Day 13: Lochranza (Isle of Arran) to Oban

Total mileage: 67
Terrain: Undulating landscape with extreme weather and floading

After enjoying a relaxed evening in Lochanza YHA, we turned in for bed, only to find that our dorm (male dorm that Pete and I were in) had a very smelly guy in it, along with a couple of loud snorers.  Suffice it to say, neither of us were in the mood for a night of that, so we crept into the girl’s dorm, where Mary was, and ended up grabbing a decent night’s sleep there instead.

As it turned out, this was a useful move as Day 13 was a tough day.  We caught the ferry at 9am from the tiny ferry port over to Claonaig on the mainland.  As we pulled out of the harbour, we could see the dark clouds looming over Arran.  By the time we were close to Claonaig, the rain began to fall and the temperature to drop.

The smelly guy from our dorm the previous night was onboard, and still stank.  Clearly, although it rained all the time, Scots hate showers…  We all huddled into the confined space of a bus shelter to clad ourselves in Gortex.  Due to the smell, we left in haste.

The B8801 road northwards felt incredibly remote and isolated.  We passed very few cars or houses.  It felt much more like we were pioneers that at any previous point.  The chill form the rain began to have a negative effect on our moods.

We joined a slightly more major road, the A83 at Kennacraig and turned north east.  We stopped at West Talbot for some warm food, which made a huge difference.  The town is centred on a lovely little port.  Had the weather not been so bad, it might have been as pleasant as any of the villages we had passed in Cornwall and Devon weeks before.

Heading out of the village due north, we cycled parallel to a large sea loch.  Although the weather was still foul, the addition of this beautiful scenery did wonders for our mood and we began to pick up the pace.  Our luck was soon to chance though as the weather proved to be more of an obstacle than we had anticipated.

Just outside of Ballenoch, on the B841, the roads were under a foot of water.  Cars gingerly drove through the floods in single file to avoid causing a potentially damaging wake that might flood another person’s car as the water was above most car’s door lines.  We had no option but to cycle through.  I was especially happy that I had opted for waterproof luggage on my bike.  However, our footwear did not fare as well.  We had to crunch the 400m flood in a low gear and spin fast to avoid coming off whilst cycling against the body of water.  To be honest, we were all in stitches as it seemed so absolutely absurd.  We were already soaked, so this was not such a nightmare.  Many of the car drives smiled and beeped as we cycled past.

Further along the road, the locals had erected a barrier as the road ahead had been completely flooded under a few meters of water and was now impassable.  We were forced to either double back or take a very minor B road.  Although this added a few more miles to the journey, the alternative of turning back was not something any of us wanted to do.  We were rewarded with one of the best bits of cycling on the entire trip.  The roads were small but perfect for cycling.  The rain eased up a little and the sky became dramatic without being overbearing.  The terrain was very hilly but the sense of achievement counter balanced any negatives.

Back on the main road and the riding got easier although the hills continued to rise and fall consistently.  The only issue we encountered for the rest of the day was an idiot driving dangerously.  I was at the back of the group when he over took me on a blind corner.  The car coming the other way forced him to pull in and he narrowly missed hitting May and Pete.  He continued to demonstrate what a complete and utter prick he was by stamping on his brakes in the middle of the road when Mary waved her fist at him for being such a wreckless river.  What ensued was a farce as he blocked the traffic and got out of his car to shout obscenities at us.

In the entire cycle ride, this was on the only incident we had, which I should take solace in.  However, he was such an arse hole, it took the wind out of our sales.  We decided to call it a day in Oban and reward ourselves with a nice B&B, mainly because none of us had any dry clothes left.

Although the incident still makes me a little angry, the day was quite an adventure with some stunning scenery.  All in all, had the weather been better and without the idiot drover, it would have been one of my favourite days of the trip.

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