Tour d'Ecosse Inner and Outer Hebrides and West Coast Scotland July 2016

Discussion in 'Member's Travelogues' started by Cranky Knee Girl, 25 Feb 2017.

  1. Pat "5mph"

    Pat "5mph" A kilogrammicaly challenged woman Moderator

    Cranky Knee Girl and velovoice like this.
  2. I know what you mean. I still haven't finished writing up the final 3 days on the mainland of our 2014 tour.
    Cranky Knee Girl likes this.
  3. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    I haven't written up anything about the rest of 2016
    Bealach Na Ba in a few days!
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  4. MrGrumpy

    MrGrumpy Huge Member

    Fly Fifer
    Been giving this a quick read over, you have covered a fair bit of what we toured around last year but by car :sad: . If the weather is good you can`t beat it, although the beaches on Harris are out of this world even on a dull day !! Would love to do this by bike but would need to find a willing buddy to join me no chance the wife will do it ! Might need to encourage one of my sons instead :smile:
  5. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 8 Ullapool to Gairloch Saturday 9th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 8 Ullapool to Gairloch 92km 1345m ascent
    Cumulative: 677km 7186m ascent Ferries 9 Islands 13
    I like Harris Gin too, served with a slice of grapefruit.

    On your 28th wedding anniversary you go up lots of hills, eat some nice fruit cake and get very wet again after a dry start and finish with gin. Today's plan:

    Day 8 route

    We can't believe our trip is half over already, although that's not to say it's downhill from now on. If anything we're more likely to have headwinds to cope with.

    Today is our 28th wedding anniversary. Cue more slippery slopes downhill references, and "how many life sentences is that then?" Exactly four we decide, time for a 7 year itch! Well that was after I gave Steve my card with the gorgeous picture of Seilebost beach on Harris in the sun, and he twigged it must be our anniversary as my birthday is August sometime and we got married July sometime.

    Another delicious breakfast, Waterside B&B certainly kept up it's superb impression with us. we had tasty Orkney smoked cheese, compote (which seems a competitive BnB thing with secret family recipes) to start and the oh so superb Stornoway Black Pudding as part of the inevitable "full Scottish" I rarely have the full fry up, I much prefer scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, or smoked haddock or kippers with lots of mushrooms. This is the bees knees champion of black pudding. we loved it. I think I may have had smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with mushrooms and black puddin'. I know I definitely had the latter! it wasn't all mixed together either.
    Loch Broom towards Ullapool

    We hauled our well fed bodies out of Ullapool on the main road alongside Loch Broom after absorbing the directions to the best coffee shop en route from our lovely landlord, At the top of the loch was a chuffing hill, what a surprise! We carried on chuffing as we took a right onto a much quieter minor road and saw lots of 'slow down' signs for a sportive going in t'opposite direction. Oh yes, it's the normal world's weekend again.

    The big hill after the main road wasn't as bad as we thought and we pulled over into a viewpoint, and admired the view of course, and probably ate NAKD bar #31 and/or a banana #27 as was the norm by now.
    Viewpoint after the climb up from Loch Broom. Quieter Gairloch road now.
    A nice dry bench!

    It's positively sweltering this morning, we are only wearing arm warmers and gilet as extra layers with bare legs and it's dry. We descend, and as often seems the case, we can't believe how much ascent we have done and feel very sorry for all the sportive riders going the other way. We note the signs for Dundonnell and carefully ride all the way through the village and a couple of kilometres out the other side and as instructed, there was Maggie's coffee shop a little way past the village on the edge of Little Loch Broom.

    It was a perfect stop. I think we had a toasted sandwich and home made soup then the fruit cake that hit the spot just perfectly. Lovely. The nice waitress enquired as to our route. She must have been a superb cyclist, apparently only one awful hill before Gairloch. One, she said...

    There were five awful hills to Gairloch. We knew that really as we knew the stats, well over the 100m climbing per 10km that we class as a moderately uphill day. The rain set in and we were cold and wet by the time we reached Gairloch. The scenery was great though. We had to tour up and down a bit to find our BnB not at the pretty end of town. It was OK, yes the pics on the website were accurate but a lot was missed out. Our room overlooked a garden of discarded junk, not the sea as you would presume. The owner and her family were nice enough, it was OK. But after a tough wet day it was just disappointing, Like being in someone's spare room with stuff stuffed in the wardrobe out of the way, and economy bottles of nearly finished shampoo. Sheets stinking of nasty fabric conditioner and slightly fusty. Not recommending this one!

    Oh well, we showered, wrung out our kit, set the heater to high and went out to eat. Of course we hadn't factored in it being a Saturday, we hadn't booked. Back on the bikes and down the hill, we ended up on a nettled muddy track trying a short cut in our dry evening clothes. Turned away at the first suggestion and managed to beg our way to a table at The Shieling. Excellent Cullen Skink and steak saved the day, but served with just chips and onion rings. Please give us veg! Oh well, I fell in love with Harris gin served with grapefruit. That was fruit I think!
    That is what you call a gin collection!

    It was slightly drier as we puffed our way back up to the BnB and our room that was now doing impressions of a steamy hammam.

    I'm so proud of Steve, we've had a tough few days with a few more to come and we are coping admirably, enjoying ourselves and appreciating Scotland's diversity in spite of the weather. Gairloch hasn't done it for us, but then again perhaps we didn't see the town at it's best. Most of the day was pretty good.
    The chilly windswept palm trees in Gairloch

    Touring Tips in Scotland
    1 Do not believe the coffee shop assistant, however well meaning, as to how many hills you have to come until destination!

