Living in Scotland if you prefer a more dry camping experience you gotta grab the warm sunny days when they’re here. On my bucket list of planned cycling adventures was to attempt to cycle either to or home from one of my favourite seaside haunts on the West Coast Of Scotland. A small place called Maidens, near Turnberry, Girvan and Culzean.
This time my camping equipment included a small alcohol stove to test out, another item to fit in the bike panniers. All this was part of learning curves and testing the abilities and limitations I may face travelling in this way. After my first trip I found myself greatly inspired by YouTube video’s I came across of people covering immense distances and touring on a bike, my soul longing for more adventures.
Just me, the bike, music and destinations anywhere away from here, this desk that I often sat at, locked away in my cave creating music and living a somewhat hermit style life because for so long that was what felt most comfortable for a number of reasons as I worked through some sort of a process. Learning, building a dream, healing my soul, gaining self knowledge and living on a shoe string.
The sense of freedom to travel my soul now craved so deeply was finding itself satisfied to a point at least now I had a bike. It wasn’t quite the camper van I dreamed of or the world travelling plane ticket, but life taught me to make the most of what I have, so for now, it was going to have to be a bike and a tent, not quite so comfortable, requiring much more physical effort but nevertheless still better than no adventure at all.
All packed the night before, a bit more weight on the bike this time than the last with a new rear pannier rack that due to this extra weight and cheapness was being slightly challenged and wiggling a bit under the pressure, but it would have to do for now. A restless sleep and later departure meant that it was going to be a train ride to the destination first and then the challenge of the cycle home after a couple of days camping.
Off On The Next Mission – video
Arriving in Girvan I got off the train only to find a couple of flights of stairs to humph my bike down with all the gear packed on it. At least 20 people walked right past and allowed me to struggle on my own with no offer of help until one guy from the train staff came back and gave me a hand down the last bit thankfully.
Now just a short 8 mile or so cycle in the sunshine to the campsite, music on and off I went. Not a particularly relaxing and enjoyable road to cycle along with winds coming off the sea buffeting the already slightly wobbly load on the back and the addition of it being a main road for lorries and cars with no speed limits. Nevertheless I braved it, held on tight and just kept my wits about me. Very glad to see the turn off onto the side road to Turnberry which leads to Maidens, now I could enjoy the ride a bit more.
There was something pretty cool about pulling up to the harbour with my bike, first visit for it at this favourite destination of mine, like bringing my friend to show them the sights! Lol! Anyway, after a bite to eat sitting at the harbour benches I decided to head up to the campsite and get sorted out for the evening.
As a child I spent many school summer holidays in this area and particularly this campsite, Redgates. We had a residential caravan here during the 80’s. It was one place where memories were always happier for me. I was met at the desk by the lovely lady I had spoken to on the phone when I’d checked there was space for me and my wee tent. She showed me over to my spot on the grass, the facilities and introduced me to the couple camping next door. We got chatting as I began to unpack and set up my camp for the night. They had all the mod cons and were keen experienced campers next to my minimal necessity only bike packed effort.
Didn’t take me long to get my abode for the next two nights set up, by then I already felt I’d made two friends and when it came to food time we decided to cook together, both trying out our new stoves. Theirs was a larger one and they were cooking steaks, me with my mini Alocs doing vegetarian cous cous, both did the job! They kindly offered me a glass of red wine to have with my food, I accepted and it joined the beer I was given earlier when we were sitting in the sun chatting after I’d finished erecting my tent.
Nice to meet such a cool couple, same kind of age group and just real people who were kind and genuine. After the sun began setting it got pretty cold all of a sudden, I decided to go for a walk to try warm up and it led me to the wee shop down the road where it seemed only polite to purchase a bottle of red and a couple of beers since my new friends had been so kind to share theirs.
By the time I got back they had the outdoor heater rolling in their awning section and thankfully invited me in to join them in the heat! We polished off a good few more drinks, had some tunes on, a good natter and got to know more about each other’s lives. Great wee night with lovely new companions and then off to my tent for some sleep, or so I thought!
Nope! No sleep at first, we had two snorers rocking it out on the other side of me at various frequencies and sleep just wasn’t going down. I got up at about 4am to use the ladies. Looking up the sky seeing it carpeted with sparking clear stars. I hadn’t seen a sight like this for a long time, it was so peaceful outside and was just breathtaking to look at. I almost didn’t want to go back in my tent. At some point I must have managed to nod off but at 6.30 I was awake again with the sunshine heating up my tent. Having little sleep doesn’t matter though when you can unzip your door, look outside, see the sun and smell the grass. So I got up, washed (fab facilities by the way) and started making my porridge and a cup of tea on my wee stove to start the day feeling a little worse for wear from the wine I drank but not too bad considering I’m pretty out of practice!
