The Grand Tour: Fife and Beyond

Ramblings of an inveterate cyclist

 Monday once more.

The fine rain over the last week or so has been really good for the garden,

“YOU CAN STOP NOW!”

It being Monday, it is also laundry day, I’m sure the rain will have passed by the time I rescue my knickers from the dryer.

Yesterday it was out with my maps and travel books planning for my next trip and I have decided to go to Holland in spring 2022. I have cycled Holland a lot over the years, they have a great network of cycle paths (many have now been updated from paths to proper cycle roads). The Winds in Holland can be a bit of a bugger, predominantly from the southwest. Holland being mostly flat and close to the sea the winds can be very strong indeed. But like Boldrick, ‘I have a cunning plan I will start in the south of the country and travel north and east. I intend to join the Vrienden op de fiets (friends of the bike) it is an organisation that links you with people that will put you up in their own home, B&B for a set sum of 22.50 euros per night. So £1,000.00 is the budget I’m working too, this should see me well catered for over the fortnight, if I do not eat out on too many days, picnic and press my camp stove into service for pots of tea, which in more or less how I always do things when touring anyway.

Planning

I hope to plan well in advance, booking the overnight Megabus to the South Coast and the ferry over from Dover to Boulogne-sur-Mer, part of my pilgrimage every time I visit Europe will be visiting my grandfather’s war grave there.

Bus to Brugge (or Bruges) my stopover, when I last visited, was at a Youth Hostel called Charlie Rockets an old cinema in the heart of the town, that was an experience, the youths were a bit on the wild side. From here I cross into Holland and follow the N57 all the way up the coast, with the wind on my back I will make Den Haag in no time at all. On my last visit, I stayed at a Jorplace at Scheveningen and one in Delft itself. I loved it, mostly the live music, but do not get carried away with the beer or your budget will be blown.

Planning my stops off as I travel north, booking Vrienden op de fiets B&B in advance, for although there are over 6 thousand spread over the country there are also an awful lot of cycle tourist to Holland each year.

I would love to go from the north of Holland over to Denmark and when it is time for home take a ferry over to Aberdeen and the direct bus from there down to Dundee and home. I have just under a year to tie up the loose ends and get myself fit.

Day one – working on the new me.

Cycling is about mental attitude as much, if not more than it is about physical fitness, and today I was feeling good mentally. I was ready to push myself a little more than I had been pottering around over the last year. It was near as damn-it 12.30 when I set off, you could not ask for better weather, light wind clear skies. The wind was still running down the coast from north to south so I was now fighting what little wind there was.

As I passed Leuchars airfield there must have been half a dozen vans, cars and pickups, parked on the slip road, along with the vehicles, men, with their cameras fitted with enormous telephoto lenses. Thinking it might have been another parachute drop, but seeing no plane in the sky I pushed on to Tayport.

I visited my brother’s house but of course, he was not home.I turned the bike around I headed back home. Tayport is a nightmare, I always get myself lost, and before I had left the town a mile behind the skies turned black and down it came. I stopped and put on my cycling top, but by the time I reached the turn off for Leuchars I looked like something the cat dragged in. the rain was literally stotting off the road. By Leuchars, it had passed and the sun came out.

The lads were still standing around as I came upon the airfield, so I stopped to ask what all the fuss was about. Then up from behind the dip rose one of those American aircraft the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, (I am not sure if it was this or an earlier model)

they have turboprop engines at the extremities of their wings, able to swivel through 90 degrees into the vertical to give them lift, much like a helicopter. Once airborne the engines will swivel forward once more so it now becomes more in keeping with a conventional aeroplane. It did a low short circuit whilst I stood chatting then landed once more. Looks like a sales pitch to prospective buyers – the British taxpayer. I pedalled on.

By the time I reached the Old Coarse Hotel my top was near dry, but a big black cloud was waiting for me and as I climbed the last hill up home, down it came.

It will only be around 13-14 miles to Tayport and the same back. The time when I arrived home was 2.20 pm. Happy with that. All I have to do now is double that distance whilst still keeping that average speed, and of course feel comfortable at the end of the day. An average of 50 miles at an average of 10 mph, is just about right, putting in the miles but leaving plenty of time for sightseeing.

Another thing I love about Holland is that the Dutch are multi-linguistic, so you will get clear instructions and be able to seek out those hidden gems in areas off the main tourist trail. The one thing I do not like about Holland (and that goes for most of Europe) the heavy cost of getting into museums. However, if you look out for them there are plenty of free walking tours around big towns and cities, (although most will put their hand into their pocket and give the tour guide something for his time and knowledge, (you will always know the Yorkshire man, he is the one that sneaks off just as the tour comes to an end).

That’s unfair, I was invited to a Yorkshire lad home for tea once, the table was absolutely groaning with food – and all at a reasonable price.

Keep safe.

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