    2 Arm warmers are your besties

    3 After 28 years your husband still isn't going to remember your wedding anniversary!
    Last edited: 28 Feb 2017
  6. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 9 Gairloch to Shieldaig - Applecross Peninsula Sunday 10th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 9 Gairloch to Shieldaig and Applecross Peninsula 85km 1176m ascent
    Cumulative: 762km 8362m ascent Ferries 9 Islands 13
    View from Shieldaig to Loch Sheidaig

    After a good breakfast, in the much nicer family kitchen of the B&B that actually has the nice view advertised, we head out. Just the warm up.4 lumps. Less ascent than yesterday. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. We won't be going over 150m, look the map says so.

    Day 9 route

    Be warned, today is a picture heavy day. A very picture heavy day. I want to drink in the scenery forever.

    Firstly a stop st the Spar as we leave Gairloch for food supplies for the day, we are good at being prepared especially on Sundays now, we are staying in a yurt tonight. Even in dreich drizzly clag the ride from Gairloch to Torridon is wild and spectacular.

    Loch Maree
    We reminisced about camping in Torridon for a few days on our honeymoon, how wild it was and still is. Spectacularly wild. How big the mountain was we tried to climb but got turned back by pea souper clag each day we tried. That will have been Beinn Eighe then.
    Towards Kinlochewe

    But I'm jumping ahead. The terrain this morning was not as bad as we had anticipated, just drizzle and midges to contend with as it was quite calm. Had to be quick taking pics! We came to signs for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve's Visitor Centre. Visitor Centre = Tea and Cake...right...must have, a given, a money making was a great visitor centre, staffed by a lovely bearded chap enthusiastic about his centre, the birds, scenery and topography/geology. We learnt about the Big 6. Ohh eck, that's rhinos and tigers isn't it? Phew, we're talking eagles and the like. This NNR was the first in Scotland, and protects an ancient pine forest plantation too. Webcams to watch the bird feeders, hides. The works. Free as well, a great resource. We took our time and enjoyed the displays. café. So unspoilt too as a result, a slurp of water and on we go to guaranteed facilities in Kinlochewe just up the road.

    Except the Kinlochewe Hotel's bar doesn't open until midday. I'm not sure if that was an every day thing or a Sunday thing but it was 11-ish and now quite damp and chilly to loiter for service. I poked my head round the door and bravely asked if there was any chance of a coffee for none residents, given there is a bunkhouse there too, but no. Oh well, Kinlochewe Post Office is open and a group of friendly bikers, of the vroom vroom sort, were clustered at a bench outside with takeaway mugs of steaming hot beverages. They had exhausted the cafe/hotel/visitor centre options too. The Post Office in these parts are usually pretty entrepreneurial, hot drinks machine and very tasty home made tray bakes from the cheerful local teenager to take away to the bench and sit huddle under the brolly (another optimistic parasol) outside. Revived somewhat from hot drink, cake and chat with the bikers we set off up the second grind of the day.

    Up to Torridon Pass
    Loch Clair
    It has taken quite a bit of detective work to remember which loch is what. Strava times and maps have helped somewhat. On and up we go, less claggy than when we were starting from this pass to walk up Beinn Eighe all those years ago.
    Beinn Eighe foothills
    Dropping down the other side, we recognise the terraced campsite on the outskirts of Torridon. On to the lake we go.
    Upper Loch Torridon
    When planning the holiday I really wanted to spend the night at the Torridon Hotel, Just go and look at the website and get a feel for the spectacular scenery and imposing architecture on their videos. However the lowest rate was £250 a night, and with dinner another £80 each. Not counting wine. It looks amazing though. Even if they had had a room at the cheapest rate when I was booking, we would feel a bit out of place. The sister Torridon Inn was a great compromise. £120 a night, can still eat in the restaurant. However I worked it we could not stay the night as the 15 day plan would not work if we were going to attempt Bealach na Ba tomorrow.
    However we worked it being there for afternoon tea, which seemed a brilliant compromise, £20 each, as a delayed anniversary celebration, also didn't pass the number crunching as I had calculated we needed to be further on than Shieldaig tonight to make tomorrow achievable.
    So we went to the Inn for lunch, it was great. We were pretty wet, it was smart, but wood and slate floor smart, walking boots at the door, plenty of people in damp clothing but we were the only cyclists. Heating on and surreally Andy Murray thrashing out Wimbledon 2016 in a heat wave somewhere the other side of the world, or it may as well have been! I had a delicious chick pea and bean cassoulet for £9. Very tasty, plenty delicious bread, warming and not too heavy for the afternoon of cycling to come but substantial enough to be my main meal today. So grateful to have some vegetables. Burger, pie, venison all superb cooking but not pretentious. I had read that the chef is the same for the Inn so win win, We had just the right amount of poshness without feeling uncomfortable. Our wet gloves steamed on the radiator and we staved off the chill that had been setting into the bones.
    Torridon Hotel

    We regretfully leave before localish boy Andy Murray wins at Wimbledon, which hopefully is not a spoiler but we didn't find out the result for a day or so. We wend our way around to Shieldaig, we loved it, a row of traditional cottages and houses, pub, café and a fabulously stocked small shop open until 4 on a Sunday. We are off to our yurt so a small bottle of whisky was purchased and a couple of nibbles to complement our picnic dinner. Excellent. There was a short discussion about options. In theory we could miss out the Applecross peninsula, and go straight across to Loch Carron if we found somewhere to stay here. That had been the original plan but I stole a day on the Hebrides to make the loop of the Applecross peninsula possible. Steve was not as keen as me. We stuck to our guns though, it wasn't raining now and we were drying out nicely.
    Shores of Loch Shieldaig

    This is the part of the day we had been building up in our heads for a while. Reports of the Applecross peninsula are of stunning wild scenery and sea views but my goodness you work to be rewarded with the huge vistas. The ups and downs from Shieldaig to Applecross are the equivalent ascent to Bealach na Ba itself, the highest road pass climb in the land at 650m. Most cyclists do the route the other way round but research said practically everyone thinks they're done and then get caught out by the brutal climbs, just long and steep enough to be very hard work, round to Shieldaig. Cottages and crofts dot the hillside, lots of space between neighbours.
    Loch Torridon
    After some explosive efforts, and passing a couple of triumphant cyclists, congratulating them as they have done Bealach and are still going, we get the lump of the day at Ardheslaig as our finale.
    Ardheslaig chuffing hill, ramps up to 15%, done.

