Thursday, 6th June
Disclaimer – The first part of this day’s narrative is a second hand account. Therefore all facts cannot be 100% guaranteed.
John got a lift from Hilary from Blackburn down to Aberdeen train station. After locating the platform, the train was one of the reserviced InterCity ones that have recently been re-introduced. One feature of these trains is there is no bike racks in the normal carriages so John and another cyclist waited outside the guards van. As time ticking by and only five minutes until departure, they took matters in to their own hands and piled in and tethered their bikes.
John then headed towards his seat – B66.
Lost Number 1 – Carriage B was found but despite many attempts, no seat 66 could be located. Another look, another look. Still no joy so John grabbed another empty seat. Despite asking the conductor, the mystery seat 66 could still not be located.
Fortunately for John, the journey passed very quickly. Mainly due to the passenger next to him talking non-stop and showing videos.
The train arrived in Stirling on time at 15:47. Vale Grove HQ had been fully primed and expectant of a triumphant arrival at about 4.15pm ( it is about only 3 miles but time was added in for John not having cycled the route before ).
Unfortunately, VG HQ were to be sorely disappointed. Time passed and passed and eventually John arrived after, rumour has it, cycling 27 miles. This scenic route took in most of the educational establishments in Stirling and Bridge of Allan !
In the end John did not end up beating my home from my work by that much. After a tea and biccie and a game of Dinosaur Bingo ( where the John Scott blew up and went from first to last ), it was time to head in to the bustling metropolis of Bridge of Allan high street. First stop was the Westerton where a tartan special was procured and then it was on to the greatest bar in the world ( copyright John Scott and John Burt ) – the AllanWater brewhouse. No messing about, John drove straight in with a pint of Empire Stout Building at 7%. I went for the safer and superb offering of their own 80 schilling – absolutely superb.
Next stop Rana’s for curry number 1 of a three night sequence. John scored 7.5 and my veggie Rogan Josh resulted in an 8. Then it was back to the Brewhouse for a night cap ( two more of the excellent 80 schillings ) before heading back to the house. Now the hard work starts.
Friday, 7th June
Distance – 77 miles
Time – 10 hours 50 mins
Route – Bridge of Allan – Tillicoultry – Dollar – Crook of Devon – Kinross – Strathmiglo – Auchtermuchty – Newburgh – Tay Bridge – Dundee – The Ferry – Carnoustie – Arbroath
Calories burned: 5000
After some homemade pancakes, the cycle convoy left the house at 8.35am and cycled up to BofA Primary school. John was very happy having someone that could keep up with him !
The boys were dropped off at school and the cycle trip could begin. Retracing our steps back to the railway crossing, we veered left along the rabbit run and past “the Birds and the Bees” ( yes they do actually stop the Williams Bros birds and Bees beer ! )
and on to cycle route 765. The first quarter mile was on a busy road but at the first circle we turned off and followed the old road which is now traffic free.
The route took us to Tillicoultry ( no sign of Dougie Donnelly ) and onwards to Dollar. We had to go on the main road for a bit and it was tough in to a headwind ( more on that later ) but then at Crook of Devon we turned right on to a cycle friendly quiet road which was very nice. We followed this and eventually came out to Kinross. We were making good time and the weather was surprisingly very nice – much better than forecast.
The navigation through Kinross was the trickiest part of the day and despite a couple of wee detours, John managed to get us on the right road again and towards Strathmiglo. From here it was lovely cycling to Auchtermuchty and our lunch stop at the Cycle Tavern at 1pm ( well we had to stop here ).
It was very nice inside so we got our table and ordered our stodge. Scampi and chips fopr me and Baked tattie for John.
Lost Number 2 – Chips. Other tables got their food and all seemed ok. Then the waitresses started informing the tables that “they were out of chips and having to make another batch”. So we waited, and waited and after an interminable wait our food eventually arrived. Now I have tasted a lot of chips in my time – chipper chips/dutch frites/oven chips/french fries/home made chips etc etc but i have never tasted chips like these. Well, it wasn’t so much the taste as the fact that they were almost impossible to chew. My hunch is that they had run out of frozen chips and had tried to make some more and it was almost as if they were baked then fried.
