Day 23, 9th June 2011, Stoneykirk to Ayr

I think I am beginning to get the hang of Scotland and like it.

We had an easy and very pleasant ride today, getting into Ayr in time to talk to the very informative guy at the information centre.  We have not had much luck with information centres in Scotland.  Mostly they close at 4.00pm.  We did catch one lovely lady just as she was closing up, and she gave us a lot of information, mostly wrong.   A couple of our B&B hosts have complained about the service offered, and in particular the advertisement on their website advertising lovely cheap holidays, in France.

However, Mike here was different.  He told us what he did know, and what he did not, that is, he didn’t make it up.  He persuaded us, gently, to try the Isle of Skye, rather than Arran near here.  So we will continue to ride on towards Glasgow tomorrow.

Today’s ride is about as good as an on-road cycle tour can be.  The roads were virtually empty for most of the day, and while we went through hilly country, the grades were always modest.  The only problems are the persistent cold wind and overcast skies.

Having only ridden a few hundred km in Scotland it is probably too early to make a judgement, but the design of the secondary roads seems quite strikingly different from those in England and are immensely more pleasurable to ride. They are more like the evenly graded French roads that I have discussed this at some length in our book,

The countryside was remarkably variable, from deep forest, to moor land that looked remote and wild, while only being a few tens of km from major centres.

So we rode 100km with comfort and ease, helped greatly as we were not held up by the chopping and changing that characterises bicycle routes in the UK.

We met someone in the street a couple of days ago, who sympathised with our difficulty in assessing B&Bs.  Her advice is that if they have tidy gardens and clean windows, they are OK.

So far we have had extremely good luck with B&Bs.  They cost around 60 pounds a night, for the two of us including a huge breakfast.  They are so good that hotels can be a bit thin on the ground.  The ones we have stayed in are run by friendly helpful people, are clean and in all ways a pleasant experience.

When travelling I always have a beer with my dinner, it is an end of the day ritual.  I always try and find a local beer as usually these are better than the internationals.  In the UK I try and find a local ale, or failing this, the excellent Newcastle brown ale, or Fullers London Pride, both more interesting and better beers than the standards.

I have attended occasional social functions where beer tasting was part of the proceedings. The idea is that people are given a list of beers, and have to match the number on a glass of beer with the brand.  I have never seen anyone get more than 50% correct, and yet many of the participants swear by a particular brand.  There is also, amongst Australians a certain chauvinistic attitude to the major Australian beers, which by any reasonable standard are as mediocre as all of the major international brands, Stella Artois, Heinekin, Tuborg, Budweiser and so on.  In fact, the major breweries often produce one or other of these brands in their own breweries under licence.

British ale is often written off, but in my humble opinion is vastly better in general than the lager produced by the big companies.

So here in Scotland, the riding is good, the accommodation is good, the scenery is good, the beer is good, and the food is good.  What more could you ask for.  More about the food tomorrow.

Zoom in to see the map, I have Google's scaling problem again.

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