    It doesn't look it...
    but this chuffing lump has been going on forever and
    kicks up to 15% at the top...cruelty at the end of the day!

    Rewarded with spectacular views we are now on the last few miles downhill to find a settlement called Cuaig where our Cuaig Yurt was situated, like so many settlements we never saw a sign but did find the red roofed building housing Croft Wools weaving workshop. We knew it was shut Sunday /Monday and the owners' daughter was meeting us at the house. We proceeded to walk up and down the road a bit, no house to be seen. Of course we couldn't look up directions as no phone signal and I stupidly hadn't copied and pasted them when we did have signal. nothing in sight, no passing traffic, just views, and sheep. It was getting quite late, around 6pm. It felt so good to have got those hills under our belt before tomorrow.

    I left my bike with Steve and tramped back up the hill and down a stone track and thankfully found the main house and was met by a cheerful Abi, we had found the right house, We chatted away and I returned to get Steve and bikes. Quite a rough walk back down the track with our bikes but well worth it. Abi led us over the croft land and machair to the yurt peeping it's red door in the bottom corner of the field. The midges were out, dry air but wet ground. Just look at our home for the night. Abi had filled the water carrier with safe stream water from their supply, offered us firewood for the fire pit, and showed us the toilet tent round the back. I am totally in love yet again. Really this is nicer than the Torridon. we can stay two weeks here for the price of one night in the Torridon. Value for money and total tranquillity. £25 a night. Extra £5 if you want duvets. Stunning value. Posh camping.
    Cuaig Yurt
    We had brought our sheet liners but the yurt had two z-beds, duvets, a raised floor and camping chairs.
    Yurt lush
    A raised camping gas stove and pots and pans, matches. Solar lights. We were self sufficient. so airy yet cosy and no midges inside as long as the door was kept closed.

    We are fenced in, presumably to keep the sheep at bay, and have our own gate and front lawn.
    Our fire pit to keep midges at bay

    We brewed up, having remembered to pick up tea bags, coffee and uht milk sachets from the BnB. This is the life. After our snack picnic we walked down to the sandy beach 5 minutes away through the stunning croft machair or wildflower meadow.
    Croft machair

    After damp bracken wading we opened the gate to the shoreline, the tide is in.
    Our beach 9.30pm
    Cuaig beach

    I did not want to go back, it's still nowhere near dark at 10.30. I am sorry but I am coming back here, definitely. I have to do a weaving or dying course. I have to swim in the sea, sit on the beach, barbecue, read, commune with nature and cycle to Applecross Inn to party. At some point it got dark for a couple of hours but we were toasty warm in our Gurt Lush Yurt. We have done well. That's five big days in a row. Tomorrow is the biggest yet.
    What the ribbit is she doing on my beach?

    Touring Tips in Scotland

    1 Mix up your accommodation, cheapest is often the most memorable for all the right reasons.

    2 Stash away a couple of sachets of coffee and milk from B&Bs for the self catering nights.

    3 Take time out to visit the visitor centres and learn about your environment. Don't expect a café.
    Last edited: 28 Feb 2017
  7. I love your Tips at the end of each day's account!
  8. T.M.H.N.E.T

    T.M.H.N.E.T Disc brakes - Stopping things since 1902

    Northern Ireland
    Amazing trip from reading a little of it. Will catch up later on a proper screen
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  9. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 10 Bealach na Bà from Applecross to Plockton Monday 11th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 10 Bealach na Bà from Applecross to Plockton 77km 1726m ascent
    Cumulative: 839km 10088m ascent Ferries 9 Islands 13
    Bealach na Bà or Pass of the Cattle - Highest road pass at 650m in UK

    Today is the day. The highest road pass in the UK, and we start from sea level, from Applecross, the easy way up....ha ha ha ha. Well it would have been harder the other way so it was easier. The "Ride with GPS" route below shows the topography, it makes the vicious lumps after Strathcarron look like pimples! Our 6th big day in a row.

    Day 10 route

    We sadly said goodbye to our fabulous yurt. Just everything about our yurt, it's situation and the perfect location to divide up the Applecross peninsula into manageable chunks characterised what this tour is all about. The Applecross Inn is booked solid months in advance, so we were disappointed not to be able to stay there but it did mean we had a 15km warm up before hitting "The Bealach."

    Well we had a 15km cool down, it was wet and cold and claggy. After a light breakfast at the yurt we had decided a coffee and cake stop was allowed so early on as we doubted there would be any more cafes for a long time. We polished off the "commute" and were mightily relieved that the Applecross Inn was open in the morning for coffee, and the heating was on. The Garmin showed an average temperature of 10 degrees today. The date is 11th July!

    Applecross is as deserted as you can get on UK mainland. You can come in on the Shieldaig road we had followed from Torridon, or up n over Bealach na Ba...the Pass of the cattle. Not surprisingly the latter route is shut for a lot of the winter. Today it's high summer.

    Bealach Na Ba on a foul day it was ...winter clothes, hi viz, lights, the works.
    10km of uphill ahead
    Plenty going on in Applecross, not sure why the Wester Ross Trail is out to sea!
    The Applecross Inn's sunny beer garden
    Poor Doris, she looks exhausted and we haven't started yet!

