Easter Cycle Tour 2009 - Day 4 (Arrochar to Glasgow, via Helensburgh)

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April 13th 2009
Published: July 31st 2010
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Route Map: http://www.bikemap.net/route/586153

Easter Monday was upon us already, and that meant just one thing: work the next day and therefore the homeward leg of the trip (ok that was 2 things, but one was a natural consequence of the other). We woke to find we'd actually pitched the tent under a rather precarious looking snapped tree - better not to think about what might have happened! The road south to Gairlochhead was pretty quiet and gently rolling till suddenly a very sharp climb just before the naval base. That was a real struggle on the tourer. By this point we were both feeling a little zapped so when a jolly looking cafe appeared to our right with a sign for breakfast we stopped sharp. Knocking on the door got no answer for several minutes except for some inquisitive looks from a rather large dog! But just as we were about to give up on our dream of 11s'es a bald head leant out of the top window and proclaimed (in a geordie accent) 'ah reet man, give us a moment, just slept in'! Ok, I added the 'ah reet man' for geordie effect, but it was something like that. A bacon and egg buttie and mug of coffee to the good (2 butties for Mike!) we headed on, satisfied bellies somewhat tempered by our empty wallets (maybe he charged us more for getting him up???).

From there on it was downhill all the way to Helensburgh. What had looked a picturesque town from the south of the Clyde (in Greenock), was less appealing close up and personal, but it did have the feel that it might have seen grand days once. Greenock looked quite nice on the other side, except for the monster cranes of Port Glasgow. There was also a menacing rain cloud sitting right in the centre of the firth.

Through Helensburgh we were briefly back in countryside, now fighting a slight headwind, with the railway and river on our right and fields with horses on our left. Alas the road was really busy and there were a number of scary moments. Dumbarton was our next stop. I'd never thought of Dumbarton as anything other than a place with a lousy football team that sounded like it was a dump. However I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. In fact this town used to be the capital of Scotland (I think). Has an impressive castle teetering on top of a rock, more dramatic than Edinburgh, and a small river flowing into Clyde. But that is really where the good ends. The castle could be the focal point of the town centre. Instead it's half hidden by a warehouse and you can't even get over the there to see it (at least not obviously). The town centre is the usual collection of newsagents, chips shops and amusement arcades. On the waterfront we munched some more and took a few memorial photos.

On from Dumbarton we got on to a rather nice cycle path following a canal, but still into a persistant headwind which was grinding me down much more than Mike (who claimed he had still been warming up on the first 3 days!). For the first time in the trip I was pretty happy to sit on his tail and lead me in.

Soon however the telltale broken glass levels on the path started to rise and we realised we'd hit the outskirts of Glasgow and were back to grim reality. Oh, Glasgow!

Clydebank as has nothing to offer the casual cycle tourist, that is except for a rather surprising bike, "Bankies' Bike" which is about 10x a real bike, but complete with suspension, brakes, fixie gears and most importantly for the area a rather sturdy lock! I climbed up onto the pedals, but from there the saddle still seemed a long way up. Mike grabbed my pic.

Onward into Glasgow, the cycle path at times glittered in the sun. A miracle that neither of us got a puncture. The old railway line is raised up, so it affords an interesting city-scape. We passed pigeon fanciers and several pigeon coops, which are large odd shaped structures - apparently it's quite a passion in this part of the world; friendly but somehow scary looking locals, with even scarier looking dogs, huge tower blocks (we were thankful to be up on the cycle track and not down in the estate), before finally descending into Glasgow proper.

Briefly skirting back on the waterfront through a luxury apartment block, we then diverted inland to Kelvinside or at least where I thought Kelvinside should be. We hit the nail on the head as we climbed up to the impressive Kelvin Galleries in front of the equally impressive Glasgow University buildings on the other side of the Kelvin valley. Well it wouldn't have been too practical to go in the galleries with our bikes left outside at the mercy of the general populace, so we settled for an ice cream outside and some people watching. The area was very busy with tourists and locals alike, all out enjoying the sun on the holiday weekend.

We diverted into the park which was heaving too, all sorts of sports and activities going on, but mainly just people lazing around enjoying the sun. Up through the park, a few streets of what must be some of Glasgow's most prestigious addresses (I wondered why I'd never found this part of town whilst living in Glasgow for a year of my life!) and then to the drag that is Sauchiehall Street.

Finally we were at Queen Street and the end of the road. After an early dinner at a local vegetarian cafe just off Buchanan Street we boarded our train (surprisingly no problem fitting bikes on). Sitting down we were both aware of a few 4th day itches. On closer inspection we realised we'd both picked up ticks, an occupational hazard. I extracted mine later, but without much aplomb. Since this incident I've read an article all about the diseases bourne by ticks - somewhat scary! Apparently telltale round rashes occuring a few days after the bites are a sign to get to the doctors for Lyme's Disease. Thankfully thinking back, apart from being a bit itchy I had no side effects.

Anyway, back to the train chat soon died out as we both realised just how tired we were. We both dosed off till Waverly station.


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