Up the hill to the Tak Ma Doon Road viewpoint
A bit of a special history, this bikeride. I was sitting in my flat in Scotland and learnt about the Oslo bombing some minutes after it detonated. Then the shooting at Utoya happened too and I was sitting in the front of the TV and the computer that night. I was planning to do this ride the morning after, but did not feel up to it that night. But my alarm clock still went off at 0400 and I turned on the computer to get the full news. The scale of this atrocity hit me hard and I did not go on any bikeride that day. A very sensible choice. I did the Paisley Circuit (see own tour) the day after and spent one of my holidays to do the originally planned Tak Ma Doon ride 48 hours after that again.
I felt fine when the alarm clock went off and was on my way after a short breakfast. The morning was a bit cold so I postponed the start until 0600. The bikeride up to Renfrew and over to Inchinnan were OK with no drama. I took the rather steep hill up back Inchinnan over to the road taking me over to the Erskine Bridge. I crossed the road and got onto the foot of the bridge and up to the bridge proper. I took it easy over the bridge and was soon at Old Kilpatrick which I passed on my way over Bowling to Dumbarton. I bypassed Dumbarton on my way past the Ballantine's distillery and my old flat at Bonhill. I lived there for three years and a lot of things has changed. Not in Bonhill though which is still a hellhole. Or even worse than when I lived there. The drugs has taken over this hill. I pass this place quite often and feels nothing for that place at all. I got out alive and that's all. I continued up the Vale Of Leven river to Balloch.
I took the Stirling Road from Balloch for one kilometer before I took the R7 cycle route over the hill more straigth onto Croftamie than I am used to. This was a less hilly alternative to the mainroad too, I guess. It was not particular exciting, but neither is the mainroad too so it was a good, traffic free alternative to the mainroad and it also probably saved me some time. I was cycling pretty fast so I was OK timewise anyway. But it is always nice to discover new roads. In this case, some pretty bad roads but both I and my bike survived this road. I arrived in Croftamie where I had a chocolate bar before I continued up a couple of smallish hills on the mainroad before a crossroad which took me down the hill to the valley floor below and a small bridge. Pretty scenic stuff. A strange roundabout followed just after this narrow bridge. A bigger roundabout followed 50 meters after that fake roundabout. I now went straight up the hill towards Killearn. The climb were unrelenting.
Killearn is a small village high above the valley floor and a not easy accessible from any directions unless you are sitting comfortable in a car. In a bike, prepare to shed sweat to get there. I continued straight through the village and down the road towards Balfron before a crossroad announced the road taking me up to Fintry. It also announced major roadworks ahead and a closed bridge. I had no chance to take this road. It was dusty and full of gravel for the first kilometers. It was very slippery on my narrow wheels. Slippery and dangerous. I had not been going up this road since 1999 and I was pretty curious to visit this old haunt of mine. My memories from 1999 was a brilliant, but still technical challenging road. My memories were spot on. A bit of a traffic light regulations (I got red light) spiced things up a bit on this undulating, but mainly climb up to Fintry. The slippery stuff ended after some kilmeters and I arrived at a closed road sign. I took my chances anyway and continued up the major climb on this road to the bridge just before Fintry village which was closed. That obstacle was bypassed around some fences and I was soon in Fintry, relieved that I managed to get through this closed road.
Fintry is one of these really idyllic mountain villages in Scotland. It is situated close to the head of this rather narrow valley, surrounded by high mountains. It feels like a village in the Alps or in Norway. I love this place. It has a couple of shops and a big pub. It also have a good rugby team, for some reasons. Perhaps a good idea to not annoy the local farmers, then. It was now starting to get really warm. The sun had arrived in this narrow valley.
Looking up towards the head of the valley just after passing Fintry
The Carron Valley – Lennoxtown crossroad was two kilometers further up the valley and I cracked on up there. I soon arrived there. I have often taken the Crow Road over to Lennoxtown. It is a beast of a climb. In particular in a sun as that day. I was therefore very pleased to take the road to the left instead and the far less severe climb up to Carron Valley Reservoir. This climb goes on a narrow road which reminded me a lot about some of the narrow valley roads in Norway. So did the scenery too. This road and this valley is really scenic. I was looking over towards the Crow Road during the first part of this climb before the valley and the road started to turn to the right and out of sight from the valley below.