    We have read that this is the toughest and wildest climb in Britain. The hype is true. The majority of roads in Scotland's follow the valleys as there's no need to climb the mountains but the road links the village of Applecross with the rest of the world by taking the route over the top of Bealach na Ba, 2000ft or 650m.

    One final glance back at a glimpse of the Isle of Raasay with Skye hidden behind
    Going on up...

    Well, the good bit about the weather meant it was relatively quiet traffic wise, we had read that the pass was a lot more popular with the recent North Coast 500 marketing. Cars were considerate, and patient. Motorbikes waved. We settled into a plod, granny gear all the way We stopped as we needed too, we were not going for heroics. The aim was to get up and down without injury. Especially given the weather. This is adventure cycling. Nothing to fall back on but our bodies and our bikes.

    At one point a descending black immaculate Mercedes with tinted glass waited for us to pass. The driver's window was down and we nodded and said our thanks and he smiled broadly and asked very kindly if we were OK. The chap in the passenger seat was also concerned, as were their smiling wives in the back, in immaculate saris and jewellery, all so incongruous in such wet horrible and muddy conditions. They could have been going to a wedding, but were on a weekend break from Glasgow and asked if they could get tea anywhere. We had a lovely chat for a few minutes, they really were so concerned about our welfare (and/or state of mind I expect!) We gave them directions for tea and said our goodbyes and thank yous for their concern and offers of a lift.
    and up and up and up
    The weather deteriorated even further, we paused on one particularly steep bit and unable to see what was coming we did walk 100-200m when the gradiant was circa 15%. Looking back now I reckon I could have ridden it if I'd known it didn't go on for any longer, I may have psyched myself to stay on the pedals. However, this was really a pretty daft idea for Steve to be attempting so I didn't push it. It was a team effort to get us both to the top in one piece. In fact the double car park/halt at the top came as a surprise to me. The disorientation of the thick cloud meant we never had any idea how much further other than knowing it was about 9km on the Garmin and I deliberately didn't look at that.
    Trig point summit Bealach na Ba, no we couldn't see the view.
    Our bikes huddling up to keep warm at the summit
    The viewpoint...really! ...and down we go. this was not a respite, nor was it fast.
    Bealach na Ba down toward Tornapress and Strathcarron
    ...gravelly wet road surface and hairpin bends, at points it is 20% with crash barriers.
    Loch Kishorn finally comes into view

    We literally inched our way down, hands freezing and locked from hanging on the brakes. my brakes were very worn by the bottom. I get carpel tunnel syndrome at the best of times so I could not feel anything by the time the road started to level. It was pretty extreme conditions and we were envious of anyone with the luxury of time who could afford to wait a day or two for better conditions.

    We halted just before Tornapress, which is not much more than a bend in the road. Looking back were the warning signs about how steep, bleak and narrow the road to Applecross was. A massive sense of relief that we had come to no harm and a (still ongoing whilst writing this 3 months later) sense of achievement that we did it, aged 50 with panniers and health conditions, with very little walking, in horrendous weather. Steve decides he would rather have just popped across the road from Shieldaig, he gives me a look when I suggest we need to come back another time, on a nicer day and do it from this side. I think that's a solo trip then!
    Fish Farming Loch Kishorn
    Slight problem in that the lovely looking Bealach Café in Tornapress was firmly shut. Yes it was July, it shuts one day a week. On a Monday. Our luck was in though, the next establishment of any kind we came across was the Kishorn Seafood Bar On a normal day a plate full of seafood would have done me, but today we needed hot carbs. Seafood filled baked potatoes and pints of tea hit the spot. We literally sat on the radiator. We realised later we had been very lucky, this place is, quite rightly, loaded with food awards, and probably large queues on nice school holiday days. We took our time but the inevitable could not be put off any longer. Back out we went, but it was a little drier than this morning.
    Through Strathcarron, a huge place with a bank and a zebra crossing, and the road follows the famous railway line heading to Kyle of Lochalsh. Our addled brains think "this is great" Railway lines are flat aren't they? A nice saunter down the shores of Loch Kishorn to our BnB for the night in Plockton.
    Towards Plockton
    When booking our B&B the owner said at the time that if we were tired we could hop on the train at Strathcarron, and off at Plockton. "It's only 25km" I thought at the time, easy if we have done Bealach I remember thinking. The road does not follow the railway line all the way, at intervals it turns left, bolts straight up a 15% hill then comes down again. Mean railway for not sharing their tunnels with us!

    It was knackering, not nice rolling ups and downs where your momentum powers you up half the ascent. I managed every single one without walking. That train idea wasn't so daft after all. Eventually we roll along a minor road into Plockton, noting the steep ascent we are going to have in the morning!

    I had wanted to come back to Plockton, I remembered coming here for a day visit aged about 9 on a camping holiday, we were probably staying in Glencoe. It certainly is still a picture postcard fishing village with a perfect row of quaint cottages, more palm trees and lots of artists in residence. I'll let the pictures do the talking.

    Competitive Plockton Strip Gardens
    We cycled past the cottages, and I thought I had booked a B&B down here, as it was advertised with a sea view. It turned out we were up the hill, in a very good B&B but it lacked character, a modern semi on an estate but the owners couldn't have been nicer. We could see the sea, and the lovely landlady let us use her washing machine for our smelly kit (we did pay her extra for that kindness), and it was good value for £60 for the night. Just a little bit suburban though after our lovely yurt last night and the wild adventurous day we had had. Our land lady also sweet talked a table for us at The Plockton Inn, in retrospect it would have been good to stay there too. We wandered down to the harbour and look who met us at the door.
    Stained glass at The Plockton Inn

    We had another fabulous meal. I had the starter seafood platter and then a delicious aubergine and tomato curry cooked to perfection. After dinner we wandered along the front and called in at the Plockton Hotel for a nightcap. Well I am blonde, we had been up Bealach Na Ba in a Whiteout so we qualified!
    The ales sum up our day in the Plockton Hotel

    A wander back to our B&B and we crashed. We were exhilerated and exhausted and secretly quite looking forward to a flat 50km rest day tomorrow, over the sea to Skye.

