No sunshine today as we prepared to depart Scotland. As we stood in the Asda carpark in Irvine, the clouds already looked ominous and portentious; the temperature was certainly not in double-figures and the glares from the locals equally forboding. The only thing keeping our spirits up was the prospect of a day of silence from Scanny. He had made a bet, while we were still in Iraq, that he could do a full cycling-day in silence. The money came flooding in against the bet and from numerous sources.
And so it was that we set off for the A71 only to find a 'Diversion' sign in place and an immediate 2 mile extension to our journey. Not to worry, the route was pretty straightforward - A71 then A76 (at least until lunch anyway). Usually we take a break at around the 25 mile mark and so were expecting that today. 25...26...27 miles came and went. At 30 miles a few phonecalls were made to the support crew who, it transpired, were still a few miles BEHIND! At the 36 mile point, refreshments were given before they sped off once more; a further 14 miles to the village of Thornhill for lunch. We quickly learned why the support crew were late - they were buying a Disney Princess Birthday cake for Si Gair who is a grand old 37! Congratulations to him! It was also at this point that Mike Scanlon, our scrabble expert, failed in his bet. It was the nurse, Nic, who coaxed words out of him when he went to see her with something in his eye. With the simple question of, "there, does that feel better now?" he responded all too quickly before realising his mistake. Cue big grins from the rest of his team.
From Thornhill we deviated from the A76 and finally got back in to the countryside in the Scottish Borders; not on a par with the grandiose magnificence of the Highlands but pleasant enough after the dual carriage way. At this point, the clouds thickened. In fact, as the clouds mustered overhead, so John Hayward took his eye off the road, steered right over a flint and punctured his tyre. This is actually his second in two days after Scanny found last night that John's front tyre was flat too! We all decided to meet up and form one large pelleton instead of our 3 teams of 4 as the forthcoming roads were known to be very quiet. While waiting for all teams to come in, we were bounded upon by the world's largest dog! Luckily for us is was docile; if not then Rhys O'Leary would surely have lost his hand after forcing it to wear a Green Beret for a photo!
We couldn't leave Scotland without passing through Gretna and taking the customary photos of the border signs and ancient places of marriage. We even ended up with a police escort across the border but we're not sure if we were being escorted safely in to England or being booted out of Scotland! It was at this point that the clouds could clearly wait no longer and with less than 50 feet to the border, the rain came down - we couldn't even make it 4 days in Scotland without rain! On went the rain jackets (with spelling errors), off came the sunglasses, upheld was the morale though for we only had 7 miles to the finish - and what a 7 miles! From countryside in to the heart of Carlisle and rush hour traffic. Looming ahead was our final destination, the Castle, but could we find the entrance? Eventually, we found the moat, the gate and its portcullis. In the drizzling rain we made a grand entrance, cycling in to the front gate of a fantastic 'working' castle (The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment).