Tak’ and Crow refers specifically to the two climbs on the route, namely the Crow Road, a delightful steady incline with a stunning vista over Strathblayne; and Tak’ Ma Doon Road, which my husband insists on calling ‘Tak’ Ma Pants Doon’. Sometimes, depending on what we’ve got on for the rest of the day, I oblige him.
The route is a road cycling circuit which starts from Milton of Campsie at the foot of the Campsie Fells, a hill range with a foreboding presence throughout the county of East Dumbartonshire. In true #bikevcarchallenge spirit we cycled all the way from home via Glasgow and along the Forth & Clyde canal.
I have mixed feelings about the Forth & Clyde canal. On the one hand what a delightful corridor of nature, stealthily buried only slightly out of reach of the congested highways of Glasgow city centre; a haven of tranquility. It snakes on for miles to the north and provides a car-free connection to the Stirlingshire countryside. The canal itself is alive with lily pads providing a foothold for delicate flowers which were today tentatively opening. It is home to single herons, families of geese, and to vibrant canal boats with names like Gerda (Irn Bru-themed, obviously), the Lazy Swan, and Craft Daft on a Raft.
On the other hand, why is it host to a microclimate that has such violent mood swings? Today we battled gale-force winds and lashings of rain which seem to this meteorological ignoramus to defy the laws of geography for a channel so well protected by trees. The wind was gentler at the top of the blimmin’ hills we climbed!
One imagines the canal’s weather being decided by two people – Messrs Forth and Clyde, if you will – the former a congenial, mild-mannered man, brought up into the wealth, comfort and gentry of the East Coast. The latter, a wild loony brute, borne from the peat of a raggedy Highland moor. The former, bringer of sunshine and the latter, bringer of wild winds, rain and pain. A veritable Dr Jekyll and Mr Clyde, if you will… <ahem> 😏
Anyway, to the hills. Up Crow we were bathed in glorious sunshine, escorted by goldfinches and a supercharging tailwind. The descent: a torrential sh*tstorm of sharp bends, erratic sidewinds, and monsoon downpours.
Most landscapes wane in their beauty when the weather is dreich. Not so the Stirlingshire countryside. The glowering grey skies make the hillside’s colours pop – vibrant orange ferns and irridescent purple heathers interspersed with bursts of pink wildflowers.
The rain lasted perhaps fifteen minutes before giving way to sunshine, as is the way in the West of Scotland. Our luck lasted until we reached the Carron reservoir and apocalypse was imminent by the time we summited Tak’ Me Doon Road.
The return leg of the canal, a hair-raising caper of picking the right line over soaking cobbles while dodging errant slugs, nonetheless delivered us safe and semi-waterlogged to the warm embrace of Greggs on Sauchiehall Street, where we were rejuvenated with their hallowed vegan sausage roll. Sunday perfection 👌
18 August, 2019