Monthly Archives: June 2013

Leg 42 – to Oban

I’ve started to write this from inside my tent, on a rainy and blustery evening in Annan, which is a few miles from the border with England. I’m a bit behind on my blog, having been busy putting in some long legs, or meeting people, or finding other more interesting things to do which I’ll write about later. Figure it’s more important to see and do as much as possible, over blog writing. So even though I’ll be in England soon I suspect my blog will remain in Scotland for at least two more weeks.

12 June 2013

I awoke feeling itchy again. Either the midge bites from Kilchoan were still playing up or I’d got new ones last night. I suspected the latter. I had a quick breakfast and shower, before a rapid pack up due to rain. Shaking the water off my tent gave me my second shower of the day.

Packing up - a wet day with Ben Nevis opposite

Packing up – a wet day with Ben Nevis opposite

Leaving the campsite post paying up and checking the weather forecast, which wasn’t brilliant, I cycled down the road to the car park where one of the trails up Ben Nevis starts. The mountain was shrouded in cloud but there were still several groups of brave, or perhaps foolhardy walkers about to begin making their way up. I’d climbed Ben Nevis several years before doing the Three Peaks Challenge, in better weather, and it had still been below freezing at the top. You wouldn’t have been able to see much today, and whilst the trail is very well marked there a few bits you could go wrong on. Hopefully there wouldn’t be any mountain rescue interventions required.

After reminding myself of at least what the bottom of Ben Nevis looks like, I rode around to Neptune’s Staircase, with the sun starting to come out, a bit anyway. I counted 13 lochs, although there may have been more. A couple of boats were making their way down from the Caledonian Canal, a process which must take a few hours by the looks of it.

Top of the Staircase

Top of the Staircase

 

Boat in transit

Boat in transit

 

Loch gates

Loch gates

Leaving the lochs behind, and studiously avoiding cycle paths, I made my way down the road to Inverlochy, where I knew there was a decent bike shop. Nevis Cycles didn’t have a suitable replacement wheel, but reckoned their sister shop in Oban might, and they’d be able to replace my rear cassette which was getting pretty worn and causing my chain to skip. You need to replace your rear cassette every 2000 miles or so really, and the chain more often than that as it stretches. I’d need to get another new chain before I got back to Norwich, but hoped one more cassette would see me through.

On my way south I stopped in Fort William again, and dropped in to Alpine Bikes who did have a new wheel that would fit. I found our later it was a 130mm hub rather than a 135mm which my bike fits, but the steel frame can accommodate a smaller size without any problems. The rim was far more suitable, even if it was a Mavic again, having 32 spokes and being a lot stronger. Cost me £80.00 but figured it was worth it, and I bid adios to the current incumbent, which looked in a bit of a sorry state. Wheel number 3 fitted I was ready to go. Hopefully that would be the last one I’d need to buy on this tour!

Whilst I was waiting for the wheel to be be changed over I had a wander about Fort William. I dropped into Cotswolds first to see if they had a replacement cable for my Power Monkey, however unfortunately they don’t sell just the cable and would need to send the whole unit back. This just wouldn’t have been practical given I was still very much using the rechargeable battery pack, and wouldn’t be in the area to pick up a new unit. Irritating however I’d survive, and maybe order just the cable off the Internet and get it delivered somewhere on route. After perusing a few outdoor shops and deciding their stuff was mostly overpriced and not that good, I dropped into a bakery and picked up a venison pie, which was pretty scrumptious. Scrumptious is a good word.

Fort William high street

Fort William high street

 

Fort William - random statue of someone sitting down...

Fort William – random statue of someone sitting down…

Wheel changed and panniers reloaded, I pedalled south from Fort William as the rain started, around midday. The weather being a bit grim I just kept my head down and got on with it, riding down the A82. It’s a busy road and wasn’t very pleasant with lorries kicking up spray everywhere, leaving me somewhat grimy and wetter. I stopped in Corran for a loo break and looked across to where I’d been yesterday; the other side of the Loch had been a lot pleasanter at the time, but the weather had closed in now.

View across from Corran to Ardgar

View across from Corran to Ardgar


Not really concentrating, thinking about cycling somewhere dry and warm, I crossed the bridge at Ballachulish only realising about a mile later, after glancing at the map, that I’d intended on cycling around Loch Leven. Oh well, I’d only missed out a few miles, and it was touch and go whether that was true coast or semi coast anyway. Given the weather I wasn’t overly concerned, especially as my legs were felling tired post yesterday’s efforts.

I rode on down the A828, again just mostly keeping my head down, before reaching Appin and turning off the main road to do the loop through Port Appin and North Shian. I passed Castle Stalker which looked pretty impressive, standing alone out on the rocks.

Castle Stalker 1

Castle Stalker 1


The castle was built when there weren’t any connecting roads in the area, in the 1400s by Clan Macdougal, and most traffic and travellers came in by sea. It therefore commanded quite a strategic position at the time.

Castle Stalker 2

Castle Stalker 2

 

Castle Stalker 3

Castle Stalker 3


 

Castle Stalker 4

Castle Stalker 4

James IV used to visit the castle frequently on hunting trips, having connections with the Stewart family. The castle was in the Stewart family until Mac Ian Stewart gave it away in a moment of drunken folly, swapping it for a boat. Oops, I wonder how he felt the morning. I’ve woken up before thinking, ‘oh no, I didn’t did I?’, but nothing that bad. Reckon he never lived that one down.

The weather improved slightly with the rain easing off. I was feeling a bit drained after the Appin loop, which had a few unexpected hills, so I stopped at the well known Creegan Inn for a bite to eat and to dry off a bit. Great plate of chilli beef and bean stew, which warmed me up nicely for the next session. I pressed on to Barcaldine and down to Connel, over the bridge again as there’s no road around Loch Etive.

From there it was only a short ride down to Oban, although I foolishly took a couple of cycle paths which led me somewhat astray, and meant I had to negotiate a couple of swing gates with my heavy bike again. The scenery had been good today, despite the rain, with lots of Rhodedendrons which as mentioned before are evil but look nice. They need to be be cut back significantly, if not removed completely really.

Bridge to Connel

Bridge to Connel

 

Altnacraig

Altnacraig – my brakes really squealed on the hill down, adjustments required

I arrived in Oban about 18.00 and stumbled upon a backpackers plus hostel. I had been intending to camp just south of Oban, but as I had a lot of damp kit, needed to recharge stuff, and felt like avoiding midges, I thought why not? It was only just over £20 for my own room, or £17 to bunk in the dorm; I opted for my own room which felt a bit extravagant but after several weeks under canvas I thought I’d earned it. Breakfast included in the price. They also have a large lounge area you can just chill out in, and chat to other travellers stopping by, with free wifi which is always a bonus.

Cloudy skies off Oban, ferry outgoing

Cloudy skies off Oban, ferry outgoing

 

Road around to Oban

Road around to Oban

 

View from Oban seafront

View from Oban seafront, across to Kerrera

 

Backpackers plus hostel

Backpackers plus hostel


I washed some clothes, that really needed washing; they were about to run off to pastures new. The shower was bliss, best I’d had in ages, and there was a real bed! I nearly fell asleep there and then but hunger drove me downstairs. There was a large group of Italian girls in residence, and I felt obliged to assist them with the washing machine, and translating its various functions. They were most appreciative of my help, but didn’t offer dinner, so I was forced to head out onto the mean streets of Oban. I ‘hoped’ I’d told them the right programme and hadn’t shrunk all their clothes.

