The 5 ferry challenge

‘5 Ferries’


The highs and lows of a charity cycle!



On Saturday the 20th of August 9 volunteers arrived at the Ferry Terminal at Ardrossan.





The bikes were put in the hold of the ferry and the calm of the Clyde was mirrored by the calm and upbeat discussions, about what lay ahead.  The ferry gave each volunteer a chance to enjoy proper seating instead of the saddles of torture that were to follow.


On disembarkation the party met on Brodick sea front, to check the bikes and the route.  By this time the shy Scottish sun had made an appearance as if to wish us all well on the way so off we set round Brodick Bay and up to the road junction split to take us onwards to Corrie, Sannox and beyond.


The pace was generous for some, and unsustainable for others.  This being the first stage the author decided to pace himself. The pre-arranged stop at Corrie did not materialise and the leading group pushed on towards Sannox along the east coast of Arran. The author had lost sight of the main group as we started in turn in-land and up to the start of North Glen Sannox.  As the road leaves the coast the first serious climb of the day started. This was well documented, as it is part of the southern upland fault which runs through Arran and onto the mainland.  About a mile after Sannox Church the first signs of what would lay ahead surfaced. Our first volunteer required a rest, some water and the sugar boost of a banana. Your author encouraged his colleague by assuring him that this pace would soon slow and everyone should keep themselves to a comfortable pace.


Then our support vehicle arrived in like an AA man and Paramedic in one.  Our Support vehicle would play an important part in the day as the stages went on, however this allowed your author to devolve his caring duties, and start back on the road up Glen Sannox.





In the distance, the snake of riders could be seen rising up the start of the climb, led by our Iron Man tri athlete in the party, which explained the Olympic pace. The first climb soon splintered the group into dots in the distance.  By now the Scottish Sun had decided it was a going day and the temperature soon rose. The rise in temperature also meant fluids would need to come from our water bottles rather than from the sky.  At this stage it was idyllic.


At the top of glen Sannox the group reformed in lay bye,  our support vehicle assured us that our first straggler was back on the road.  Looking west and more importantly from this point downhill, Lochranza looked like the place to be.


So the group re mounted and headed down the glen at speed passed Arran Distillery on the way and down to the second ferry port at Lochranza.


The ferry port gave us some time to refuel with some food and water courtesy of one our sponsors. Essential cycling food like bacon rolls, Red Bull and other balanced foods were consumed by our athletic bunch. The group was also soon back to a full complement as the early straggler caught us up.


We sat outside the like café in sunshine, looking towards Kintyre with the belief that having completed the climb over the southern upland fault nothing could stop us…..


………thank goodness were did not know the roads ahead.


(Ferry 2)


North Ayrshire-20110820-00125

We boarded the second ferry from Lochranza to Claonaig. A special mention, to the skipper of this ferry, who helped us with future ferry timings and was a credit to Cal-Mac.  The ferry across to Kintyre, again bathed in glorious sunshine and a cooling sea breeze was to provide calm before the evil little climb up Glenreasdell.


I can assure you when Paul McCartney penned his song lyrics about the Mull of Kintyre; it was not after riding up Glenreasdell, otherwise the lyrics would have been considerably different.


The Mull of Kintyre provided a stiff climb but at least it gave us something back with a drop back to the A83 Campbeltown to Tarbert Road.  Your author can put up with pain as long as there is a bit of a prize on the other side of a climb. We then continued up the A83 past Kennacraig and the Islay ferry, with “Iron man” already gone into the distance.  Your author would usually associate Kennacraig with family holidays on Islay. However on the 20th it was no more than curious glance as Tarbert was the next goal.  Our group all reconvened at the harbour side in Tarbert over a 15-20 min spell.  The time now was about 3pm and an overdue food stop was required.


We approached the local fish and chip shop and managed in broken Italian, German and French to coax the owner to provide us a mixture of fish and chips. The owner of the Tarbert Fish and Chip Shop was Italian and appreciated “Iron Mans” grasp of Italian, German. Her daughter had recently been crowned the Local Pageant queen and the compliments flowed.  Our group of volunteers then sat al fresco in the sunshine, enjoying the calorific boost.


Your author noted that even the sea gulls gave us a wide berth in Tarbert.


…..They knew better than to annoy the group, or they may have ended up in a sandwich themselves!



Ferries 3, 4 and 5 HERE

Graham Stevenson, Marketing Manager, NVT Group