Midweek Midsummer Microadventure

A midweek microadventure in 2 parts.

So there is a concept called a microadventure. It doesn’t need much time or money.  Then there is a midweek microadventure. Finishing work, gathering your stuff and sense of adventure, heading off into the wide blue yonder, but back in time for work the next morning. Then there is a midsummer midweek microadventure, which Ben and I set off to have last midsummers eve. This being Scotland the weather forecast kept changing, but ultimately it looked good and we went for it. We set off around 4pm from Edinburgh Castle (built on the core of an extinct volcano) in hot sunshine and headed for Arthurs Seat (more extinct volcano)(are you seeing the theme yet). The sun had gone behind clouds and it was sort of misty but still warm.  We walked up (and down) Arthurs Seat, my legs were a bit wobbly as I’d already been standing up at work for 8 hours. Then it was time to get on the bikes as we headed for Hopetoun Monument, 32km away. Earlier at work when explaining my plans my colleuge casually mentioned we would need torches for the tower, I mentioned it to Ben but didn’t think any further.  After cycling about 15km it started to drizzle, but that was fine because it was ment to dry up in time for our final climb up Berwick Law (volcanic (of course)(everyone likes a themed adventure)) and camp.

Arrived at Hopetoun Monument, drank some chocolate soya milk, remembered torches (bike light in my case), and set off up the hill. We got to the bottom of the tower as it started to rain. 40000 steps (or similar) later we reached the top in a sleet storm! (remember its midsummer!). Lucky that my collegue mentioned about torches. Ever climbed pitch black spiral stone steps, with a bike light in your mouth and no handrail? We saw enough of the view to appreciate on a clear day it would be a grand view before we retreated inside and back down 50 million steps. We set off for our final destination in steady drizzle. This soon turned into a downpour. At which point we put our heads together and decided that actually we would just call it a night and get the train home. Adventures are ment to be fun and neither of us fancied a sodden night in a bivvy bag for no reason.

Fast forward 9 months to last weekend; the weather was great, we were both off for 2 days, and we planned an adventure round the Fife coast.  Sadly it wasn’t to be.  However we decided it was an ideal opportunity to complete our 2017 midsummer midweek adventure.

After work on Saturday, we caught the 5.15pm train to North Berwick intending to have a pub dinner, instead we sat on the seafront in the sunshine and I had a wee paddle, I considered a swim, but the North Sea is just so.damn.cold! As it was such a nice evening we decided on a picnic, picnic duly bought, we headed along the beach to find a camp spot.

Washed up all along the coast are wooden planks than have fallen off a ship. People can not take them due to salvage rules (they must be reported to the Receiver of Wreck (best job title ever), but clearly the local kids have been using them as a giant meccano set and someone had built a series of wind breaks. It made a perfect bivvy spot. We ate our picnic, set up camp, had a drift wood camp fire (well away from our bedding) and then settled down for the night.

I woke around 4 am to find a sky of brilliant hues, took myself for a wander down to the water (tide was way out), woke Ben up by trying to quietly get back into my sleeping bag (I somehow ended up too far down it, which required a lot of wiggling) having woken him up I made him sit up and look at the sun rise. I would have liked to watch for longer, but I was too cosy and I drifted off to sleep again.

We awoke around 9am (with sand in everything) to a warm but slightly overcastday. I should really have learnt by now that this still means I need sunscreen! Packed up camp, and headed to Steam Punk in North Berwick for breakfast, coffee and cake (don’t tell my mother that I had cake for breakfast).

Spent the day walking round the East Lothian coast to Tantallon Castle as I had never been. It still has 6 floors standing and must have been the tallest building for hundreds of miles when it was built.  Well worth a visit if you are not afraid of heights. Tired now we got the bus back to North Berwick and caught the train home.   A great after work microadventure, sometimes working Satudays ain’t half bad.

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My first bothy trip

 


I had many questions before my first bothy trip.  I have heard of mountain bothys and seen pictures on-line of wild and remote places.  Being as how I’m not an experienced mountain adventurer, the Corryhully bothy at Glenfinnan was recommended as a good starting point.  Turns out it even has electric lights!

 

 

 

 

Would we be able to find the bothy?

Would the bothy  be full?

Should we take fuel?

If we took fuel, would we even be able to make a fire?

Would I be warm enough?

Did I have enough snacks?

How much water should I take?

What about going to the toilet?