Walking around Oban I heard the distant drone of bagpipers getting closer, discovering at least 3 pipe bands down by the harbour entertaining tourists. I think they were school bands, and they were quite good, but I’d almost had enough of the pipes by this stage – they are in every even vaguely tourist place in Scotland.

I opted for a Chinese meal, craving something different, and had some excellent steamed dumplings, followed by crispy shredded chilli beef. Yum. Post a pint in an Irish bar I headed back to the hostel feeling rather full. Unfortunately none of the Italian girls were in, so no massages were on offer, dammit, so I opted for an early night instead. I tried to type a blog post but kept falling asleep, and then the app crashed and I lost two draft posts. Calling it a night I dozed off. The bed felt a bit weird, I preferred a more natural substrate by this stage.

My room at Backpackers Plus

My room at Backpackers Plus

Leg 41 – to Fort William from Mull

I ate quite a lot today, grazing frequently on the contents of my panniers, and hence going though nearly all my chocolate, a bag of Haribos, two apples, a banana, pork pies, and other assorted food stuffs. It was a long day with 109 miles of pedalling!

11 June 2013

I roused myself out of my tent about 7.30, to an overcast and breezy day. I had breakfast and packed up quick. With no showers available I was only able to cover basic ministrations, so I was on the road in good time. I kept an eye out for the Sea Eagles but couldn’t see any; maybe they were up having a lie in.

Morning view from tent in Killiechronan

Morning view from tent in Killiechronan

 

Packed up and ready for another day

Packed up and ready for another day

Leaving Killiechronan about 09.15, there followed a pleasant ride around the coastline, with hardly anyone else about. I passed quite few small herds of cows with calves, and one group of bulls, all not fenced in which made me slightly worried. At one point I approached a rather large bull walking ponderously down the road to join its mates a bit further on. I decided not to antagonise it, and let it finish its short road journey before passing by; it stopped to give me the once over but decided I wasn’t very interesting. There were also a lot of sheep about, being their usual stupid selves and either sitting in the road blocking the way until I got really close, then bolting in a random direction which might be in front of my front wheel, or running off in a group in front of me for several hundred feet down the road before realising I wasn’t going to stop following them and finally turning off into the field. I’ve unintentionally herded quite a few groups of sheep about on my bike; could do with that lance Nigel suggested to assist with the process and maybe score some roast lamb dinner. I did see one ewe wearing its lamb as a scarf, which was pretty cute. They both looked pretty comfortable with the arrangement, unfortunately I didn’t have my camera handy as could have been worth a few quid as a photo.

Riding around Loch na Keal from Killiechronan

Riding around Loch na Keal from Killiechronan


 

Bulls, luckily they were all being very civilised

Bulls, luckily they were all being very civilised


 

Coastal road getting interesting

Coastal road getting interesting


I was in a good mood as I pedalled along, greeting one cyclist going the other way exuberantly; he looked a little tired and damp which should really have rung alarm bells. I passed the small island of Eorsa, which sounds like another Norse name, singing some old Monty Python songs I’d had stuck in my head all morning.

Shortly after passing Eorsa I turned inland, still on the B8035, up the pass between Ben More and Bein na Steine, whereupon things turned nasty. The wind got stronger and it started to rain, making it tough going on the ascent, and having to use a very low gear. I passed through some forest, and a signpost for guided Eagle tours, but it really wasn’t the weather for it.

Riding up the pass, foul weather

Riding up the pass, foul weather


 

Drenching clouds abound

Drenching clouds abound


I eventually crested the pass and coasted down through forest to Loch Scridain, the scenery reminding me of the film Dog Soldiers. I didn’t see any werewolves but there were creatures in those woods…deer most likely…probably. It was a bit of a ‘bone’ day in any case.

The next bit of the ride wasn’t too pleasant either, with the rain continuing, and the wind seeming to change direction to always be in my face. I was coming to the conclusion I needed to make a sacrifice to Odin or Thor, or more likely Loki, to try and appease them, either that or the wind just flows down off the hills so will often be in your face, and not following the prevailing wind direction.

Taking temporary shelter near Aird of Kinloch

Taking temporary shelter near Aird of Kinloch

There followed a gruelling passage through Glen More, passing another cycle tourer going the other way, equipped with the same Ortlieb panniers which were proving their worth in this weather. He looked equally bredraggled and we gave each other encouraging waves as we pedalled on. There was a bit too much traffic on this road (A849), especially in the rain, with spray being kicked up by cars, camper vans, coaches and lorries in abundance. The Tourist Information had claimed Mull’s roads were mostly quiet and traffic free, which isn’t always the case apparently. Most of it was probably on its way down to Fionport to get the ferry overly to Iona, to visit amongst other things the remains of the monastery, sacked by Vikings on numerous occasions – they’ve got a bit of a rep for that kind of thing. I’d opted not to do that bit of Mull, especially given the weather, as it was a long way out of my way, a dead end, and not as interesting as the rest of Mull. I’d have to come back and do the various islands around Mull another time.

Enduring Glen More

Enduring Glen More


Post a hilly and wet passage through the glen, and feeling a little bit pissed off due to water infiltrating my nether regions, I passed the turning to Lochbuie with a friend’s (Mac) family motto going round my head; Conquer or Die. His clan seat is Lochbuie and the phrase seemed apt for the day. I pedalled on deciding against a 16 mile detour in this particular instance, to Lochdon and Duart Bay, passing Duart Castle, the site of another friend’s ancestral clan seat; Ron – do you ever break out the family tartan and do bit of a highland fling incidentally?

I arrived in Craignure as the ferry to Oban was loading, and was half tempted to hop on board, it being my destination in a couple of days time. It would however have meant missing a large chunk of coast out which I wasn’t up for sacrificing. Instead I stopped at a local cafe and had their soup and a sandwich meal deal, and a decaf coffee to warm up. The leek and potato soup plus BLT tasted pretty darned good after the morning’s endeavours. I noticed I was dripping everywhere, puddles of water collecting around me, so I retreated to the bathroom to ring a few items of clothing out. My sleeves were sodden despite wearing a waterproof, the wind having driven the rain in. I must have looked a bit if a state.

Despite my appearance, or perhaps it was because the only seats left in the cafe were at my table, I was joined by a couple on holiday in Mull, staying in Tobermory. They were doing some hill walking, otter watching, and planned on visiting a few of the islands including Staffa. It was good to have a nice chat after the less than pleasant morning; she’d done a fair bit of wild camping on Mull and in Scotland, including close encounters with sheep in the night!

Craignure

Craignure


 

Craignure - ferry leaving

Craignure – ferry leaving


Feeling re-invigorated, if still damp, I rode around to Fishnish to get the ferry back to the mainland. I bought a can of fanta and a cake from the cafe next to the slipway, whilst waiting for the ferry, attempting to have a conversation with the jolly owner, however his accent was a little to thick to follow at times – I think I laughed at the right moments. At least the rain had stopped for a bit, even if it was still windy.

Waiting for the ferry to Lochaline

Waiting for the ferry to Lochaline


I rode on to the ferry and retreated to the cabin area once bike was stashed, to get out of the wind for a bit. The ferry was really busy, packed with cars and camper vans, but they mostly stayed in their vehicles for the short crossing. It only cost me £3.50, and took about 25 minutes. I chatted to one of the ferry attendants on the crossing, who’s also a keen cyclist. He described the route to Fort William, pointing out the long ascent to begin with, over 12 miles, and the ferry I could take at Ardgar (Corran Ferry) if I wanted to cut off about 30 miles. There were a couple of options route wise, and I decided to take the one closer to the coast, both were allegedly equally attractive with nice long descents to enjoy.

