This tour was born with the 1994 tour where I crashed inside a tunnel on the west coast of Norway. That day negotiation of some long dark tunnels really scared me from cycling tunnels anylonger. There is a lot of them in Norway. The rest of 1994 was spent on running a record label and I got into a lot of stress and conflicts through that venture.
My mother announced at Christmas/New Years Eve that we children/offspring got a sum of money for a holiday. The rest of the family chose to go to Malta for the money. I wanted a bike tour without tunnels and Scotland was a good choice. In particular in 1995 with the once a week ferry from Bergen, Norway to Aberdeen, Scotland via Shetland. The return via the three times a week ferry between Newcastle in England and Bergen. So the infrastructure was there and I ordered the ferry tickets around the easter 1995 just to be sure to get a berth on them.
My original plan was a 4 weeks bike trip around the British Isles, including Ireland. Basically, Scotland with ferry to Belfast and then over Ireland to Dublin, ferry to Wales and then down to London and up again to Newcastle and the ferry home. A 3000 km tour. 1995 was a very chaotic year for me and I neglected the training. A couple of very short bikerides was all I did. A big 180 km daytrip was aborted after 60 km after the seat broke down. In all honesty, the was in trouble even then. I was therefore way below the minimum requirements for a bikeride of this magnitude. To add insult to injury, the stress in during the last 12 months had worn my mental health down. The bikeride was underfinanced to say at least due to having to use the money on the record label who was loosing a lot of money that spring and summer. The bike was also vastly overweight and the bike helmet I used absolute useless due to not offering any ventilation whatsoever. Using t-shirts instead of proper cycling shirts was also an almost fatal error I commited. In short; I did everything wrong in the preparations for the tour. Something that makes me cringe now.
Feel free to follow this tour at Google Earth by clicking on the button below which opens up a new window.
All photos taken from this tour and this tour alone. I have other photos from more recent tours covering this area, but I have chosen not to include them here to give this tour report a more coherent feel.
Oslo - Bergen – Lerwick – Aberdeen
I woke up that morning to a sunny day. I lived in the hills above Oslo back then and I cycled down the three kilometers to the city centre, fully (over)loaded up with all my gear. I had already ordered my train tickets for both myself and the bike so I went straight to the luggage delivery and got my bike onto the train before I settled into on the train for the six hours long train journey over the big Hardangervidda to Bergen. It was a train journey I had never done before so I was really excited about this journey too. The journey over this moor in the baking hot weather was really brilliant. But the train eventually reached Bergen. I was in a familiar place here due to having cycled through it twice during the last five years. I walked down from the railway station to the ferry port. It was now early afternoon and the ferry was leaving in 10 hours time, at just after midnight. I thought the ferry was going to arrive early though. But I was wrong. I spent the best part of the 10 hours bored to death on this Saturday night in Bergen. I took a nap in the arrival and departure lounge, but was generally restless. The ferry arrived just after midnight for merely a half an hour stop before leaving for Shetland again. I parked up my bike on the car deck together with a dozen of cars and found my bed down below. I was at sleep well before the ferry left Norwegian waters.
I woke up early the following morning to a glorious sunshine and got myself some breakfast. After this breakfast (cheap proper Scottish Breakfast), I went out on the deck and watched Shetland appear in the distance. The sailing time from Bergen to Shetland is around 6-7 hours compared to the 14 hours sailing time from Lerwick to Aberdeen. I was mindful of those who during the war risked their lives on this voyage. Many of them did indeed perish in these waters. Shetland still has a big name in Norway and is a close neighbour. Shetland appeared in the distance.
First sightings of Shetland
We got closer to a big bird sanctuary on Bressay and sailed around it on our way into Lerwick.
The big cliffs at Shetland
Turning the corner to Lerwick
The Bressay Lighthouse at Bressay
We passed the Bressay Lighthouse before Lerwick arrived straight ahead. We docked around 1000 after this detour around the sea cliffs at Bressay.
