|Date||Sunday 25th August 2013|
|To||Berwick upon Tweed|
|Weather||Foggy, some rain|
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The highlight today was of course meeting you, Gary, in Berwick exactly as planned and then taking the town by storm – or rather 3 pubs and a curry house; I don’t think our legs were up for more … although seeing a dolled-up woman walking home shoeless this morning was a sign that Berwick’s a happening town for those in the know.
Today, for the first time since Inverness, there were hills – the only ones I’ve come across this trip. And they would have been even harder to get over if I’d had to push my bike the whole way… You see, I had a mechanical failure – the first since my rear wheel broke near Gairloch on the other side of Scotland. My chain snapped, half way up a 5-mile hill between Dunbar and Eyemouth. There was fog all around and no town to mention within 6 miles, and on a Bank Holiday Sunday. I took a chance and free-wheeled a half mile back to a caravan site I’d passed at Pease Bay where (there must be a god, or at least an extraordinary piece of luck) one of the ground staff working that Sunday was a charming 20-year-old lad called Shane who happens to be one of Britain’s top downhill mountain bikers. He’s aiming to be British champion within 2-3 years and drives to Fort William a couple of times a month to practice. So, this great guy Shane opened the back of his newly-bought van to reveal 3 bikes and a load of tools. He ended up giving me a chain off his own bike and 20 minutes later I was on my way. A brilliant young man who saved me hours and hours of hassle pushing a heavy bike for miles up a hill through the fog. A saviour!
Other than that, Dunbar was a revelation too, just like North Berwick had been – a pretty town with a wide avenue and a lot of local history. A local worthy had gone to the USA and founded all the national parks there. He’s commemorated all over the place, although the house of his birth didn’t open till one and I didn’t want to hang around 3 hours. The women in the RNLI shop told me all about him though. They’re a nice pair, very smiley and chatty; worth popping in.
Eyemouth, though, I wasn’t so taken by. Maybe I was getting tired by this stage, even though it hadn’t been that long a day. Maybe it was the poor-quality food I ate. Maybe I felt a bit of pressure to get through to Berwick by 4pm as we’d agreed. But I have to confess that the country lanes between Eyemouth and Berwick were very pretty. And the moment I crossed the border back into England, I felt very warm – knowing that I’d now cycled around the whole of the Scottish coastline from Gretna to this tiny village called Clappers a few miles outside Berwick upon Tweed. It’d only taken me 23 days. But what an experience – the best bits:
- The cycle path into and around Kirkcudbright
- Portpatrick, a beautiful little harbour town
- Arran – very special island all round, especially the far side up to Lochranza
- Mull – again a very beautiful island, especially the far coast around Calgary
- Ardnamurchan – it was pouring with rain when I was there, but so beautiful anyway
- The whole of the coast from Lochcarron up through Shieldaig to Torridon – absolutely spectacular
- Further up through Gairloch to the little villages First Coast and Second Coast – such fantastic names on such a great bit of shoreline
- The majestic emptiness from Ullapool up to Durness – hard to express how impressive it was, with small, friendly villages such as Scourie tucked in the middle
- Loch Eriboll – long, still waters at the top of Scotland, and a marker of the end of the highlands
- Dunnet Head, the deserted old army base at the very northerly most part of Britain’s mainland, with the views to Orkney beyond
- The relaxing and friendly town of Cromarty on the north-eastern coast
- The friendliness of the people of Buckie where I stayed the night
- The forest of Tenstmuir north of St Andrews
- The view of the bridges from the cobbled streets of Queensferry
Enjoy it all!
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