“If you can’t say anything nice…” Day 5: Ardlui to Cumnock

We spent the night at the Arrochar Hotel just a couple of miles away from our start point for the day. Our room faced out onto Loch Long and the distinctive rocky summit of the Cobbler. Jer’s early finish yesterday meant that he had most of the afternoon and evening to recuperate and relax. We used some of it to go over the route for today – a potentially awkward leg to navigate. At least, the forecast was looking kinder.

Jer’s route today would take him down to Cumnock, passing along the western side of Loch Lomond on the A92 before skirting Dumbarton then across the Erskine Bridge and by-passing Glasgow. From there, Jer would take the A737 around the top of Paisley and Johnstone joining the B706 and then the A735 towards Kilmarnock. It’s a straight ride from there down to Cumnock along the A77. In total, the predicted mileage was around 70 miles.

This leg of the challenge looked set to be less arduous than yesterday. We were leaving the mountains and lochs behind for Scotland’s lowlands. The weather was forecasted to be fair with light cloud and no rain – mmm….we’ll see.

Jer set off later today, just after 8am, so that we could take advantage of the hotel breakfast. The weather was indeed fair as he set off alongside Loch Lomond. Going back to our original strategy of stopping every 20 miles for this leg, I set off for the first stop. By mile 15 the landscape changed quite dramatically. The mountainous terrain gave way to a downland scene reminiscent of the West country and the hillsides become peppered with estates rather than isolated cottages. The roads widen and soon become dual carriageways and the roundabouts start appearing with some regularity. From Dumbarton, the scene is very urban with fast moving traffic to match. Being used to seeing plenty of lay-bys and picnic rest areas, it was already proving more difficult to set down at a convenient mile marker. As a result, the first stop was nearly 23 miles from the start. It’s a good job that the road was flat and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem for Jer to do a couple of extra miles before his first break.

Our stop was just short of the Erskine Bridge on the outskirts of Glasgow on a lay-by next to a very busy dual carriageway – the solitude and peace of the Highlands already seemed very far away. After a mug of soup and tea (not together in the same cup), we checked the best route around Paisley and Johnstone and met up again around 15 miles later once we were back on country roads. The break turned into a much longer rest than anticipated due to a violent hailstorm that would have drenched Jer in seconds if he’d been out there. Fortunately, it passed pretty quickly and Jer was back on the bike and over small country roads towards Kilmarnock. He enjoyed this part of the ride best of all today – the sun was shining, the wind was tolerable and, for the most part, it was just Jer and his bike. From Kilmarnock, it was all change again, the roads widened once more and the traffic noise was deafening. The last miles to Cumnock were much the same and Jer felt that the day had mostly been spent crunching miles rather than taking in the scenery. There will be other days like this I’m sure. It was very much a stop start day today and although Jer was pleased to get a whopping 72 miles under his belt, the scenery that made the Highlands so magnificent, was not being matched by the Lowlands…yet.

A later start to the day and an increasing number of stops to guide Jer round a tricky leg, he didn’t finish until nearly 5pm.

We’re staying at a hotel near Prestwick airport tonight and hoping for better things tomorrow.

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