    Touring Tips in Scotland

    1 Do not doubt your abilities.

    2 The big stand out ascent of the day is not necessarily the hardest.

    3 Build in "escape points" to your route for peace of mind in case of accident, illness or most likely severe mechanical problems, especially if limited by time. We could get back to Ardrossan via train if need be from Oban (passing through twice), Strathcarron, Kyle of Lochalsh or Mallaig. We didn't have to test out the escape plan fortunately. There is also a bike bus from Ullapool to Inverness that we didn't know about but could also be very useful.
    Bored Man, sotkayak, Scoosh and 5 others like this.
  10. NorthernDave

    NorthernDave Never used Über Member

    Loving this travelogue and looking forward to the next updates.

    Plockton is a lovely place - and it was home to Hamish Macbeth too!
    Cranky Knee Girl likes this.
  11. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 11 Plockton to Armadale - Isle of Skye Tuesday 12th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 11 Plockton to Armadale - Isle of Skye 51km 638m ascent
    Cumulative: 890km 10726m ascent Ferries 9 Islands 14 Bridge 1
    The Skye Bridge

    After Bealach na Ba yesterday, it's just a short trip to Skye today, that should be easy. A rest day really.

    Day 11 route

    The Original Skye Boat Song

    Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing
    Onward! the sailors cry
    Carry the lad that's born to be King
    Over the sea to Skye

    Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar
    Thunderclaps rend the air
    Baffled, our foes stand by the shore
    Follow they will not dare

    We last visited Skye, in the Inner Hebrides, in May 1989. I remember the date as we were expecting our first daughter in the November and we finally climbed Inaccessible Pinnacle, or more fondly In Pinn, in the Black Cuillins, on a Bank Holiday weekend when 4 months pregnant. We had had several failed attempts the week we were in Glenbrittle on honeymoon in 1988, when the Cuillin ridge had been shrouded the entire week. We abseiled off the top in a blizzard. Our friends had a dog and I think they thought I'd stay with the dog and wimp out of the climb! We definitely had to wait for the ferry from Kyle of Lochalsh to Kyleakin then.

    We're not planning much on Skye this trip as it seems the roads are pretty busy and it's more of a mountaineering island than a cycling island. Well really there just wasn't time to do everything.
    Black Cuillins

    This was our other scheduled short/rest day(Vatersay was the other) after the exertions of the last 3 days especially. My stomach doesn't feel good, I have to stop before we get out of Plockton. We plod along to Kyle of Lochalsh, I'm not keeping up with Steve but great views towards Skye and the Cuillins.
    Cuillin Ridge, Skye.
    We weave along the coast towards Kyle in very dull and drizzly weather.
    Plockton and Kyle Free Church
    Before reaching Kyle of Lochalsh proper we stopped at the grottiest of grotty shops to try and buy something for dinner, we turned the corner and ran into a huge Co-Op...that never used to be there either! Thank goodness, bought some light food that I thought I may be able to stomach. Today I was not feeling the love and just wanted to get it done. It was midday already and only 10km under our belts. Today we are not cyclists.
    Lochalsh Hotel and Skye Bridge
    The Skye bridge was infamous for being the most expensive toll mile in the whole of Europe. Opened in 1994, the toll was £11.40. After serious local revolt, and prison for some, the toll was abolished in 2004. Since 2008 tolls on all bridges in Scotland have been abolihed. We flog over the bridge in the traffic towards Broadfoot and take a hanger left towards Sleat, Skye's southern peninsular. It's quite bleak moorland, and it didn't feel flat like the map contours said. it was nice and quiet though.
    Heading from Broadfoot towards Sleat

    I was making a right dog's dinner of today. It genuinely felt every kilometre was hard fought, there was a stiff headwind. It dried up enough to wander down to the shore of Loch nan Dubhrachan (isn't Stava wonderful for looking up places on your route!) Wander was more of a 'bog trot' trying to avoid wet feet! We huddled on a tussock for a while and I ate my Co op falafel salad hoping it would settle my stomach. I knew I had to eat something otherwise I would flake even more! I think a small snooze may have ensued. it really was a hard day to motivate ourselves.

    We roused ourselves and pushed on to Armadale, our destination. Past the Clan McDonald Centre where after seeing very few cars there were suddenly coach loads of tourists. We're not tourists of course, ha ha! We flew down into Armadale and turned towards the pier. I really thought we would either do a loop of Sleat peninsular or push on to Aird of Sleat and back at least to extend our day. We didn't want to. So we didn't.
    Cal Mac steaming into Amadale from Mallaig
    It was dry enough to sit outside, the sun peeped through very briefly. Steve pretended he was on holiday and had his first (and only) ice cream! I had a latte and shivered. Just not me at all!
    Coffee and ice cream at Armadale pier
    The Flora Macdonald Hostel was not in Armadale, we had passed the turn 5km before ...aggh. Another sodding hill. But that was nothing. we turned off the road towards the hostel and the track ramped up and up, no wonder, it says 22% at one point. Yes we walked that bit and eventually found our hostel. It was (almost!) worth it. Great setting and it was relatively early, about 4.30pm. We had our own bunk room again, sharing a kitchen with two other rooms. Elderly hostellers we are. A spot of bike maintenance, and the day's lycra washed and blowing in the breeze rather than festering in front of convector heaters. Large mugs of tea. What a lovely view towards the mainland. Tonight we had fresh tortellini and tomato sauce with a packet of grated parmesan. Never did instant co op food taste so good, well I could eat it and not feel ill. Knitting may have happened! It was a very good hostel.
    Bike maintenace
    View from Flora Macdonald Hostel near Armadale
    A totally gratuitous shot of Doris (my bike) enjoying the flowers
    Weather watching
    Rest day ha ha...I made a right dogs dinner of that. I think we're feeling the last three days eventhough nothing aches.
    Don't scroll further....