Packed some snacks and drinks on my bike, now lovely and light without the tent and peripherals, I decided to take a ride back into Girvan and back to stretch my legs as the mini (and I mean mini) camping chair which I bought off eBay had really made my legs stiff from the previous nights sitting around. Back along the hairy road again but more confident this time without so much baggage. Stopped at the seafront to eat my lunch, cycled round the harbour taking pics and just enjoying being by the sea as always. Returned back to Maidens harbour and then back to the site, locked up my bike and decided to do the Culzean Castle wander which took a few hours. Always love walking back through the high coastal path and there’s something a bit mystical about the castle grounds.
For some reason my stomach was very unsettled, maybe the wine the night before, but I wasn’t feeling like eating a big meal that evening. My camper friends next door had returned and were going out to eat and very kindly allowed me to hold their fort and use their kettle to make numerous cups of ginger/lemon tea, which was about all I could stomach really.
By any rights that night I should’ve had no problems sleeping after 2 nights of little rest, but nope, again another sleepless one and to top it off, the blow up sleeping mat I had somehow got a hole in it, so that bit of comfort was screwed too! Lol! Again after just a couple of hours actual sleep the sunshine was blazing me awake early and I was happy to get up. Today was the day of my real challenge, the cycle home, or as far home as I could get.
The forecast was perfect, sunshine all the way, but for now we were getting a bit of coastal drizzle so I had to wait for that to stop and my tent to dry before I could pack the tent away. One less thing to carry back, the burst sleeping mat got tossed and the bike packed a little lighter. A few other campers had heard of my plans to cycle back and plenty of them were telling me how dangerous that road was to cycle on the way to Ayr, but in the end you either let the fears make you change your mind or you just go for it and hope for the best! I opted for the latter, gave my new companions a huge hug of thanks for their kind hospitality and great company, then began my epic journey.
I was lucky, maybe the timing I’d left, maybe just by Devine grace, the road was relatively quiet of traffic and all that passed me, passed politely. The only time there was a lorry on the narrow country road I was just literally approaching an inlet where I moved to let him pass, it was almost like the universe just timed that perfectly for me I remember thinking at the time. About 45mins into the cycle my stomach was still not right from the day before, I stopped and had to throw up! Felt immensely better after that though and after some juice and chewing gum happily continued cycling!
I knew once I got to Ayr the rest of the journey was off road and on cycle paths, so once I made it there I was happy with a sense of triumph that I’d successfully braved the roads that I so easily could have been deterred from travelling on. There are always plenty of horror stories people have to tell I find but then there are also plenty of blogs and vlogs from people that do some epic travels on bikes and never mention these things.
The Road Home – video
Through Robert Burns country at Alloway and Ayr promenade was my first rest stop. I felt like chips, mayo and a cup of tea for some reason, so got some and sat enjoying them in the sun for a bit. 20 miles or so down…plenty more to go. Headed off again and followed the coastal route all the way up to Ardrossan, kept going till I got to a choice of paths, either to head up the coast towards Wemyss Bay or the more inland route passing LochWinnoch, which I had done before, so opted for the other one, a less direct route back to Glasgow but I wanted to be by the sea as long as possible.
Got to Largs about 7pm and still a way to go to make it home, it was getting late, decided to keep going to Wemyss Bay and maybe just have to make that the final destination. This was where it ended, sun was going down a bit and according to my satnav it might be another 2 hours till I got home, didn’t fancy night cycling as I’d forgotten my back light! A 45 minute wait for the next train and then I was back at Glasgow Central station with just a 2 mile hop home.
A kettle and a couch, a bed with an electric blanket, oh the luxury this felt after two nights in a tent. Sure makes you appreciate the simple things in life. A little disappointed I’d not managed the whole way but 65 miles was still the furthest I’d cycled in one day and I had had to delay my leaving later than hoped. Still, it was an adventure, I met new friends, enjoyed being by the sea and all the lovely scenery, fresh air and exercise. It sure cleared away the clouds that were in my mind prior to going and recharged my motivational batteries.
Every trip is a new lesson learnt and more experience under the belt. Still plenty more to plan. Touring is great, camping is great too, there is an intrepid explorer in me somewhere but when solo touring there is a limit to how much comfort you can pack on a bike!
Where to next? I reckon I could quite easily do longer tours, I’d like to, we shall see eh…maybe a few nights in B&B’s in between though for more comfort and rest! Meanwhile it’s back to the desk, the music and work while I await the next decent weather gap, decide on my destination and order a new sleeping mat!