The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

Well the Coronavirus pandemic has well and truly put a spoke in the wheel of my big adventure any time soon. However, always the optimist, I have started training anyway.  That way I will be fit and ready whenever things settle down again. If nothing else it gets me out in the fresh air and exercising (while I can) and I enjoy it, there can be no better reason than that.

Last week the weather was so springlike I pedalled all the way to Tayport.  I had overstretched myself for by the time I returned to Leuchars I was struggling.  I still had not learned to pace myself. At Guardbridge I dismounted at the barrier and pushed the bike up the slight hill and into the car park at the top before remounting, using different muscles helped. The wind was light but now like a gentle hand on my back propelled me into St Andrews. I stuffed the bike in the back of the van and headed for the shower, allowing hot water to massage my body. My batteries were flat, lungs burned, my stomach was cramping and I had a thirst that could not be quenched, but I also had a brain that was sparking at one hundred miles per second. I thought I was too old and my fitness levels such that I could never feel this way again; that heightened awareness that comes through sheer exertion.  I can only imagine how professional athletes must be on a permanent high, that keeps them pushing forward, above and beyond the call of duty.

When Generals returned to Rome, in triumph, their servant would whisper in their ear 

“You are not a god”.

 I must find a small voice to sit upon my shoulder and whisper,

“You are now 78 years old”.

On Friday I set out for Strathkinness, a slow climb from St Andrews that gets you warmed up. From there I intended dropping back down to Guardbridge and home along the cycle path, just a short circuit to keep the legs flexible. But as always happens I was feeling good on reaching Strathkinness and decided to visit the Broch at Drumcarrow Craig. Crossing the B939 you start to climb, a climb that only gets steeper as you go, and soon I was twiddling away in my bottom granny gear. There is a little metalled road that takes you up to the Craig, and as I neared I could hear the sound of off-road motorcycles. I left the bicycle at the base of the crag and made the short climb up to the top. 

The view was spectacular, you could see all the way to the Forth, the Tay and all the way west, across Fife. The Broch itself is long gone but the outer foundation ring of stones is still there (I stepped them out at about 13 feet in diameter) and clear for all to see and much bigger than expected. Even the entrance is visible.  Seems they knew what they were doing, the people that built this Broch, for the door is away from the prevailing winds that come from the south-west. I must try to find out more about the (Iron Age) people who built this structure, from its size they must have been a large tribe. As with all these relics from the past the stone was re-used to build or extend farmhouses and barns.  It makes sense. Why would you quarry stone when it is already there in a handy pile? But that is for another day, this was only a scouting trip.

Dropping back down to the B939 from Drumcarrow Craig, was a big Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, all the way home. It is times like this I am thankful I don’t have a computer on the bike, heart attack territory. I remember coming home from a trip, I had climbed up from Braemar and was now coming off the hill at the ski slope heading for Bridge of Cally.  I was going so fast I dare not touch my brakes – at home the computer registered 53 MPH – a bit quick for an unstable tricycle loaded with gear. Best not to know these things at the time!

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