    My stupid burnt legs
    Today I rode in shorts, but I didn't have any suncream on (I always put factor 50 on when riding in shorts, even in the rain). It was overcast and 16 degress max. The sun was shining briefly later on. I burnt, and I was quite sore in the evening. Just as well my legs are revolting at the best of times!

    So a belly ache and burnt legs day. Again we were incredibly lucky that illness stuck on a day when it could be coped with. Tomorrow is another big day to the mythical Ardnamurchan peninsular. Not sure at the moment if I can do it.

    Touring Tips in Scotland

    1 Listen to your body, and always wear Factor 50.

    2 The most awful of climbs nearly always results in a view to drink in. What a reward.

    3 Tomorrow is another day.
  12. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 12 Armadale to Ardnamurchan Wednesday 13th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 12 Armadale to Ardnamurchan 98km 1900m ascent
    Cumulative: 988km 12626m ascent Ferries 10 Islands 14 Bridge 1
    Finally, a Highland Coo or two.

    Day 12 route

    No more of these wishy washy taking it easy "rest" days. Back to bumpy lumps today.Before we whizz back down to Armadale we say good bye to the horses in the field next to Flora Macdonalds Hostel, we left by 7.45 to catch the 8.30 to Armadale - Mallaig Cal Mac.It's been a few days since our last ferry, this is Ferry #10. We buy another Hopscotch ticket, this time Hopscotch #7 for the princely sum of £8.90 each for three ferries on Skye and Mull today and tomorrow.
    Horses at Armadale's Flora McDonnald Hostel

    The Skye to Mallaig ferry was uneventful, and thankfully I was feeling fine today. Today there were a lot of sharp ascents, starting in Mallaig. The first few miles were along the A830 aka "The Road to the Isles" from Fort William to Mallaig. It wasn't very pleasant with traffic, even though it was light we were not used to whizzy cars and lorries and were relieved to turn off at Lochailort onto country bumpkin roads again, even if a side trip to our old haunts in the Glencoe area and cycling across Rannoch Moor would have been appealing. Another time. We were much happier. Back to our own private roads with the odd local friendly van, car or tractor/quad bike. It's not raining!
    Ardnamurchan geology
    Loch Ailort

    We came across a great looking community shop and cafe in Glenuig, at the start of another ruddy great long hill! As is the norm in the Highlands the opening hours were limited, and seemed to alternate afternoons and mornings. Of course Wednesday was an afternoon day, and it was well and truly morning. We're good at hitting closing time. so a quick diversion to the pub in the village for a coffee, and again it wasn't open until midday. No coffees before the big slog up Glenuig Hill. Steve has commented that I'm cruel taking pictures of him expiring at the top of hills so I am just taking descending pics today...
    The whizz down the big hill that was Glenuig Hill

    We were in our stride and just beginning to get peckish after another serious climb and descent we came across a restaurant utterly in the middle of nowhere just after Dalnabrek. Mingarry Park is a recently modernised resto with rooms near Acharacle. Home made soup and a roll and a panoramic view of the hills, a great place for lunch and it looked a lovely place to stay too.
    Watching a stag from our lunch table

    We watched a stag whilst we ate.
    It was very fortunate we had found a good substantial lunch as the hills kept on coming at us, In fact this was our hilliest day of the whole tour, nearly 2000m in total said Strava, although Ride with GPS had said only 1500m when planning. It got a bit warmer and the sun peeked out as we passed through Acharacle, yet another sharp hill before flying down into Salen.
    Loch Sunart
    Oh my goodness never come here, it's stunning. Very hilly but the ride along Loch Sunart is jaw dropping. It may have helped that the weather has improved and I took my arm warmers off this afternoon. Just look. It was one of those days that got better and better and better.

    Steve had stayed in the Salen area in a cottage for a childhood holiday and it was coming back to him although he couldn't remember exactly where he had stayed. We went up and down, round the headlands, watching the odd boat in Loch Sunart with Mull in the distance. The biggest hill of the day is yet to come. We brace ourselves coming through Glenbeg. We're going on up again. Another alpine style climb contouring Ben Hiant.

    But this was our reward. Spectacular views towards Mull and only 10km to go, mostly downhill.

    Delightfully named Loch Mudle

    At last...the descent to Kilchoan
    which was fast

    and fun, and we deserved it!

    The usual faffing around finding our B&B in Kilchoan, another one we booked through Sawdays and we had high hopes for and boy we were not disappointed. We had made a couple of phone calls during the day to change our time for dinner, as we were eating in. So convinced it would be well gone 7 before arriving it was in fact just 4.30pm. We had made good time and immediately got a ribbing from David, the owner, who met us effusively and said we obviously had not done enough miles and perhaps we would like to visit the famous Ardnamurchan lighthouse before afternoon tea! Meall Mo Chridhe is a gorgeous ochre farmhouse on a small holding, up the last steep pull of the day that I gallantly did not walk up. David and Stella have done an amazing job converting and modernising their farmhouse, and kept the smallholding running alongside the top notch but homely B&B and finally I got to see lots of highland coos or cows. I already knew I never wanted to leave and we hadn't been inside yet.

