Until now, one thing I’ve shied away from on this blog is dispensing country-specific, guidebook-style advice for bicycle travellers.
Mainly this is because the unpredictable nature of cycle touring can generate highly varied experiences. On the exact same route, a life-changing ride for one person may prove bleak and uneventful for another.
Such differences can’t help but colour your memories. No matter how objective one tries to be in retrospect, I’m not sure that cycling across a country makes one qualified to write a comprehensive and balanced guide for everyone else if that wasn’t the original intention of the trip – which for me it has never been.
It’s also because of the perennial problem with travel guides in general: they age, and they do so rapidly. I don’t want to create a bulky content-maintenance job on a blog which for the most part tries to dispense timeless advice. In any case, there are sites out there (WorldBiking.info and TravellingTwo.com come to mind) that do a good job of country-specific cycle touring advice already. If all you’re interested in is information, I happily refer you to Amaya and Friedel of the aforementioned.
I do, however, feel it’s time to share something of what I’ve learned from cycle touring extensively in a few select parts of the world – mainly because it’s beginning to feel a little selfish not to.
But I’m going to take an alternative approach, rather than replicating what’s been done elsewhere. Instead, I’ll base the articles on personal anecdotes and impressions from my own travels that I hope will convey a flavour of the place, rather than detailing the nuts and bolts of riding there.
This approach will mean I can write more honestly. It should be fun to put together and make use of my current nostalgic mood, and the result should be unique to this blog and hopefully entertaining to read.
Through these tales, I’ll also highlight country-specific resources for readers interested in researching further. This combination of personal stories and curated links should result in a light-hearted inside look at what a cycle tour in each featured country might feel like, with some carefully-selected starting points for follow-up research should the fancy take you to ride there.
As part of my protracted celebration of a decade of blogging about bike trips, I’ve decided it would be fun to write and publish country-specific articles in the order in which I first visited them.
This will have the interesting side-effect of filtering out countries through which I may have technically pedalled, and therefore might be tempted to include in a tally if someone asked how many countries I’d cycled through (e.g. Russia, Greece, Slovakia), but from which I actually have nothing of substance to relate.
(Anyone can collect passport stamps, but if there’s a meaningful measure of whether you’ve truly visited a place, it’s surely whether or not it gave you a worthwhile story to tell. I don’t think buying a greasy garlic-covered bread roll from a Slovakian supermarket between Austria and Hungary qualifies.)
By that criteria, then, country number one in the series – which you’ll be able to read about here shortly – will be… Scotland.