By train to Gourock

Christine and Rowan await the ferry at Gourock
Christine and Rowan await the ferry at Gourock

We loaded up, locked up and rode to Bangor station for the 10:18 Virgin Voyager which took us to Crewe. The five car train was very busy, with luggage in the vestibule impeding access to the cycle stowage area. A sunny warm morning made an encouraging start to our holiday. At Crewe, Rowan pointed out that his headset was loose! Christine popped out to the bike shop with it, but they informed her that they were too busy to look at it.

Despite booking our tickets back in April, we had to travel to Glasgow on separate trains, as there were no services with three free bike spaces. From Bangor to Crewe we were restricted to Virgin as Arriva’s railcars can accommodate only two bikes. Luckily there were two services within half an hour, so Christine travelled ahead on the 13:32 Pendolino while Rowan and I followed on the 13:56 Voyager. On the latter, two bikes were hanging from hooks and the remainder of the area was filled by suitcases and a baby buggy. This is a typical scenario, and non-cyclist passengers can hardly be blamed since Virgin’s new trains are grossly under-specified for luggage space and the bike space is not labelled as such. Faced with overflowing luggage racks, passengers naturally dump their big luggage in the only available space. The guard checked we had reservations then rearranged the luggage to enable us to squeeze our bikes on. Wistfully remembering past holidays where the train ride was an enjoyable part of the holiday, we had an ironic chuckle at Virgin’s new slogan: “love every second”. This train was again very busy.

We caught the 17:25 limited stop service from Glasgow to Gourock, all went well until the approach to Paisley. The train horn sounded, followed by a rapid application of the brakes, a five minute stand and then a crawl into Paisley Gilmour Street, where the train was terminated. This being ScotRail, there was naturally no explanation, but the platform whisper was that someone had run across the tracks and was almost hit by our train. So was the driver too shocked to continue, who knows, certainly not the passengers who had to alight to await the next all-stations stopper. We were warned that we may not all get on, but just managed to squeeze aboard, reaching Gourock in time to just miss the 18:20 sailing. It was very warm in the evening sunshine as we awaited the next one.

At last we were across the Clyde in Dunoon where we’d booked a room for the three of us in the Western Hotel. It wasn’t the friendliest of welcomes, the Indian owner said there was nowhere to store our bikes, even though we’d told him in advance, and that we’d have to lock them at the front of the hotel. The Scottish manageress standing alongside him looked a trifle uncomfortable. Before we’d even unloaded and locked our bikes, the owner was hassling us to sign the book and pay the balance for our night’s stay. The hotel itself was very basic but quiet, clean and comfortable, and very cheap at £50 for the three of us, and with a great view out to the Clyde. When we returned from our evening walk all was quiet, no sign of the owner, so we moved our bikes into the hallway.