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Discovering the South of Scotland

Discovering the South of Scotland
Prior to setting out to set a new world e-bike long distance record there were a number of ‘musts’ on the e-Bike Cycle Tourists’ to-do list.

More than four months and 8600 kilometres later many have already been ticked off … visit the Loire Valley in France – done, cycle around Lake Constance – done, explore as much of Holland as possible – done, average 400-plus kilometres per week, easily achieved.

Now, finally, another must-do can be added to the ‘done’ list – Scotland. The home of my merchant seaman grandfather who jumped ship in Tasmania in Australia way back in the early 1920s, Scotland is a country that has always intrigued me.

Maybe it was listening to old Boo’s thick Scottish accent – he used to say boo to me every time he greeted me when I was a young child and the name just stuck – or maybe it was his all too often exaggerated stories of growing up in Scotland or maybe it was just reading about the Scottish Highlands and listening to the magical sound of bagpipe music, but whatever it was I have always wanted to explore old Boo’s homeland.

A flying visit in 2010 to attend a friend’s 60th birthday celebrations certainly didn’t satisfy my need to discover the ‘real’ Scotland, so obviously it was with much anticipation that we finally crossed from northern England to the Scottish Borders area a number of days ago.

If first impressions count for anything, we were immediately won over. Cycling into Edinburgh, where we planned to have our first rest day since leaving Harwich 21 days earlier, we were mesmerised by the beauty of the landscape around us.

From stunning sea views and cliff top vistas to the rolling hills of the region there was literally a picture-taking moment at every turn. Also, as an added bonus, the National Cycle Route which we had judged to be no more than a poor joke in England, was faultless from the time we crossed the Scottish border.

The result? Over a week of cycling with the aid of well-placed and consistent route signage we have not been lost once – compare that to being lost and frustrated not once, by many times on a daily basis on the English side of the border.

Anyway, our arrival in Edinburgh couldn’t have been timed better. With the three-week Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world, and the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo in their last few days, the place was buzzing.

With picture perfect weather the order of the day, the famous Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle all the way down to new Scottish Parliament building was alive with street performers, tourists and non-stop action. It was an exciting day to be in Edinburgh.

As an aside a funny story ... on arriving at our campground just outside of Edinburgh after a long day’s cycling the owner of the park told us that we had timed our arrival perfectly to coincide with the final couple of days of the three week long “Edinburgh Tattoo”.

While I knew what he was referring to, I could see that Rachel had a puzzled look on her face. “Wow that is a long time for a tattoo festival,” she said. “Why would a tattoo festival go for so long?” Clearly she thought it was a body art festival, with laughs all around when it was pointed out that it was a world famous military event. Clearly all things Scottish didn’t come into my gorgeous wife’s Dutch upbringing!

Anyway after a couple of days of soaking up everything Edinburgh had to offer – and making the decision not to head any further north due to time restrictions, we were off to Dumfries via Glasgow, Troon and Ayr to visit St Michael’s Church where my great, great Grandfather and four of his children are buried and to meet up with Robin and Tina Hogg from Galloway Cycling Holidays at nearby Castle Douglas.

Along the way – especially in the stretch from Troon to Glentrool – we encountered some of the steepest inclines encountered so far on our e-bike tour. So much so, that at one stage we were concerned that we would run out of battery power for the first time on the trip.

With a fine line drawn between battery power preservation and electrical assist we inched our way up the seemingly never ending inclines until, much to our relief, we finally reached the top where we were able to coast down to Glentrool with just a few kilometres of power remaining in the batteries.

Along the way the vistas were simply stunning, in fact the scenery was everything and more we had imagined Scotland would be prior to arriving.

After a couple of days off our bikes and three fantastic night’s accommodation in Robin and Tina’s beautiful B&B, we now head to Holyhead in northern Wales for the ferry trip to Dublin in Ireland – another ‘must-do’ destination - for the next leg of our amazing adventure.

Weather permitting one month of e-biking in Ireland promises everything and more than Scotland has served up.



Gary Corbett is an award-winning Australian journalist who has written for a wide range of newspapers, periodicals and travel magazines for the past 30-plus years.

After years of writing about other people’s travel adventures, in the mid-2000s he  booked a personal holiday with a difference – a one week guided cycling tour in the Loire Valley in France – and was instantly hooked on those “how good is this” moments that only cycle touring can provide.

In ensuing years he has gone on to cycle well in excess of 30,000 kilometres completing guided, self-guided, bike and barge and solo long distance tours in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America.

Gary now writes exclusively about cycle touring and travelling in general and as such the attempt to set a new electric bike world long distance record along with his wife, Rachel, is his latest “fact finding” cycling adventure – however this time it will be on an e-bike.

His future goal is to see more of the world from the seat of his trusty Trek 520 touring bicycle, and now that he has discovered the world of e-biking, his new Haibike xDuro Trekking RX e-bike. There is, after all, always another country to be explored, new cultures to be experienced and more cycle tours to be completed.


Before this epic journey Gary (a.k.a. The Cycle Tourist) contributed many excellent cycle touring articles to the Cycle Tours Global blog - you can read them at cycletoursglobal.com/Gary-Corbett.To find out even more about the expedition please visit http://ebikecycletourists.com.

 

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By: Gary Corbett
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