Anyway when the waitress asked if the food was ok, I piped up that the chips tasted ok but were unchewable. This was met with a response of “Oh, that is a pity”. They were definitely the worst chips I have ever tasted. All the other tables did not say anything but maybe they were being polite. Anyway we trooped out of the Cycle Tavern at the back of two none the wiser.
As always seems the case, it was a long drag uphill after lunch, out of Auchtermuchty and then down to Newburgh. I had put in a special request to John that we stop at Lindores Abbey, a new distillery that currently have new make spirit and aqua vitae available.
For those following my Bar 2019 drinks challenge, new make spirit is on my list and this was too good an opportunity to miss.
The staff were very friendly and a wee taste of both products was gracefully accepted with none of the Edradour-esque nonsense.
Unfortunately things were going to do downhill from this point. Not elevation wise but weather wise. For the next 40 miles we were travelling east – straight in to a headwind.
It was tough going. I was hoping the ride from Newburgh to Dundee was going to bring back happy memories from July 13th 2007 when the driver took the newly married Mr & Mrs Young back from Perth to Dunders via the self same scenic road. However due to the wind it was more of a head down plus the road was very undulating. Looking back this is what probably caused my having to get the driver to stop at a hotel half way so i could dash in and spend a penny.
At this point I was out of juice so was looking for a shoppie to stop at to replenish. We went through somewhere which had a sign “Best High Street in the UK” which strangely did not have a shop which you would have thought would be a criteria for an award like that. We ended up stopping at the spar in Wormit which I got my juice ( and a Dundee Courier ).
We forged on though and eventually reached the Tay Bridge which is always nice cycling over ( especially , unlike the Forth Bridge, as the cycle lane is in the middle ). Although as the John Scott and I both noticed, the cycle path over the bridge felt like it was going to cave in as it was making a strange noise when cycling over it.
Off the bridge it was the old route through Dundee docks that we have done a couple of times before. A new improvement, however, is that you do not need to go through a turnstyle any more with your passport !
To make matters worse, the rain started and was going to continue and get heavier until we reached Arbroath. At least this last 20 miles is flat and it also had the added bonus a few miles before Arbroath of a container of orange juice to fill up your bottle courtesy of an honesty box.
By this point time was getting on and we arrived at The Brewhouse situated in Arbroath harbour ( not Bridge of Allan ) at 7.50pm. John went in to check in and returned with the story that the hotel had contacted Hilary to find out where we were ( maybe John had put down an arrival time of 4pm ! ).
The good news was that we had been aloocated the Captain’s cabin. A self contained flat right across the road which we were able to wheel our bikes in to. The Cabin was actually next door to the Wee Anchor where the three of us had stayed in 2013 before The Fraser Young came along.
After initial problems getting the shower and heater ( we had to switch this on to dry our stuff ), John did a quick “I pick France for the Women’s World Cup”, it was a quick shower ( in the walk in shower room ), glad rags on and head out in to Arbroath for curry number 2. Now there was not a big selection of curry houses to chose from so John narrowed the field down to the Saffron. We had no problem getting a seat as we were the only diners. The curry was nothing to write in your log about and both of us scored 6.5. The highlight for me was actually they did a Masala Chai. The most memorable thing about the curry was the absolutely massive pile of rice we both got – it must be the biggest I have ever seen in a curry house.
Not feeling too full up we headed towards The Corn Exchange but boycotted it when we realised it was a Wetherspoon’s pub. So we headed back to The Brewhouse but it was shut ( it turned out that was why they were getting concerned by our late arrival as they were closing shortly after we actually arrived ).We managed to find the commerical at the harbour which was more of a “traditional” establishment. I managed to fit in another couple of Bar 2019 drinks and it was time to head back and hit the sack.
