Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Peninsula

One of my all-time favourite cycles is around the Rosneath Peninsula from Helensburgh. In my youth I would take the coast road from Helensburgh past the Faslane submarine base to Garelochhead, then back down the peninsula to Rosneath. I would do this cycle with a school friend and it felt almost like a pilgrimage at times. We loved cycling to Rosneath. Sometimes, but only rarely, we would go further round to Kilcreggan. Rosneath was far enough for us. My record time from Helensburgh to Rosneath was 36 minutes on a 5-speed racing bike, which I can barely believe today. Am I really so much less fit than my teenage self?

Knarled trunks between the peninsula road and the Gareloch:


In the 90s, a new road was opened above Garelochhead for the use of MoD traffic to Coulport. I used to take my bike on this new road, with its fantastic views down the Gareloch and Loch Long, then ride past Cove and Kilcreggan to meet up with my old favourite ride back from Rosneath. This new route was longer but more satisfying, the big Victorian villas of Cove and the seaward views down Loch Long providing more interest. On a recent visit to Helensburgh, we set off to do this route again.

Heading past Faslane:


Not far into the ride we were caught in a tropical monsoon and fled for a bus shelter for half an hour. The rain passed and we pedalled cautiously on. Typical of the west coast, the previous blue sunny skies were suddenly full of interesting-looking cloud, with the watery-grey light and lush summer greenery characteristic of the west.

St Modan's kirk, Rosneath:


At Rosneath I wanted to have a look for something I had never seen in all my previous pilgrimages, St Modan's Well. In fact I did not even know of its existence, having only recently seen it on an OS map. We couldn't find it, there seemed to be some new build housing in the way. But we did come across this interesting old ruin above. Back home I looked it up. St Modan was a 6th century character from the Celtic age of saints, and nearby was Tom-a-mhoid, moot hill, a gathering point or site of a local parliament. Nobody seemed to know how old it was and the papers had an archaeologist called Fiona Baker who had been digging around Rosneath. I'd known someone called Baker when I was at school - I wonder if they were related?

Yachts and gathering stormclouds:


At this point the ominous rumbling we had heard coming from the other side of the water broke out into a full scale thunderstorm. The clouds had blackened impressively and forks of lightning flashed down around Helensburgh and the Rosneath transmitter, just a mile or two south. We considered our options. To carry on south round to Kilcreggan and back up over the new MoD road would take us into the path of the thunderstorm. Yet north was dry, sunny even. It wasn't a hard call to make to cut the trip short, and return from whence we'd come. We would have to visit the whole peninsula another time.

Faslane from the peninsula:


Curiously, when I got back, I couldn't find St Modan's Well on the map any more. Had I imagined the whole thing?

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