Great days ride covering 69 miles, with some tough hills but beautiful scenery.
13 June 2013
It was a bit bit weird waking up in a bed, and I was momentarily confused as to where I was without the familiar tent canvas not far for my head. I’m calling it canvas, but I suppose it’s not really, some kind of synthetic material that I’m very thankful keeps the wind and rain out – Akto working very well so far and I’d be back in it this evening.
I had breakfast downstairs, including several rounds of toast which was delicious, before packing up and heading off. I enjoyed one last shower before leaving, as I knew I had some wild camping coming up and wasn’t sure if I’d have a campsite that evening or not; depended on how far I got.
After dropping off my key at the backpackers plus reception, getting back my £10 deposit, I headed to Nevis Cycles which I’d found yesterday, and had already contacted via their sister shop in Fort William. I dropped my bike in with Darren to get the rear cassette changed, and a few things tightened and tweaked. I needed to get the cassette changed as it was looking pretty worn after so many miles, which was causing the chain to slip about a bit. Darren noticed my rear wheel hub was slightly the wrong size (130mm rather that 135mm), but said it should be fine given the steel frame – a bit of a relief as I really didn’t want to have to buy another new rear wheel so soon.
Leaving my bike in the operating theatre for a bit I walked down to the harbour front and enjoyed a hot chocolate before having another wander about. Thankfully there were no bagpipes this morning, just quite a few interesting shops and nice places to eat – I was half tempted to spend another day in Oban.
I headed back to Nevis Cycles about 11.30, and had a good chat with Darren who definitely knows his stuff, and gave me a few tips. He’d also replaced a dodgy cable and toed my rear brake in a bit to stop it squealing which was a bit a of a win. We talked about touring for a while, and potential other plans for routes. I’d really recommend to anyone capable, which is most people, to get on your bike and head out into the countryside, whether it be for a few hours or for several months. You see, smell and hear so much more than in a car, as well as meet more fantastic people. It’s also great to stop in at bike shops and have a chat with like minded individuals as you pass through.
Bidding Oban a fond farewell, or should that be ‘au revoir’ as I intend to return, I pedalled off on the revitalised Ridgeback, up a long hill on the road to Campbeltown, although that was still a long way off. After a few ups an downs on the A816, I turned on to the B844 at Kilninver, and cycled to the Bridge over the Atlantic where I stopped at the Tigh-An-Truish Inn, on Seil Island, for lunch.
I’d been to the Tigh-An-Truish Inn a few years before, with my parents, and wanted to go again despite it being a 10 mile dead end detour. It was well worth it with a great vegetarian lasagne and garlic bread consumed vigorously. Nice to have a chat with the owner and say hello to the pub dog too.
When I left the pub there were a couple of French camper van tourers inspecting my bike, which seems to be a common theme. I had a brief chat with a local who wished me well, liking the fact I was losing track of time and space slightly. May also be losing my sanity at some points too.
The area around the bridge is really pretty, especially in the sunshine, with some lovely flowers and a small anchorage area amongst the surrounding hills. Apparently locals used to change back into their kilts at the bridge and Inn as they crossed back to the island, when kilts where outlawed on the mainland. Another place to come back to at some point.
I rode back up the big hill to the main road from Seil Island, over the bridge, and turned south towards Loch Melfort. I am familiar with the area anyway, having been on holiday with my parents up there a couple of times; they have a lovely timeshare in Melfort Village.
After quite a long climb, and a lovely descent through pine forest which smelt gorgeous, I arrived in Kilmelfort and stopped at the general store to buy a few supplies, including bread, chocolate and smoked sausage! I remembered it was father’s day coming up, so bought a card and posted it from the store, which as is the case with a lot of village stores in Scotland doubles as a post office; don’t see that so much in England anymore.
I took a quick detour down the road to Melfort Village, to remind myself what it looked like. I’d forgotten how bumpy the road is though. Passed a lovely garden that I remembered from previous visits.
I cycled around the village and past the Shower of Herring Inn, which looked like it was still going strong. There was quite a lot of activity in the village, with lawn mowing and gardening going on. I’ve noticed a lot of lawn mowing and strimming as I’ve passed through Scotland, must help keep the midges down a bit.
Next up I followed the A816 around the coast and up a couple of really big hills, which were thankfully followed by lovely long descents. I arrived in Kilmartin and stopped for a break. The village is at the top of a hill and overlooks a valley where you can see prehistoric cairns. The sun came out and brought everything to life, so was a great view.
I had a look around the medieval church, and carved stones in the graveyard which are worth visiting.