The big question mark for tomorrow ( the Queen’s stage ) was the route. The forecast ( including the one we saw on the late Scottish news ) was terrible with heavy rain. So the question was :-
a) Stick to the plan and go over the Cairn O’Mount
b) Wimp out and follow our old pal cycle route 1
We decided to wait and see what the next day brought.
The highlight of the day ? for John it was taking the Fraser young and his brother Gavin up to school on their bikes. For me, it was arriving in Arbroath !
PS Those familiar with our trips might be wondering why we did not have our traditional stop in The Ferry at the Ship Inn. Well you will be pleased to know that we did indeed stop there for a pint.
NOPS – 0
NOBBs – 0
Saturday, 8th June
Route – Arbroath – Brechin – Edzell – Cairn O’Mount – Strachan – Banchory – Blackburn
John had booked breakfast for 8am but called up and re-arranged for 8.30am. The sitting was in the Brewhouse restaurant and was superb. John ( whether by careful planning or luck ) ensured there were two kinds of veggie sausages in the Young fry-up. Both were huge plates and were superb quality. Now the weather. At this point in the morning it was lovely and checking the forecast there seemed to have been a definite move towards a drier day. So we decided to stick with the original Cairn O’Mount route. We left Arbroath at the back of 9. However things did not get off to a good start. About 200 yards in, John’s main pannier fell off his bike in the middle of the road. After careful examination, the technical cause for this was diagnosed as “did not attach to bike”. Sorted, we headed out of Arbroath although at one point I had to shout at John as he was cycle down the wrong side of the road. What a start.
The roads were quiet and fortunately the rain was holding off and we pedalled on towards Brechin which we bypassed and then towards Edzell. After a Young requested 10 minute break we continued on to Fettercairn then our lunch destination – The Clatterin Brig Inn. Arrival time 12:45.
Being my first time there, I tried to pedal up the steep path up to the Inn. Despite a valiant effort, I got to within 10 feet from the top and had to hang on to a wooden fence as it was so steep. John, not for the last time today, came to my rescue and held my bike while I dismounted. We got a nice table at the window and ordered lunch. I went for the sandwich option with a plate of chips and cheese. Now after yesterdays chip-gate episode I should have known better. They came but it wasn’t so much chips ‘n’ cheese as cheese ‘n’ chips. There was about half a pound of cheddar and mozzarella covering the chips giving about an inch crust. I could hardly get in to the chips. I tried my best though. By this point it had started drizzling so I got my water bottle refilled behind the counter and we headed out for the infamous Cairn O’Mount. John had done it many times so was prepared but in truth I wasn’t prepared. We cycled down back on to the road, turned left and I tried to change gear on to the granny ring. However this did not happen and so I tried to go up the first bit as was. The initial slope is 16% so, no surprise, I got about 50 yards and stopped.
Being sensible and realising we still had 35 miles to go ( some of it in to a headwind ), I made the decision to push my way up the 2 miles to the summit. By this point the rain was getting heavier and being exposed windier. It was actually hard even pushing up. I decided to break the ascent up in to 500 metre chunks. So push for 500m then have a break, then repeat. It was slow going but I managed to get within 300m of the summit. As i was sitting down having my last breather, I saw a figure walking down from the top. What an idiot I thought – walking over the Cairn O’Mount on a day like this. However as the apparition got closer I realised it was the John Scott. The good samaritan had come down to help me and very kindly pushed my bike up the last bit to the summit. From the top there was a downhill bit and then another drag uphill which resulted in another NOP. This happened twice more before we got back to ground level normality again. Through Strachan we stopped in Banchory at the Chatterbox for a tea and cake. I had a rock cake ( the last one ) which was exactly what the cyclist ordered. John walked out leaving his pannier ! By this time it was getting on. John phoned Hilary and updated our ETA. The plan for later was to head to the Lays hotel in Blackburn to meet up with the rest of the curry club to watch the start of the Stevie Clarke era – Scotland v Cyprus which kicked off at 7.45.
