I have no idea where the year went. From the first bulbs flowering in the garden at the end of January to the point where we are stumbling into the dark days of December. Now there are long nights of hard frost and fires lit by four in the afternoon to keep this 300 year old house habitable.
We are on the flightpath for the geese as they commute from their roost in fields at Threave Castle to the coast. Dusk and the first stars come earlier every day. What we were calling afternoon a few weeks ago is now evening. Sounds of geese passing low overhead and the first sharp frosts of winter mornings – the earth cold deep frozen and metal hard.
It is time to go to the woods with our bikes. We start as late as possible to get the warmth of the sun but early enough not to be caught out by the early setting and chill air by 2pm. Get it right and you can have some of the best rides of the year.
We go exploring new tracks that link places we have walked or seen on maps. Fire roads, farmtracks, drove roads and ancient trading routes. There is always a risk with a new route and we have had a couple of unexpected river crossings. The gps helps but navigation is only as good as the course you plot.
Off road routes will always have harder climbs. Short and punchy ascents that get the blood flowing and help to keep some of the fitness of those long summer rides. We take a flask of coffee and home made cakes and pull on an extra layer of clothing. The stops are always planned to have the best views and a pool of sunlight. It is now too cold to go through the ritual of lighting a stove.
We are so busy in the summer that we can go weeks without meeting friends. Our neighbour Lizzie has the same problem and refers to us as “ my winter friends “. If we find time to feed ourselves in the peak of summer we are doing well. Our little cycling holiday business is a most demanding mistress.
Year two of guests on bikes has gone very well. In the height of summer we were informed that we were nominated for Scotland’s Tourism Thistle Award for Best Outdoor Company. Nomination is a wonderful but abstract reward for getting things right and a string of great reviews. It would usually be as far as it goes for such a small and young company. But we made the West of Scotland final and were rather thrilled.
This is the tourism oscars and requires dressing up, tickets with a big venue and food. We turn up for the evening out in Glasgow, far beyond our usual bedtime. We do everything, there is only the two of us. Our website, the photography, the bike servicing, the guiding, the bookings, the logo and social media and marketing is all our work. Which is why, when we won the WEST OF SCOTLAND BEST OUTDOOR / ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE we both were more amazed than words can express. We won!
I say it is all our own work but we know it is the random things that make a bike holiday with us special. The farmer that stops for a chat, the cafe staff that talk about the area, the car driver that waves. Then of course there is the landscape and people of Dumfries & Galloway. The unknown bottom left bit of Scotland, the left turn after Carlisle and the border. Our patch, the best place to ride a bike in Scotland our home. Thanks everyone.