The Loch Eck Tour




June 2010
120 km



Background

I have been retracing my old tracks this year with tours I originally did 12-14 years ago. This tour along Loch Eck was the first ever tour I did with this bike since I relocated to Scotland. I did this tour in reverse though with train to Gourock and the CalMac ferry to Dunoon. I was living in Alexandria outside Dumbarton at that time. I did not rate this tour that time due to the straight up and over the mountain feel it had. This time though, I wanted to do it the opposite way with the climb from Loch Long over Rest And Be Thankful. I also wanted to do the Gourock to Renfrew again over the mountain to get this tour around 100 miles. But the weather turned against me. But more about that later.

It was a truly perfect morning when started the tour with a short ride down the road from my home through Renfrew. I headed over Inchinnan and the newfound shortcut up a small hill towards Erskine Bridge which took me over Clyde river to Old Kilpatrick. I followed the river on the main road through Bowling towards Dumbarton . I bypassed Dumbarton and headed up over Bonhill to Alexandria where I crossed River Leven and went up to Balloch and the many roundabouts there. I headed up a small road to the beginning of my ride along Loch Lomond. I had a brush with some nettles when I tried to cut a corner on this pretty nice cycle path to Luss. Some irritation on my left leg followed, but it did not slow down my steady pace up the loch to Luss.
I took a small break for some chocolate and a bottle of Pepsi Max before I continued up Loch Lomond on the cycle path. This cycle path alongside the loch is absolute brilliant and also pretty interesting. It demand good concentration where it twist and bends along the loch. It is also bypassing the more hilly section of this road. I was pretty surprised with the speed when I finally reached Tarbet.
Tarbet is a major crossroad and I took the road over a small hill towards Arrochar. I am used to do this hill the opposite way where this hill is steeper. But due to the difference in height between Loch Lomond (inland loch) and Loch Long (at sea level), the hill was very gentle. I arrived at the very scenic village Arrochar at Loch Long after a short burst of energy. This village is one of the prettiest villages in Scotland. I love this place. Unfortunate, I could not hang around the place. I cycled around the head of Loch Long and went out to the beginning of this climb up to Rest Of Be Thankful. There was two false starts of the climb before I arrived at the start of the climb which took me up along Glen Croe to the top of the climb at around 280 meters above sea level. This picture is taken from the end of the climb with Rest And be Thankful in the background.




Just after I had taken the picture, I was politely asked by the police to pull over to the other side of the road and let a convoy of heavy maskinery pass me. They were on their way to clear up a train crash the night before near Oban. I took a break and admired the landscape. I was soon on the top of this climb. I did not stop though and just continued along the small lake on the top and over to the descent down from the mountain. The descent was not too bad. I reached a valley and followed that down to the crossroad between Oban and Dunoon. I followed the Dunoon road which was on the hillside high above Loch Fyne. The road was a bit up and down. I took a ten minutes long toilet-break in one of the small hillclimbs. The views over to Inveraray was pretty good. The road fell down the hillside to St. Catherines just across from Inveraray and it then followed the loch to the small village called Strachur.

I took a long break in Strachur, believing that I had around 70 km left on the tour. I had a bacon and egg roll from the local shop and just general relaxation before I continued towards Dunoon. The road from Strachur started with a small hillclimb past a school and then fell down to the valley floor and the beginning of the valley taking me out to Dunoon. The road between Strachur and Dunoon is 18 miles/30 km long and pretty flat. I here decided to get some tempo cycling in. I therefore attacked the road at the best speed I could manage. A flock of sheep delayed me slightly at the farmlands before Loch Eck. But besides of that, my speed was pretty high on the farmlands at the head of Loch Eck just after Strachur and alongside Loch Eck itself. This inland lake and the landscape around it is pretty dull anyway so I did not loose out on anything. I had good fun giving it my best here and I was soon at the end of Loch Eck. The sight of the sea at Holy Loch was pretty welcome because I was running out of steam. I raced through Sandbank where I ran out of steam just before reaching the ferry in Dunoon . I was still very pleased with the effort and the burst of speed. I felt assured before the big ride this summer, one month away. I reached the ferry quay at Hunter's Quay and bought a ticket. There was hardly any waiting time for this high frequence ferry service by Western Ferries.




This ferry service is like Ryan Air or Easyjet. No frills and no thrills compared to CalMac or any other ferry companies. The deck was wooden floor and the ferries looked dodgy, although it has all the safety and security certifications required. The saloon was a joke. This ferry had no luxuries whatsoever. It was also pretty low in the water, as I found out when the ferry hit a wave and I got sprayed by seawater. Standing in the front on the ferry is not a good idea on these ferries. So I took cover and took this picture towards Holy Loch and the narrow valley with Loch Eck in the background. Despite of some misgivings about this ferry, I am sure I will do it again. The sailings is frequent and cheap. Wester Ferries is like Ryan Air. No less and no more.




During the 20 minutes on this ferry, I also got soaked by rain. The rain was pretty torrential when disembarking. I did not have any warm clothes and the skies in the direction of where I was going looked menacing. I therefore cycled the 2 km along the seafront to Gourock and the trainstation there. I was pretty frustrated to break of the tour. But I was justified when I during the 30 minutes long train journey to Paisley got hit by three torrential rainshowers and the discovery of the flooded road past Port Glasgow. A road I was depending on. It is better to be safe than sorry in torrential rain like this. In any case, I had already had an excellent tour.


Conclusion



This tour is pretty excellent with the crossing of Rest And Be Thankful as the highlight of the tour. The tour up Loch Lomond on the very good cycle path to Tarbet is also excellent. The visit to Arrochar is also excellent. The tour alongside Loch Eck is also very good. I think this is a very good tour which is not too exhausting. I therefore recommend this tour and I will probably do it again next year. This time without the rain.