Post lockdown tour - Five Ferries

Dwn

Senior Member
My optimism about touring in Belgium this summer is beginning to ebb a little, so to give us something to look forward to I have booked accommodation for a trip in early May that involves five ferries, 55 miles and a little over 4000 feet of climbing. It starts in Arran and winds its way through Argyll before ending in Rothesay.

The traditional challenge is to do this in a day, but we are taking a more relaxed approach and have booked a b&b in Tarbert, just under the halfway point. We won’t be carrying much, but I do have a couple of Ortlieb Gravel Packs (small, lightweight panniers). Can’t decide if they will be better mounted on the front or the rear, given the fairly hilly terrain.

It’ll be my first overnight trip in a bike in about 30 years, and first time ever for Mrs dwn, so hopefully the weather will be kind - May is usually good in the west of Scotland.
 
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shnjmsn

Über Member
Location
Somerset Levels
I know that ebbing feeling !!!!!! Our annual 'old boys' beer ride to Bruges may be in danger of not happening again this year, so alternate plans are being discussed ! King Alfreds Way looks to be on the cards currently for June, though considering other options ^_^
 

Brandane

Rain magnet.
Location
Costa Clyde.
My optism about touring in Belgium this summer is beginning to ebb a little, so to give us something to look forward to I have booked accommodation for a trip in early May that involves five ferries, 55 miles and a little over 4000 feet of climbing. It starts in Arran and winds its way through Argyll before ending in Rothesay.

The traditional challenge is to do this in a day, but we are taking a more relaxed approach and have booked a b&b in Tarbert, just under the halfway point. We won’t be carrying much, but I do have a couple of Ortlieb Gravel Packs (small, lightweight panniers). Can’t decide if they will be better mounted on the front or the rear, given the fairly hilly terrain.

It’ll be my first overnight trip in a bike in about 30 years, and first time ever for Mrs dwn, so hopefully the weather will be kind - May is usually good in the west of Scotland.
I'm ashamed to admit that I have never done this route, despite it being on my doorstep! Have done the 3 ferries many times, incorporating a visit to the homeland of Bute (hence the name on here). Three ferries starting at Wemyss Bay, ride to Gourock, ferry 1 to Dunoon; ride over via Loch Striven and a bit of a climb away from the loch to Colintraive, ferry 2 to Rhubodach at the north end of Bute; then an easy flat ride to Rothesay for ferry 3 back to Wemyss Bay.

One day I will have a go at the 5 ferries, but as you say the traditional way is to do it in a day. The problem with that is getting the timings right to tie in with the CalMac timetable. From memory, you really need to start at Ardrossan on the earliest ferry to Brodick, but the problem for me is that you then have not much more than an hour to cover the 14 miles to Lochranza to catch the ferry to Claonaig - and that 14 miles includes the climb up Glen Sannox!! I need to work on that one.....
 

T4tomo

Guru
I assume you currently live in Scotland @Dwn, as cross-border between constituent parts of the Uk isn't a given for then.

I've pushed back / relocated a Newcastle to Edinburgh planned long weekend as a precaution. I think we're going to have plenty of staycation to this year to do it later in the year anyway. Europe looks to be off limits this summer without some massive improvement.
 
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Dwn

Dwn

Senior Member
I assume you currently live in Scotland @Dwn, as cross-border between constituent parts of the Uk isn't a given for then.

I've pushed back / relocated a Newcastle to Edinburgh planned long weekend as a precaution. I think we're going to have plenty of staycation to this year to do it later in the year anyway. Europe looks to be off limits this summer without some massive improvement.
I’m in Glasgow, so it’s really 5 ferries and two trains for me (the cycle to and from the ports would double the distance and isn’t a great ride anyway). Feeling quite optimistic about UK travel post 26th April - given the vaccination rates I think that Holyrood would be taking a big risk extending lockdown the week before the election! Of course, it’s been a strange year, so who knows.
 
OP
Dwn

Dwn

Senior Member
I'm ashamed to admit that I have never done this route, despite it being on my doorstep! Have done the 3 ferries many times, incorporating a visit to the homeland of Bute (hence the name on here). Three ferries starting at Wemyss Bay, ride to Gourock, ferry 1 to Dunoon; ride over via Loch Striven and a bit of a climb away from the loch to Colintraive, ferry 2 to Rhubodach at the north end of Bute; then an easy flat ride to Rothesay for ferry 3 back to Wemyss Bay.

