Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Day 4 – Lanark to Ambleside (116 miles)

A pattern seemed to be emerging as we started the day with another big Scottish breakfast, packed the van and headed off for another day in the saddle. Some bottoms were getting a bit sore by this stage so chamois cream was becoming as much a necessity as food and drink at stops.

After a fairly traffic-free morning rolling along the old A74, we had eventually found a café in Lockerbie for lunch, then continued along flattish roads towards Gretna Green. Here, we indulged in a couple of photo stops, as well as the usual food and hedge-watering, before crossing the border back into England - thank you Scotland for a lovely ride. Pat and Dave spent the first couple of miles south of the border discussing the relative merits of Scottish and English sheep.

The roads were fairly flat for quite some time as the Lake District came into view and got bigger and bigger. Mark noted that it was "like Scotland but with better beer". Not all of us tried the beer but the scenery was certainly dramatic.

As we entered the heart of the Lake District, we had a choice of routes – either the steep climb up the imposing Kirkstone pass, or a slightly longer but less steep route past Thirlmere and Grasmere. Dave was determined as ever and had set his mind on taking on the Kirkstone pass. Mark was more than willing to keep him company, so the two set off to bag the highest point of the route in the soft evening sunshine. By this point in the evening the roads were almost deserted from the usual tourist traffic and the wind had died down so the ride alongside Ullswater and up to the bottom of the pass was eerily serene. Before long though, the gradient got brutally steep (up to 20% in places) and admiration of the scenery had to wait until the Kirkstone Inn at the summit of the pass. A quick shot of espresso sharpened up nerves before the 50mph descent down to Ambleside and our accommodation for the night at the Youth Hostel.

Meanwhile, the rest of the team followed a scenic detour along the lakes, taking their time for plenty of photos of the views of hills and houses reflecting in the still waters. With the distance taking its toll, Paul reluctantly considered calling it a day, but managed to press on following a bit of encouragement from his "brothers of the wheel", and the knowledge that Ambleside was not too far away.

When we reunited at the hostel, the group had grown as we were joined by Jon Springett, the first of the two “glory hunters” joining us part way through the trip. We passed the rest of the evening telling tall tales over a takeout curry and looking forward to having some fresh legs in the bunch tomorrow.

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