the port of kennacraig a few kilometres soouth of the town of tarbert, took the number of small islands off the coast of western scotland down by a single digit. at one time a small islet in west loch tarbert, many years ago, a tarmac'd causeway of a couple of hundred metres was built from the coastline to allow ceann a' creag to become a port for the car ferries plying the route to islay. having recently been the site of further development, this expanded islet currently hosts calmac's booking office and waiting lounge, long-stay car parking and an impressively sized queuing area for vehicles travelling to the queen of the hebrides.
just a matter of a few hundred metres south, on the main tarbert -campbeltown route, the road offers a left turn, switching from the a83 to the b8001 and ultimately leading to the ferry jetty at claonaig from whence transport to lochranza on the isle of arran might be effected. in keeping with virtually all the steep hills i have come across, the b8001 only advertises its 14% gradient on reaching the top, though the sign is placed more to advise those about to descend than those breathing through their ears as they pass in the opposite direction.
i would never place myself in the category of those adept at reading maps. i figure i'd get lost on the way to an orienteering course and i'm quite probably the very person for whom gps tracking was invented. however, concomitant with this inability to find my way about, is a similar ineptitude when it comes to comprehending topographical reference to gradient. in the early nineties, though hardly a habit, it was my occasional practice to travel to ayrshire by bicycle, leaving islay on the morning ferry and cycling from kennacraig over to claonaig to ultimately make my way to ardrossan via both arran ferries.
as the boat sails up the west loch, the b8001 can be seen from the upper deck while anticipating the ferry's docking at kennacraig. on my first trip undertaken in this manner, i recall seeing the aforementioned road climbing skywards into the kintyre hills, all the while thinking 'i'm so glad i don't have to ride up that.' of course, it was only a matter of minutes after disembarkation that i realised the error of my ways. you will also understand, due to the comprehensive hints threaded throughout the above, that all this took/takes place some considerable distance from south-west england, where the intrepid simon warren harbours no such misgivings over an errant gradient that might get in his way.
in fact, though i cringe to think of my navigational misdemeanour, mr warren appears mostly to have gone out of his way to find any road that might head skyward in the region stated on the cover of his latest compact, bijou and purgatorial climbing volume. as this is the fifth book in his series of cycling climbs, the man must have the constitution of a super-grimpeur and doubtless a set of thigh muscles that find it hard to sleep at nights.
not only has simon been guilty of looking for ascents, but he is obviously pretty darned good at finding them, given that this jersey-pocket sized volume provides details of a not inconsiderable 76 of the blighters. and all before breakfast.
in keeping with the other superb titles in this series, each climb is not only given marks of difficulty out of ten, but accompanied by scary photos, an even scarier description, a graphical profile of the upward bit and salient facts other than how to receive professional help for that which you are about to undertake. for those with a geographical knowledge similar to my own, south-west england consists of gloucestershire and wiltshire, somerset and dorset and devon and cornwall.
though i have read richard moore's in search of robert millar more than once, my appetite for riding upwards in no way rivals that of mr warren, yet i find his writing style makes every one of these excellent little books more than a little addictive. sadly, none of these climbs are within cycling distance of a calmac ferry port and will thus most likely remain unridden by yours truly. but i will cheerfully admit to anticipating each and every volume in the series as they arrive in the mailbox. they are my low-tech answer to zwift without the need to hurt myself.
once again, through the generosity of the publisher, i have two copies of 'cycling climbs of south-west england' to give away. simply tell me how many books in the cycling climbs series are already available and one of them could be yours. entries to firstname.lastname@example.org and please include a full postal address. closing date is 8 march.
wednesday 1 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................