Updated: Sep 6, 2021
I had heard about the "5 Ferry's" cycle route a number of years ago. The idea seemed simple enough - Hopping between the Islands of Bute, Arran and the mainland, all within the a day's ferry timetable. What could go wrong?
The Kyle's of Bute (looking south) - Amazing
5 Ferry’s - Road Stage 1
Well... despite going "Full Gas" from Weymss Bay to catch the ferry at Ardrossan I was to be denied passage due to over capacity.... time for a coffee and explore of the town before catching the next one 👍🏻. Tale of the tape, Stage 1:
Time taken: 1 hour
Matches burned: 2
Map and Profile of Road Stage 1
Ferry from Rothesay (Isle of Bute) to Weymss Bay (Mainland)
"Magnus the Viking" Statue in Largs - complete with COVID Mask
5 Ferry’s - Road Stage 2
A later than planned arrival at Brodick. Lovely cycle round the Bay with great views of Goatfell. The climb up Sannox Braes saw me in the red with steep grades and a headwind to battle. Slid into Lochranza just as ropes were being cast off. No time to visit the distillery sadly! Stage 2 Scorecard:
Time Taken: 1 hour
Red-ometer: Off the scale!
Map and Profile of Road Stage 2
Departing Brodick (Arran) for Lochranza
Sannox Brae's Climb - more savage than it looks!
Views to Goatfell were amazing
Views from Claonig (Mainland) back to Arran were stunning
5 Ferry’s - Road Stage 3
Short but brutal road between Claonig and Tarbert. Climbing into a savage headwind, but spectacular scenery... Passed and was passed by a couple cycling the 5 Ferry's route. Made pals when both party's were assured of making the next ferry! School Report for Stage 3:
Time Taken: 40mins
Biking Compadres made: 2
Sandwiches eaten: 1
Map and Profile and Road Stage 3
Bike storage at Tarbert whilst waiting on the Ferry
The ferry from Portavadie Arriving at Tarbert
5 Ferry’s Road Stage 4 and 5 .
Again another brutal climb out of Tignabruaich but what a view down the Kyles of Bute. This view has to be right up there and worth all the hard effort throughout the day. The descent into Colintriave with a broken spoke was nervy but fun. Returned to my start point of Rothesay Ferry Terminal via Port Bannatyne. Might have stopped for a cheeky Mars Bar and packet of S&V's before issuing an "all safe broadcast" to the family. Stages 4 and 5 in a nutshell:
Time Taken: 2 hours
Lives used up: 2 ("undiscovered" broken spoke on descent could've cost me dear!)
Map and Profile of Road Stages 4 and 5
With a 117Km of distance, 1283m of climbing the 5 Ferry's is a challenging but fun day out. I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys coastal scenery. For me there was a certain amount of fun in trying to make the "Ferry Cut Off". For those who want to take it a bit easier, there is plenty to enjoy on Bute, Arran and the spots on the mainland that I passed through. It can be attempted in both directions and I started on Bute because I was staying there to begin with.
Getting there: https://www.thetrainline.com/ will give you a good steer on trains between Glasgow Central and Weymss Bay.
Ferry's : https://www.calmac.co.uk/ for day and explorer tickets.
Again it pays to check these sites and be aware of government guidance on COVID before making the journey.