Slipway to Fishnish Ferry

Slipway to Fishnish Ferry


 

Fishnish Ferry incoming

Fishnish Ferry incoming


 

Fishnish Ferry - a full load

Fishnish Ferry – a full load


 

Goodbye to Mull

Goodbye to Mull


Leaving the ferry behind, and in slightly improved weather, I pedalled up the long hill out of Lochaline on the A884. The road is mostly single track, passing through forest and fen, and wasn’t too busy so was a pleasant ride. I did however encounter a lot of sheep again, either on or around the road, who did their usual panic at the last moment routine. I unintentionally ended up herding a few large groups down the road to pastures new. Cars don’t don’t seem to bother them, but me on a bike is a different story, even if I give them lots of warning I’m coming.

Sheep herding again

Sheep herding again

The hilly road continued up Gleann Geal and beyond, before I turned on to the B8043 towards the coast rather than continue up to Strontian. The rain had started again, but it wasn’t hard and the wind had dropped, so it was a fun descent all the way down to Loch Linnhe. The road twists, turns and undulates, through moorland and forest, and there was very little traffic when I was going down it at some speed. In fact I think I counted about 3 cars all the way back to the main road. The scenery looked slightly eldritch in the light rain and low cloud, with water trickling down everywhere, and hanging off fern fronds and trees. I half expected to see pixies and maybe the occasional gnome ambling about.

Top of descent down to Loch Linnhe

Top of descent down to Loch Linnhe


 

Descent to Loch Linnhe 2

Descent to Loch Linnhe 2

I had to keep an eye on the road surface, which was a bit ropey in places with loose gravel and potholes that could have seriously thwarted my descent had I hit them wrong. At the bottom I turned up along the coast, along the mostly flat single track road, which was still pretty bumpy and jarred my wrists somewhat.

Coast road to Inversanda

Coast road to Inversanda


Mist on Loch Linnhe, bike doing well

Mist on Loch Linnhe, bike doing well


 

Loch Linnhe again

Loch Linnhe again

 

Oh look, more sheep

Oh look, more sheep


At Inversanda I joined the A861, riding up to Ardgar having done about 31 miles since getting off the ferry. I knew this because of handy milestone markers along the roads which I’d been trying to keep track of and add up. It was about 17.00 and I was tempted to get the ferry over to Corran, which runs back and forth continually until around 21.00. Going round the rest of Loch Linnhe, then Loch Eil to Fort William was another 30 miles, as opposed to 10 on the other side. In the end I opted not to take the ferry deciding it would be cheating. I had a pork pie and snickers to celebrate my willpower holding out.

 

Corran Ferry

Corran Ferry


Corran Ferry 2

Corran Ferry 2


On slightly tired legs I pressed on, up past Conaglen House, along roads lined with Rhododendron, which made the biologist in me concerned about soil acidity and other plant species being snuffed out, but they looked nice.

 

Road past Conaglen House

Road past Conaglen House


 

Long road around the Lochs

Long road around the Lochs

The road around the lochs is mostly flat, so I made good progress, partly motivated by not wanting to stop due to clouds of midges. I passed through several small villages, and could see Fort William on the other side of Loch Linnhe.

Looking across to Fort William

Looking across to Fort William, so close and yet so far


Looking across to Fort William 2

Looking across to Fort William 2

Eventually I made it around to the A830, and powered by Haribos rode on to Fort William arriving at about 20.30, feeling pretty hungry. I made the mistake of taking a cycle path for the last bit, thinking that would be nice, however I had to manoeuvre through several swing gates, and over a railway crossing with yet more gates, which left me cursing somewhat. Tricky with a heavy bike, at the end of a long day, and probably took twice as long as the road route. Must remember just to stick to the road in future! I came out at Neptune’s staircase, a series of lochs up to the Caledonian canal which I thought I’d visit tomorrow.

Beginning of Neptune's Staircase

Beginning of Neptune’s Staircase

Before heading to the campsite I nipped into town and bought some fish and chips, which didn’t last long. It felt a bit odd being in a big town again, with lots of shops and ‘normal’ people about, including multitudes of tourists, locals out for a drink, and the odd big issue salesperson looking hopeful. I noticed a Cotswolds outlet which I’d visit tomorrow to see if I could get a replacement Power Monkey cable.

Post dinner I rode up to Glen Nevis, in the shadow of a cloud covered Ben Nevis, and pitched up at the campsite there. I met a friendly police dog and its handler on the way in, out for a stroll. The collie dog had a liking for bike tyres and stalked me for a bit before being called off. Reception was closed so it would be the ‘pay in the morning’ routine again. Good facilities at the campsite, but the midges had started to appear so after a wash I retreated pretty quickly to my tent. Damned things.

Tent up in Glen Nevis

Tent up in Glen Nevis

So despite a poor start, and it raining nearly all day, it had ended up being a great ride covering 111 miles, two of which had been on the ferry from Mull. It wasn’t far down to Oban where I planned to ride to the next day, post doing a few things around Fort William – bike shops, Cotswolds, Neptune’s Staircase. My back wheel was doing well but I was constantly having to tighten or adjust the spokes, and it was only a matter of time before it suffered a critical failure, so I needed to replace it…again.

After arranging damp kit to hopefully dry a bit, including a couple of bits in my warm sleeping bag, I fell asleep pretty swifty after a 13 hour day in the office.

Leg 40 – to Tobermory, Calgary and Killiechronan on Mull

A shorter day miles wise, with only 35 covered.

10 June 2013

I woke up feeling a bit itchy. The midges had definitely got to the lower parts of my legs, and my hands to an extent, resulting in quite few ugly red bite marks. The Avon lady seemed to have kept them off my face and arms, although I wasn’t convinced it was really working. I need to train a team of spiders to spin webs around my campsite every night to catch the midges and Mosquitos. One had spun its web under my bike saddle and caught loads of midges for its supper, a shame I had to evict him or her.

A fine morning in Ardnamurchan

A fine morning in Ardnamurchan

After breakfast and a quick shower I packed everything back on to my bike, and pedalled to the end of the road, just to get a bit further west. I wasn’t going to go all the way to Ardnamurchan Point, as it was a dead end, and I had a ferry to catch over to Mull.

End of the road west for the time being

End of the road west for the time being

I pedalled back down the hill to Kilchoan and was just in time to get the ferry, perfect, so I rode on board squeezing my bike between the cars, camper-vans and caravans; I wish more people would just get a bike, much cheaper at £5.00 for the crossing as opposed to about £20.00 for a car.

Waiting to board the ferry at Kilchoan

Waiting to board the ferry at Kilchoan


 

Leaving Kilchoan

Leaving Kilchoan

I went up to the deck area for some of the short voyage over to Tobermory, the largest town on Mull. It was a bit of a blustery day, making it a bit chilly out on the water, but mostly sunny. Retreating inside for a bit I called my parents who were squatting in my house in Norwich, and went through my mail with them, nothing very exciting; home insurance, bills, statements and junk mail for the most part. Good to have people checking up on my house, and of course Dad was in fixing things mode so I would no doubt have some home improvements by the time I returned.