Oh I had so many questions about my first bothy trip.  Thanks to Ben for patiently answering them and lending me a map, and for the suggestion in the first place.  Most questions turned out to be things I didn’t need to worry about (which I’m sure the ever polite Ben was thinking in his head).  So questions answered, off my friend Denise and I headed. We planned to (and indeed did) stay at the Corryhully bothy.  The night before heading to the bothy we stayed in the train carriage hostel at Glenfinnan and as it was my birthday we headed to the bar for a wee drink.  Good plan as we made the acquaintance of the estate manager, who looked in on the bothy the next evening with some logs.  Turns out with help in the form of dry logs, we could indeed make a fire. The weather was mild, my sleeping bag was warm and my mat stayed inflated.  I slept remarkably well apart from waking up too hot!  My friend turns out to have an intense dislike of mice, so she didn’t sleep so well.  Also I didn’t need to poo in the woods. All in all a great first bothy trip, already looking forward to my next one.

Bikepacking on Orkney

My first real bike adventure (3 days after I got a new bike) was a bikepacking trip around Orkney in July 2016.  If you look at my instagram feed there are some photos but not many, I was only 2 months into having a smart phone and wasn’t really on top of the tech.  When I look back now the photos look very bright and colourful.  I don’t know what I was expecting from Orkney, but my main experience of Scottish islands is of the Isle of Mull (I lived there for 18 months, perhaps I will write about that sometime).

 

I didn’t actually originally plan to bikepack on Orkney, or in-fact take bikes or camp!  I was going to head up on the bus and stay in the hostel in Kirkwall (I have a friend who had done this).  I wasn’t really much into cycling, I was using a 90’s mountain bike (16kg!!) to commute to and from work, and that was about it.   I thought maybe I might hire a bike a couple of days to explore (a fore mentioned friend had done this).  Then my friend Ben decided he was coming (I probably invited him).  So I thought if he was coming, then maybe we could camp (he has a tent).  And he suggested we take the bikes and at some point I discovered we weren’t taking tents, just lightweight bivvy bags.

 

As we had decided to take bikes and I had been thinking about getting a new bike for a while, I finally took the plunge and purchased one and this has been such a good thing for me!  I took the bike out for a quick ride the day before and then the first time I rode with panniers was up to Waverley station.  I remember riding very cautiously!  Although the bike was loaded with stuff and I was cycling with a backpack, the new bike was 6 kg lighter than my old one, with bigger wheels and narrower smoother tyres, so actually it was much less effort to ride.

We travelled by train to Thurso, bivvied on the cliffs as we only had an 8 hour lay over, and then  boarded the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness.  The ferry had an all you can eat continental breakfast buffet.  Highly recommend this option (after we checked we could go round more than once).  Had an uneventful crossing aside from me managing to kick a metal strut with my sore foot (see things I learnt below).  Good way to get an adrenaline rush!

 

Disembarked from ferry and set off on an adventure.  Cycled to Yesnaby Cliffs (ate a snack), Cycled to Skara Brae, just as a load of coaches pulled in, so we decided to go to the beach for a bit.  We were having a wee paddle when someone called Ben’s name, and it was his friend who lives in London, random.  Then we cycled to the Ring of Brodgar, and eventually back into town, about 20 miles, it was the furthest Id ever cycled at that point!!  Had dinner, admired my sun burnt face.

We were a bit nervous about taking a brand new untested bike away, but didn’t worry about Ben’s (recently serviced) 30yr old bike, until it started making weird noises on day 2.  The hub gradually seized up.  Great for me, as it slowed Ben down and ment I wasn’t lagging behind, but hard unpleasant work for him and it was one of the reasons we didn’t get an opportunity to see the Old Man of Hoy.  The other being that about 2 days before we went my foot staged a protest.   I’ve had stress fractures in my feet before and was scared, stressed and worried that it had happened again.  I couldn’t put any pressure on my toe joint, luckily I could ride my bike without too much problem, but walking around was painful.  It did actually settle down about 3 days into our trip, so I suspect it might have been gout caused by dehydration. (I was working in a kitchen that was reaching temperatures about 30 deg, in full chef whites and I was struggling to drink enough water).

As Ben’s bike has now virtually seized up we spent a couple of days in Stromness trying to sort it (probably for the best, otherwise I imagine I would have run out of energy much sooner into the holiday!) Eventually deciding to head over to the bike shop at Kirkwall (Cycle Orkney, awesome service!!).   As we arrived in Kirkwall it was pouring with rain so we opted to hostel overnight rather than camp.   Once we had decided on that plan the sun promptly popped out again and dried up all the rain, itsy-witsy spider style.

