We stayed overnight at a B&B just outside Oban. In the morning before we left we posed for a picture – in the rain. I was very excited! It was 3 km down to the ferry (ever mindful that we had this 3 km and 171m of elevation to ride on our return).
We were the only cyclists waiting in the rain at Oban as we watched the incoming ferry dock.
It was still raining heavily when we got off the ferry on Mull at Craignure. We cycled the 18km to Salen, where we stopped for our first coffee and cake. We prolonged our visit long enough for the rain to ease off. On again around the West coast of Mull. This is a scenic route with a few hills and a wonderful waterfall.
The views out to Ulva and the Trenish Isles were fantastic and distracted us from the hills.
What goes up must come down and we had a glorious descent down to Calgary Bay.
When we were planning this trip we ensured the schedule allowed time for relaxation off the bikes and time to explore.
We arrived at Mornish school house our overnight stop about 1500 so we had time to visit Langamull beach before dinner.
As we left Mornish the following morning it was quite dull and it rained a little on the undulating ride to Tobermory.
Tobermory was built as a fishing port in the late 18th century and is now the main town on Mull. It is a picture-postcard of a place with the brightly painted buildings along the main street to the pier.
We were there in plenty of time for our second Calmac trip across to Ardnamurchan.
Calmac operate throughout Scotland’s Hebridean and Clyde islands, stretching from Arran in the south to Lewis in the north. Operating 475 sailings per day in summer and around 350 per day in winter, they carry in excess of 4.9 million passengers per annum.
We landed at Kilchoan and made quite a long, planned detour to visit Ardnamurchan Point which lies at the Western end of the Ardnamurchan peninsula. It is the most Westerly point on the British Mainland.
Ardnamurchan Lighthouse has been guiding ships safely through the waters off Scotland’s west coast since 1849.
We were ready for our second cake stop by the time we got back to Kilchoan but Sunday closing denied us this. We slogged up the B8007 (not feeling much like James Bond) in ever increasing humidity before a quick descent to sea level at Loch Sunart. The Nadurra Visitor Centre was open and we welcomed an opportunity to escape indoors with tea and scones in front of their fire. We dripped in there for as long as possible and then completed our day with a splendid ride through Glenborrodale to the Salen Hotel.
Humidity was still high as we began day 3. Facilities for cake shopping and cafes are abundant at Acharacle but this was too early in the day even for us. We continued along the A861 undulating all the way with splendid views until we reached a flat kilometre of road along Loch Moidart. Here we discovered the first of many references in the local culture to Bonnie Prince Charlie. The seven companions who accompanied Bonnie Prince Charlie aboard Du Teillay on his voyage from France to Scotland in 1745 came from here. Our thoughts were drawn to the huge hill ahead of us that would take us into a new landscape. Through the drizzle at the crest of the hill we could admire the wonderful Sound of Arisaig ahead of us. We had to continue all the way to Arisaig before finding a cafe for coffee and cake.
We arrived at Mallaig with plenty of time to do our shopping at the Co-op. Our overnight stop at the Flora MacDonald hostel on Skye required us to self cater! The beer weighed heavy in my panniers but it wasn’t very far to ride.
We delayed our start on day 4 due to the torrential rain. Knoydart was across the Sound of Sleat but it was obscured in the low cloud. At 1000 we ventured out and were immediately soaked.
Kyle of Lochalsh provided us with Hectors Bothy and we dripped in there until the rain stopped and the sun came out. Our route wiggled its way through lovely forested, quiet lanes with glimpses of Loch Carron before emerging onto the A890 at Achmore.
Grinding slowly up the hill at Stromeferry (no ferry) we suffered our first midge attack and stopped to retaliate with our Avon ‘Skin So Soft’ spray. It seemed to work but they couldn’t keep up anyway once we were descending along Loch Carron to our overnight stop at Strathcarron.
The sun was shining as we cycled along Loch Carron to start Day 5. The first hill took us up and over to Loch Kishorn.
We were now on the North Coast 500 – Scotland’s answer to Route 66.The route runs to and from Inverness, up the West Coast and back via the rugged north coast. The route is proving very popular with motorists of all types. There were fleets of classic cars, streams of motorbikes and the dreaded camper vans. Although the route has brought much needed revenue to the Highlands it has mixed blessings. Complaints that the motorhomes do not contribute anything positive were frequent from local business. We had no intention of going over Bealach na Ba but cyclists are experiencing congested roads and the beautiful village of Applecross ‘wrecked’ since NC 500 has become popular.
Our onward route was beautiful and secluded as all the traffic was going around the coast, so we enjoyed the ride though Glensheildaig Forest to Sheildaig. Nanny’s cafe at Sheildaig on the shores of Glen Torridon was most enjoyable. Superb cake!
We ascended to the viewpoint above Loch Torridon.
Once around the head of Loch Torridon at Annat the next 30km to Kinlochewe through Glen Torridon were fantastic. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.
Our overnight stop was at the Loch Maree Hotel.
The views from the Hotel are fantastic.
We braved the midges to walk along the Loch.
One of the highlights for Ian was feeding vegetable peelings to wild deer that turn up at 1600 every day for their treat.
We had the inevitable morning shower to wake us up as we continued our journey to Gairloch. The well placed Coast Coffee Company on the pier provided a refuge for us to drip in.
The scenery was excellent as we continued our way along the North West coast of Scotland.
Our route for the day allowed for a visit to the superb National Trust Gardens at Inverewe.
Our overnight stop was at Laide and we left our bags there and rode out to Mellon Udrigle beach.
Mellon Udrigle is a stunning white sandy beach offering unparalleled views of some of the spectacular Highland mountains.
Backed by dunes and framed by rocky promontories, Mellon Udrigle is one of the most attractive pieces of coastline in Wester Ross. With clear, turquoise water and clean white sand, the beach is spectacular in itself without its stunning location. However what makes the beach really special is a distant mountain vista possibly unequalled from any low level viewpoint in Scotland. To the north east the views include the distinctive profile of Suilven, near Lochinver, taking in the mountains of Coigach, including a glimpse of the top of Stac Pollaidh. To the south east the views conclude with a glimpse of An Teallach.
Our last day of riding on the Scottish mainland took us along Gruinard Bay passing Gruinard Island infamous for anthrax testing in World War 2.
Our first climb of the day gave us a fantastic view over Little Loch Broom.
The following 15km to Dundonnell hardly required a turn of the pedals as it was predominantly downhill.
The next 26 km to Braemore junction had an ascent of 430 metres with a maximum elevation of 340 m. It was superb riding across the bleak, remote moor once we got up there.
Another long, speeding descent brought us to Corrieshalloch Gorge for a planned exploration stop.
After a testing walk (I’m not keen on high bridges) we enjoyed coffee and Malteser cake from the Gorge refreshment van and finished our mainland riding with 20km down the A835 into Ullapool.
Day 1: Craignure to Moornish Schoolhouse
Day 2: Moornish Schoolhouse to Salen
Day 3: Salen to Mallaig | Armadale to Flora McDonald Hostel
Day 4: Flora McDonald Hostel to Strathcarron
Day 5: Strathcarron to Loch Maree
Day 6: Loch Maree to Laide
Day 7: Laide to Ullapool