The most amazing part of this was my ability to turn on a dime - I was able to cancel both of my B&B reservations by email (which thankfully didn't incur any charges) and book tickets from Glasgow to London via Scotrail, all while poking at my iPhone in my room in Ballygrant.
I was a little bit scared by my new plan - it required linking together three stretches of biking, three ferries, and two trains with a fairly small amount of time in between each.
|The very nice dog who kept my bike company at the Ballygrant Inn|
After securing my bike on the car deck, I trooped upstairs for a hot Scottish breakfast. I had a couple of hours to relax and let the calories work their way into my body as I prepared for the next part of my trip. The sun was up but the rain had set in by the time I rolled off the ferry at Kennacraig. It was a fairly short hop to my next destination of Claonaig, but it required going over the hilly spine of the Kintyre Peninsula. I was fairly energized from breakfast, but the hills presented something of a grind, especially since I was quickly soaked by the rain. The descents were also a bit worrying, since I was never quite sure how well my brakes would work, but I eventually found myself at the tiny landing at Claonaig and was able to sit down and rest in a shelter for half an hour or so. The ferry eventually emerged from the mist and pulled in to shore, so I was once again able to lash my bike to the deck and hunker down inside.
This was the reverse of the trip I had taken a little over a week before and the passage was thankfully just as swift. We soon docked at Lochranza, where I threw on some extra rain gear and prepared myself for the longest ride of the day. I was sad to have to pass by the Arran Distillery as I would have loved to stop by for a dram, but I was more than a little worried about making the next ferry as I knew how much work it had been going the other direction.
|Something tells me they don't understand the full meaning of that flag|
The downside was that it was also running a bit late. I knew I had to arrive at Ardrossan on time to catch the train I wanted back to Glasgow, so I grew increasingly anxious as the minutes drew on. I was also fairly wiped out from pushing so hard across Islay, so I was very thankfully to get a bowl of mac & cheese on the ferry to refuel. After that I unceremoniously flopped on a comfy bench to wait out the rest of the trip.
I was itching to get off the ferry as soon as we touched the dock, as there were only a few minutes left by my reckoning to catch the next train. I dashed to the station, but no luck. I was somewhat crestfallen, as the subsequent train would not arrive for nearly an hour. However, this made me extremely thankful that I had been unable to reserve a spot in the baggage car for my bike on an earlier London-bound train from Glasgow, which gave me an extra hour of wiggle room. Eventually the Glasgow-bound train did arrive and I was able to get on my way. I was once again somewhat anxious, as I knew this would not give me a lot of time to get off the train, get my ticket, and get on the train to London when I arrived at Glasgow Central. It was also slowed down by the fact that ticketing had been impossible on the train to Glasgow, so I was slowed by having to pay at the station behind everyone else who was also trying to get on their way. Thankfully I was able to get my ticket printed and find my Virgin Train with a few minutes to spare.
It was finally possible for me to relax a bit. I had done the nearly impossible and it was just a matter of waiting. I ponied up for internet access on the train, which let me get in touch with my friends in London to let them know that I was on my way and to pass the time while the Scottish and English countryside slipped by.
I finally got into London a bit after sunset, then set out to navigate the London streets to find my friend's apartment. It was a little disconcerting to be surrounded by so many cars and people after more than a week in the Scottish islands, but I successfully found where I needed to go. After a bit of texting and a much-needed shower, the motley collection of folks all trooped off for late night Japanese food. I had a full day of London ahead of me, so sleep was not too long in coming after dinner.