Aerial shot of my bike, lashed to its railing

Aerial shot of my bike, lashed to its railing


 

Round the point to Tobermory

Round the point to Tobermory

Arriving in Tobermory I trundled off the boat, making my way to the Mull museum, literally a few hundred yards down the road on the harbour front. It is free to look around, although they are grateful for donations, and a superb place to start a trip around Mull. I think it took about 30 minutes to look round all the exhibits, being only a small museum, but could have been longer as it was quite absorbing.

I learned about quite a few things, including:

 – Mull and Tobermory during the Second World War, when many Navy crews were trained in the area for escort duty under the watchful eye of the ‘Terror of Tobermory’, Commodore Stephenson, from on board HMS Western Isles. He had a quite a reputation due to unconventional training methods and a fierce temperament, hence his nickname, and was responsible for the training of 1,132 ships and their crews for escort duty in 4 years, up to the end of the war. I reckon that’s a pretty remarkable achievement, which no doubt contributed massively to the war effort and keeping convoys safe versus the U-boat threat.

The Terror of Tobermory

The Terror of Tobermory


 – A Spanish ship that sunk in the bay, from the Armada. It was one of the many that were forced up around the coast of Scotland post the Armada break up. It put into Tobermory for repairs, after a deal was struck with the local clan chief. In return for supplies and repair work, the ship’s captain loaned the use of some of the many soldiers he had on board, to help the chief settle a few local disputes/feuds. Pretty cunning. Unfortunately the ship later blew up in the harbour, and sank. Rumours have persisted of large amounts of gold on the ship, and salvage efforts have been raking place ever since. No bullion found to date. Quite a few Armada ships did eventually make it back to Spain, but nothing like the number that set off.

 – The history of Mull, from the Stone Age to the Bronze and Iron Age, about the Celts, and Christianity arriving via St. Columba, and the Iona monastery. The Norse turned up in their longships, being Vikings, and killed a lot of monks, Christians  and Celts during their successive raids over the years, so much so that the Iona monastery was eventually abandoned. The Norse later came back and settled on some parts of Mull, but not to the same extent as other islands on the west coast.

 – A series of accounts from notable individuals visiting Mull, in the 18th and 19th centuries, which were also interesting to read, with a few items including a travelling chest used for storing specimens and kit. One account described the average Mull man as surely one of the most heavily armed in Europe, with shield, dirk, pistol and broadsword, and possibly other weapons secreted about their person. They were also apparently very brawny in their kilts and berets, with an ammunition pouch helping to conceal their privates. The women were equally tough, wearing tartan again, which often wrapped around into a veil and headscarf.

Tobermory - brightly painted houses

Tobermory – brightly painted houses


After my history lesson I cycled along the harbour-front to the other side, before having an early lunch at one of the pubs; very nice to sit down for an hour or so, and eat a huge burger that would keep me going or a bit. I also nipped into the tourist information office to check on my planned route, possible things to see, and campsites.

Riding back along the harbour front I stopped to look around a visiting Himalayan bazaar, a bit bizarre, and bought some incense which I thought might help versus the midges, or at least would smell nice. The bazaar had lots of nice Himalayan style knitted clothes, including arm warmers and hats that I fancied the look of, but really isn’t have room for. Got me thinking about a tour down to Tibet though, and to Everest; another one to add to the list!

Before pedalling to Calgary I stopped and bought some supplies, I’d been craving apples. Suitably restocked with a few things I rode up the steep hill out of Tobermory, and on to the B8073.

My trusty steed in Tobermory

My trusty steed in Tobermory


 

Tobermory - yachts in the harbour

Tobermory – yachts in the harbour


 

Tobermory - view from on high

Tobermory – view from on high


The road over to the village of Dervaig was in slightly poor condition, and fairly hilly, so it was tough going at times and i was a bit worried about my rear wheel again. Some nice scenery though, and not many sheep.

Road to Dervaig

Road to Dervaig

 

Road to Dervaig 2

Road to Dervaig 2


I stopped for a break in Dervaig, which claims to be he prettiest village on Mull, and had a drink at the Bellachroy Inn. The Inn is the oldest on the Island, dating from 1608. I had a chat with a couple of builders on a break, interested in my bike, who advised that the road around to Calgary was mostly flat, and that it was only about 4 miles to the bay. They were on a break for a while, leading me to think not much happens fast on Mull.

Pressing on to Calgary I soon realised the road wasn’t really flat at all. I guess if you’re driving you don’t notice the hills as much. Still it had less steep bits than the pervious section, and wound through some lovely countryside. Lots of bluebells were out, along with ferns and bracken growing everywhere, and various flowers and flowering trees scenting the air.

Calgary, which gave its name to the Canadian city, is gorgeous beach surrounded by hills, with an area of machair, and wide expanse of pale sand. With the sunshine the sea was a deep blue colour. I went for a walk down to the beach, and across a bit of the machair which is Gaelic for a specific type of grassland/meadow that grows on sandy soil in Scotland, next to the sea. It’s under threat from coastal erosion, excessive amounts of people walking on it, and grazing by sheep and rabbits, so I was a bit bemused to see sheep actually on it. Efforts were being made to conserve it, as it’s unique habitat for some flora and fauna.

Calgary Bay and machair

Calgary Bay and machair


There a designated wild camping area in Calgary, next to a toilet block. I was tempted to stop for the day but I really hadn’t done many miles, and didn’t want to leave myself with too much to do tomorrow, so I pedalled on. Calgary would be a great place to camp out with a few friends, however I get the feeling it’s a very popular spot, the wild camping area having had quite a few folks on it already.

Calgary wild camping area

Calgary wild camping area


 

Calgary beach, pretty gorgeous

Calgary beach, pretty gorgeous and unspoilt


I regretted the decision to press on shortly afterwards, running into a fierce headwind and big hills – especially the one just prior to Fanmore. The hill and headwind combi was a bit of a leg burner, however I made it up, finding a large stone cairn at the top; I added a stone to it in case it was good luck to do so.

Riding round northern Mull

Riding round northern Mull


The Cairn

The Cairn

The wind lessened a bit as I cycled on towards Killiechronan, still on the B8073 – there aren’t really that many roads to choose from on Mull. Passed through some nice scenery, with the Isle of Ulva just off the coast, across Loch Tuath. You can get a ferry across to Ulva at one point, it’s really not a long crossing – reckon you could swim it pretty easily.

Road to Killiechronan

Road to Killiechronan


 

Lots of bluebells

Lots of bluebells


 

Ulva off the coast

Ulva off the coast


 

View to Southern Mull

View to Southern Mull

I arrived at the campsite in Killiechronan, which didn’t consist of a lot (campsite or place), and pitched up, the owner coming around a bit later on his quad bike to collect the £4.00 fee, so nice and cheap. I chatted to a few of the other people staying there – the site was pretty full with kayakers, camper vans, and a few other cycle tourers. Unsurprising given the good location right on the coastline, even if there are no showers, and it’s a bit of a walk up the road to the toilet block.

View across bay from Killiechronan

View across bay from Killiechronan

One bird watching couple lent me their binoculars briefly, to look at the Sea Eagle sitting in a tree across the bay, a truly immense bird of prey. There were a couple of them apparently, although I only saw one, which later soared and swooped across the bay, presumably looking for fish or an easy meal courtesy of the nesting birds in the area, of which there were lots; saw oystercatchers, gulls, sandpipers, amongst others. Mull has the biggest population of Sea Eagles in the UK, them all congregating on the island, and it was great to see one. 

I fell asleep in my tent post dinner it was so relaxing, with the breeze keeping the midges away, and the incense I’d bought earlier wafting about. Getting up I had a brief chat with a French cycle tourer going the other way, who’d rigged up an ingenious washing line from his tent to his bike. He had a kick stand for his bike though, which I really need to invest in.

Feeling pretty tired, and with most people retreating inside their various tents or camper vans due to breeze dropping and midge threat increasing, I decided to have an early night too, rather than do some bike maintenance which could wait until the morning. It was nice just lying in my tent chilling out, doing a bit of planning and reading. Very quiet too. I ruled out visiting any of the other islands around Mull, as I did’t really have the time. It would be nice to come back and go to Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave with its unique geology and mystical atmosphere, as well as to go to Iona and visit the sacked monastery – Vikings again. There are various boat trips you can go on to the outlying islands, as well as to see seals, more bird life, and porpoises and whales if you’relucky.

So only a short day today, covering 35 miles. I’d need to improve upon that tomorrow, and hoped the weather would be good for it. Went to bed post saying hello to a couple of friendly campsite dogs doing the rounds.

Leg 39 – to Kilchoan

A decision day route wise. A paltry but challenging 54 miles covered in the end.

09 June 2013

I woke up slightly late at the Silver Sands campsite, but to a glorious day with some great views across the bay. I had breakfast watching the oystercatchers and gulls dive about, as well as a few early bird kayakers getting ready and setting off for a days paddling.

Morning at Silver Sands campsite

Morning at Silver Sands campsite


 

Silver Sands - great weather

Silver Sands – great weather


 

Silver Sands - kayakers setting off for the day

Silver Sands – kayakers setting off for the day


I had a shower and a chat with the campsite owner, not at the same time, before packing up and loading everything on to my bike. I had to tighten up a loose spoke but the wheel looked okay still, which was a relief. I watched the family camping next door set off in their kayaks for the day. As far as I could ascertain the man was Scottish, the woman French, and their three children kept mixing English and French, with a variety of accents. It looked like it was going to be a great day out on the water, with very little wind. The campsite was thronged with kayaks so obviously a very popular bit of coast for it.

Undecided on my route I rode down to Arisaig and stopped off at the hotel. It wasn’t open yet but I could use their wifi network to check out potential routes, deciding in the end to cycle to Kilchoan and get the ferry over to Tobermorry either later on or tomorrow morning depending on when I arrived. Fort William would have to wait for another day, which meant I would miss the mountain bike championships, but it didn’t make sense to go there first and then double back. I opted to ride away from possible glory at the championships, conceding victory to someone on a full suspension bike; I’m not sure my dodgy rear wheel and front right pannier fix would have survived anyway.

I left Arisaig and pedalled down the A830 in the sunshine, passing a man practicing his bagpipes outside his house on a Sunday morning. I imagine he’s popular with the neighbours – I waved but he had his hands full and just nodded, raising a eyebrow in greeting.

The railway accompanied me for a bit, through some great scenery, complete with mountains, sandy bays with clear blue seas, and not much in the way of traffic. I had to climb up a few hills but thankfully the road mostly weaves through the mountains, which was fortunate given the hot day.

A830 going East

A830 going East

I passed Prince Charlie’s Cairn, where he boarded a French Ship, leaving Britain forever after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden. It was also the site of a naval engagement between two French privateers and English ships shortly after his departure. The French were delivering arms and gold to Clan MacDonald, who ferried it ashore under fire from the British ships earning admiration from the French commander. The gold and arms were distributed amongst the clans, much to the chagrin of the Macdonalds, however it’s rumoured ‘there is still gold buried in those hills’. Back to the naval battle – the English ships had to retreat after casualties were suffered on both sides, and the French made their escape.

Near Prince Charlie's Cairn - looking towards Lochailort

Near Prince Charlie’s Cairn – looking towards Lochailort


 

Near Prince Charlie's Cairn

Near Prince Charlie’s Cairn


Post the Ardnish peninsula and Lochailort, I turned on to the A861 down to Glenuig, up and down some pretty tricky hills that got the legs going. As was becoming a constant for the west coast of Scotland the scenery was its usual good self.

Loch Ailort

Loch Ailort


I stopped for lunch at the Glenuig Inn, situated in a bay where the waters looked very inviting for a swim, however I still had around 30 miles to go and didn’t fancy being slightly damp and salty for that long, so I abstained. Really lovely area, with Rhododendrons flowering everywhere – I know they’re slightly evil and turn the soil acid but they look nice. Great lunch at the Inn, consisting of Kofta Kebabs and couscous, and a pint of something localish. The pub dog also said hello frequently – I think he was only interested in my kebabs though, they were very good. Glenuig would be a great place to stay for a few days, with plenty of walks, and kayaking available.

Glenuig Inn

Glenuig Inn

Post Glenuig I pedalled up a long climb south, over the top and down to Loch Moidart. I met a group of day-tripper cyclists at the top, all sweating profusely after their long climb which would become my glorious descent. It had turned very hot all of a sudden so I topped up on the sun cream, not wanting to get singed again.

The descent to Loch Moidart

The descent to Loch Moidart


I rode alongside the loch and past the seven men of Moidart, trees once planted to commemorate seven of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s faithful companions. The trees had to be replanted after they were blown down in 1988, and I wasn’t sure which ones they were, there being quite a lot of woodland about. There are quite a few references and historical information boards referencing the Jacobite uprising in the area, and to Clan MacDonald. I passed several local businesses bearing the MacDonald name.

The day grew hotter as I continued on along the A861, with no wind for a change and some large hills to contend with, meaning my water consumption soared. I wasn’t complaining about the nice weather though, long may it continue. Riding through some small villages, and around a bit of Loch Shiel, I made it over to Loch Sunart, turning right at Salen on to the the B8007.

Passing over a mountain river

Passing over a mountain river


Standing on the old bridge looking at the new bridge

Standing on the old bridge looking at the new bridge


Lovely beech woodland

Lovely beech woodland

The ride alongside Loch Sunart to Kilchoan was through some fantastic scenery again, with lots of small bays, some of which had yachts moored up in them, or people kayaking and diving. It’s a pretty remote area so it wasn’t at all busy, with only mild traffic on the road going to or from Kilchoan and the ferry over to Mull. The road isn’t however very flat, in fact there aren’t really any flat bits to speak of as it constantly undulates with the occasional longer climb or descent. The road surface is also pretty rough in places so it turned into quite a hard ride, and I’d definitely need to check my spokes again later. It’s really hard to get into a rhythm without any consistency, so I started to tire fast. 

Alongside Loch Sunart

Alongside Loch Sunart


Yacht moored up

Yacht moored up

I pedalled up to and through Glenborrodale, passing the castle and sizeable estate, as well as the lovely gardens.

Glenborrodale Castle

Glenborrodale Castle


 

Tree in flower

Tree in flower

It looked like a private estate though, with lots of no trespassing signs, or trespasses enter at their own risk notices, which I took to mean you might encounter unfriendly livestock, or get shot at by an enthusiastic Laird.

Shortly after Glenborrodale I happened upon the Nadurra nature visitors centre, which had a cafe, the first I’d passed in miles and completely unexpected, so was a nice surprise. Feeling rather hot I was more than glad of a break, and bought an ice cream and cold drink to cool off with. A father and son on sleek road bikes had the same idea – the were complaining about the hills, I had little sympathy given comparative bike weights. The centre has various wildlife exhibits, including information on Scottish wild cats and all the bird life in the area – eagles could be seen apparently. I had a peer through the telescope they had set up but only spotted some sheep regarding me with suspicion, as well as a few geese, swallows darting about, and the odd raven.

