Yesterday dawned fresh and cool, but we knew from the forecast that there was a snap heatwave headed over the country so we had set our alarms early in order to get on the road and cover as many miles as we could before the heat of the day really kicked in. Leaving Abington before 07.00hrs we continued on the National Cycleway 74, passing Moffat before the larks. We were again essentially on the ‘old’ road that had preceded the M74 and as this had clearly taken the route of least resistance, following the contours of the terrain, the hum of the motorway was never that far away, even if we could not see it. On the whole the cycleways were much improved from those of previous days, smooth new tarmac is always a pleasure to traverse. There were also considerable stretches that though alongside the road, were dedicated cycle paths which always makes us feel less vulnerable to any traffic that may be taken by surprise, especially on quiet roads, but fast, roads such as this. It was again a very rural landscape with abundant flora and fauna, and even one or two dedicated stopping places; much improved than on our previous days. Lanark really does have it’s act together when it comes to making cycling easier…and safer.
Though we passed wind turbines aplenty, there was hardly a breath to make them turn today, the only real breeze being what we generated by our own progress. Having made an early start, when it was approaching 09.00hrs we felt in need of a brief break, the town of Stonehouse was up ahead so we hoped for somewhere suitable, and were not disappointed. Feeling it was still a little early to crack open the coffee flask, and knowing that we needed to consciously stay hydrated, we opted for our water bottles and I popped into the local shop in search of a treat. On scanning the bakery section, my eyes fell upon a large caramel tart that had Mr V’s name on it! (He is partial to an individual tart that is on the larger side;) I opted for a diminutive sweet ‘scotch pie’ filled with rhubarb; both were delicious, though Mr V’s packed quite a sugar hit!
Conscious we needed to get on, we did not stop too long and soon left Stonehouse and were back on the quiet country roads. Today we knew was a long day being 50 miles to reach Glasgow, and then the further distance to reach our lodgings, however we were encouraged by the downward trajectory of the guide’s profile of the leg. We are used to travelling this distance in a day and felt that this would not be too onerous. However, we did not examine the profile closely enough to acknowledge that although the overall profile is downwards, there are a few sharp arduous inclines hidden in there. Man we felt those when we came to them!
About an hour after stopping, we were approaching the conurbation of Hamilton where we continued through a country park for a considerable distance on dedicated cycleways which was very pleasant. We stopped for coffee in the shadow of a mausoleum that we felt was perhaps endeavouring to overcompensate for something, watching the promenade of dog walkers and parents with toddlers making a bid to escape their parental clutches to pet the dogs.
From here on in we were essentially in the outer regions of Greater Glasgow, but the cycleway for the most part stuck to the parkland areas of the urban landscape, indeed between Uddingston and Newton we felt like we were back in the depths of the countryside. We encountered quite a few hills here and without the benefit of shade, were flagging, however on examination of View Ranger I spotted the beer glass icon and mouths parched we found the Newton Arms, which at first looked disappointingly inaccessible for us. We were about to cycle on when the obliging staff opened up the shutter to the disabled access for the bar and we wheeled Twolula into the cool dim recesses of the bar. The Newton Arms may not be the most salubrious of places, hardly a destination pub with it’s questionable carpet and intrusively loud music, but it appears to be a lively hub of the community, the loos were clean and the lager was cold and to be honest that was all we needed.
Onward we pressed into the outskirts of Glasgow proper, the route though followed the course of the Clyde river and was lovely shaded by the trees, a sliver of wilderness reaching into the city. As we approached the centre of the city, we had to locate our lodgings which were in the park area. Navigating in cities we find can be rather troublesome; the frenetic traffic and unfamiliarity of the geography can lead to frustration and in the now very hot afternoon. We find that the View Ranger app is excellent for navigation as it allows you to zoom right in whilst still tracking your progress so you can negotiate your cycle route around built up areas. However, it proves little more difficult to follow where there is no colour marked cycleway so in those circumstances we utilise Google maps, however this can be a bit cumbersome as it is not always clear in which direction we are being instructed to proceed and when you zoom in to see the detail, the navigation is suspended – not good when you have to react quickly in a city environment. Once we had left the main cycleway along the river, we resorted to pushing the bike along the busier streets, which in itself is no mean feat. Once the route took us to the less busy roads, we were pleased to find some dedicated cycle-paths, so feeling less vulnerable in the city traffic we remounted and made our way to the Youth Hostel with relative ease, until we encountered the rather steep climb up to the grand crescent that was our destination. With tired legs and exhausted by the heat of the day we dug deep and arrived hot and grimy at the lovely large Victorian house overlooking Kelvingrove Park grateful but once again completely spent.
We were helped to stow Twolula in the bike storage area, allocated our room (private rooms with en-suite are a norm in Youth Hostels now, this one even has a flat within the building). I had purchased some tokens and detergent for the washing machine, and we dragged ourselves through the rabbit warren to our room at the top of the house, stripped off and scrubbed away the accumulated dirt of the day. Given the ripeness of our attire took the opportunity to machine wash ALL the clothes that we had bar the clean ones we were now wearing.
Feeling that if we stopped, we would not be able to get started again, we set off on foot to forage for our supper, finding a small supermarket eventually. On spotting a cold container of coconut water, I found I suddenly had an overriding need for just this elixir, extolling the virtues of the nectar within to Mr V. He tried it, was not impressed and I proceeded to guzzle an entire litre to his incredulous “what, you actually like it?”.
Once we had eaten supper, drowsy we lay abed dozing in the early evening heat of the day, hoping for more than the small waft of a breeze through the small health and safety sized aperture of the window. Our slumber was disturbed though by the sound system of a concert taking place in the park below us and our middle aged hearts sunk at the prospect of loud music into the night. Thank goodness for the internet though, I was able to ascertain that the concert finished and bar closed at 22.30hrs, and in actual fact they were now playing anthems from our heyday, with one of the headliners being Big Country, and ten thirty on the dot, quiet reigned.
Awaking feeling more refreshed but still with tired muscles from the day before, we were glad that we had opted for a rest day. There were some items that we needed to purchase so thanks to a useful bus app that our daughter had installed on my phone, we easily negotiated the public transport to the city centre just as the shops were beginning to open. Quickly crossing the items off our list, we had a well deserved hearty brunch before heading back. Though the rest of the country has been basking in sunshine today, Glasgow has been overcast, and the first spots of rain began to fall just as we arrived at the hostel, and before long there was a full on thunder storm and heavy rain showers throughout the afternoon. We have therefore foregone any sightseeing or gallery visits and had a relaxing afternoon reading and watching a film in the comfy sitting room. In truth I think that is actually just what we needed to recharge.
After retiring to our room, Mr V volunteered to go and make a cup of tea, saying as he departed “Glad there is no music on in the park tonight”. As he closed the door, the strains of what sounds like a Sex Pistols tribute band struck up.
Now where is my membership card for the Noise Abatement (aka Grumpy Old Gits) Society?