We were up and out of the guest house by around 9 o clock. The sky was grey and it was raining but, undeterred, we donned our anoraks and set out to find the starting point of the Sustrans cycle route.
Eventually we stumbled across it and I stopped to take a few photos of the nearby Finnieston Crane.
Then we were off, but not for long as we stopped to watch a huge paddle steamer churn its way up the Clyde out towards the sea and buy some cakes and some water.
The first part of the route was not quite so close to the Clyde as I had been expecting but instead it was down a mixture of roads, old railway lines and canals through what was in the main a rather uninspiring wasteland or the backs of factories. On one piece of wasteland I noticed a large group of people clad in shell suits drinking from cans, they looked at us curiously but luckily our path did not take directly through their congregation. There were in fact quite a lot of people all down the route drinking cans of cider, Tennants and the like, some of them were at least pretending to fish in the canals or rivers but the rest were just lurking drunkenly in the bushes.
We gradually began to feel ourselves pulling away from the city, I think the transition point was as we went under the Erskine Bridge ( towering way above our heads ) along the side of a canal and found ourselves in a little canal basin being watched over by two policemen, also riding bikes.
From there the environment began to feel slightly less built up until we approached Dumbarton. I have to say that if I had a choice between living in Dumbarton or a painful death I would probably choose a painful death every time. Maybe it was just because it was a generally grey and overcast day but Dumbarton high street just seemed like possibly the most horrible place on earth.
Having visited the bank ( a surprisingly regular event which gradually destroyed any notion of cycling holidays being nice and cheap ) and eating some Kit-Kats we thought we might visit Dumbarton Castle.
After cycling in circles for a while, a local man asked me where I was going ( possibly I had cycled past him more than once ) and gave me some directions for the castle which ended with the ominous phrase “you can’t miss it”.
We, mostly, followed his directions and ended up nowhere near a castle. We saw two possible hills which might contain castles but unfortunately set off towards my favoured hill rather than Phils. My hill wasn’t a castle so we cycled in circles for a bit longer before calling it a day and continuing off along the route.
Almost immediately afterwards, whilst crossing over the River Leven we saw the real castle and set off eagerly towards it. Unfortunately when we arrived at the closest point we could get to the castle we realised we were on the wrong side of the river and unless we went for a quick swim we weren’t able to get there.
We set off on the final leg into Balloch alongside a canal which seemed to be a favourite location for both drinking cheap lagers and cider and walking dogs. I saw one person combine the two activities into one, very impressive. At some point here I lost my mobile phone, I heard a “things falling out of your pocket” noise but once again I didn’t relate this to my pocket or any of my things. We think my poor phone must have lain there at the side of the path braving the elements for days before it finally expired. Poor phone.
The first thing we saw in Balloch was a pub. We immediately stopped and I had a nice cup of tea whilst Phil enjoyed a nice pint of Deuchars.
My, normally flawless, navigation was definitely not operating on all cylinders today ( perhaps there was a nearby magnetic anomoly or something ) since I spent some time looking at the map of Balloch outside the station and concluded it must be wrong. Based on this assumption we went looking for the YHA and very quickly turned around and came back again when, perhaps unsurprisingly, it turned out that the map was in fact correct and whatever it was I was thinking was sheer madness.
The YHA was in a huge old house/mansion set in some decaying but still picturesque grounds. I took the opportunity of a nice to bed to have a brief sleep before we set out back into Balloch for something to eat and the nights entertainment. We settled for the pub we had been in earlier and had a fairly ordinary pub meal. After this a band came on but I was still suffering a prolonged hangover from my Spanish adventures and unaccustomed exercise so we headed back reasonably early and got some sleep.
For the first day I thought it had gone reasonably well, I think I had been on a bike twice in the previous year and a half and on this particular bike I had only gone around the park for twenty minutes to check I had put it together correctly. We had only covered 20 miles, and it was all totally flat, but we had done it pretty quickly and I felt like I could have carried on for a while longer so the omens all looked positive.