I had to clear the toll customs boot which was a garage where I handed over my passport and went through the garage. I had now entered United Kingdom and that in a rather bizarre way. But I had arrived ! I went into the town itself and did not really find it. The ferry was leaving for Aberdeen some hours later. It is cringe time again for me because I should really have used these hours to explore Lerwick. I did not and I regret that now. But I will be back ! I am indeed planning a small personal Viking raid over Shetland and the Orkneys Islands one of the coming summers with my new bike.
Stupid as I was, I took a small walk and visited the fortifications next to the harbour when wondering where the city centre was. A new nap followed before the ferry was ready to depart for Aberdeen, a 14 hours long sailing down the coast.
Fair Isle between Shetland and the Scottish mainland
I spent some time up on the deck watching the Shetland Islands and then watched Fair Isle before I went to bed.
I woke up to another great sunny morning and watched the sea front and the high rises flats on the outskirts of Aberdeen come into view while I had a breakfast. I finally entered Aberdeen and I made myself ready to disembark.
Entering Aberdeen harbour
P & O's St Clair ferry, a fine ferry indeed. Long replaced with better ferries
I was finally in Aberdeen and ready to start this tour proper. The matter of having to adjust to left hand biking was not as big problem as anticipated. Finding the road out of Aberdeen was a problem though. I got lost and went too much to the north and after a considerable climb, I ended up on the big hillside above Aberdeen before I found the ring road. I followed the ring road down a hill towards River Dee before I found the A 93 taking me up to Ballater along River Dee.
These 55 km up the river is pretty flat and not that interesting. I kept a good tempo up this rather wide valley.
On my way up the Dee River to Ballater
The small hill at Peterculter was a bit tricky, but the valley did not offer up many hills on these 55 km. I stopped many places for small breaks in this sunshine.
Unknown to me, this was indeed the start of a the biggest heatwave to hit Scotland for fifty years. It is still talked about today as unbearable horrible and I was heading straight into it. I was unfit, my bike too heavy and vastly unprepared for what was going to hit me now. Just keep this in mind when continuing your reading....
I passed some idyllic villages like Banchory,
Kincardine O'Neil and Aboyne on my way up to
Ballater which I reached three-four hours after leaving Aberdeen behind. A pretty good job done. I took a pretty long break here before heading up the valley again. One kilometer after Ballater, I took the small, narrow and very dusty A 939 up a rather narrow valley towards the first big hill of the day, the 450 meters above sea level high unnamed mountain between River Dee and River Don.
On the A 939 between Ballater and Lecht Pass
The pretty good valley ended at a small bridge at a horseshoe bend. The road after this bridge took me vertically up past a church towards a new small bridge taking me up to a hillside. The long road up to the top followed this hillside to the top of this mountain. The views over to Lecht Pass on the other side of the deep valley below was pretty soul destroying though. So was the pretty intense heat.
The top of the pass with Lecht Pass in the distance.
The descent down to River Don was pretty hairy. At the crossroad, I went up the pretty undulating road past Corgarff Castle to the bottom of the first hard climbs up to Lecht Pass. A very steep hill and I had now learnt that the hillroads in Scotland is far steeper than the ones in Norway. This one is scary steep though. I wwas very happy to find a a small pub halfway up this hill. A pub with chickens and other animals. I was really thirsty so that pub was very welcome. The rest of the climb up to Lecht Pass was hellish steep to. But the road finally topped out at 620 meters above sea level. I took a breather here after the final hill had almost blown my lungs to pieces. I felt like I was 6200 meters above sea level and not a tenth of that. Lecht Pass does that to cyclists....
The descent down a small valley to the valley floor at Tomintoul was pretty hairy too. The descent was a vertical drop with a couple of brows on them. I was clinging onto the brakes for dear life and with good reasons. I was glad when I arrived at
Tomintoul. This is a very scenic village in the middle of the Highlands. One of the most scenic villages in Scotland, in my view. I continued on the A 939 towards west and Grantown On Spey. It was starting to get pretty late in the evening now. I thought it was not possible to be more steep mountains now. I was proven very wrong just after crossing a bridge just after Tomintoul. The climb up to a plateau high above the river systems down below was hard. The views even better. I rounded a corner and almost hit a red deer which was stationary in the middle of the road. A pretty scary experience.
