Day 11: Oban to Tobermory – Mull, damp but delightful and a surprise encounter

Today we only had to ride 25 miles on Mull but we chose to extend this by taking a tour around the North West of Mull making a trip of 45 miles but with 4,500 feet of ascent in the last 25 miles.

The weather was misty and damp with occasional periods of heavy rain.

The day dawned grey and wet and frankly quite uninviting. The first ferry to Craignure on Mull was at 09:50 so we had a slow gentle start to the day at the rather plush Oban YHA.

Boarding the ferry at Oban

Boarding the ferry at Oban

We boarded the Calmac ferry via the car deck where we left our bikes. Steve enjoyed a bacon sandwich onboard and after a 40 minute crossing we disembarked at Craignure.

The road north had a little traffic at first including some logging trucks. We saw a buzzard sitting on a tree by the road who seemed quite unperturbed by our passing. No engine!
The local economy here was in evidence over this stretch of road with quarrying, forestry, agriculture in the form of sheep farming mainly, and a few cows and tourism of course

At Salen we were getting ready for a banana stop before turning off the main road and bumped into John – a friend from Devon.

An unexpected meeting with John, a friend from Devon

An unexpected meeting with John, a friend from Devon

His wife and children are living on Mull at present and he is there whenever he can be. It was very nice to see him and his wife and we stopped for a chat. His wife assured us that the B8703 from Salen to Tobermory via Calgary only had one big hill on it although it did go up and down a bit. (Later in the ride we decided that this information was from a person who has only driven this road not cycled it!)

Once away from the main road the scenery was very quiet and peaceful. The colours were subdued because of the humidity but nonetheless the scenery was spectacular and full of interest

The coastal road follows the shore of Loch Na Kraal.

The coastal road

The coastal road

The road follows the shore very closely and we had fantastic views across the Loch to Ben More, Mull’s only Munro at 966m. It was shrouded in mist and very atmospheric.

A very atmospheric Ben More

A very atmospheric Ben More

Ben More dominated the scenery until the road turned north and we could see the Island of Ulva offshore. There were proper highland cattle in the fields and sheep with lambs on the moorland sections.

We were very taken with the scenery and were enjoying the ride very much. We had plenty of time to stop and absorb our surroundings and take photographs as this was a ‘short’ day. We passed through an ancient woodland covered in lichen. The road was beginning to undulate a little and we dropped down to a little bridge above which was a waterfall. One of the advantages of the rain was that it was in spate and worth stopping to look at.

Waterfall in full speight

Waterfall in full speight

The Northern segment of Mull is lower than the rest of the island rising to just over 1000 feet. The coastal road climbed away from the shore into the clouds at Cruachan Treshnish and we couldn’t see much at all. There was even a cairn at the top of one of the higher climbs. There was hardly any traffic and very few houses on this remote part of Mull. The hills were becoming quite steep and the road was constantly up and down. It reminded us of Cornwall! We thought we must be getting near to Calgary where we knew there was a cafe – then we had a road sign telling us it was another 7 miles. It was 4 hours since Steve had had his bacon butty on the ferry so we had to stop for a rather damp picnic. It was quite surprising how much food we had squirreled away in the panniers – for a rainy day!

Picnic time

Picnic time

Suitably fortified we continued along the roller coaster to Calgary. As we dropped down with views of impressive cliffs formed from lava beds we had a great view of the wonderful beach that attracts many tourists to this picturesque spot. There was also the promised cafe at the Arts Centre there and we warmed up with some soup.

It was another huge steep climb out of Calgary before we dropped down again to Dervaig. Now we had reached the ‘proper’ hill and it was very long and steep. The descent to Achnadrish was tremendous fun with several hairpins. The road had very few cars so we were really able to go for it! Then followed another huge grind up – the last one of the day – to a big reservoir on the top of the moor above Tobermory. Once again the scenery changed to desolate moorland while the narrow road twisted and turned alongside. Ultimately we began the long descent down to Tobermory which was very steep all the way down to the picturesque harbour here. The houses are all painted in bright colours but it did not do much to cheer the scene in the pouring rain.

We were soaked through but we had had such a brilliant ride. Really good fun and full of interest. Steve and I both have the ability to enjoy a physically arduous ride in challenging conditions.

Tomorrow will be drier. We are planning to catch the 07:20 to Kilchoan and then ride along the coast of the Arnamurchan peninsular up to Arisaig and Mallaig and then cross over to Skye.

The GPX file for todays ride is here.

3 thoughts on “Day 11: Oban to Tobermory – Mull, damp but delightful and a surprise encounter

  1. Andrew Woods

    While you were heading North I was training for my LeJog in July by cycling to Weymouth yesterday. It was so foggy you couldn’t see the sea from the prom! Thought of you while we were there.


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