Pressing on there followed a big climb around the impressive Ben Hiant, an extinct volcano covered in grassland and grazing sheep, who bleated in alarm at my passing.

Bay just before Ben Hiant

Bay just before Ben Hiant


Ben Hiant panorama

Ben Hiant panorama

Riding up Ben Hiant and past Loch Mudle was pretty tough going on drained legs, and on the single track road I had a couple of close encounters with ferry traffic. Despite keeping an eye out I didn’t spot any eagles, which according to a sign in the Nadurra centre sometimes fly around the loch.

Loch Mudle

Loch Mudle


Other side of Ben Hiant

Other side of Ben Hiant

As a reward for my efforts there followed a lovely long descent into Kilchoan, down a winding road that was a lot of fun. I was able to throw caution to the wind a bit as I could see a long way into the distance, and there wasn’t any traffic on the road. I got up to a fair speed by the time I reached the bottom and had to start pedalling again, entering Kilchoan and stopping at the hotel for a pint. I watched a bit of the Grand Prix and chatted to the barman for a bit before continuing on.

It was too late to get the ferry over to Tobermory and Mull, which I wasn’t too upset about having knackered legs, so I rode to the Ardnamurchan campsite for the night. I hadn’t realised that Ardnamurchan Point is the western most point on the coast of Britain, it not being Land’s End as I once thought. I’d now done the Eastern, Northern, and Westernmost points. It couldn’t be more different to Lowestoft at Ardnamurchan, although I didn’t go all the way to the point (dead-end).

Campsite view back towards Kilchoan ferry pier

Campsite view back towards Kilchoan ferry pier


Ardnamurchan campsite panorama

Ardnamurchan campsite panorama


View across to Mull

View across to Mull

The campsite is fairly rudimentary, but fine, and with wifi and a little shed area I could sit in to escape the midges, of which there were a plentiful supply. I had to treat my tent flaps like an air lock to try and keep them out. They were voracious in their appetites and even the Avon Lady wasn’t keeping them at bay.

Ardnamurchan campsite

Ardnamurchan campsite

Braving the midges I cooked up some couscous, a double portion, before retreating inside like everyone else on the site. The insect life in Scotland does at times impair a sociable atmosphere! Post a bit of journal writing and planning for tomorrow I hit the sack, looking forward to Mull, Tobermorry and Calgary Beach. I was wondering about visiting Staffa and Fingal’s Cave, however that would probably take a whole day out so I’d see when I got around to that area.

A good day, but I went to bed slightly aching, and itching.

Ardnamurchan campsite beach at dusk

Ardnamurchan campsite beach

 

Leg 38 – to Arisaig

I’m writing this whilst wild camping down near Campbeltown, with the rain lashing down and wind gusting outside my warm and cosy tent. Currently wondering if any of the clothes I wore today will be dry by the morning, but not to worry, I have ginger nuts. Now back to nearly a week ago on Skye.

08 June 2013

I woke up early (for me) at 06.30, with an urge on get back on the road after a day’s rest. I had breakfast and showered before packing up quick. The weather looked good in Uig, with mostly clear skies, sunshine, and very little wind.

Packing up - quick wheel check

Packing up – quick wheel check


Hitting the road about 08.30, I was off to a good start, having a long leg ahead of me. I cycled out past the Bakur Bar, bidding it a fond farewell, and past lines of traffic queuing for the morning ferry. Lots of people with bikes or kayaks attached to their vehicles but no cycle tourers I could see.

Beautiful day in Uig

Beautiful day in Uig


 

Bollards again - and clouds

Bollards again – and clouds, making me wonder what it was like on the other side of the island


I rode North out of Uig, up the hill on the A855 which would take me around the top of Skye and back down to Portree.

Looking back down towards Uig

Looking back down towards Uig


Unfortunately as soon as I got over the top the clouds started to draw in from the North, along with a moderate and chill wind. I decided to speed up and try and get this section done quickly, hoping the weather would improve again down in Portree, with the clouds breaking up against the mountains. I rode through some fairly wet and at times foggy landscape around to Staffin, passing several small villages and small islands just off the coast, as well as the usual multitude of sheep.

Road around the North of Skye

Road around the North of Skye


 

Staffin Bay

Staffin Bay

Staffin wasn’t very exciting, especially given the weather. It has a store, cafe and candle shop, but I didn’t need any artfully created scented wax illuminations at the time, so carried on. From Staffin I pedalled on down the coast, up and down a couple of big hills, to the Old Man of Storr, where the sun was just starting to burn off some of the cloud and fog, revealing the spectacular Storr mountain, and lochs on the other side of the road.

Storr Mountain and Old Man of Storr

Storr Mountain and Old Man of Storr

 

Still clouds hanging over the lochs

Still clouds hanging over the lochs

I stopped for a double banana break by the roadside, feeling a bit drained post the cold ride around the top if the island, before continuing on to Portree. There were quite a few motorbike tourers out on the road again, making easy work of the hills, along with the obligatory camper vans from all around Europe.

 

Portree Bay

Portree Bay

The sun came out properly in Portree, and remained out for the rest of the day. I stopped to buy a few supplies from the Co-op, then ate lunch in the town square, munching my way through most of a baguette, with cheese, ham, tomatoes, an apple, and a couple of cakes from the local bakery for good measure. There were lots of tourists and associated coaches in Portree again, and I heard then saw at least one bagpipe busker taking advantage of the holiday season influx.

 

Looking own on Portree old town

Looking own on Portree old town

I left Portree passing the finish of the half marathon being run at the same time. It must be a challenging course around the town, and I passed a few very tired looking individuals. I pedalled down the same road I’d cycled up two days previously, over some fairly big hills, and with Raasay and Scalpay just off the coast.

 

The road to Sligachan

The road to Sligachan

I passed dozens of cyclists going the other way over the next couple of hours, in small groups, ranging from those looking fairly professional to those who were huffing and puffing along slightly. There must have been some kind of charity ride on. It was nice to wave and shout hello, and they all waved back or shouted greetings, so was quite fun.

 

Lobster sun bathing in Sligachan

Lobster sun bathing in Sligachan – Cuillin Hills in background

 

Cuillin Hills again

Cuillin Hills again

 

Loch Ainot

Loch Ainot

I rode on and just after Broadford turned right, on to the A851 that would take me to Armadale. It was a lovely ride in the sunshine, through some great scenery alongside the Sound of Sleat. The road was comparatively flat, with just a few leg testers in the final miles before Armadale. In places there was lots of wild garlic out long side the roadside, giving the air a pleasant scent, with bluebells and plenty of bird life to keep me occupied. At times sparrows and tits would dart out in front of my bike, then fly off down the road in front of me before careering off into the bushes.

 

Down to the Sound of Sleat

Down to the Sound of Sleat

 

Sound of Sleat coastline

Sound of Sleat coastline

 

View across to Armadale

View across to Armadale

Passing Armadale Castle, which I couldn’t see from the road, I reached Armadale about 16.00 having covered in the region of 75 miles. I’d originally planned to camp there, but was still feeling pretty fresh, and the ferry across to Mallaig was still running. I had a quick look around the Eco Woodland campsite anyway, which turned out to be a bit different, with several curiosities to look around and set in a fantastic location. There were herb and vegetable beds everywhere, all labelled with what they could be used for, from natural anti-midge concoctions, to treatments for chafing, and recipes for various dishes. The whole set up had the feeling of a hippy commune, with water butts, ramshackle but well kept looking wooden buildings, and compost loos; there just didn’t seem to be anyone about. I had a quick walk around the woodland camping area anyway.

