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Sunday, June 28

A sunny, but very windy and cold day in Oban which did not dampen the spirits of the locals who were staging a local Highland’s Games. Apparently Highland’s Games are conducted all over the country on different weekends and region by region.  They seem to be primarily charity events. In Oben they were raising money for cancer research. The participants are mostly local, but anyone can enter and there does not seem to be an entry fee. The athletes seem to know each other. The events are open to all ages. They were tossing telephone poles, throwing 12 lb. rocks, throwing a thing they called the hammer which looked something like a sledge hammer, and really anything that involved rocks and sticks.

Kilts and all
Kilts and all

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Some of the events were “handicapped” so some of the athletes start in front of others who were not as old. One foot race had three generations of males from the same family. There was also a Scottish dance competition which went on for most of the time to the bagpipe tune that was repeated and repeated and … most of the afternoon.

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From the train to Tarbet
From the train to Tarbet

After warming up over a capucchino, we caught the 6 o’clock train from Oban to a B&B in Tarbet, a very small town at the top of Loch Lomond.

Monday, June 29

Tarbet is a very small village that is gateway to 3 of Scotland’s many, many lakes. We came here to ride along all three of them and were not disappointed. From Tarbet we took a short ferry ride to Inversnaid on the opposite shore of Lock Awe.

Small Ferry across Loch Awe
Small Ferry across Loch Awe

We then rode 5 miles, the first 2 of which were up a very steep grade and then down the other side, to one end of Loch Katrine.

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Notice the blue sky.  That was it for the day.
Notice the blue sky. That was it for the day.

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We then caught another ferry that took us the length of Loch Katherine, had lunch and rode back 17+ miles to Inversnaid where we again caught the ferry back to Tarbet.

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The ferry boat is the Sir Walter Scott which was built in 1900 and renovated in 2003. It has its original engine which we could see from the deck. 21-IMG_262728-IMG_2635

The lakes are very beautiful and pristine.  There is very little boat traffic, and they are surrounded by green mountains dotted with sheep and cattle. There are very few homes on the lakes that we visited.

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We had dinner in an old church that was converted to a restaurant 34 years ago.

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Fish and chips was the order of the day. We ate early and were the only people having dinner at 6 p.m.

A gentleman named Stewart who owns a company the writes and publishes travel magazines for different places around the world was sharing the B&B with us. He was from Coventry, England.  He loved to vacation in Scotland and has stayed with Maria (our B & B hostess) 2 times per year for the past 12 years.  He was a wealth of info on where to go and what to see in Ireland and England. Each night we had a great visit in the common room pouring over maps.

Tuesday, June 30 Tarbet to Erskine

We rode south along the entire east bank of Loch Lomond.

Although the weather forecast was for clearing and much warmer it did not materialize until late in the day so we did not get much blue sky in our views of Loch Lomond.

Maria's Place
Maria’s Place
Our bikes preparing for a long ride.
Our bikes preparing for a long ride.

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We saw a few ruined castles and quaint villages along the way.  Scotland, like other places in Europe, has a rich history of territorial conflict both between its native sons, the English and various religious “factions,” ergo the need for many defensive castles, almost all of which fell in disrepair as the machines of war got more sophisticated and/or the various warring factions either were killed off, or intermarried or were incorporated into advancing civilization and consolidation.

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We continued to the River Clyde about 12 miles west of Glasgow and crossed the river on the long, high Erskine Bridge which we accessed and crossed on a very nice cycle path. It saved us 16 miles of riding.

View from the bridge looking both ways.

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Wednesday, July 1

We rode about 11 miles on fairly busy roads from Erskine to catch up with the National Bike Route #7 and then a very pleasant 35 miles to Troon. Although the weather was predicted to get very hot, not in our corner of Scotland. (We heard later on the TV that London recorded its highest temperature ever, 97.7 degrees. For us, it just kept getting cooler as we got closer to the coast. The first part of the ride was flat, the middle part quite hilly and undulating and the last part was flat again which suited us very well as we were tired.  Again, along the path we saw some picturesque ruined castles and churches. We had planned to stay in Troon and catch the ferry to Northern Ireland Thursday morning, but got to Troon about 5 p.m. and decided to take the evening ferry which got us to Larne, Ireland, at 9 p.m. so we picked up a day to sight see.

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