Cycling and sailing in Scotland – Oban

Cycling and sailing in Scotland – Oban

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Oh yes, my hotel bed was as comfortable as it looked. It is 6:30a.m., and I don’t want to get up. Right now I would not mind staying in Edinburgh for my entire holiday. With this room to return to it would be a great holiday on my own. But I have booked a tour, and my train will leave at 8:04a.m., so I better get going. Breakfast is not included in the hotel price, though I could have ordered a breakfast box. Since there is some sort of service on the train, I decided not to and instead will get my breakfast later.

How difficult can train rides be?

I planned to go to the railway station across the street about half an hour early. This to have some time left to figure out which track my train will be on and how to get there. My bags have changed since yesterday. I do no longer carry the bike in its transportation bag, nor do I bring my clothes in their travel bag. I assembled the bike, and my clothes are all spread over two panniers. Yes, this time I had to figure out a way to pack light, to help me get everything onto the train and toward the boat. Also, the descriptions of the cabins on the ship said there would not be much room to store hard cases. So packing light sounded like my best option to start with.

The station is closed!!!

What a surprise it is to find the railway station closed. It seems they lock down the entire center overnight and only open it some time ahead of the first train leaving. I am not the only one who is surprised by that, within a few minutes people start queuing up, wanting to get in. I am lucky to be able to see the schedule screen with the information for my train through the closed-door. At least I won’t have to search for that later.

I would have thought the doors would open at least half an hour to a quarter before the first train arrives. But no, with only ten minutes to spare for my departure the doors finally open. The next surprise awaits me around the corner. The track is downstairs, but the elevator is out of service today. How do I now get my bike with the luggage on down there? While I am still considering my options, a gentleman approaches me from behind, asking if I would like any help. Yes, I appreciate that offer, and together we get my bike downstairs. I thought to find some information on where which wagon would come to a stop so that I would know which entrance to use with my bike, but there is none. So now I have to look out for signs at the doors while the train is coming to a halt. Once more I am lucky, the next bike carrying wagon is only a few steps from where I am. The problem of getting my bike onto the rack gets solved by a friendly fellow passenger who immediately offers to help me out. Scottish people are helpful. On the way to Glasgow, where I have to change trains, it turns out the fellow passenger is a lawyer from Edinburgh. Time passes fast while we are chatting along. A few minutes before arriving in Glasgow he points out that it is time to get my bike ready for the departure from the train.

Waiting for my connection in Glasgow

I now have about forty-five minutes left before my train departs from Glasgow. Unfortunately, there is no display yet of where my train will leave. Gates separate the tracks from the shopping area. Should I go through the gates and get something to eat? Or should I stay behind them and hope for some service on the train? I would have to come back through the same gate, finding my tracks and get there in time for the departure… Missing my train would mean losing my required reservation for my bike. So maybe I would then not be able to make it to Oban today? I don’t want to risk that.

Traveling with a bike

Getting my bike on the new train turns out a little harder than for the first one. But it all works out, and I can look for a seat. I actually have a seat reservation as well, but I prefer to stay close to my bike. For the next three hours, I got myself a window seat, enjoying the view for most of the time, catching up on some sleep for the rest. The food service is not as excellent as what I am used to from long distance trains in Norway. There is no extra restaurant car, only a woman coming through with a little push-car selling some wrapped sandwiches and chocolate bars. I am opting for some chocolate and a coke, after all, it is a travel day, so I am not that hungry.
About an hour before the train arrives at its destination in Oban I start recognizing some places I visited back in 2010.

Getting the bike off the train proves as hard as it was getting it on in the first place. I am trying to hurry. Finally, it is done. Now I have to get to the North Pier where the Flying Dutchman supposedly anchors. I won’t be able to enter the boat before 6:30p.m., and it is only 1:30p.m. But at least I can ask for a pump to get some more air into my tires. And they might as well take my luggage on board while I have some time to explore Oban.

Final preparations

Oban is a small town, so it is rather easy to find my way to the sailing boat which will be my home for the next week. My first meeting with the guides is pleasant, so it looks like a good tour after all. Unfortunately, their only foot pump does not work, so I am off on my bike to the nearest gas station.

Trying to re-inflate my tires turns out to become an adventure in itself. This inflation device does not work as it should, or it does not work on bike tires. Whenever it seems to believe that I have enough air in my tires, it starts deflating them! This happens not once but thrice. Eventually, I disconnect it fast enough so that at least there is some air in my tires, and do the remaining work with my tiny hand pump. Now I regret that I did not have an extra night in Edinburgh to do all this.

Explorations in Oban

Finally, I have accomplished all my preparations for the bike ride; and can return to the boat to fetch my backpack and leave my bike behind. Time for some exploration of Oban. I have been here before for a night, but back in those days, there was no time to have a look around. Back then I arrived in the evening, went out for dinner and in the morning we got onto our bikes to leave for the Isle of Mull. This time I have a few hours before I even can get onto the boat, and it is a beautiful day; I will make the best of it.

It is getting a little chilly toward the later afternoon, but I still have some hours to spend before I can enter the boat. So now I am off along the North Pier strolling toward St. Columba’s Cathedral. The little map that I got at the tourist information shows that there is a castle ruin up the street somewhere, so why not go a bit farther and see what I can find.

First encounters with my fellow travelers

While I do enjoy my sightseeing tour my backpack is getting heavy on my shoulders and time is passing so it is about time to return to the boat. There is still half an hour left before I can enter it, so I decide to take a rest on one of the harbor benches. While doing so, a couple that I have seen near the Flying Dutchman a few moments earlier takes place next to me. I am wondering if they also have booked the same tour. I will soon find out they indeed are on the same trip. Tony and Suzanna from Australia, whom I am going to spend quite some time with as we quickly find the tone. Those who have a transfer by taxi from Edinburgh today won’t arrive before 8:30p.m. so we will have a late dinner and some time to get to know the few who have come early.

Tomorrow we will have our first sailing tour before we are going to take our bikes off the boat for a ride.

If you liked this post, you might also like the other stories from my Cycling and sailing in Scotland adventure:

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