 

View to Seal Bay from woodland campsite

View to Seal Bay from woodland campsite

The one drawback of the camping area was that come dusk it would be absolutely infested by hordes of midges, given all the trees and lush vegetation. Given I was still feeling pretty good, and it wasn’t late, I decided to avoid the midges and get the ferry over to Mallaig, which at £4.00 was a bargain – bikes go free. I wanted to get the ferry, rather than go back over the Skye Bridge, as it avoided a long ride inland to get around to the coast again, and actually meant I’d see more of the coast.

 

Armadale harbour

Armadale harbour

Whilst waiting for the ferry my bike became the subject of interest for a group of French tourists travelling by coach. On this trip it seems to often be the French who have wanted to know how far I’ve cycled and about my bike; they must be in to their cycling in France. I chatted to a few of them for a while, practicing my rusty French again. They were amazed at how heavy my bike was, with various expressions of surprise uttered as they tried to lift it. After posing for a few photos the ferry arrived, and they had to get back on their coach, saving me from trying to explain anything further to them.

I boarded the ferry, cycling down the gangplank and tying my bike to a designated railing, which I was still finding pretty exciting. It’s only a 30 minute voyage over to Mallaig, but that was enough time to eat the rest of my baguette with some cheese, whilst admiring the view.

 

Looking back to Armadale

Looking back to Armadale

 

Ferry to Mallaig - sun still shining

Ferry to Mallaig – sun still shining

 

Across to Mallaig we go

Across to Mallaig we go

 

Arriving in Mallaig

Arriving in Mallaig

Upon arrival in Mallaig we disembarked in a mostly orderly fashion, aside from a few groups of foreign tourists who weren’t sure if they were supposed to walk off the boat or get back on their coach there and then, resulting in a minor amount of chaos on the vehicle deck. Whilst this was going on I took my opportunity and quickly cycled off, jumping ahead of the traffic. Mallaig looked like a nice place, the end of the A830 going north, with several shops, fish and chips and hotels, as well as a train station.

I took the road signposted to Fort William and Arisaig, hoping to find a campsite within the next 10 or so miles, or at least a good spot to wild camp. I took a brief detour through Morar, looking across to Loch Morar, before continuing down the coast road towards Arisaig through some stunning scenery.

 

Road to Arisaig 1

Road to Arisaig 1

 

Road to Arisaig 2

Road to Arisaig 2

 

Road to Arisaig 3

Road to Arisaig 3

Along the flatter coastal stretch I passed three potential campsites, two of which were sporting site full signs, the first time I’d encountered such a problem on this tour. This must be a popular bit of coastline, especially for kayakers, and with the good weather people had flocked out to spend their weekend here.

 

Coastline down to Arisaig

Coastline down to Arisaig

I arrived in Arisaig and bumped into a fellow tourer, doing Land’s End to John o’ Groats the long way round on a small wheeled but fully loaded bike. We chatted for a bit about our experiences to date, and he confirmed there were no campsites in the immediate area going south. He gave me a few tips on my route, and what to see on Mull if I went that way, and I vice versa on Skye, although he’d been in the area before having holidayed on Eigg with his family in the past – no cars on Eigg, just bikes. It was really pleasant sitting in the sunshine in Arisaig, with the Isles of Eigg and Rum just off the coast.

Post a pint in the village hotel, and buying a couple of dinner bits from the Spar, I cycled back to the Silver Sands campsite I’d passed earlier. It was the only one without a site full sign, and was in a lovely location. I stopped at the owner’s house on my way in and had a brief shouted conversation from where he was up in the garden, ascertaining it was fine to go and pitch my tent and we’d settle up in the morning. I found a great spot next to a mother and daughter having a weekend break, and a family of kayakers doing the same.

 

Camping spot at Silver Sands

Camping spot at Silver Sands

 

Camping spot at Silver Sands 2

Camping spot at Silver Sands 2

Post around an 85 mile ride I consumed a large dinner of more baguette, pork pie, cheese and fruit, in the peaceful setting, waiting for the sun to go down and watching oystercatchers and gulls wheel and dive over the sea. The oystercatchers seemed to be behaving a bit like starlings, flocking together at dusk and flying about in a noisy fashion before finding a spot to roost.

The only drawback to the site was the arrival of the midges, however the Avon lady seemed to keep them at bay before I retreated to my tent. The sunset was spectacular, only slightly spoiled by the arrival of some noisy, beer swilling Jordies who insisted on standing in everyone else’s view until this was pointed out to them. To give them credit they did move to one side and quietened a bit after that.

Lobster at sunset

Lobster at sunset


Sunset panorama

Sunset panorama


Sunset 1

Sunset 1


Sunset 2

Sunset 2


Sunset 3

Sunset 3


Sunset 4

Sunset 4

I have far too many pictures of his sunset.

Sun just about gone

Sun just about gone

On that note I’ll finish with some words of wisdom. When fumbling around in the dark in your tent, don’t try and use a pork pie as a torch !

Day 38 – rest day in Uig

Total distance cycled= 0 miles 🙂

07 June 2013

With the decision having been made to have my first complete rest day of the tour, I had a lie in, managing to stay in my tent until at least 09.00, whereupon it just got too warm and I needed the loo so had to get up.

I paid up for another day’s stay, £6 being very reasonable, and set about some chores, catching up on washing and sorting out my pannier contents a bit. This all took place during pretty much constant grazing, as I consumed cheese, pitta bread, biscuits, fruit and anything else that came to hand. By 11.00 I felt a bit sleepy so had a nap for an hour, thoroughly enjoying this day off business.

Uig - nice day for a day off

Uig – nice day for a day off


Whilst chatting to a fellow camper, whose car had broken down up the hill, I spotted a large bird of prey flying overhead getting mobbed by crows. I thought it might be a buzzard, but it looked slightly too big and the wrong colour. My erstwhile companion, who it turned out was an expert on everything, reckoned it was an eagle. It might have been a juvenile Golden Eagle, as they were present in the area and it was the right colours and had the right wing shape, but it definitely wasn’t a Sea Eagle.

After extricating myself from the rather random and ongoing conversation with the world’s expert on everything, I got changed and made my way to the Bakur Bar for lunch. I pretty much stayed here for the rest of the day, it being comfortable, with good food and ale, and allowing me to catch up on my blog a bit. I had a brief excursion to the brewery, and was very tempted to buy some Red Cuillin ale, but decided the bottles really wouldn’t work in my panniers.

By evening, and post an excellent curry, I thought I’d better move a bit so I had a walk down to the end of the pier, past moored up fishing boats and a few other walkers out for a stroll. The ferry arrives and departs from the pier, so it had been very busy at certain points during the day but was quiet now.

Uig - walk to he nod of the pier, windswept look

Uig – walk to the end of the pier, windswept look


The clouds rolling in over the hills, and the stronger wind, didn’t bode particularly well for tomorrow, however the weather can change so quickly in the area I wasn’t overly concerned.