    This is David and Stella's home, the drawing room is their living room, lined with hundreds of climbing, history and cookery books and David reckons there are only a handful of days a year he doesn't lay a fire. All guests love a fire, and it was lit later on even though it was a fine day! After making sure our bikes were safely under cover in the trailer, and a shower, we were spoilt with tea and cake (not advertised as being included so even nicer a surprise) and Stella obligingly shifted dinner back to an earlier time. Nothing is too much trouble for these two. Stella used to run her own catering company in the Midlands, and she is an astounding cook.
    Lord of the manor...not!

    We had booked the cheaper attic quarters, with no view but still with our own shower room, incredible value for money. The room was lovely, charmingly a grown child's room, with bookshelves like our own daughters at home and a raised bed under the eaves, but the price difference nearly paid for dinner and we slept like logs. The main B&B rooms were stunning, and I would come back to one of these tomorrow for several days to explore properly. Staying in a stunning BnB in Kilchoan opposite Tobermory on Mull. Drop dead gorgeous.
    Meall Mo Chridhe

    Stella cooked a superb dinner, her take on a tagine. Wine is BYO, and David had even nipped to the local shop as it was going to be closed if we had been any later. What service. After dinner we walked around the farm, up the little knoll at the back to the ruined chapel and graveyard.
    View from Kilchoan towards Mull, nearly 10pm
    Ardnamurchan late July evening
    A highland Cow at last!

    Lots and lots of inquisitive Highland Coos and calves

    Who are you?

    This is the last coo pic honest!

    We enjoyed the view for the rest of the evening, and had a sobering discussion with a lovely couple from Glasgow who had eaten in the village but were staying for 3 days, and now wish they'd eaten in for all three nights. We are still shocked and in mourning for the disastrous shock that is Brexit, been trying to forget about all the ramifications. nobody we know or meet can understand it. Why? We didn't let it spoil our stay and after lots of travel, exploration and mountain chat, and overheating in front of David's enthusiastic fire, we retire for a very good night's sleep in the raised bed under the eaves. We're still disagreeing as to the best day. I think today was it. The best day of our Tour d'Ecosse so far.
    Nearly 11pm Meall Mo Chridhe

    Touring Tips in Scotland

    1 Open your eyes.

    2 Drink it all in.

    3 What goes up must come down again, eventually!
    User32269, sotkayak, Scoosh and 3 others like this.
  13. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 13 Ardnamurchan to Loch Melfort via Isle of Mull and Oban Thursday 14th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 13 Ardnamurchan to Loch Melfort via Isle of Mull and Oban 64km 950m ascent
    Cumulative: 1052km 13576m ascent Ferries 12 Islands 15 Bridge 1
    A two part ride today, skirting down Mull, ferry to Oban and back down to Loch Melfort.

    Route Day 13

    We slept so well at Meall Mo Chridhe in Kilchoan and enjoyed a fabulous breakfast. Complete with more Stornoway black pudding, home made compote and home made sourdough and lovely service from David and Stella. A marvellous place to come for a few days. As ever we have a ferry to catch. no time to visit Ardnamurchan point and lighthouse Thankfully not an early ferry!

    Ferry #11 is Kilchoan - Tobermory on Mull. We already have our CalMac Hopscotch #7 ticket
    Ardnamurchan is formed from volcanic rock rings, a geologist's paradise.

    We rolled down the steep drive and down to the port and waited for the ferry, with lots of others today. Bikes loaded first and off we sail on a beautiful calm day to Tobermory on Mull.
    Kilchoan to Tobermory

    We spot Tobermory's lighthouse coming into town.
    Tobermory Lighthouse

    On disembarkation it is feeling like the Caribbean, but much nicer. Blue skies, the famous brightly painted fisherman's cottages. We're on Mull Time!
    Mull Time

    What a lovely town and what a lovely spot for a coffee. I had to fight to be allowed to have a coffee given we had a big breakfast and have done no cycling yet. You can't rush through Tobermory!
    Painted Fisherman's Cottages Tobermory, Isle of Mull
    Imagine all those yummy lobsters in those lobster pots

    Eventually we had to face it, no more delaying the inevitable, the flipping horrible hill out of Tobermory. It's always up from sea level innit!
    We made it up the huge hill out of Tobermory, so cruel as the first miles of the day. The reward was a lingering view back to Tobermory.

    We follow the road alongside the Sound of Mull, undulating and very pleasant in the dappled sunshine. Yachts' sails glinting like a washing powder ad in the sunshine.
    Until we come to Salen. This confused me as there is a Salen on Ardnamurchan too, there are two also Tarberts, the Loch Fyne one and the Isle of Harris one. All quite close together. The famous fishing boat wrecks are a sight to see. The beautiful craftsmanship in traditional clinker boats all on display. We paused a while to take it all in, with the yachts scurrying along in Mull Sound..
    Wrecked fishing boats at Salen, Isle of Mull

    I wonder where they have been, how many tons of fish they have landed, the stories of the hard working fishermen and storms survived before their demise?

    We were quite sad that we couldn't head off towards Iona, where we spent a family holiday in the early 90s camping when our 2 eldest children were very small. It would have been amazing to have had time to explore Mull properly too.
    Salen fishing boats resting in peace, on a calm day anyway.
    Cal Mac Ferry #12 Craignure, I know because it says so on the sign ;)
    The roll into Craignure was a bit pedestrian, but the sunshine is so welcome, just warm enough to shed arm-warmers, almost a first for Steve. We were going to make the 13.40 CalMac ferry #12 Craignure to Oban and brace ourselves for Part 2, Oban to Kilmelford, back on the mainland.

