The last days for summer rides.




The shorter days are here. Days when light is of a premium, precious and never to be wasted or taken for granted. Your horizons shrink. Short summer rides now repeated have become major treks when you need to be home by 3.00pm. We try to take final rides to places that will be beyond the bike horizon, say goodbye to cafes that shut for winter. Wooden doors that have swung freely all summer now need the attention of a sanding block as they soak up the air moisture.




We are out every morning, either on bikes or walking and watch the first rays of sun touch the tops of the mountains to the north. Near the coast south of us, Screel Hill faces the rising sun and keeps us waiting for its warmth. Many miles to the north Merrick, the highest mountain in the southern uplands is high enough to already catch the golden light. Already there have been a few days when the light catches the first snowfall there. It looks unlike northern mountains, much less angular, more whale backed.



We had the first big storm of winter. Winds close to 100mph only held back a little by Ireland being between them and us. I closed the curtains early, lit the woodburner and drank wine. It raged most of the night. Few people slept well and in the morning many trees were down and that was the end of autumn colours for this year.



The end of this year, but if you look close there is already signs of next. the corvids are back in their trees. They appear to be happy now the branches are bare. They sit high up and rock as the wind catches the branches. At the bottom of the garden we are lucky enough to have a Raven. He, she, it can never be mistaken for a crow. It is a KRAA rather than a Caw. It stops you dead when they call.



I read recently a description of the world of crows, ravens and the other corvids, and their constant displeasure of any other bird flying in their territory. They just can not leave them alone, not once. They, and the birds of prey live in a constant state of war. More often than not the corvids win, as they are much smarter by far. The birds of prey live lives at a blur of speed and reaction.



On morning rides now you have to check the outside thermometer, at least two forecasts or even three and pick the best. Wind from the north now and it will be cold, often bitterly so. On with the thermals and overboots and try to find two gloves that match. It is a lazy wind, one that does not bother to go around you.

The winter birds are here. Last of the daylight and we can hear the pink footed geese come in to roost by the castle a mile away. Already the Blackthorn bush in the garden has been stripped of fruit by our local thrushes and visiting Redwings. The hedgerows are bare already and many cut within an inch of their lives by contract mowers in a hurry. Every few feet there are robins, some from as far away as Russia.


We live on the edge of a Dark Sky Area and have almost no light pollution. Vivid and crisp milky way stretching across the sky is normal. But then there are the 10% nights of total clarity when the number of stars doubles. We try to get out for a walk on these nights just around the lanes near home. Five minutes and we are in another world. ” Look at that! “, and I had time to turn around and focus on the second best shooting star of my life. Horizontal to the horizon and visible for what could have been 10 seconds.


So, what have we been doing these last few months? Well busy times, very busy. Our new cycling holiday business needed a website and we had to learn our patch. This is hard, as it is 200 miles long by 100 wide. We need to know every quiet road, every cafe and every comfy B&B and where the hidden things are.


We kept on seeing great routes on the maps that involved running on tarmac, then off road and then along farm tracks, before returning to the road. So we bought two gravel bikes. Wide-tyred, drop handlebar go most places dream machines called Diverge by the makers Specialised. We love them.


I bought our first bikepacking saddle bag to keep clothes and the camera safe and out of harms way. We have no bike handling skills, so the bikes are far beyond our ability. That said, you do just have to point them and pedal. We have been exploring the hills that these bikes open up for us, and will be offering this gravel experience as part of our trips.


The whole planning a company I find difficult. I don’t like to over think things, preferring to trust in luck or instinct most of the time. I concluded that planning to ride around the world was counter productive. You have to do some planning to get visas and make sure you are not setting out into a 3,000 mile ride into a brutal headwind. But beyond that, planning is only there to calm your nerves. Too much just becomes part of the mass that holds you back, part of the inertia. If you look at too many guidebooks you will end up where everyone else goes. The world is not a bad place and you will not starve to death.



The starting a business thing does actually require a lot of planning. Luckily Esther is genetically inclined towards planning, thanks to her being German. She has gone on a file and A4 divider buying feeding frenzy. And thank goodness one of us did. Our new website is up running and looks fantastic. We also have a Facebook page, where we post bike stuff about this area and the rides we do. It is an outlet for creativity that does not come with the weight of expectations that writing a blog here holds – it is 100% fun.



