Our week on Orkney was at an end, and to be honest, we were itching to get back on the road as we could feel ourselves losing the conditioning that we had gained from the previous 4 weeks of work. Our ferry was overnight from Kirkwall to Aberdeen and as the crossing can be quite rough, we had opted for a cabin rather than the ‘sleep pods’ as this gave us access to our own bathroom should we end up being a little green around the gills! Thankfully though, the weather was settled, the glorious day turning into a balmy calm evening.
We bid farewell to Matthew, who had been tracking the progress of our ferry on it’s route from Lerwick to Kirkwall, and keen to get peddling down to the port whilst it was still relatively light despite being around 22.20hrs when we left!
Cyclists and foot passengers tend to be the first to embark so we booked in and waited with our fellow eco-travellers. We were approached by an older gentleman who was cycle touring with his son, although not currently using it, he had a tandem himself and was interested in Twolula’s specifications, being well acquainted with where she was made. He regained us with tales of travelling as a child on his parents’ tandem, him on the crossbar in front of his father, and this being the first experience of a cycling life that has spanned over 70 years. He has only been slowed slightly by the hip replacement last year that was a result of coming off his bike. He was an ardent self propeller – no succumbing to an electric motor for him!
The time passed quickly chatting, and soon we were being directed to embark and stow our bikes, we sought out our cabin and settled down as the hour was now late. Having sailed previously over to Holland on larger vessels, the engine noise and rocking of this smaller ferry took a little getting used to, as did the car alarms that were triggered with the movement. Sleep we did though, and soon the light was streaming through our cabin window though it was not yet 05.00hrs (one disadvantage of an outside cabin!). We busied ourselves getting ready to disembark, peddling off from the docks just after 07.00hrs with the mist still rolling in off the sea giving the obviously major works that are going on around the shoreline a distinct ‘otherworldliness’ look.
We were travelling exclusively along Route 1 today, which for much of the time hugs the coast, but does swing inland taking us through a rolling arable countryside planted with wheat, that is just on the turn from green to gold, and also some woodland. It was strange that after only a week in Orkney we had got used to the lack of trees and so revelled in the dappled shade we were afforded as the sun rose higher through the day.
Having made a swift getaway from Aberdeen before any work traffic built up in the city, we had yet to breakfast, alas though there was slim pickings; coffee stops are well marked on View Ranger, essential as they are to any cyclist. On closer inspection, the only oasis in the tea desert was denoted by a sole marker at a nearby supermarket – so unceremoniously we sat in the car park wolfing down sausage baps and scolding tea before moving on. We were glad of our sustenance as we approached Cookney, where the route seemed to have taken a detour specifically to climb to the top of a particularly steep hill!
No going round this hill for easier peddling just straight over the top 🥵
This was a day of up hills and down dales which challenged our well rested legs, but we managed them well on the whole. Our route eventually swung round to the coast again and at around time for elevenses, we reached the seaside town of Stonehaven and happened upon the Waterfront Cafe which serve an excellent fruit scone which is large enough even for Mr V’s needs. He was though disgruntled to find that he had been given apricot jam, our least favourite. And even more disgruntled to see that I was surreptitiously spreading my scone with blackcurrant jam. His favourite. No I did not swap!
After giving the friendly sparrows my crumbs, we moved on making our way to the Auld Toon (which was translated on View Ranger to Old Town, just in case we were unsure!). We then had a considerable climb up the headland the other side of the harbour and stopping to take in the view were delighted to see dolphins leaping in the bay. Outside of the town we spotted what we took at first to be a folly, then thought given it’s position it may be a beacon, but later found that it was in fact the war memorial; deliberately made to look incomplete to represent the incomplete lives of those slain in the wars.
Twice today we have been hampered by roadworks which do not consider that they are blocking the cycleway and for those without engines, a detour can be vexing – a poor workman bore the brunt of my grumbling for the first blockage but we brazened our way through the second though after seeing that it was possible to walk the bike through.
A highlight today was coming up close enough to meet the gaze of a bird of prey perched on a post close to the road. There was no traffic and he had not been alerted to our approach and indeed even when we were level with him he still held his ground, only flying off as I fumbled with my camera as I was so caught up in the moment.
South of Inverbervie the route has two options, the quicker ‘on road’ or the ‘off road’. given that the on road was along the busy A92, which we would have no option but to use later on, we opted for the coastal off road. It was lovely scenery, but man I was glad of my ‘thud-buster’ saddle suspension! Just as we had tarmac in sight, the rough terrain had the last laugh when a peddle caught on a protruding rock tipping us over, our fall broken by the abundant verge though alas this was mainly comprised of thistle so stings and scratches were inflicted, thankfully that is all the injury sustained (other than to our pride of course!).
Climbing out of Johnshaven we had no other option but to join the A92 for a time, these busy roads where vehicles travel at speed can be extremely stressful for cyclists given the vulnerability of sharing the same carriageway and the sometimes obvious resentment of other road users towards us. It is always a relief to turn off onto the sanctuary of the quieter byways. Shortly after passing through St Cyrus we were pleased to find ourselves on dedicated cycleways for some distance taking us into Montrose and across to Rosie Island (which is not technically an island).
On making the arrangements for the final leg of our journey this week, we had looked at accommodation in Montrose, and then found somewhere reasonable just outside Montrose, in the charming Lunan Bay. However just outside, ended up being 5 miles of almost constant incline, before a final hurrah down to the bay. After about 8 hours in the saddle, we were more than ready to call it a day. After freshening up with showers we felt a little more human and enjoyed supper and a long cold drink at the on site bar/restaurant.
I had suggested to Mr V that we take a romantic evening meander down to the bay, but as the words came out of my mouth I knew our tired legs would object, and one look at Mr V’s face confirmed my folly (or perhaps the blackcurrant jam incident has yet to be forgiven!)