After some kilometers on this pretty flat road, I reached a viewpoint over another valley and river. I observed the road dropping vertically down to the river and the vertical climb on the other side. My heart sunk to the floor. But I had no choice and had to go on with the ride. The vertical descent was hairy and the brakes pretty smelly by now. The climb up the other side past Bridge Of Brown sheer hell. After the first hundred meters with vertical climb (1:8), the climb became a lot more gentle up to a big pass overlooking River Spey below. The descent down to the River Spey and the bridge taking me over to Grantown On Spey was very welcome. I was very tired and pitched up my tent just after crossing this rather long bridge. It was a pretty bad place to wildcamp, but I was too tired to notice. It was a very hard bikeride and the hardest day on the tour.
I woke up to another glorious morning. I packed down the tent and rolled into Grantown On Spey where I had a small breakfast. This village is a very scenic village and well worthy a visit. I took the A 939 up a small hill to a forest and then through it and strangely enough, down to a moor. The moor is called Dava Moor and it is as desolate as anything I had seen in Norway. Hardly any trees at all. A very exposed piece of road which took me down to a crossroad in a forest where I took the left road towards Nairn. The road climbed again up to a new moor which it crossed. At the end of this rather long flat road over the moor, the road descended down to a small village called Ferness and a bridge after that village. To my dismay, the climb up from that bridge was very steep up to a forest. I cycled through that forest and down a river valley towards Nairn. The last bit was very comfortable along a very twisty road down to Nairn. This village is at the seaside and that means I had cycled coast to coast from Aberdeen to Nairn.
I had a break in Nairn where I took in all it's delights before I was on my way again the final 15 km out on the dead flat road (A 96) with the very heavy traffic to Inverness. Not the most interesting road I have ever done. Midway down to Inverness, I stopped at a pub for a lenghty call of the nature at it's toilet.
On the flatlands between Nairn and Inverness
I continued to push the pedals in blazing sunshine past Inverness Airport until Inverness appeared in the front of me. Some roundabouts and not so funny traffic machines followed and I was in Inverness.
This is the capitol of the highlands and one of the more important cities in Scotland. It is a very big place too and I spent some time there. My next port of call was Loch Ness though and I started on the climbs up to Loch Ness on the rather busy A 82 road and the beginning of the 100 km long valley called The Great Glen and the boat canal called The Caledonien Canal.
Looking back towards Kessoch Bridge and Inverness
The climb up to Loch Ness is not really that steep. But I was still tired from yesterday and took it easy. The climb ended up on some farmlands which I crossed before I arrived at Loch Ness. A 40 km long, narrow lake most known for it's monster. I kept an eye out for it. But the road was narrow and really demanded my full attention.
Looking down the narrow road along Loch Ness
Looking across Loch Ness to it's east side
The road was fairly flat and it was now evening here at the shores of Loch Ness. I was looking for a suitable place to put up my tent. I found none at the very steep banks of Loch Ness so I continued to a small bay at Loch Ness and to the village of
Drumnadrochit. A very scenic village it is too. I found a campsite at the other side of this village and pitched up my tent there after a long day on the bike.
I woke up to another blazing hot day. All these hot mornings started to become a problem with a too big sleeping bag and tent. It was like waking up in saunas and my sleep was not that great. The lack of fluid also gave me splitting headaches.
Packing down the tent and all my stuff for a new day in the saddle
This day turned out to be really hot too and I was going to spend all of it inside a narrow, long valley which was working out like a baking oven in this sunshine. Just before I left this campsite, I spoke to the owner and probably offended his peacock. I stood with my back to the peacock and the sun only a meter or two from him when he screamed out. I was very close to getting a heart attack there and then. Scary, very scary.
The peacock that almost killed me
But I pulled myself together again and continued my bikeride. I rounded a corner and the old castle ruins called Urquhart Castle . They are one of the biggest tourist attractions in Scotland and gives superb overviews over Loch Ness.
I continued down the flat and narrow road on the shore of Loch Ness to the second fjord departing from the main water and the village there; Invermoriston. This is a major crossroad with the road to the right going out to Isle Of Skye and the islands of Scotland. I really wanted to go there, but I had to continue down The Great Glen instead. The road took me back to Loch Ness again and the final bit to Fort Augustus.
Looking back again past towards the north end of Loch Ness
Looking down towards Fort Augustus at the end of Loch Ness
After some more flat roads along Loch Ness, I neared the end of this loch and entered Fort Augustus where I took a break at the locks which takes boats up and down the The Caledonien Canal from Loch Ness. A really great piece of engineering.
The locks at Fort Augustus
The weather was uncomfortable hot now and I was really in trouble. I continued my bikeride again. The road took me up a big forest with a flat road through it and then down to a bridge over the canal again. For some reason, I bought a cold chicken in a shop there and could only eat half of it due to dehydration and general heat induced exhaustion. I stayed there for well over an hour, trying to finish of the chicken. The rest of the day was a desperate hard bikeride where dehydration was a the big issue.
After the long break, I continued along the canal, over a new road and back to a forest. I passed through the crossroad at
Invergarry and the road took me through a forest and down the canal again. The road was reasonable flat all the way with a good descent down to Loch Lochy . The road was flat, but I was thirsty as a swamp and the sun so hot that I felt like I was melting away. This was hard going.
Then I hit the hills going up from Loch Lochy to a moor taking me over to Spean Bridge. This is a hard climb in good conditions. In a heatwave like that day and in a dense forest, the climb was desperate hard. I was close to collapsing at the end of the climb when I reached the
Commando memorial. This memorial stone, also incorporating Norwegian commandos who used this area for training before seeing action in Norway and other places, is a brilliant viewpoint.
Looking up at Ben Nevis from the road at Commando Memorial
The views towards the highest mountain in United Kingdom, Ben Nevis, is simply breathtaking. I was severe thirsty though so I continued down the road to
Spean Bridge where I bought a lot of drink. The heat in this baking oven was turned up to max and I was really suffering. I continued down the descent and flat terrain to Fort Williams while drinking a lot more than I thought was possible to drink. I was in deep problems and very happy when I reached the end of this baking oven;
Fort Williams. This big village is at the seafront with a very nice sea breeze helping me out with the cooling down bit. I spent some time there before I continued on the very busy A 82 again out Loch Linnhe. The road was mostly flat alongside the sea. At the end of the loch, I came across a small ferry port called Corran. I stopped there for a while, observing the ferry traffic. It was starting to get late and I was not too keen to go into the mountains and meet the horrible Scottish midges so when I passed a campsite just after the ferry port, I thought about it and doubled back again to the campsite. I then paid for pitching up the tent. This because I believed there was no midges down at the sea while there was billions of those bloodthirsty creeps up in Glencoe. So I went to sleep in the tent after at times a desperate hard bikeride.
I did not sleep long though. My midge avoiding plan had backfired on me and I was now the subject of a feeding frenzy. Everyone on that campsite was indeed the night buffet for the local
midges . I tried everything to protect myself for a couple of hours, starting just before midnight. Everything. But to no avail. So I took down my tent and went on a panic retreat from this campsite whilst I still had blood in my body. I was panicking big time. In the chaos, I lost one of the more important tent plugs, never to be seen again. But I was OK with that. I managed to get packed and get away along with the rest of the night buffet who also broke camp and retreated from this onslaught of midges. It was one of the most horrible experiences I have ever had on a bike. I hit the road at around 0200 in the morning past Onich on my way to the bridge at Ballachulish . I had done packaging wrong so I had to sort out the packaging and the bike on the middle of the bridge. I took the A 82 in the fjord to
Glencoe village and hit the climb up to Glencoe there. I stopped at the visitor centre (the old and now demolished one) where I detected no midges. I rolled out the sleeping bag at the grassy bank and had a three hours long sleep there. No midges and I wished I had known a bit more about the Scottish variety of midges. The rule in Norway is that the midges are in the mountains and never at the sea level. Here in Scotland, it is mostly the opposite. Something that cost me an expensive camping fee for being eaten alive.
