Monday 16 April 2012

LEJOG (End to End) Day 6 - Across the Border to Scotland

Leg 6 - Carlisle to Renfrew (Glasgow)

Scotland Welcomes You!

This was quite a big day on our LEJOG tour.  We were going soon going to be entering new territory.  I had only previously been into Scotland a handful of times.  I’d been up to Edinburgh for a few nights (on separate occasions) clubbing at the Honeycomb and a Faith No More gig at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange.  Prior to that I’d been on holiday for a week visiting various places in Scotland with my maternal grandparents when I was seven.  We saw a lot when I was seven, but that’s a long time ago, so I only remember fragments.  And unfortunately on future visits really did only involve a drive up to Edinburgh, a bit of sightseeing in the city and straight back home.  Paul was a bit more familiar with the place, after all his wife is Scottish, so he had a bit to tell me about the country and it’s customs.  There were no surprises that he seemed particularly knowledgeable about the local diet and cuisine.

We had to make the decision now about which side of Scotland to travel through prior to the run up to the very top right-hand corner.  Paul wasn’t keen on the Edinburgh route, as he was sure it was going to involve crossing at least one significant road bridge (such as the Forth Road Bridge).  Whilst I’d dragged over the Bridge at Runcorn as a warm up earlier in the year, the prospect of crossing a huge bridge over the rive Forth wasn’t appealing to him.  My motivation for preferring us to keep to the West until the Great Glen Fault (Great Glen - Glen Albyn) , was purely based on wanting to travel on different roads than the ones I was used to taking on my previous trips to Edinburgh.  Also, I don’t think I visited Glasgow with my grandparents, so this this was another place I could tick off.

Scotland Welcomes You (and Paul with Our Bikes)

We started the day with yet another hearty breakfast prior to retrieving the bikes from the function room.  There was no point getting dressed twice in the morning, so unlike dinner we’d attend breakfast (if we were taking it at the hotel) in our cycling gear.

Whilst getting our energy stores back up for the days exercise we noticed an interesting timepiece on the wall of the Hotel.  It was a clock that showed a map of the world on which an illuminated area showed the places where it would be currently daylight.  Very interesting indeed.  I’ve since learned that the device was a Geochron World Clock and any thoughts of getting one to adorn the walls of my humble abode were soon alleviated when I discovered that they cost around three thousand dollars.  Having exhausted the conversation about the clock, rounded up our gear and checked out we were soon on the road to the Scottish border.

A Geochron World Clock - An Interesting Item at the Hotel
It didn’t take us long to reach the border between England and Scotland, as it was only a few miles up the road from Carlisle.  We stopped at the rather weary looking sign for the usual pleasantries and note the ’First House in Scotland’.  Clearly it was not the first one ever made by the looks of it, but the first one you could run off to for an illegal (in England) wedding.  Apparently, back in the day, it was  possible for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 years old with or without parental consent in Scotland.  We had a chat about the next stretch of road and both came to the conclusion that’s we’d been there done it an got the tee-shirt as far as Gretna and Gretna Green were concerned, so would could by-pass it.  A quick update to our Face book (and Twitter) followers, to assure them that there was no illicit wedding taking place and we were on the move again.  We’d ventured off the main routes on our immediate exit from Carlisle by taking some back roads through Rockcliffe, but we were soon back on the A75 beyond Gretna.

Ash Poses at the Scottish Border - The Sign Could do with a Face Lift!
Paul at the Scottish Border Prior to a Facebook Check-In
The First House in Scotland 
The A75 was pretty busy on a Monday morning, but we were well after rush-hour, and the route was still pretty scenic.  Looking back gave us great view across the Solway Firth and back towards England and the Lake district.  A took the opportunity for a few more scenery photograph, but since coming home I haven’t been able to pinpoint exactly where I had taken then from or which direction I had been pointing in.  For my next trip (if I do something like this again), I’ll surely have to invest in a camera with built in GPS.  That way I’ll be able to know exactly where I was when I took the photo without having to spend hours scrolling around Google Maps Street View.  We headed up to Dumfries, but had decide to again by-pass this place and look out for a place to lunch stop at from the main road.

Views from the A75 Just Over the Scottish Border
Farmland in Southern Scotland
The Agricultural Scenery of Dumfries and Galloway

As we took our route around the outskirts of Dumfries we notice a large building, which turned out to be Tarff Town and Country superstore that had a café and shop.  This seemed to be a suitable place to stop for refreshments and supplies.  We had a pleasant lunch and made our purchases at the shop.  It was tempting to pick up souvenirs, but if we picked up something everywhere we went we’d be loaded up with stuff that we’d have to carry for miles, so avoided it.  We stuck to buying foodstuff that we could eat on the road.  As we were in Scotland we opted for shortbread as opposed to Mars Bars (Paul) or Flapjack (Ash).  We got a bulk packed which we split up and distributed across the pannier bags.  We decided our route up to Kilmarnock and ultimately as far towards Glasgow as we could manage and got on our way again.

Orange Bike - A Relic from the Tour of Britain?