I stopped in at the hotel for a pint, and had a chat with the barman who new of a few campsites in the area. I wasn’t sure where I’d stop, but decided to head towards Kilberry. If I didn’t make it that far I could always wild camp somewhere. Also had a chat with a Canadian lady just off the plane, and on a tour of Scotland for a few weeks. She was a bit jet lagged and not quite at home on the roads as yet, but I gave her a few tips on Skye.
Kilmartin must have been an important place for centuries, judging from the number of cairns around, and the medieval artefacts.
Under patchy cloud I rode south, turning on to the B8025 down to the Crinan Canal, which I rode alongside for a bit counting at least 13 lochs. The canal provides a short cut for boats going from one side of the long peninsula to the other, rather than having to go all the way around the Mull of Kintyre. It’s also a very pleasant ride, and there’s a cycle path you can use.
After a nice ride alongside the canal I turned back on to the A816 and cycled past Lochgilphead, somewhere I’d be returning to in a couple of days time, all being well. I passed through Ardrishaig, which was bigger than I expected, before turning on to the B8024 to get to Kilberry.
The B8024 road surface is a bit shoddy, to say the least, which made the longest ascent of the day pretty demanding on tired legs and aching wrists. I was keeping my fingers crossed that there was still a campsite in Kilberry, as the barman’s advice from the Kilmartin Hotel was based on 20 year old knowledge. If the worst came to the worst I could wild camp, but it’s nice to get a hot shower. I finally made it up and over the top, passing a loch, before beginning a long and winding descent.
With a South Westerly wind gathering in strength I was keen to get to the campsite sooner rather that later, so I pedalled on past Achaheish feeling a bit chilly despite the sunshine. A group of photogenic highland cattle didn’t look very cold.
I rode alongside Loch Callisport, which it’s small sandy beaches looking quite inviting. If it had been a bit warmer, actually scratch that a lot warmer, I’d have been tempted to have a swim.
At Ormsary I passed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sitting in a garden, a little odd. It was quite a long way around to Kilberry, and I lost track slightly of where I was on the map. I passed the Port Ban campsite thinking I was still some way from the town, so I rode on expecting there to be another site in Kilberry. I reached Kilberry about a mile later, passing a sign to some sculpted stones which I’d visit the following day. With more pressing matters on hand I popped into the village inn to check where the nearest campsite was; it had been the one at Port Ban. So as not to appear impolite I stopped for a beer in the Inn, a brew from Orkney, and chatted to the owner for a bit. It’s more of a restaurant than a pub, and the food smelt delicious. I was sorely tempted to eat there, but it was a little pricey and I had stuff in my panniers anyway, plus I really needed to get to the campsite and get my tent set up.
On aching legs I rode back to Port Ban, thankfully not having to contend with any more hills – the bike was beginning to feel very heavy. I arrived at the big site about 21.00, and pitched up post finding the manager Tom who was out running. I bumped into him on the road but declined the invite to join him for a run this instance. The site is good, having it’s own cafe that is open during the day, but was closed when arrived, and wifi around reception. The camping field is right down the far end of the site though, and a long walk for the toilet block, although they’re in the process of building a new toilet block right next to the field. You can pitch your tent right next to the beach which is nice, and have a fire on the beach itself. It being a little late, and a bit windy still, I pitched the Akto further back, and was soon inside it.
Luckily I’d just managed to get all my stuff inside my tent as the heavens opened to a heavy shower, the first serious rain of the day. I felt very cosy in my tent, and it was very peaceful with just a few buzzards circling overhead, and no other campers aside from me this evening. There were no midges around either, it being a little too windy and right next to the sea.
I consumed a dinner of bread, cheese, smoked sausage, yoghurt and fruit, before accidentally accidentally falling asleep for an hour and a half. I think I was more tired than I realised, despite only having done 69 miles; there had been a lot of hills. I’d noticed my rear brake starting to rub a bit so I’d need to adjust that, and check my wheels, but that could it until the morning. I don’t think the bumpy roads, or track down to the campsite, had done anything for my wheel straightness today!
It was quite a chilly evening so I was happy to stay in my tent and get warm in my sleeping bag, mulling over today’s leg, and writing up my journal. I recalled that I’d started to make up my own language, inventing motivational words to utter when powering up hills. Must sound a bit odd if there was anyone around but they help. The air had been lovely and fresh and clean smelling today, and a I felt quite invigorated before falling asleep again, this time until morning.
It would be on to Campbell Town tomorrow, and the Mull of Kintyre, before turning around and heading back up the peninsula. I was half tempted to consider getting the ferry over to Glasgow and cut out some of the convoluted route, but I knew I’d regret it later if I did that. Fingers crossed for good weather.