The A817, the Haul Rd was soon turned into and it was off up along this rollercoaster of a road. In a car you don’t notice this but my memories of cycling it last year W to E does. Soon I could see the route up the Strone as we climbed the last steep hill and parked in a draw off bit where I checked I had everything before waving goodbye to Katie. ‘Remember this spot please’ I said but more on this later.

Got the hint

Got the hint

I set my GPS devices and headed up..

It was up a now well familiar track which looks as if it is not used as often, I kept to the right of the ubiquitous ‘Military Firing Range’ signs, I have heard on two occasions, gunfire on my ascents. Keep further right, I thought.

After a mile the ground and path level out and a steady uphill walk to where the signs disappear to your left, a walk across a somewhat boggy area before heading up the next steep rise where at the top you can see the summit cairn in the distance, the rest is an easy level walk until a short sharp climb to the summit.

It had been breezy on the way up, a welcome NW cooling one and I moved slightly off summit to a nook just below the cairn.

Glen Luss

Glen Luss

I sat and enjoyed the views before getting to business, Robin PKT was just to the NE on Beinn Dubh so it was a quick contact by the handie with him, I had a quick word with Stevie SGO and Brian HMZ before I set up the 4m JPole, 4M was my first choice today and more in hope, I gave out a call, Brian HMZ came back and that was at least one. I next called and worked Eric FSZ in Girvan, I kept plugging away and the third contact was Norrie in Edinburgh before I got Neil NCM on Ailsa Craig , I’d activated the hill on 4m, a rarity for me and I later logged Alan NLA on the island. A SOTA expedition was happening on the island plus I could see the Craig 75 kms away down the firth. Once again the views were excellent, I could see the big Ben briefly before some cloud killed the further views NW…

It was time for a scran break and as I knew 2m would be busy with NCM and PKT. I scanned the other hills and I only could see a figure across the glen on Chaorach.

I put up the beam and made various contacts to as far east as Edinburgh, Girvan, Glasgow, Ailsa Craig, Irvine, Ayr, Donaghadee (NI), Lanarkshire and I had packed away everything except a handie to wait for a final summit to summit (3 km away) with Robin PKT on Doune Hill. I did see him near the trig point.

Looking down the Firth

Looking down the Firth

A good day, fine weather and an enjoyable walk over now familiar ground.

Whilst waiting I could see three folk coming up from the glen floor, a steep rise of almost 1200 ft..they had also did the direct route to Chaorach from Auchengaich reservoir which I had done (and promised to never do again). I then worked PKT and COX and started my way back down the hill. I’d contacted hom to arrange the pick up and had given myself plenty time to descend and enjoy the views. I meandered down the last track and waited..

and waited

and waited.

I’d no phone signal but got an occasional weak internet access so I got in touch with home and an hour later than I thought I’d got my lift home. Someone had stopped at wrong lay-by and dozed off in the heat of the day. The ribbing continues..

Another good day spent in the hills and hopefully my enthusiasm has returned.

I had been asked if I’d cycled there, now if there weren’t a steep ascent from Garelochhead plus 30 odd miles after coming back down, I could think about it. Unfortunately not many hills are within easy cycling range (for me!)

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How Do You Dubh …….Again

Like most of my radio/hillwalking posts, nothing seems is planned much in advance.

I received a text for my oldest daughter Lora asking if I’d like to head up a hill the next day as she was off on a day’s holiday.

I think she already knew the answer!

What I didn’t think was she wanted to join me, ‘Do you mind if I play radio for a short time?’, ‘No problem’ so where to go, time to think.

I thought initially one of the Arrochar Alps but on reflection, Beinn Dubh or Conic Hill ticked the boxes for our first hill together, I chose Dubh for its spectacular views of the south basin of Loch Lomond plus the 270° vista of tops as far as you can see at its summit. It was off to charge the handie batteries and get the equipment looked out and all set to pack early the next morning.

Maps printed early, equipment all double checked, scran prepared (the advantage was Lora had bought some quality eats) plus almost a gallon of water packed away.

In to the car then off to fuel then off towards Erskine, the A82 to just beyond Luss, oh and a pit shop for (real) coffee and a bacon roll en route, this is style, we turned into Glen Luss and parked the car.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

A quick check, GPS on and off up over the stile, I had explained this hill had more than a few false summits but once we arrive at  the fence, it gets easier and were not far from an almost level walk to the summit, the views past the first cairn W and N are cracking.

As we ascended the views behind us over Luss and Loch Lomond spread out before us, this was my third visit to this hill and I think I could never tire of them. I did the Glen Striddle Horseshoe walk last time and would thoroughly recommend it but today we stopped short and we just retraced our footsteps from whence we ascended.

