(written by Dave)
If we’ve learned anything from the trip it is that the weather can make all the difference. Our first few days in Bulgaria, and in fact most of the time we spent there, it rained. We constantly list Bulgaria as one of our least favourite countries on the trip. The rain puts us in a down mood, but I think it also makes the locals a little less cheery. Our ten days in Scotland the weather tried its best to pull a Bulgaria on us. I think the locals are more used to the rain as they remained cheery. We, on the other hand, may have gotten a little grumpy as a result. Well, the last two days, Scotland scenery and weather have certainly put smiles on our faces and gone a long way in restoring Scotland’s standing in the completely unofficial LWOP “best country survey”.
Today was another blue ribbon day. We were even greeted this morning in camp with some actual sunshine. We had scattered high clouds and sun throughout the day, plus we had a wonderful tailwind once again. It was so hot this afternoon that we almost stripped to shorts and short-sleeved shirts – I say almost, let’s not get carried away here.
Even though we were riding into relatively bigger towns, Dumfries and Carlisle, we managed to find some amazing scenic and quiet back roads today. We started by taking Old Military Road into Dumfries. This road was almost deserted. It was windy, a little hilly and certainly not as direct as highway A75 so it was easy to see why it such a great road to cycle and less attractive to cars.
We enjoyed an early morning tea in the cute little town of Dumfries. Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet, was from Dumfries and he features heavily on signage, statues and business names. His wife even had a statue in town. Mr Burns passed away in 1796 but they are clearly celebrating him still today. I’m sure other good people have contributed to Dumfries since 1796 but it would seem that they may not have the same tourist value.
From Dumfries we took small roads all the way to Annan. Again we had virtually no traffic except the odd farm tractor or combine. At one point we interrupted two farmers having a chinwag with one sitting in a combine blocking the entire lane – it was a very narrow road. Eventually they spotted us, moved the combine enough so that we could get past then continued their conversation.
We had lunch in Annan, another quaint little town. They didn’t seem to have any connection to Robert Burns so we were back to all the statues in town being for those who lost their lives in WWI. Almost every town in Scotland has had at least one such monument. All of them list the names of those in WWI who lost their lives on the main statue then inevitably have another plaque bolted on for the WWII victims as well. It is quite sad to see how many names are on some of the plaques given how small the towns are.
We had an easy 24k from lunch to camp just north of Carlisle. About halfway here we crossed the England/Scotland border. There were more signs than we thought there would be, along with a bar just inside Scotland that claimed to have hosted 10,000 marriages. We are not sure why getting married just over the border in Scotland is a big deal but I’m sure that there must be something to it.
We arrived at camp at 2:30 and contemplated riding further but we’ve reached the end of our planning window and were not sure what campgrounds were down the road. Just before camp, Nancy spotted some roadside blackberry bushes that were in full fruit. I thought that she was stopping for a comfort break when she hopped off her bike and jumped into the bushes. It didn’t take me long to figure it out and soon we were both eating fresh blackberries. We also managed to fill a small Ziploc bag for treats later at camp.
Our camp site, called Dandy Dinmont, is in a small town called Blackford. Actually, I’m not sure Blackford is a town but there was a sign off the busy A7. Continuing the theme of the day, we avoided the A7 completely, except crossing it to reach Dandy’s. Our guidebook takes riders right down the A7, noting that it is a wee bit dangerous. I’m not sure why they didn’t use the old side roads like we did, we found them pretty easy using our iPhone. Nancy is keeping a separate “ride notes” file so that we can share all the good and bad road info with anyone else thinking about LEJOG.
So, tomorrow we head for the Lake District of the UK. This is supposed to be very scenic with lots of quite roads. We are hoping to make it to Ambleside. Since the first of September we can certainly tell that the holiday season is over, other than tonight the parks are pretty empty. To be fair, they haven’t really been that full, so it may also have been the bad summer weather that has kept numbers of tourists down. We have now heard from several more sources that summer weather is finally coming to the UK over the next couple weeks. We can see 3 or 4 days out without much in the way of rain forecast and the long range forecast is for two weeks of the same. Fingers crossed this will be the case and England will find its way to the top of our country list with ease.