You must not be scared!


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Sything shapes of Swallow and House Martin cut up and down the main street through our village and they sound permanently slightly angry. The curve of the season has reached its apogee and now just a few days after midsummer the sunset is a little earlier. Not a bad thing, the amount of light this far north can wear you out.

We are trying to speed-learn our new home area. Build a catalogue of routes that tick every box, cover every wish list. It has been great fun and the area is stunning. Every day we try to find a new gem or a way of linking things together in the most perfect way.

Scrolling through Facebook yesterday I came across an old interview with Steve Jobs, always worth a few seconds, so I let it run. ” Whenever you start a company you must never be scared of failure “. I played that bit again. It was back when Steve looked less groomed, less slick more geek.


I thought about what Steve said as we rode out this morning. We try to ride early every morning or at least take a long walk just to remind ourselves why we live here. Like every day the ride confirmed what we know, this area is just perfect. Rush hour and the first 40 minutes we had just 2 cars.

I don’t think Steve ever took on a bike holiday company. I think he knew he was destined to win even if his first logos were rubbish and the computers looked agricultural. On this mornings ride we just kept on shouting ” WOW! ” which is a good thing I think Steve would agree. We know we are in the perfect place.


We are putting together a wonderful new website for Galloway Cycling Holidays. Every ride I carry a camera and try to get the peach of an image for the company. But that is not enough. We have a Facebook company account and it is VERY PUSHY. The world wants a moving image, films and they had better be good. So now Zuckerberg is having a go at us.

I am not sure Steve had to put up with this sort of pressure, but we have done it anyway. Two films, both 1 min 20 in length that try to put across what we are about. Trying to condense all the joy we have ever got from pedalling a bike and all the sheer WOW of this area.

So, here they are. They may not quite be Citizen Kane, but we are more than happy. What do you think?

Then we went for the big production. Drone, stormy sky and a remote location.


Cycling and dreaming at the kitchen table.


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This morning there is rain, just soft enough to enjoy and the first for quite some time. The weather is warm enough to have windows open a little and the sound of the garden for company at the kitchen table. Sparrows are now supposed to be rare, but you would not think that for a moment around our home. Their calls are loud, more jazz than anything even slightly classical. They are the bullies at our feeders.


Having a beautiful garden and being a cyclist are mutually exclusive, with peaks in both coinciding with the height of summer. Crisp cycling tan lines now obvious in post ride shower and plants so heavy with blossom that they fall over each other. I know it is a food chain out there in the garden, an abattoir for some even. But it does look stunning. We have decided to call it a wildlife garden. A choice made for us when Esther’s prized specimens in the raised bed were identified as weeds by a gardening neighbour.



Spread out in front of me are local maps as I plan routes for our new bike touring business. 1:25,000 and the same area at 1:50,000 by Ordnance Survey and all featuring the reassuring Crown Copyright symbol. These are the maps I am most in love with and the ones I have had the longest and most passionate relationship with. It began at school in geography lessons and the occasional field trip. I did not grow up in a house of books or maps, but I could not live without either now and would probably shoplift both without a single pang of guilt if we fell on hard times.


The big project for us at the moment is rebranding the bike touring company that we will be running. Every bike ride is now research. Is this good, too hilly, how can we make a loop and where is the nearest coffee and cake? The logo is now finalised and began with a stupid question, like most good things – ” can we have a cow on a bike? ” The cutest cow in the world, the one that will turn the wavering carnivore away from meat is the Belted Galloway. Our local cow, and a bit of a bovine celebrity,  hardy enough for the uplands and unmistakable from the hairy ears to that white belt. I first saw them down on the moors of Dartmoor 30 years ago and could not believe my eyes. Our Belted Galloway rides a sturdy bike and is called Robin.


We are working on the content and style of the new website, but at the same time we wanted to do a 1 minute film that would put across our company values and mood. Riding a bike can be about speed, about the buzz and that perfect line around a fast descending bend. But it can be about looking over the hedge, stopping to take things in, talking to the people you meet. We have just 60 people per square mile here ( the scottish average is 168 ) and an amazing almost maze like series of quiet roads passing through beautiful villages. The little film introduces the quiet adventures that you can have here and the interesting thought that I came across; ‘ you can’t be sad whilst riding a bike ‘.  I hope you enjoy it – turn on the sound!