Round the Isle of Arran on the Quetzal

Yesterday, me and my wife took a day away from the kids to tandem round the Isle of Arran on our Nazca Quetzal. The previous night, we prepared everything for the day including folding and packing the tandem into the back of the car. It’s amazing to cram such a massive bike into a standard sized estate car!

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A 2 hour drive saw us arrive at Ardrossan, where we spent half an hour getting the bike ready to go. The ferry crossing takes about 55 minutes and you get a great view of Arran if you sit out on deck. The photo below shows the north end of the island.

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Once we arrived in Brodick on the island, we set off clockwise on our hilly 55 mile day trip. Just 50 yards out of the ferry terminal saw the first major climb of the day – extremely steep and with temporary traffic lights half way up. Ouch!

We pedalled down through Lamlash and Whiting Bay, stopping after an hour for a quick break. The South end of the island is very hilly and is hard work on the tandem. The hills are not that long, but have a lot of steep kickers that really force you into the red to keep enough momentum going on the 30KG Quetzal.

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Continuing on, we rounded the South end of the island. This included a hill down into Lagg that was so steep that we nearly dismounted just to walk down it. I had to unclip and edge round the corner on what I estimated to be something between a 20-25% gradient. The combination of steepness and switchbacks was severe, and we were twice defeated trying to climb up the other side of these. The tandem does become a handful to manage on steep switchbacks at 3 mph!

Further round, the sun came out and we pedalled through Blackwaterfoot in blazing sunshine. This marked the end of the hilliest section of the island. We pedalled up the west coast to just past Machrie, where we stopped on the beach for some lunch.

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The view looking over to the hills in the north end of the island was beautiful. The beaches on the west side of Arran are spectacular.

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From there, it was a relatively quick (i.e. flat) blast up to the north end of the island where we passed through Lochranza. Just beyond Lochranza is the biggest climb of the day. This is a long steady pull but affords possibly the best view of the northern mountains when you get to the top. My favourite view on the whole island. I’ve climbed that ridge in the past and you get a great look at the Witches’ Step (the sharp V notch in the ridge on the left of the photo).

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From there, it was a super fast descent down the other side, and then some relatively speedy pedalling back down the east coast through Sannox and Corrie to Brodick. The beach at Sannox is always worth stopping at, but it’s a bit difficult to get to if you have a huge bike to carry as you need to jump across a series of concrete block stepping stones to traverse a river to get there. We just ploughed on down to Brodick.

I finished the day with an excellent fish supper from the chippy on Brodick pier, possibly one of the best chippies in Scotland. The fish is very fresh and cooked for you when you order. We then had about half an hour to wait for the next ferry back to the mainland, so we sat down and took in the view of Goat Fell in the beautiful evening sunshine.

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The ferry was jam packed with bikes – about 30 in all. We were first on, so last off!

All in all, a fantastic day’s tandeming over 55 miles of some of Scotland’s finest scenery in some unseasonably good weather. Absolutely brilliant.

2 thoughts on “Round the Isle of Arran on the Quetzal

  1. They say it’s ‘Scotland in miniature’ – a festival of steep hills with amazing views. Also get the CalMac experience – these ferries are quite frequent too on that route.

    I’ve only cycled from Lochranza south and that was a great intro.
    Maybe do it with Irene on the way to Islay one year – the hills going north to Lochranza are steeper I think?

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    1. Going north to Lochranza up the east coast has a steep climb, I think it’s about the same either direction. I did 45 mph down into Lochranza on my mountain bike once! It’s a lovely ride, the view from the top is amazing. You get a nice little climb from Claonaig over to Kennacraig too if you’re heading to Islay.

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