Published: July 28th 2010April 12th 2009
Day 3 started with an amazing dawn looking over towards the low hills on the south of the Crinan Canal, steeped in some eery low clouds. 3rd day fatigue was setting in, especially as clean clothes were wearing thin, but onwards we rode. Our first destination was out north along the flat flood plain to Kilmartin. There we breakfasted proper (did we have bacon rolls?) at the church cafe, and had a nice wander around the churchyard, admiring some very old Celtic tombstones. From Kilmartin the route wended its way uphill to the start of Loch Awe. Loch Awe is a long loch and on the day we passed extremely calm. The reflection off the surface of the water was almost magical, especially looking through the trees that separated the bank from the road. All along people were camped out for some weekend fishing, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and blue skies. The road wound up and down rather than following the shore, and our pace soon dropped off as we contemplated a spot of lunch. Finally the shoreline flattened out a grassy field on a promontory with a lone tree beckoned us. From there you could gaze
the remaining 10kms or so to the spectacular mountains at the end of the loch. Lunch wasn't too exciting. But we did have a pear, and with the a brief pear-substitute reenactment of William Tell. Then playing with Mike's twirly throwing thing - but we had to stop when Mike almost hit a passing family with a wayward throw.
There was a steep climb up from Loch Awe and for the first time we were heading south back homewards. The descent down to Inverary was pretty long and nice and fast. Inverary was heaving with folk out enjoying the sunny easter weather. Alas that meant the centre was pretty gridlock with cars and bikes, but once through the turmoil we had a nice break on the grass on the lochside next to the striking WWII memorial statue. For an early supper or late (2nd) lunch we boarded a one of the 'cafe' ships, and I treated myself to a haggis baked potato, before stocking up with a bit of extra food for our final night ahead.
Leaving Inverary was the closest I've come to death in a long while (this has since been superceded by a brush between
a bus and lorry - both hard places - on the A1 in Edinburgh). The road was busy as hell with cars and motorbikes intent on self- and my destruction. It really wasn't nice. Thankfully rounding the head of Loch Fyne (and the original Loch Fyne restaurant maybe) the road widened out a bit and left the forest. At this point it also started to rise on the big climb up to Rest and Be Thankful. I'm sure if you Google 'Rest and Be Thankful' you can find an interesting anecdote about some military type naming the top of the pass as such many years ago. And the name definitely rings true to this day if you happen to be on a heavily laden bike. I think this was the highest pass of the trip, topping out at 265m (ok this doesn't seem to much as compared to some of the passes on my Norway trip). At the top there's a little car park with a nice bench to sit on, be thankful, and admire the view down the valley, which is what we did.
Come down from there we hit over 40mph on our mini tanks and breezed
on into Arrochar under the watchful gaze of the Cobbler, the dramatic mountain to the north of Loch Long (incidently this mountain is well worth a climb for the impressive summit rock, which I've done since the cycle trip). We scuttled through Arrochar in search of a place to camp and found one on the banks of the loch. Having set up camp, we scurried back into town to the rather nice pub there just in time for a drink before sunset. What a great moment!
Tiredness soon caught up with us and with a drunken spring in our pedal action we headed back to camp and a quick slap up 4th meal of the day (or was it 5th,,, hmmm let me see!) After that I headed down to the loch shore whilst Mike chilled in the camp. The dusk light was quite magical and I was briefly entertained by a playful bat darting across the perfectly flat surface of the loch.
There are more photos below