The climb up Glencoe has a height difference on 320 meters and has the steepest part in the middle. It is a truly spectacular valley and climb though. The mountains are vertical along the whole climb. I loved it and was very impressed. One of the highlights of the tour.
Halfway up the Glencoe, looking down the glen
I reached the top of the climb in good mood and form. A descent took me down to a river. I saw that Kings House Hotel was open and I did a detour over there to get some drink. A liter of coca cola was gulped down before I rejoined the mainroad again for the climbs and descents over Rannoch Moor. This is a fantastic piece of road, but also very hard in the heatwave I was now experiencing. Not to mention my sleep deprivation and the two previous days I had yet to recover from. I was in trouble, but the fantastic landscape over Rannoch Moor saved me due to taking my mind of my problems and driving me on. After passing the highest point at Rannoch Moor and after the descent, I also found a lot of water for my drink bottles and to cool me down with. I was very pleased to reach the descent down to
Bridge Of Orchy. I descended down carefully before finding the hotel for a long pause and a dinner. My chosen hamburger and a pint of Guinness was a stupid, expensive choice though. I regretted that choice when back on the bike again. Unknown to me, the road from the hotel was at the foot of a rather nasty climb up the hill up a valley to the head of the valley. This climb was absolute murder. It is not steep, but it is very exposed in the sun and it is long with the steepest part at the top. Halfway up this climb and while I was thirsty as heck again (thanx to the meal), I observed a train carefully heading in the same direction. A car with a cyclist thankfully gave me some cold water at the steepest part of this climb near the top. I reached the top where the train stopped because of some line or mechanical faults in the intense heat. It still stood there when I headed down to Tyndrum and salvation in the form of more drink in the shops there. I was both pleased and exhausted. I was thinking about taking the train down to Glasgow and seeked out the railway stations there. But no train for the rest of the day. So I continued down the valley to Crianlarich. I enquired if a bus could take me to Glasgow, but no. I was left to my own pedal power.
The road from Crianlarich first climbed up to a moor, then crossed it before a very long descent to
Loch Lomond followed. After some kilometers flat cycling alongside a big peat bog and then Loch Lomond proper, I found Ardlui campsite where I settled for the night after a hard day in the mountains. I got my first proper sleep for 48 hours and my first shower since I left the ferry. I shared a room with the owner of that campsite three years later in the local hospital and he remembered my arrival well. I looked like a scarecrow/a scary monster according to him.
Another day with blazing sun in the saddle beckoned. I had a good sleep and were ready to set off down Loch Lomond again. My tempo down the 40 km to the end of Loch Lomond was good. I passed through Tarbet
and was considering the coastal option over Helensburgh for a brief moment before I continued down
Loch Lomond again. I found the cycle path and followed that down to Luss where I had a break at the pier, admiring the big mountain at the other side of the loch;
Ben Lomond . The ride down to Balloch was reasonable flat and I was soon in Balloch at the end of Loch Lomond and the cycle path. At the big roundabout, I chose to take the very busy and undulated A 82 instead of the nice ride through Alexandria. A very stupid and dangeroud mistake and I was very happy to be off A 82 at the crossroad after Renton. I got onto the rather nice A 812 and was soon in Dumbarton. This is a very nice village/city at the shores of Clyde. I was very tired by now and pretty dehydrated too. I walked the bike through the High Street and over to the east end of Dumbarton where I got the sight of Dumbarton Rock. I cannot explain why I now decided to climb this pretty high rock. I went down the road to Dumbarton Castle, parked my bike, paid my fees and climbe to the top of the 90 meters high Dumbarton Rock from where I took the pictures below.
