I have arrived. (Actually, I arrived yesterday afternoon at a little after 4, but that is besides the point.) I would have made more posts but, alas, the parts of Scotland I have been in are regretfully lacking in internet cafés. While some tourist information offices offer internet access, the computer at the one in Stirling was out of service, whereas the one in Inverrary wasn't cooperating with Google Mail and Blogspot.
The more observant of my readers will note that I did indeed go via Stirling and therefore Doune Castle as well, rather than Perth. It had been chilly that night, and as I left Edinburgh on the train I was startled to see that the Lothian Hills were covered with a dusting of fresh snow!
As I tried to bicycle up from the station to Stirling Castle, my chain kept coming off as I went into lowest front gear. I had the luck to go into Stewart Wilson Cycles in search of help with the matter. It was diagnosed as the smallest front gear ring being slightly bent. Stewart Wilson carefully bent the cog back into shape, but advised me to get it changed eventually (i.e. after the trip.) He then offered to store my bike while I was in Stirling! Kudos to great bike store.
I spent the night in Callander, from where I went North via a bike path through Balquhidder where Rob Roy MacGregor is said by some to be buried. However, at least one source I have read casts doubt on this. There were a number of coins and candles on the grave which appeared to me as a little odd.
After many days of battling a North wind, the wind changed to the South on this day. Unfortunately, it was the very day that I stopped going North and was now heading South from Crianlarich! The road between Crianlarich and Loch Lomond shared a valley with a railway line. At one point, the road went over the railway line and I saw an older man looking down the railway line expectantly. "Ah", thought I, "a trainspotter. How British." Then I heard a rapid "chuff-chuff-chuff" sound. I leapt off Leonardo and ran with my camera across the road to the track where in less than a minute a steam train puffed into view!!!
(Since I first posted this entry I was able to identify by zooming in on these photographs this steam engine as no. 45321, or LMS Stanier class 5 4-6-0 5321, part of the collection of operational steam engines of the Preserved Central Railway, which is in Leicestershire, relatively far from where I was. However, I have reason to believe that it was hauling the Jacobite excursion train from its winter quarters to Fort William.)
I spent the night in Tarbet (not Tarbert). The owner of the B&B told me he sometimes got phone calls from people who had got the two confused. I had hoped to spend the following night in Tarbert, but owing to a shortage of rooms, I spent the night in Lochgilphead.
Rest and be Thankful was as spectacular as ever, made more interesting by a procession of classic British sports cars (Austin-Healeys, MGs, etc.). There was a traffic light part of the way up owing to road repairs. As the light was red, I asked one of passengers of an Austin-Healey to take my picture. He commented that I didn't have an ounce of fat on me.
Despite some rain yesterday morning, the final day of real biking was quite glorious, even if the headwind was a bit much. (I was finding it hard to maintain 23 km/h.) I was passed by a tractor a little before Muasdale. I found I could use the tractor as a wind break and thus easily move along at 25 km/h! Unfortunately, there was a hill a little after Muasdale, and the tractor left me behind. Still, I must have got at least a good 2 kms of drafting out of it!
Helen was here to greet me when I arrived. John soon turned up. After some chit-chat, John got a call to go deal with the arrival of the Kintyre Express boat service from Ireland at the pontoon he runs. I went down with him. Among the passengers arriving was Frank McHardy who runs Springbank! John, Frank and I repaired to the White Hart inn for a pint.
In conversation with John, it seems that he will be sailing to Ardrossan in next few days to get a radio installed in his boat. In order to get to Glasgow to catch my train to Birmingham, my plan had been to go through Ardrossan as it is the ferry terminal from Arran. Hence, therefore or otherwise, Leonardo and I may be able to catch a sea-lift with John! I am not sure about the exact timing, but doubtless something may be sorted out.