One day I will have a go at the 5 ferries, but as you say the traditional way is to do it in a day. The problem with that is getting the timings right to tie in with the CalMac timetable. From memory, you really need to start at Ardrossan on the earliest ferry to Brodick, but the problem for me is that you then have not much more than an hour to cover the 14 miles to Lochranza to catch the ferry to Claonaig - and that 14 miles includes the climb up Glen Sannox!! I need to work on that one.....
My only overnight on a bike trip involved the 3 ferries (we stayed at a campsite in Rothesay), but started in Dunoon (well, actually cycled from Glasgow to Gourock first). I had a horrible and heavy Apollo mountain bike with heavy panniers and an even heavier, ancient tent balanced precariously on the rack. My mate had an even lower quality ‘racer’ with zero carrying capacity, so he had a rucksack. Our experience of the road between Dunoon and Colintraive was rather tainted by having to walk up some of the hills.

You are spot on about the issue with the first leg of the Five Ferries; I might just be able to do it in the time needed to catch the second ferry if it was flat, but that hill at Sannox rules it out. Part of the reason we are giving ourselves two days.
 

Brandane

Rain magnet.
Location
Costa Clyde.
Another secret route for the Scots? Or are you allowed to publish more details than the 1st 2 ferries?? :P

(*I* have been round there, and used most of the ferries - but most readers won't!)
1.Ardrossan to Brodick (Arran). Cycle 14 miles to Lochranza.
2. Lochranza to Claonaig. Cycle 11 miles to Tarbert.
3. Tarbert to Portavadie. Cycle 20 miles to Colintraive.
4. Colintraive to Rhubodach (Bute). Cycle 9 miles to Rothesay.
5. Rothesay to Wemyss Bay. Cycle 20 miles back to Ardrossan.
Five ferries, 74 miles cycling.

OP says 55 miles but I assume he is traveling from Glasgow to Ardrossan by train, then finishing at Wemyss Bay returning to Glasgow by train, thereby missing out the road section between Wemyss Bay and Ardrossan. Which is probably quite a sensible tactic, knowing that road as well as I do! Although, for a price I could suggest alternative back roads, tracks, private estates etc. which would cut down time spent on the A78 to just a few hundred yards of the 20 miles.
 
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Tail End Charlie

Well, write it down boy ......
I did this last September, staying in Tarbert and Rothesay. Lovely route.
 
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bruce1530

Veteran
Location
Ayrshire
I did it in 2018 - here’s the report, a map, and lots of photos: https://www.cyclechat.net/threads/your-ride-today.173254/post-5321491

Last time I was in Arran, maybe august or september, capacity on the second ferry was seriously restricted - think it was max 9 bikes. When we arrived in Brodick, while waiting to get off the ferry, people were asking “are you doing the 5 ferries” - and if more than 9 said yes, there would have been race to Lochranza.
 
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Slick

Guru
We were hoping to do this back end of last year but there seemed there was always a bit of controversy round travellers and ferries last year so never got round to it. For this year we have planned a through the night coast to coast Oban to Inverness ride on the shortest night which is just over 120 miles so may try again and arrange a day out on the boats before it as will be good preparation. :okay:
 
OP
Dwn

Dwn

Senior Member
I did it in 2018 - here’s the report, a map, and lots of photos: https://www.cyclechat.net/threads/your-ride-today.173254/post-5321491

Last time I was in Arran, maybe august or september, capacity on the second ferry was seriously restricted - think it was max 9 bikes. When we arrived in Brodick, while waiting to get off the ferry, people were asking “are you doing the 5 ferries” - and if more than 9 said yes, there would have been race to Lochranza.
We will be doing it midweek so hoping to avoid the crowds, but another reason for doing it over two days is that it gives us a bit of flexibility over which ferry to catch. Hoping weather is kind to us
 

bruce1530

Veteran
Location
Ayrshire
yeah, the restriction was a covid thing - not sure how it will pan out after current lockdown.
I know Calmac have extended the “winter timetable” for a month, but the summer one should start end April.
Winter timetable only has 1 ferry a day from Lochranza, and that goes straight to Tarbert.
 
OP
Dwn

Dwn

Senior Member
yeah, the restriction was a covid thing - not sure how it will pan out after current lockdown.
I know Calmac have extended the “winter timetable” for a month, but the summer one should start end April.
Winter timetable only has 1 ferry a day from Lochranza, and that goes straight to Tarbert.
Just read your 2018 report; you must have been shifting to get round it so quickly!
 

Slick

Guru
yeah, the restriction was a covid thing - not sure how it will pan out after current lockdown.
I know Calmac have extended the “winter timetable” for a month, but the summer one should start end April.
Winter timetable only has 1 ferry a day from Lochranza, and that goes straight to Tarbert.
I just didn't fancy getting embroiled in any controversy with travel restrictions or anything else. I do remember looking at the time table and working out that you couldn't really do it on a winter time table due to the reduced service but if you are doing it in 2 days that won't be a concern.
 
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