Dumbarton from Dumbarton Rock
Looking in the direction of Glasgow from Dumbarton Rock
That adventure took a lot out of me. Resources I could ill afford loosing. I continued my way to Erskine Bridge. Finding it was a big problem though. Well, the bridge was very visible. But how to get there ? I took the A 814 out of Dumbarton to A 82 again and chose that nightmare of a road. I knew I was in deep problems due to the heavy traffic here. So I crossed the road in the middle of zigzagging cars and it took me half an hour to get down to a small road which took me down to Bowling and Old Kilpatrick which litterary speaking is under the bridge. Some trials and errors finally lead me up to the beginning of the bridge which was closed for cars at that time due a collision with an oil platform. I crossed Erskine Bridge to the south side of Clyde. This route bypassed Glasgow altogether. The heat was intense and I stopped at the Bridgewater Shopping Centre for more drink and the latest issue of Autosport Magazine. Something about Martin Brundle's life in the Ligier F1 team. I continued my way to Paisley through some housing estates before I found A 726 which took me past Glasgow Airport. To my knowledge, Glasgow's nearest airport was 50 km down the coast at Prestwick so seeing an airport here was a big surprise. I passed through a rather busy and nasty roundabout before I rolled into Paisley. A town from where these lines are written. During this day, I had actually passed two of the addresses I have lived in. In Balloch and here in Paisley.
I am not sure where I passed through Paisley. I was dehydrated and pretty sick by now. But I know I passed the old Love Street football stadium and that I ended up on the A 726 which took me up to Dykebar Hospital. From my burning skin, splitting headache and other signs, I knew I was in problems health wise. So I rolled into Dykebar and asked for help. But Dykebar Hospital was a mental hospital and not a general hospital so no luck. So I continued up to Barrhead and on the A 736 to Lugton. Those of you who has seen my other tour reports knows that this area is my playground and know these roads inside out. But I am describing what I experienced in 1995. Due to being dehydrated, I had already given up the idea of going to Ireland. At the crossroad between Irvine down to the coast and the road over Kilmarnock on a direction towards Carlisle and the Lake District, I took the road towards Kilmarnock. It was starting to get late at night now, but my tempo picked up very considerable over Dunlop and down to Stewarton.
I found a sort of a hotel in this big village and enquired about a B & B place. That place was full
so I was sent to a small B & B on a remote road somewhere south of the Stewarton to Kilmaurs road. I do not remember where. But I found the place and got a bed. I was sunburnt and dehydrated, but still slept like a log that night.
I woke up to another glorious sunny day and a day in the saddle. The owner of the B & B first thought I was a German and charged me a bit more than usual. When he found out I was a Norwegian some minutes later, the price was suddenly halved. So no hard feelings for the Viking raids, then. I bade my farewell after the breakfast and continued on my ride. I found the main road again and passed throughKilmaurs on my way down to Kilmarnock where I took a long break including eating a hamburger. A very unwise choice. I continued on the major A 76 road which had some heavy traffic. I had a splitting headache, severe sunburns and bad legs.
On my way up to Mauchline from Kilmarnock
I climbed the road up to the Robert Burns museum in Mauchline and passed Cumnock and New Cumnock on my way down to Sanquhar. I do not remember much of this ride. Nothing, in fact. I was not in a state to be on a bike at all and I was very lucky not to be run over by the numerous trucks passing me or simply to crash into the scenery. I was subconscious the whole way. When I arrived in
Sanquhar, I did the smartest thing I had done for a while when I spotted the police station. I went into it and said I was too sick to be on the road. The police constable/police man had a short look at me and immediate ordered an ambulance. The adrenaline was now wearing out when I was waiting for the ambulance and I was in severe pain from the sunburns. The ambulance arrived and I managed to get the bike also put in the ambulance. The 30 km down to Dumfries
was spent in the ambulance with oxygene mask and a nurse giving me encouragments. The awaiting porters was not happy to first have to deal with my bike first before I was helped out of the ambulance. My bike was wheeled into the cellar and I was wheeled into a ward where some doctors diagnosed me with severe sunburns, sunstroke, midge poisons and general exhaustion.
