Determined to better plan my route this week I make the OS 1:50000 map my Friday night bedtime reading (hot stuff!) and I plan a route involving scouting out two castles and a medieval church.
The snow which fell ten days ago is still with us, and despite lying for over a week it still looks beautifully fresh and sparkling on the hills and fields. The morning sky is beautiful.
Once I reach the top of the hill and the countryside opens out I notice that clear skies lie to the North (on the right of the above picture). I catch little glimpses of the mountains across the Clyde lit by golden sunshine. My planned route lies to the South and West which looks decidedly cloudy. I decided to chase the sunshine; castles can wait for a later date.
I end up following my favourite section of road again, here's a snowy picture of the gate and tree knoll.
Just a little bit further up the road I glance back and again notice the dramatic skies.
Another shot of the lovely sky.
Now I'm off the unclassified road and on to the B road heading North. Ben Lomond shines in the morning sun.
I've reached the sunshine! I followed the B road to one of the local villages and climbed up through the village till I was back up on high land and back on the unclassified roads. It's rare to meet a car on these roads and I cycle slowly along admiring views without any worry of getting run over! It's so peaceful that cars can be heard well in advance of their arrival.
I like the houses peeking over the hill with the mountains in the background.
Another photo of the mountains.
A hungry sheep, there's not been much sign of grass for over a week. The farmers are extra busy with taking additional food out to the fields.
Little tree framed by foreground branches.
The view starts to open out. Here we can see the mountains of Cowal and the Firth of Clyde.
Climbing higher and the view just gets better and better. Bike shot too, notice!
And just before the top of the climb the view is the best! By this stage I realise I've probably not had enough breakfast! It's time to snack on my emergency rations which have been lurking uneaten in my bar bag for several months. I find a chocolate cereal bar which was out of date during Sept '09, yummy! Actually, it's not really yummy at all which is why it has survived so long, but anything tastes good when you're hungry!
Uh oh, some daft sheep are on the road! They can run faster than I can cycle uphill and sometimes I end up unintentionally herding them along for quite a while. Fortunately these three turn out to be reasonably sensible and I'm able to pass them just round the corner.
Once I'm over the top of the hill it's fairly bleak moorland for the next part of the ride, then back down to the village I passed through earlier. On reaching the village I then planned to zoom home along the cycle path. However, I find that it's covered in a thick layer of icy snow. I'm not attempting to cycle on that! Nor am I going to cycle on the A road which is the next most direct route. Nothing for it but to head back out on the B road I came down towards the start of the ride.
Spotting a little herd of highland cattle gives me an excuse to stop for breath on the long climb. There are three cows each with a calf but aside from the one above they were hiding too much in the shadow of some trees to photograph well. This breed have thick coats allowing them to stay in the fields over the winter. All the other cows round here have been stuck in the byres since the end of Autumn. Approaching a farm you can smell them before you see them! It won't be long though before they're back in the fields and posing for photos.
I've really enjoyed this ride. The sun feels quite warm and I don't think the snow will linger much longer and it's unlikely we'll have any more snow falling before Spring. In my opinion it's been a great winter! We've had two significant spells of snow (Christmas and now) and in between we've had beautiful sunny days with clear blue skies. February this year has been beautiful. Such a change from the mild and horribly wet winters we're normally subjected to in this part of the country.
A last view of snowy fields.
Sunday, and the sunshine continues. The field across from the house is now a mucky green instead of pristine white.
The snowdrops have escaped from under their snowy blanket and are looking good!
We have a little guddle in the garden in the afternoon. A makes a smiley face with pebbles and an ivy leaf on an old badminton racket.
N's teddies are briefly abandoned in the sun. The teddy on the left is "Special Teddy"- for N sleeping without him would be an unbearable tragedy so before each nap & bedtime we go on a bear hunt...