Wild about Scotland

The freedom of the road

As the main summer holiday season starts we’re now seeing more visitors on the roads, including motorhomes and campervans.  It’s great to see people enjoying what Scotland has to offer and also spending in the rural local economy.

That’s how tourism should work, right?  You travel, experience new places and activities, and support incomes and jobs in the local economy by buying food, accommodation and so on.

However, there seems to be a growing trend among a minority towards ‘free camping’, deliberately searching out car parks, lay-bys and roadside beauty spots where they need spend nothing.  I frequently receive e-mails from people asking me to supply them with a map of “wild camping spots”, particularly along the North Coast 500.  I don’t share such information, but politely direct them to great campsites instead, since attracting even more people to increasingly crowded hotspots just puts more…

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Day 1

My friend George and I met at Polmont Station with the bikes loaded up and ready to go. After the short journey to Glasgow, we part walked, part cycled from Queen Street Station to Central Station and after about half an hour or so we were on our way to Ardrossan. I was starting to feel peckish so I had a ham roll and some tea on the train. I shouldn’t have had the coffee and scone at Ardrossan as I struggled with the macaroni cheese on the ferry to Brodick. We met a couple on the ferry who have a cottage in Lamlash and were going to see the Proclaimers tomorrow night in Brodick. It’s a shame we’ll be travelling to Islay tomorrow, as I would have liked to see them. However, it probably wouldn’t have been George’s thing!

We met a Dutch cyclist at Brodick and, as the rain was pouring down, he decided to go for a coffee in the hope it would stop. We weren’t convinced so we braved the elements and headed for Lochranza. I had a bit of trouble with my gears and had to stop to adjust the cable tension. Then the rear brake kept rubbing on the rim of the wheel. I think it was the wet grit jamming everything up.

I had to walk up some of the hills as my angina started to kick in, giving me some chest pain but thankfully it soon eased off. We arrived at Lochranza Hostel around 4:30pm soaking wet after getting some milk at a shop at the other end of the village. We had to wait until 5pm to check in so I put my food into the fridge and storage shelves while waiting on the warden. It was great to get a hot shower and get into some dry clothes. We met the Dutch cyclist again at the hostel. He had gone south from Brodick and cycled over the “String” and come up the west side of Arran. We also met an elderly cyclist at the hostel who was doing the “Lands End to John o’ Groats” tour and was following a similar route to the one I did twelve years ago.

George & Reinier the Dutch cyclist

George & Reinier the Dutch cyclist
Lands End to John o' Groats Cyclist

Lands End to John o’ Groats Cyclist

I phoned my wife, Maureen and the girls who had just arrived at Bettyhill half an hour earlier. They had gone straight to the fish and chip shop before going to the caravan. I had mushroom soup and a roll followed by two chicken legs and tomato and coffee. I wrote up my diary but I think George was getting bored. All in all, not a bad first day despite the weather. Hopefully it’ll be drier tomorrow.