Phantom Menace

We spent a peaceful night at Carlisle and after we had breakfasted and sorted ourselves and the van out for the day, we made our way to the car park that we had identified that was right next to the cycle route we were intending to peddle.

The route 72 followed in part the course of Hadrian’s Wall, though there is actually very little evidence of the original wall left now, we thought that this would be an interesting route to follow, and headed out full of anticipation of what we would encounter. The initial portion we peddled was a bit scruffy, but it seemed to be heading out into the verdant countryside following the course of the River Eden. We were though a little stumped when under what was a disused railway viaduct there was a flight of steps, not what you expect along a cycleway, however on consulting with the View Ranger to check we had not missed a turn, we zoomed in to see that there were indeed steps annotated on the route. This would have been all well and good in a place like Holland, where such obstacles make provision for cycles by having a wheels width slipway for them to be negotiated. Alas, no such provision had been included in these steps, so we had to manhandle Twolula up a not inconsiderable flight of steps. Obstacle navigated, we congratulated ourselves on overcoming this adversity and peddled on through a more pleasant wooded area, having to follow the View Ranger route closely so as not to stray from the cycle route onto the myriad footpaths that crisscrossed the woodland, as we have found previously to our peril, that footpaths are not always cycle friendly!

I alerted Mr V that we would soon be coming up to a pathway T junction and our cycle route was a left turn, however, before we reached this point we were faced with a metal fence right across the pathway. Intrepid cyclists/walkers had clearly taken umbrage at this infringement of the byway and a number of the uprights of the fence had been removed to allow onward access. However, whoever had installed the fence, was intent on deterring all access and a large mound of earth had clearly very recently been piled up against the opening. There seemed to be no alternative route and no way to bypass the extensive fence, so we decided to retrace our steps and branch off to a pathway that we had mistakenly taken earlier, which seemed to be suitable for cycles as well as pedestrians. Unfortunately we had not gone very far when we were faced with more steps. We were clearly not meant to be exploring this end of Hadrian’s Wall, so we decided that we should cut our losses and go back and peddle out in the other direction.

We passed where we had parked Sam the Van, and headed out in the opposite direction to our earlier route, a little more jaded this time. We passed through a pretty park to the rear of Carlisle Castle, teased by the smell of baking cinnamon buns on the wind from some close-by, but elusive bakery. The route took us out the other side of Carlisle, through Rickerby’s park, where we had spent the previous night. From there on though the route was largely uninspiring; we went through a couple of neat and tidy villages that had evidence of a strong WI contingent. Although route 72 was in the main on either quiet back roads or dedicated cycle paths, when we came to a stretch that though it was a cycle path, it ran directly adjacent and parallel to the a main bypass which was unpleasantly busy. Thankfully the route diverged from this after a while, but was still rather uninspiring as a day ride. We mused that when touring we had a different attitude to the countryside we passed through as it is part of a larger journey, but when having a day-ride jaunt, we were looking for scenery that lifted our souls, especially after being limited to an over-familiar confined vicinity since early 2020.

We stopped for coffee at a little church in the tiny village of Low Crosby and were lamenting the rather humdrum ride when we were passed by a Stormtrooper and his companion. We greeted them, commenting that they had brightened a rather dreary day so far. It transpired that they were walking the whole of the route of Hadrian’s Wall for an air ambulance charity, with the companion being the water carrier for the Stormtrooper. We made a donation, for which a photocall was insisted upon, and we wished them well on their way.

We decided not to follow the route 72 any further, as it was travelling further out of Carlisle, so we peddled back to the van, once again taunted by the waft of cinnibun tantalisingly close, but never to be identified. Once we had packed away Twolula and had a spot of lunch, the sun was fully out and we took a walk into Carlisle, a place that we have visited a number of times over the years, most recently as a stopover as we peddled up to Orkney in 2019.

Carlisle Castle

The castle sits just outside of the city centre is much the same as any other, with the usual shops lining the high street, there is though a covered market which though mostly taken up with a high street retailer, still has some of the independent market stalls. We had never visited the cathedral though, so after a brief detour to the museum to inspect their facilities, we made our way to the cathedral precinct, which was very pretty in the sunshine. The inside was, as we commented, very cathedrally. We were struck by the lovely ceiling, and the vibrant colours. Having meandered around Carlisle and seen what there was to see, picking up a few supplies along the way, we wandered back to the van and set off further north to cross the border into Scotland.

As we travelled the weather fulfilled it’s promise of rain. We had identified a stopover in the Galloway Forest Park, at a place called Kirroughtree. This year Scotland is permitting overnight stopping for campers in such places for a reasonable fee. We arrived just before 18.00hrs to find that the parking area was deserted and the visitor centre closed, so we parked in the furthest spot from the entrance and hunkered down in our cosy van as the weather outside closed in.

After a good nights sleep, we emerged into a morning that was trying to be brighter and after breakfast, donned our walking shoes for an excursion into the forest. It was still early and so other than a couple of dog walkers, it was just us in the forest, bathing in the clear fresh morning air to the sounds of the birds singing around us.

The route we had opted for estimated that it would take 1.5 hours but we were back at the van in just over an hour, and that was with losing the way and having to consult with Google maps. By the time we found our way back though the car park was decidedly busier. We had thought that we would spend considerably more time within the forest park, but the bike trails around it were more suitable for mountain bikes so having explored the designated tracks on foot, we decided to head on. We made our way to the coastal town of Girvan with the thought of cycling around there as we had noted a few cycleways on the Ranger in this area. However, we discovered that the routes were mainly on roadways, and having driven some of them on the way into the town, we did not feel that they would be pleasant or safe peddling as they were rather twisty. Girvan is one of the towns which has made provision for campers to park up for the night, but we had reached it too early in the day to justify staying given there was little to do. We therefore decided to head on up to Ayr which has made similar provision on the esplanade.

We took the coastal route, passing through the grand golf course at Turnberry, now though a little depreciated by being named Trump Turnberry. We passed by Culzean Castle (pronounced Culain) where we had previously camped when our children were young; the memories of that lovely time making us sentimental about how swiftly the intervening years have passed!

We found our way to the designated parking spots and secured our place and went to stretch our legs around Ayr before the rain again set in and we decided to return to the shelter of our little van, only for the sun to come out again as we approached it. It was though supper time so we poured the wine and set about getting the food ready.

Our spot was right on the sea front, so we had an uninterrupted view of the glorious sunset. The only downside being that the local ‘petrol-heads’ do seem to use the area to show off their perceived prowess behind the wheel. This was something that we were aware of before arriving, but understood that this lessened as the evening wore on.

We have been pouring over maps to work out our next leg as we are finding that there is a dearth of pleasant cycle routes along the coastal areas. We are heading to the Loch Lomond area for a peddle and then onwards to Oban.

Our personal Top Gear seems to now be abating, one poor chap had obviously tested his vehicle to the limit as it has just had to be loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken away. So sad.

A quiet evening in the end

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