My claim to fame is indeed being the only person who has ever got sunstroke and sunburns in Scotland.
I spent 3 days in the hospital when undergoing treatment against midge poisoning, sunstroke and severe sunburns. A nice stay and my first experience with NHS (National Health Service, the UK's free health service). A very clean hospital with lovely care. I have been a fan of NHS since then.
I was finally let loose again on my bike one afternoon after the doctors had done their round. I got a lot of cream and pills to eat every day. Most against the midge poisoning. I was glad to be back outside again.
Outside the hospital in Dumfries
I pedalled from the hospital the few hundred meters into
Dumfries and had a look at the town. I now chose to go to Carlisle and the Lake District for some days before going back to Newcastle and the ferry there. So I chose the nice small road B 725 down the river and around the Solway Firth coast line to Annan and Gretna. The road was really nice and flat. I made good progress on this road with next to no traffic. One of the more pleasant surprises in my tour around Scotland. I couple of small hills was the only obstacles encountered on these 45 km along the coast and through the small town of Annan to the border town, indeed one of the most famous border towns in the world;
Gretna. Although the border between Scotland and England has only symbolic value, it is still a border.
Crossing the border at Gretna into England
I was now in England and had a look a the main road M6. But too heavy traffic and cycling strictly forbidden put me off that idea. So I went for the small town of
Longtown instead and the A7. But just after Longtown, I spotted a good campsite and pitched up my tent there for the night after a very good and flat ride in a beautiful landscape.
The weather was overcast when I broke camp that day and continued into
Cumbria on the dead flat A7 to
Carlisle. I stopped for a while in this pretty large city before turning my attention to the pretty hilly road up to Keswick and into The Lake District proper. I took the A 595 out of Carlisle in the direction of Workington. The road was a bit undulating before I reached a crossroad where the A591 took me steep up to a hill to a hill looking into The Lake District.
A glimpse of Lake District from the road up to Keswick
This was a good viewpoint, overlooking both Carlisle and Bassenthwaite Lake . A small descent took me to a rather undulating road. Unfortunate, a spoke broke on this road and I was in need for a repair. I arrived pretty early in Keswick and spoke to the local cycle repair shop. They did not have any spokes and they referred me to a big cycle repair centre in Penrith. I had planned to go further into The Lake District as far south as Windermere Lake. But I had no other choice than going to Penrith. But evening was approaching. So I went down to the local campsite and pitched up my tent there. A very big campsite it was too.
The campsite in Keswick and the begging swans
I had a good sleep there for a couple of hours until I heard some noises outside my tent that night. I did not want my bike to be stolen so I went out of my sleeping bag to investigate. I opened my tent and almost headbutted a swan. Our heads was 5 centimeters from each other. Quick as a greased lightening, I withdrew to my tent again in terror. A pretty scary experience with a bird who could have caused me a lot of damage. I slept well for the rest of the night.
I woke up to a pretty dreary day with a lot of rain. The first rain of the tour and that was OK for me. I took the pretty busy A66 up the valley from Keswick towards Penrith. This was not a particular funny ride on this busy road. But it was OK. The landscape was great though. I was very happy to be on the top of the hill though. The views over Eden Valley was very good though. Thankfully, there was a B road parallell to the main road which took me down this long descent to the valley floor. A couple of roundabouts took me into the busy market town Penrith where I found a cycle repair shop. I took a walk around the town plus a meal while the cycle was repaired. I had a look at the maps and the obvious choice was the road over Hartside Pass via Alston to Hexham and Newcastle.
So after collecting my bikcycle, I took the rather undulating but also very funny A686 over to Langwathby at the foot of the 500 meters in height difference climb up to Hartside Pass. A 500 meters climb, which in this case meant a 7 – 8 km long climb, is normally a very dull climb back in Norway. But this climb was very funny due to a the very different landscape from Norway.