Uig pier - clouds rolling over hill again

Uig pier – clouds rolling over hill again


 

Uig pier 2

Uig pier 2


 

Uig pier 3 - bollards

Uig pier 3 – bollards

Feeling recharged, and given a boost by some more donations to the Big C on my charity page, I thought I’d have an earlyish night wanting to get off in good time the following day to cycle back down the length of the island to Armadale, about 75 miles. If the weather was bad I could always stop in Portree, however I was thinking about trying to get to Fort William for the Mountain Bike World Championship so wanted to get on, we’d see in the morning.

Leg 37 – to Uig

This is my second attempt at writing this blog post, having somehow deleted the first draft; a rather vexing experience when I’m already behind! 

Slightly slower day covering 47 miles.

06 June 2013

With my tent getting uncomfortably warm in the morning sunshine I guessed the weather was going to be good. Upon extricating myself from by sleeping bag and tent I discovered a cloudless sky, so decided against a rest day and to press on around Skye.

A few facts about Skye:

– It’s the largest of the Inner Hebrides

– It’s had people on it since the Mesolithic era

– It has some big hills called the Cuillens on it

– Norse folk lived here for a while, post there usual being a Viking antics

– Clan Macleod and Clan Donald controlled the island for a while

– There are lots of whisky distilleries

– Quite a lot of the residents speak Gaelic

– It’s very pretty, and home to lots of interesting animals and birds, including eagles and deer. Home to lots of sheep too but they’re not very interesting, and are stupid

I consumed a sizeable breakfast, showered and packed up, before bidding goodbye to Mal and the lone English motorbike tourer, setting off up the A87 towards Portree. I wanted to visit the bike shop there, the only one within a considerable distance, the next closest being in Fort William.

Beautiful day on Skye

Beautiful day on Skye

From Breakish I rode up to and through Dunan and Luib, with the Isles of Scalpay and Raasay just off the coast. With the isles to my right and mountains on my left, some still with snow on, the scenery was pretty fantastic.

Skye looking good

Skye looking good, with Raasay off the coast

The mild northerly wind made a few of the hills tough going around Luib and Sligachan, but I couldn’t complain about the weather. The Cuillins looked pretty impressive, dominating the centre of the island; I was glad the road mostly went around their edges.

One of the Cuillins

One of the Cuillins


 

View of Cuillins from Sligachan

View of Cuillins from Sligachan

I passed Skye’s only golf course, but was more interested in the Highland Cattle posing for photographs next to the road at one point. Loads of tourists had pulled over to take photos, so I joined them briefly. Whoever placed the cattle there could have made a pretty penny, and I was half expecting them to break into a routine, to be proceeded with a man coming round with a hat.

Posing Highland Cattle

Posing Highland Cattle

 

This one reminded me of Ludo from Labyrinth

This one reminded me of Ludo from Labyrinth

Post Sligachan I entered Glen Varrigall, and pedalled along the slightly undulating road, zoning out a bit thinking about movies including Black Hawk Down, V for Vendetta, and prompted by the Ludo-like cattle Labyrinth. I was interrupted from my musings my the roar of two Tornados flying over, practising some low level flying, which looked like fun as long as they didn’t hit any of the mountains. I guess they don’t have to contend with sheep lying in the road which must be a bonus.

Road to Portree

Road to Portree – through Glen Varragill


The A87 isn’t that pleasant a road to cycle down, despite the scenery, due to the large amounts of traffic a lot of which is heavy. You’re somewhat limited on road choice though, so I rode on, passing a Sea Eagle centre on the outskirts of Portree, as well as a meadow covered in Bluebells which looked quite striking.

Bluebell meadow

Bluebell meadow

The Sea Eagle centre may well be worth a visit, however I was keen to get to the bike shop, and would far rather see eagles in the wild; not that they had any in the centre as far as I’m aware. I reached Portree after about 2.5 hours cycling, covering 27 miles. I thought this was alright considering the hills and stops for photos.

Entrance to Portree Bay

Entrance to Portree Bay

After a bit of cycling about I found the bike shop, hidden down some stairs, however luckily there’s another way in from the coastal side which doesn’t mean you have to lift your bike up and down awkward steps. Island Cycles took a look at my back wheel, and agreed it wasn’t ideal for the bike and load I was carrying. Given I’d paid quite a bit for it, not that I had much choice given I’d been on Orkney at the time, I was determined to get some more miles out if the damned thing. Stuart managed to straighten the S buckle out of the wheel, giving it a temporary reprieve, however I’d need to keep an eye on it still. He also found a new grub screw for my rear brake pad, which would stop it slipping out if I rolled backwards with the brake on, win! So big thank you to Island Cycles.

Post the bike shop I had a quick look around Portree, and grabbed some lunch at the Granary Cafe in the town square. I must have looked a bit of a state with my oily and battered shins, grimy hands (which I proceeded to wash thorougly), plus slightly unkempt appearance, however I managed to get a seat for a bit and watched the multitude of tourists wandering about. From what I could hear there were people from France, Germany, Holland, maybe Russia, Japan and China, with regular coaches arriving to deposit more, or ferry folks away.

Portree High Street

Portree High Street

Lunch consisted of a nice chicken and bacon salad, however it was a little on the small side for a cycle tourer, with the advertised crusty bread consisting of an artfully sliced small piece of soft bread, nice but not filling. This got me thinking about opening a cycling themed bar/cafe again, with appropriately sized portions available, however it might be a bit niche. I had an emergency pork pie and snickers bar to provide additional sustenance before pedalling on.

The A87 continued up to Uig, 15 or so miles away. Despite the headwind it was an easier ride than the morning’s, with gentler hills, and I got my head down pedalling through Borve, and latterly Earlish, making Uig by 16.20. The 15 miles had taken about and hour and fifteen minutes, which again I was pleased with, legs must be getting stronger.

Looking down on Uig harbour

Looking down on Uig harbour


Uig

Uig


Uig panorama

Uig panorama

The campsite is right down by the ferry port, and suited me just fine being fairly quiet, and with a picnic table right next to my pitch – really nice to be able to sit down somewhere other than the floor sometimes. The Bakur Bar is only 200 yards down the road, and it was altogether a nice spot in the sunshine, so I started thinking about spending an extra day there. I needed a day off, having not had a totally cycle free day since setting off over a month ago. It would be good to rest and refuel, as well as catch up on my blog which was starting to fall behind (it’s still several days behind).

I had a chat with Martin the campsite owner, passing on greetings from Island Cycles whom they knew. Unaccustomed to finishing this early I set up, grabbed a shower, and got changed into ‘civvies’. It felt a bit odd wearing my other shoes again, but I was glad to justify having lugged them all this way. I normally just wear my Shimano cycling shoes, which are fine for walking around in too, the cleat being inset, but my trainers are more comfy.

Uig campsite - clouds rolling in over hills

Uig campsite – clouds rolling in over hills

Dressed and equipped with iPad, iPhone, journal and chargers, I set off for the Bakur Bar, where I spent the rest of the day catching up on emails, eating, my blog, chatting to the bar staff, and enjoying a few pints from the Skye Brewery just across the road – not many food miles on this ale, and very tasty. The bar serves good food, in decent portion sizes, has great views, and has free wifi, perfect.

Bakur Bar view 1

Bakur Bar view 1


Bakur Bar view 2

Bakur Bar view 2


Bakur Bar view 3

Bakur Bar view 3

I had buy some more space on the iCloud to upload my photos, didn’t want to lose any accidentally, and it’s quite cheap. Ended the day thinking this would definitely do for a day off, and slept very well.