Mountain Bike Roadside Decoration

New Cumnock's Water Wheel Public Art Feature at Afton Bridgend 
As we exchanged the A75 for the A76 we noticed that we were seeing more and more references to a certain Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns to the locals).  We were obviously entering his country.  We passed through New Cumnock, which seemed to have a lot of references to Rabbie and this included the Mary Morrison Memorial Garden.  I stopped here to photograph the statue in the garden and the interesting mural on the side of the adjacent house.  Whilst in the vicinity I took some snaps of the New Cumnock Parish Church (seeing as I was taking stick from Paul for my church photography I may as well live up to reputation) and prior to that an unusual water wheel public art feature at Afton Bridgend.

Mary Morrison Memorial Garden, Castle Hotel, New Cumnock 

A Mural Depicting on the Castle Hotel Gable End
A Statue of Robert (Rabbie) Burns in New Cumnock

New Cumnock Parish Church

We continued Northwards on the A76.  It was a dull and quite cold day, but at least we were dry.  That was a full week now, if you include the day we travelled down to Cornwall and rode the bikes to the hotel in St Just.  Surely our luck was going to run out soon?  The next point of interest was riding past the National Burns Memorial in Mauchline.  It was quite an odd looking building.  On the approach it just looked like a small tower situated in a fork in the road.  After a brief stop for me to take a few pictures we were on our way again.  Today was one of the longer legs (somewhere in the region of one hundred and fifteen miles), so there wasn’t going to be too much time for hanging around.  We were aiming for Kilmarnock next, but not aiming to stop there and wanted to end the day near to, or in, Glasgow.

National Burns Memorial in Mauchline 
We passed through Kilmarnock and dismounted for a few photographs.  As we approached the Railway Station we noticed a very large clock face on the embankment leading up to the main building.  I since read that the clock is operated by East Ayrshire Council & ScotRail and in 2011 the clock received a grant from the Railway Heritage Trust to under-go a regeneration scheme that began in late 2011 and was completed in March 2012.  So, from that point of view the newly renovated clock had only been operational for less than month before our arrival.

Large Clock Face at Kilmarnock Railway Station

Paul Stops to Pose for a Photo in Kilmarnock
There wasn’t much further to go now for the day.  I can’t remember at exactly which point we booked the accommodation, but I’m sure we left is a late as on the approach to Paisley.  We ended up favouring a hotel that would be on our approach to the city as it had already been a long day.  We got another good deal on and a room at the Hotel Campanile Glasgow Airport, which is situated in Braehead near Renfrew on the outskirts of the city.  The run in was good as it was downhill and we had a bit of a tailwind.  The final couple of miles we a bit more tricky to navigate, but I had Google Maps and the GPS navigation to help me out.  It was just a bit difficult and dangerous, for both me and the phone, cycling whilst reading the info.  Therefore I had to stop several times to get the phone out and check the map.  I’d probably consider a Sat Nav device that could be attached to the handlebars for any future adventures.  It seem to remember having a bit of a debate about getting over the A8 and M8 to find the Hotel.  However, we got there OK and it turned out to be a very modern and pleasant accommodation.

Nearly There! - Glasgow can be Seen in the Distance
Dropping Down Gelniffer Road Towards Paisley

We got checked in to the Hotel and managed to get the use of an office to park the bikes in, thanks to the very helpful receptionist.  We got freshened up and updated our followers back home on our progress.  There was an option for eating at the Hotel, but again we favoured getting out and about for a look around.  Unfortunately we were on foot again in the evening and the facilities in the area were quite spread out.  There was a large retail park nearby and we were looking for a takeaway, something healthy - along the lines of a KFC, but we were getting varying information from the locals about the nearest place.  We continued walking and Paul got a call from home, which wasn’t unusual.  However, this time it wasn’t from the wife, it was from our friend, Howard.  It was a Monday night and Paul and I would more often than not be a the cycling club weekly social meeting.  Howard was there and called Paul to see how things were progressing.  Howard had the bright idea of putting Paul on the speaker phone at the club, so that everybody could hear about our adventure without him having to reiterate the story several times after the phone call.  Paul declined getting involved in this and promptly handed the phone over to me.  I recounted tales of the day, and of the previous week, to our friends at the club and to their dismay admitted to being on our way to the KFC, as I was now officially on the Paul Duckworth no fruit and vegetables diet!

Single Beds at the Campanline - We Took Some Stick on Facebook

Great Food and Drink at the Local Wetherspoons - I Really Enjoyed This!
We eventually gave up un the KFC and headed towards a what appeared to be leisure facility.  By this time we’d both had enough of walking around and it had started to rain.  We had rain jackets, but it was not a good time for me discover that I had a hole in my lightweight training shoes.  We finally arrived at a Wetherspoon’s pub, The Lord of the Isles, which wasn’t a bad thing.  We could have a pint or two and the food there is always good value for money.  Exotic burger and chips ended up being the order of the day.  Unsure of the portion size I ordered extra chips and much to my relief  I was also able to order a very nice side salad.

Beds Now Apart at the Campanile - The Final Act of the Day
We returned to the Hotel, got everything on charge for the next day (phones and Garmins).  The final act before sleep was to push the beds away from each other and post the evidence on Facebook!  We looked towards our journey into the highlands, but were sorry to be seeing rain.  Our hope was that it may be clearer in the morning, but the weather reports were indicating that the chances of that were unlikely.


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