The Five Ferries Adventure (also known as the Five Ferries Challenge) is a prestigious ride for cyclists in the West of Scotland. It takes in the Isle of Arran and Isle of Bute as well as the some of the mainland peninsulas of Argyle. An awesome day out, if you manage to make all of the Ferries!
I’m a bit of a newbie when it comes to making use of the Caledonian MacBrayne ferries. Growing up in the East Of Scotland it’s not really a regular thing to do! In the last year or so though I’ve had some trips to Dunoon and Arran with Lexy (my better half, Leanne) and the day trips to the islands are amazing adventures. I’m falling in love with the accessibility of getting away from it all.
I’ve also fallen in love with road riding all over again. I’ve got some slicks on my Stigmata CX Bike and have been turning pedals on my old training ride roads. Again, I’ve Lexy to thank for this! I’ve been struggling a little with switching off from modern life and work, and also suffer with spells of depression - a very common condition and I’m sure if you also experience low moods you’ll agree it can be a real drain on energy and motivation. Lexy suggested one morning I get back on my road bike and it’s really been helping. It’s an awesome escape, and it definitely feels like a form of therapy when I get in the zone and find my rhythm.
So, back to the Five Ferries... A mate Gregor Frew mentioned this ride to me a month or two ago. Typically you start from the port of Ardrossan and finish 51 Miles later at Wemyss Bay. You can get to both by train easily and that typically is how folk start and finish the challenge.
I thought it would be cool to try and ride from my house and back which would add around 60 Miles to the total. It would be an early start and a late finish but I thought it was do-able, and hopefully all in daylight without lights needed!
So last night when I was out for a spin I decided that today would be the day. I had the day off work, the weather looked ok and my legs felt fresh and well rested.
I set off this morning at 7:30am to ride 30 miles from Glasgow to Ardrossan to get the first ferry at 9:45. At Ardrossan I loaded up with some more supplies and got ready for the first stint from Brodick to Lochranza on Arran. The schedule said 1 hour 20 til the boat at Lochranza and I had 14 Miles to cover with a pretty big climb too. I tried to chill on this stint but it actually was quite tight to make it! It made me a bit nervous for the next leg...
After the second ferry back to the mainland it was 11 Miles from Clonaig to Tarbert. The schedule suggest an hour and 45 minutes for this one but I was aiming to get the boat just 45 minutes after I landed off of ferry 2. It was going to be super tight to make it with a big hill to climb too, but it would put me an hour up on schedule and increase my chances of cycling back to Glasgow before dark. I rode full gas between Ferries 2 and 3 and thankfully made it just in the nick of time! I could afford to chill and refuel on the next stint...
Tarbert to Colintraive was absolutely stunning. I paid for my efforts on the previous stint and had a low blood sugar ‘bonk’’... I had to smash my emergency food and restock at the next village. A big old climb follows Tighnabruaich and the views from the top are amazing! Round the top of the bay and I was heading to the fourth ferry port of Colintraive. I was up on schedule and the sun came out! Aw yeah...
The next ferry is only 5 minutes and on to the Isle of Bute. The ride from Rhuboddach is super smooth and flat, heading south to Rothesay. When in Rothesay you ‘have’ to ride the Serpentine Road - a tight switchback hill climb road used in the Rothesay weekend of races. I didn’t miss this one out and can now tick it off!
I made the fifth ferry and landed back on the mainland for the final time. I decided to ride north and round the ‘big coast’ to Port Glasgow, then up the Clune Brae climb to Kilmalcolm. From there on it was smooth and rolling roads to Paisley and back to Glasgow!
• 1 cheese and onion sandwich • 1 granola and yogurt pot • 4 blueberry muffins • 1 packet of jelly babies • 1 bottle of Coca-Cola • 1 ham and cheese mayo sandwich • 2 marmalade sandwiches • 1 packet chocolate peanuts • 1 BLT Sandwich • 1 cup of black earl grey tea • 1 packet jelly snakes • 1 packet Chewits • 1 bottle of Dr Pepper • 3 litres water • 500ml of Lucozade Sport
You can check out the ride here.