After the previous afternoon’s rain, I unzipped the tent on Friday morning to a beautifully sunny Scottish morning. Looking out I could see the long grass, the blue sky and the bicycles thankfully still there after their first night outdoors. For one of the first times in my life I’d had a good night’s sleep camping and was very pleased I’d bought my great new EOX camping mat and inflatable decathlon pillow. It’s bright yellow air pockets in combination with the long grass we’d pitched the tent made a perfectly comfy bed and it was good to start the first full day on the road feeling refreshed in the sunshine. After washing our faces and cleaning our teeth in a stream overlooking the forth bridges we set off.
First stop was Linlithgow, an ancient town that was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and James V of Scotland, but for us the priority was finding some breakfast! Faced with a choice of different independent cafés, Jessie spotted one that seemed to have outdoor space and we pushed our heavily bikes through an archway and down to a friendly place where we could join the bikes and sit in the garden. It turned into a two-course early lunch which was a delicious but perhaps not the speediest start to the day! After a quick photo under the castle entrance and a whistlestop tour of the grounds, we headed on to the Union Canal – our cycle friendly route across Scotland!
The Grand Union canals was a great way to cross the country, perhaps not as efficient as riding the roads, but with easy navigation and varying scenery, I’d definitely recommend it. As well as crossing a tall aqueduct and traipsing through a few long and eerily lit tunnels, the scenery along the canal itself was very varied, from windswept water in wide valleys, to feeling like we were in a green tunnel with the glassy canal reflecting the trees that closed in above us. We also saw the Falkirk wheel in action, an impressive piece of engineering that was worth stopping to look at.
Once we’d made it as far West as we needed, we set off due north into the hills, heading up to Loch Lomond. Our signposted destination was Balmaha, which I kept calling the Bahamas and then on from there to an authorised Wild Camping spot in Sallochy. Once we were into the hills, Jessie’s bike started protesting at every gear change, but we kept going, eventually making it in time for a cider in the Bahamas before heading onto our campsite. After the joy of an open green field to ourselves the night before, the muddy campsite in the woods was a bit disappointing, though the views out over Loch Lomond were great! I’d have loved to go in for a dip, but the evening activities of putting up the tent in the mud and making dinner took up too much time. Darkness soon fell and I worried that I wouldn’t warm up again if I went for a dip. We ate a dinner of packet pasta at a cooking bench then huddled into the tent to warm up.