Looking back down the valley halfway up the climb to Carron Valley reservoir
The climb was punctuated by a couple of descents and some flattish parts before I finally reached the dam after a very enjoyable climb. The road continued on the north side of this big artificial loch.
At the Carron Valley Reservoir looking back at the dam in the background
The first bit of this ride was flat before a hill took me over to a small hotel and the fishery office at the dam on the east side of the Carron Valley Reservoir. The road went down into a gentle descent and some undulations before I reached the Carron Bridge. I did the ride up to Tak Ma Doon as a part of my Campsie Fells ride last year. I have enclosed two pictures from this ride from last year:
Carron Bridge. The road from Fintry up left from where I arrived. Taken from last year's ride, the Campsie Fells ride (see own tour)
Towards the top Tak Ma Doon Road facing Carron Bridge in the distance. Taken from last year's ride, the Campsie Fells ride (see own tour)
The climb up to Tak Ma Doon Road viewpoint at 300 meters above sea level has three big hills. Just after the bridge to a small reservoir, the biggest hill which comes just after the reservoir and the final hill from a small ford (a small spring running over the road) which is pretty OK. All three hills are very steep though. But the climb was great fun though and I was soon at this viewpoint. Rather unfortunate, so was hundreds of flies too and they were biting like mad. The best views were obscured by the rising heat haze. But believe me, this is the best viewpoint in central Scotland and probably one of the best viewpoints in the whole of the British Isles too. You can see both Edinburgh and Glasgow from this view point + approx 150 km straight south too. On a good day, the views can be admired for many hours. Go there !
Edinburgh from last year's tour
Glasgow from last year's tour
Glasgow hidden in the heat haze from this year's ride with the same camera. Note the difference !
I continued down the hill and left the flies behind. The road down this hill is pretty special with some nasty bends and some vertical bits. It also passes Lennox Golf Course and I stopped there for five minutes to quiry some members about the golf there. Yes, I am a sad man...... I continued down to the bottom of the road at Kilsyth.
The stretch of road from Kilsyth to Glasgow is actually a very interesting bikeride. I started this ride in the blazing sunshine by going for the less traffic and hills at the good B road called B8023. Most of it goes along the Glasgow to Edinburgh Canal. This canal has some major wildlife in addition to other cyclists too. It is very popular among other cyclists on mountain bikes. It also has some nice wildlife like swans. Like the one that chased me off last year. I did not meet the same angry swan this year and the ride on the scenic B8023 road was really good. The paradise ended when the road rejoined the major, but not overly trafficated A803 just before Kirkintilloch. I was feeling a bit tired, but there was nothing wrong with my nose though. I got the whiff of some bacon and turned my head around at the traffic lights just outside this town. I spotted a McDonalds restaurant and decided that a BigMac would be great. I had so far survived on three chocolate bars and some drink. So a BigMac meal, it was. That and the twenty minutes long break did me a lot of good. I continued up the slightly steep hill past this town. The views towards Lennoxtown and the Campsie Fells is excellent on this climb up to Bishopbriggs. The ride through this town was not the most interesting. But Glasgow was straight ahead and I soon reached the motorway at Springburn where I said goodbye to this road and went down the rather less trafficated B808 to the Botanic Gardens. This road is a great way to bypass Glasgow itself. I should had followed this road to the end. But true to form, I turned off at Botanic Gardens and first took the road towads Anniesland and then some obscure roads before I ended up down close to the Clyde Tunnel. Don't do the same mistake as I have done twice now ! Continue the B808 to Partick. I lost some minutes on this. But this whole Glasgow debacle took me less than an hour and I was soon down below sea level at Clyde Tunnel.
20 meters below sea level in the Clyde Tunnel
After sweating like a pig for several hours in the heat above ground, the cold subsea temperature came as a very welcome climate change. I am not a fan of this tunnel due to it's descent being very slippery. But this time, it was a great experience. No problems at all. The heat on the Govan side hit me like a sledge hammer though. But I survived that too and I passed Southern General Hospital and IKEA on my way back home again after a great bikeride.
A great bikeride with the Killearn to Glasgow as the greatest part of the ride. The rest of the ride was not that interesting. I would recommend this ride and it will probably be one of my regular rides in the future.