 

 

The next day was my highlight of 2016, we go the ferry to Sanday and camped on a beach.  It was amazing!  In the morning we wiggled out of our bivvy bags and Ben informs me he went skinny dipping – memory being what it is, I had imagined shorts into the memory!  I refrained – mainly because I dislike getting my hair wet.  During the day we cycled the length of Sanday and despite having bought some sun screen I got extremely burnt and Ben laughed at me (supportive friend that he is).  We spent the night in a shed (glamping) in the pouring rain, so we were glad to be inside!

 

The day after we cycled too far  (although it probably wasn’t actually very far, remember I am new to this) and didn’t eat the right things and it messed up my energy levels – ohps – I know now to pay more attention to that.

Final day on Orkney we were going to cycle down to the south end of the island and catch the ferry then cycle to Thurso via Dunnet Head, but we changed our minds and got the ferry to Gills Bay.  Once we got back on Scotland the weather was pretty rubbish, after bright sunny Orkney!  It was blowing a hoolie when we were at Dunnet Head (most northerly point of mainland Britain)(watch this space for us going to the most southerly and most easterly points, we have previously visited the most westerly), but when we go further along the coast and looked back it was bathed in sunshine!

Camped on the cliffs at Thurso and made our way home by train.  An excellent adventure most ordinary! and some great memories, and I didn’t hate my bike or Ben by the end of it.

Things I learnt

Going on holiday to the very north of Scotland?  Don’t forget your sunscreen!

Book your trains as soon as possible to avoid having to use weird connections.

Take more warm clothes, I was warm enough only because the weather was exceptional.

Pay attention to your food intake – I didn’t know to do this, and ended up somewhat lacking in energy on the last day.  Luckily our plans were flexible and we cut short the cycling.

Finally it is OK to change your plans; foot issues, energy issues, bike issues and weather issues, ment our plans changed as we went along, and that is OK! It was a holiday and it was to be fun.  I remember pointing out to Ben before we went, that even if we took the bikes, we didn’t have to cycle every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cycling the Tweed Cycle Route

115 Miles over 3 days
My first long distance trip

Distance 115 miles over 3 days, November 2017.

This is the furthest I have ever cycled!  I had almost perfect weather with no wind, it could have been warmer at times, but I was well dressed for it.  I don’t have many fancy bits of cycle specific kit, so made do with my regular softshell and thermals.  However I totally discovered why people spent lots of money on chamois cream, something to invest in I think!

 

Day 1:

Train from Edinburgh to Carstairs.  Cycle to Biggar and had the best cake.  Cycle to Peebles, eat more stuff and look around the town museum.  Went to the visitor information and met friendly member of staff who gave me a map of the Tweed Cycle Route (and had lots of other maps for cycling the borders) Cycle to hostel near Glentress, made dinner, went to sleep.

 

Day 2:

Cycle from hostel to Tweedbank (and back to Galashiels).  Got to Galashiels around 11.30am in the morning, far earlier than I was expecting!  Got train back to Edinburgh and met a friend for coffee.

Day 3

Original plan was to get the train back down to Tweedbank and cycle half way to Berwick-upon-Tweed.  However I couldn’t find accomodation within my price range.  I went through a couple of options, until the person I had coffee with said “well how far is it?” “49 miles” Im sure you could cycle that far, just go for it”  and that my friends is how I cycled 53 miles in a day (if you arn’t impressed with that distance, this isn’t the blog for you, if it seems impossibly far, then I hope to encourage you, that you too can do that if you want to) oh and by the way, I stopped roughly every 20 minutes for a snack and to take a photo.

Day 4 and 5

Spent two days giving my bike hate filled sideways glances.

Conclusions

This was a great cycle route for me, it was off main roads, but never so far from civilisation that I felt out my depth.  when contemplating a trip away, it seemed too big a step to be away for a whole 4 days at once, so I picked a route that allowed me to return home in the middle.  Only having to plan for one night away at a time seemed much less scary and more do-able.  The route is accessible by public transport and had a get out clause in the middle where I could have got the train home.  Some of the sign posts were a little confusing (because there were so many routes marked!), but there were not too many hills and I did not get majorly lost.  There are quite a few tourist attractions on the way, and if I had been more organised I might have visited a few more.

Travelling with your bike on a train

Be aware that all three train companies that operate in Scotland have different policies!  Even though I asked the day before at the station specifically whether I could travel with my bike on Virgin East Coast, I got it wrong. They were keen to tell me it was free and I could book (when I said I didn’t know which train I would be getting, I was told to book 2 spaces(this seems like a terrible thing to do, when spaces are already so limited)), but failed to empathise that actually for Virgin East Coast, it is not that you CAN book, its the you MUST book!

Screenshot_20171215-163048

 

 

Oh and in-case you are wondering how it came about that I cycled the Tweed Valley, here is the screenshot of how the plan started.