The beginning of the climb up to Hartside Pass
Some flies at the beginning of the climb was slightly uncomfortable, but the rest of the climb was a great experience. It topped out after some twists and turns on the top climb. But I reached the top of Hartside Pass at the Hartside Top Cafe . This is a very popular place for both cyclists and bikers. I fully understand why. I also met some of them there. I was indeed overtaken by a pair on a tandem on the way down to Alston.
On the road from Hartside Pass down to Alston
The descent down to Alston was both long and twisty. I ended up down in the market town called
Alston where I found a rather unpleasant private campsite next to the railway station who overcharged me for a dingy piece of grass. The village itself is pretty gothic and could be a good place for a horror movie. This due to the miserable rain and the low cloud cover. But I slept well that night.
I woke up to the sound of rain again on this pretty bad campsite. I packed down the tent (accidently, for the last time ever) and headed out on the A 686 again towards Hexham. The very low clouds meant I was missing out on the excellent views here. What I got instead was drizzly cold rain and a steep climb up to a moor. I did not get much feel of the terrain though due to the almost zero visibility. This very long climb was therefore pretty boring. To make things worse, it was bitterly cold on the top of the climb with some very cold rain which turned into snow too. Not to my liking due to my thin skin from the sunburns I got the week before. The descent from the moor, which I guess was around 500 meters above sea level, down to Bearsbridge past the The Elks Head pub was very long too. The valley was shrouded in heavy rain clouds and I missed out on the beautiful landscape I now can see in Google Earth. But the only thing I saw was fog, farmfields and some forest. The road went into a very steep zig zag climb after Cupola Bridge and I was very fed up by now. But this climb was not bad at all and I was soon at the top of the hill overlooking Hexham. I took some smaller roads down to
Hexham which I reached just after lunch time. I stayed there for an hour while finding out what to do next. The ferry was leaving in three days time. I trundled down the A 695 towards Newcastle until I came to a small B & B hotel just a couple of hundred meters before The Wellington pub .
The B & B just up the road from The Wellington Pub
I enquired for a room for three nights there. I got a good price and settled in for three nights there. In my time there, I visited the Wellington Pub, went on a double decker bus to and from Newcastle where I walked around the city and did nothing else but to recuperate from the non-ordeal. A pretty undignified end to the journey and I am not particular proud of that.
My ferry was leaving at the late afternoon and I left the B & B early that morning to get there in good time. The ride on the A 695 along River Tyne was pretty good fun with some climbs scattered around. I reached the bridges in Newcastle and crossed into the town again.
On the road to Newcastle
From my visit two days beforehand, I knew the town now and had no problems finding the ferry port at North Shields where some hours long wait followed. I bordered the ferry for the 24 hours sailing to Bergen and bade my goodbyes to United Kingdom again after some far too eventful days there.
Newcastle – Bergen – Oslo
The crossing of the North Sea was without drama and pretty boring. We docked in Bergen around 1600 that day and I went up to the railway station to get ticket back to Oslo again on the night train. I delivered my bike at the train station for it's own transport on the train and spent the seven hours wait wandering around the local area. The night train left at around 2300 and I slept most of the way to Oslo again the morning after. My bike was due to arrive a couple of days later. I was pennyless and walked the five kilometers up to my flat where I crashed into my bed for a long sleep that day after a bikeride which panned out very different to what I had planned.
I stayed on the midge poison and sunburns pills for fourteen days later and suffered no lasting effects. I liked what I saw in Scotland though and some seeds was sown in my head. The end product was a relocation to Scotland in October 1996.
I did repeat the Aberdeen to Dumbarton ride on behalf of a major Norwegian newspaper in 1998 (the copyrights is still theirs and I am not allowed to refer to it outside the newspaper).
I have also repeated some of these and other parts of the 1995 bikeride on a regular basis since 1996.
A brilliant bikeride on it's own. It is a big shame that both ferries to and from Norway has closed down now. But this ride on it's own is brilliant and some parts of it is regular repeated by myself. But without repeating the mistakes I did in 1995. For me; 1995 was a great adventure and something that both makes me cringe and smile.