We headed up grabbing occasional water breaks, the temperature was warmer especially in this lower section where there was no breeze and this of course meant that the dreaded beasties made occasional appearances, this was a spur to keep going.

The wood section with its show of bluebells and wood anemones everywhere was soon left and it was now the slog to the first summit, the hill quieter than I thought it would be as it was a weekday. The sun was now beating down and I stopped occasionally to put sunscreen on my nose which was showing the effects of the weeks earlier cycling trips.

Slowly we headed upwards, the fence was soon reached and not before long we passed the first cairn. It plateaued now and soon we arrived at the summit.

It took me minutes to throw up the antenna and mast, I’d just taken the Yaesu handie with a spare battery as I intended to just activate using 2m FM, I’d left the 4m handie at home.

Glen Luss

Glen Luss

I gave a few calls with no response, knowing I was earlier than I’d alerted for but I soon got someone answering my call but I also heard STS(Summit to summit) being called.

I called the station back and it was Viki BWA who was on Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland, I’d noticed the alert before I had left home and funnily, my only other previous STS to NI was from this summit on my first visit in 2009. Info on our respective hills passed before I worked Rod JLA who was doing a joint activation with Viki. The first two in the log, two to go..

Next call was Eric FSZ down South Ayrshire way, I should have brought my 4m handie after all, eh? after a ‘catching up’ I needed one more contact and not before long, I logged Stevie SGO who was ironically portable about 500m from my home..

The hill activated, time for some scran before calling again, Robert GUF was next (and last) but this time he wasn’t on his normal place of Tinto. We spoke about VHF/UHF activity nights, I must get organised and head out on (breezy) nights to see what exactly this is all about.

I called on all points of the compass with the beam but nothing, I did hear one G station but no joy….

One woman asked Lora if I was spying on the Russians, another had stopped to ask what I was doing just as I finished talking to Rod JLA and was impressed that I could work as far as NI.

I broke everything down, packed it away and got ready to head off the hill.

We spent some time looking at what hills were in their glory today and some to the N still had patches of snow on them,  once again the photos do not give you full beauty.

I pointed out the names of nearby hills, I’ve been on them all except one, Cruach an t-Sidhean, ‘the fairy hill’, someday. I’ll wander through the glen for this one and see the history I have only read about. I must see if there is a path from Auchengaich Reservoir to the ruined Gleann na Caorainn. A SW ridge runs to Chaorach’s summit not far away. Sidhein would be best done after dropping down the west ridge of Eich.

Looking N

Looking N

I pointed out the path down into Striddle but no, we retraced our steps.

The path was drier than normal with only the odd damp patch to hop across and we had just passed the end of the fence and saw a pair of black socks at the side of the path, we hadn’t seen them on the way up so bemused we headed on and not before long, we got called by a couple descending behind us asking if we had dropped socks.

They hadn’t spotted them on the ascent either, three people had passed us earlier so we assumed it was them. Funny.

We arrived back at the car after a reasonably quick ascent. The parking area felt like an oven and it was quickly we headed back south on the A82 , windows down and the cooling breeze was brill.

It was not long until we reached home and I immediately had a chilled beer.

Unfortunately not many contacts but it was sunny, a weekday so I was happy to bag 5 contacts. 2 points in the bag and my first activation for almost 10 months. I must get going.



I think the Lakes will be on for my annual visit late July/August, I better look out some hills for then.

I’ve not gone overboard with images of the walk as they are on earlier blog posts(see below)

Images © Lora

Blog posts of this hill….. Sept 2009      June 2012

My thanks first to Lora, for our day out and to the next hill….. also Wikipedia, Peakbagger and walkhighlands whom  I have linked to..

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Over The Rest….

It had been a while since I did a longish run.

I’d been mulling over various routes checking the most important fact, elevation. Distance?, no, elevation. I’m not that hot on hills (going up that is!).

The previous week’s weather had not been conducive to anything long although I managed to catch two joined for just over 70 odd miles. It was time to step up and venture across the river again. I’d looked at a trip back to Arrochar but unlike last time I’ll head over the Rest and Be Thankful before falling down through Glen Kinglas and heading home via Strachur then Hunters Quay.

The weather had calmed from the high winds of the weekend and the decision was Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday’s forecast was looking more favourable but being fresh from a few days off the bike.

Monday it was..

I planned it all in my mind and rose to go through the route and check ferry times. I made up some scran, filled the bidons, checked over the bike, oiled the chain, pumped up the tyres etc then finally packed all the essentials into the pannier.

I’d just over 45 mins to make the Kilcreggan ferry and set off into a NW breeze.

I cycled towards Greenock taking the dockside Route 75 trail until I got to the container terminal entrance where I was held up by tourists, hundreds of them just having disembarked off the Royal Princess which towered over the dockside.

Royal Princess Greenock

Royal Prin