We barged on and after overcoming the last ascent of the day – Auchronie – it was a free wheel down to Woodlands. Arrival time was 6.15pm. After a warm welcome from Hilary, some lovely sticky toffe cakes appeared along with an even lovlier 18 year old Macallan – absolutely superb. We toasted our cycle and safe arrival. Then it was a quick turnaround ( I actually noticed sunburn on my legs in the shower ) and out to the Lays hotel courtesy of a lift from Hilary. Entering at 7.20pm we were greeted by Shuggy, Lowser, Alan and Graeme and it was great to see them again. The pub was reasonably busy but we got a seat and watched the game. Scotland secured a 2-1 win with a late goal but all the excitement was off the field.
There was an Cliff Lazarenko lookalike in the bar who was cheering on Cyprus. Amazingly it turned out he was a Rangers International PLC fan. Riling up the rest of the bar, his moment of glory came when Cyprus equalised and he made the most of it. Revenge was sweet, though, when Scotland scored late on to seal the win and put the obnoxious character back in his box.
After the match we walked to the much hyped Mount Everest indian restaurant for a curry club. It was a strange venue as it in an industrial estate. Curry number three was good but the bland tarkha daal let it down so i gave a 7. John scored a 9. After the meal, we said our goodbyes and the Aberdeen gang jumped in a taxi. The John Scott and I walked back to Woodlands. Hilary was still up so we chatted and John poured me a Longmorn 16 yo ( lucky me and one of my favourite distilleries ) to accompany my cup of tea and digestive biscuits. What hosts. I shuffled off to bed and the back of midnight looking forward to my long lie…
NOPS – 4 ( although one was 2 miles ! )
NOBBs – 0
Sunday, 9th June
…which i took advantage off and surfaced at 10am. Breakfast was Linda McCartney superb veggie sausages in a roll with broon sauce – perfect. I was also able to try Forest Farm milk which is just produced round the corner from John and Hilary’s house. It was so fresh and tasty – one of the great milks of all time.
After a relaxing morning, John strapped my bike on to the roof of the car and Hilary drove us down to Aberdeen station where I was getting the train at 1.??. I got a sandwich and drink and headed along to the train. Deja vu. Myself and another cyclist were hanging about outside the guards van as that was where the bikes went. With only 10 minutes to go, I did a John and just piled in and thethered up my bike myself. The good news, however, was that my seat did exist and I found it ok. The journey to Stirling was uneventful and I arrived on time. Then it was back on the bike for the 3 mile trot back to Bofa. Amazingly as I turned in to the estate, Hazel and the boys were coming out on their bikes. So I about turned and joined them for a wee cycle along the rabbit run and back. The exact path that we had started our trip two days earlier. I was almost tempted to go round around !
Another great trip expertly navigated by the John Scott. The route from Bridge of Allan to Newburgh was super and definitely one I would do again. The head wind made the latter 40 miles of the first day hard but at least it was relatively flat. Obviously the Cairn O’Mount dominated the second day and it was a struggle. Kudos to John for cycling all the way up in the wind and rain – great effort. I still think I made the correct decision by pushing all the way up. With 30 miles still to go, there was no point doing myself in as I wanted to enjoy the remainder of the day. To finish the trip was an achievement especially going from a max of 10 miles right up to 77. I did feel I was getting my legs and the aim in the next 12 months is to do more cycling and some half or even full day trips. Gavin, who is up to 20 miles, can hopefully help me achieve this.
Unfortunately, par for the course, the John Scott was uanble to provide Blairgowrie-esque weather. The pressure will be on for me next year to repeat the glorious weather of my last turn at organising.
One interesting development this year was the red jersey mirage. During our trip, there were a few times when I could see John’s traditional red cycling top ahead in the distance. Normally at the top of a hill with John sitting waiting on me to arrive. Unfortunately, as I neared, it became apparent this it was not John – in fact it was one of the following red post box/flowers/
Thanks to the John Scott for all the organising, hosting and amazing whiskies. Here is to 2020, roll on…..