Looking Out To Sea

Cycling and camping at Knockengorroch festival

It all went according to plan. I took the train from Edinburgh to Glasgow Queen Street station, talking to a guy who was cycling up the west coast for a week. We discussed riding on the continent, the value of step-through frames when you get old enough that stepping over the saddle is difficult, and the easy nature of Rohloff internal hub gears.

From Queen Street I rode round the corner to Central Station and boarded the train to Ayr. I spoke to a woman wearing civvies but riding a skinny road bike. She had cleated cycling shoes to provide the interface: more roadie than casual on the feet. She soon realised she was on the wrong train and got off at the next station to return on the next available train.

I arrived at Ayr and found a Greggs to sell me two sausage rolls and a fudge donut for lunch. They were sold out of fudge donuts so I had to make do with chocolate, which I call “slumming it”. I set off straight away following the Bike Hub app which is absolutely terrible. The on-screen map isn’t very detailed. Your location on the map is marked with a small circle which means your own direction isn’t obvious. The map also doesn’t re-orient as you turn, so it quickly becomes useless at junctions — peering at the tiny writing for road names and hunting around for the related street signs makes for very frustrating progress. I switched to Google Maps before I left Ayr.

The A713 is a straightforward but unpleasant road from Ayr to Carlisle through the town of Dalmellington. The festival is a few miles beyond Dalmellington so I was mostly following the road signs. I stopped in a layby while the traffic got busy to eat my sausage rolls. I passed a few lone cyclists and a couple on a touring tandem. I was tempted by the Hollybush Inn at the top of a hill but it was still early in the day. I kept going.

I stopped later near the Scottish steam engine centre (or something) for my chocolate donut. The chocolate was quite runny but not bad. I didn’t visit the steam trains. I had set off behind schedule and wasted a lot of time trying to get out of Ayr so I had little time to waste on sightseeing.

I went up some narrow, winding roads between Dalmellington and the turn-off to the festival site. Most of the traffic at this point was quite good with the occasional scary idiot. Seeing police cordon tape and bits of wrecked cars (including the whole front bumper and registration number of a blue car) that had been flung ten metres off the road in some high-speed collision was quite sobering and more than a little alarming. It’s easy to feel very vulnerable in such a situation — because truly you are vulnerable.

I reach the turn-off for Knockengorroch which was about half a mile of uphill followed by three miles of downhill. Exhilerating when you’ve been slogging for so long! I think I arrived at the area of grass that would be my pitch at about 5.30. It was getting colder so I’m glad I didn’t waste any time.

The festival went reasonably well though I suffered from poor wardrobe choice a lot of the time. Warmer clothes, including a better jacket, would have really cheered me up. On my last night I ended up wearing most of my cycling gear underneath my day clothes because it was so chilly.

On the return journey I left just before noon, forcing my way up the long downhill to the festival site and back onto the main road. My initial impression that the route had been quite uphill on the way seemed accurate: it was a lot more downhill on the return journey with some spots that were considerably faster to travel than my average. I think about 8mph had been my pace on the way out. I stopped for my lunch at the aforementioned Hollybush Inn on the way back but I would have made much better time otherwise.

In future I would try to travel by more obscure routes if possible, leaving more time where necessary. I would have better paper maps and a better plan to escape the big cities (well, escape Ayr). Ending up on dual carriageways and motorways is all too easy: nobody bothers signposting the slow roads with big signs!