    This is odd, we have been here before. If it's Oban it must mean the Seafood Shack again for a late lunch, woo hoo! It's only 10 days since we were last in Oban but it seems a lifetime of adventure since. The downside is we know we have a long long hill to grind up that we remember descending and not wanting to ride back up. That's the danger of your head. Better to have never seen than work yourself into a tizz about a hill. We've done a few hills since then, and chug our way out of Oban (having stopped off at Tesco to buy snacks and a bottle of wine for dinner) on the busier road towards Loch Melfort. We gird our loins, and various other bodily parts and chug up the 12km lump without too much bother at all. Moral of the tale, don't overthink things!

    A bit of a whoosh down the other side and we turn off at the top end of Loch Melfort towards Kilmelford and have the customary bit of fannying around trying to find Melfort House B&B. Another luxurious country house style B&B with a chef owner doing fabulous evening meals. The weather had closed in and we didn't sit outside for afternoon tea, that had been extensively advertised on the website, we had made sure we got here in time to enjoy it. Freshly baked scones or pancakes or Victoria sponge and copious tea. We knew we had earnt it. Unfortunately Matthew had been charging about in Oban on appointments and thought a bright red gelatinous Tesco cupcake would fit the bill. Um no. it was a lovely B&B and had the inclusive afternoon tea not been advertised I would not have been disappointed. There, what an ungrateful cow I am! We had the Garden Room (£100 a night B&B), and very nice it was too. Steve liked Melfort House the best. There was complimentary whisky in the bedroom, so it just shows which small details appeal to different guests and tip the scales.

    We ate in for a 4 course dinner, and Matthew certainly could cook. There were 4 other guests from the adjacent timeshare complex, so lots of stories and conversations. We can get used to this Laird of the Scottish Barronial House thing!

    Quite a tame day compared to yesterday. just a little bit morose that it's nearly all over. Penultimate day tomorrow.
    View of Loch Melfort from Melfort House B&B
    The laird

    Loch Melfort from Melfort House
    Touring Tips in Scotland

    1 Try and book more time off work to properly explore

    2 Don't build up big hills in your head that you have either descended or ridden in a car before, they're rarely as bad as you anticipate

    3 Take photos....take some more.
  14. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 14 Loch Melfort to Tarbert, Loch Fyne Friday 15th July 2016

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 14 Loch Melfort to Loch Fyne and Tarbert 58km 811m ascent
    Cumulative: 1 110 km 14 387m ascent Ferries 12 Islands 15 Bridge 1
    Elevenses in a layby. It's pi**ing it down!

    Day 14 route

    It rained, it poured. It slugged it down. You know there are over a 100 words for snow in Icelandic, there must be that many acronyms for rain in Scottish English/Gaelic Ohhh look, isn't google wonderful, take your pick from this blog. Scots: More words for rain than Eskimos have for snow

    But slugging it down isn't in there. It was slugging it down this morning. Going out in it was hard. Not far to go but a lot of climbing in the distance. A "get on with it and get it over with" day. Which was terribly disappointing as tomorrow is our last day.

    The breakfast at Melfort House was delicious, we lingered, chatted to the other guests that hadn't eaten in last night. Generally prevaricated and put off going out in the stair rods of rain lashing down cats and dogs. Nothing dreich about it at all!
    I presume it's just foxgloves we can see

    We are heading back to Tarbert, where we weren't supposed to go on our first night but needed food after Arran.

    We plod up the big hill and are very relieved to find Kilmartin Museum and Café after the summit. It was a fabulous café, being warm and dry may have warped our opinion. However, it was clean, warm, dry with welcoming staff not a bit perturbed by the puddles forming around us, with excellent coffee and cake to boot. Other visitors in dry cars agree with us too so it wasn't a warped view!

    Eventually we have to go back out, the rain hasn't eased off.
    More weather
    Unfortunately, the next bit of the day was almost the worst of the holiday. After the final climb, we were descending in torrential rain on the A816 towards Tarbert, Steve was behind me. I was being very careful and holding my line as it was a narrow A road and bendy. A lorry drew up behind, very close and started hooting and flashing me. I did not look back, I was on a bend and there was nowhere to go. As soon as a layby appeared I indicated, pulled over and carefully stopped.

    ..and I gave the lorry driver the one finger salute with plenty of gesticulation. I was quite shaken but I think he got my anger. Steve drew up alongside me, the lorry had passed him on a wider part so it was only a minute or so he was behind me being held up. Other than that incident we barely had another incident, except for incongruously highly polished white sports saloons of the Audi and Subaru variety on sections of the North Coast 500 route who all seemed to be inclined to be driving too fast/showing off. Local traffic was exemplary, battered farm pick ups, tractors, land rovers who must be sick to death of being held up always patient and smiling.
    Tarbert - The Loch Fyne one
    We roll down into Tarbert for our second visit. What a relief, a bit of a fraught day for such a short one, although still plenty of lumps. It was early afternoon.
    Loch Fyne
    Tarbert (the Loch Fyne one!)
    Just off the high street we quickly found our accommodation for the night, over the acclaimed Starfish Bistro and rooms. I had made sure to reserve a table here when I booked the room as they book up weeks in advance for Friday/Saturday nights apparently! No cycling home this time unlike our previous visit to the chippy on the first night after our day on Arran.
    A welcome spot of colour on a dank and dreich day

    We chained our bikes to the railings under cover in the alley and were shown to our room. Freshly renovated with the all important convector heater. We were so wet and so cold. Guiltily we had very long hot showers, made tea and draped our stuff around half halfheartedly to dry. We had one dry set left for tomorrow so no stomping on lycra in the shower required. No hope that our shoes would dry. Ortilieb panniers are good, and Steve's ancient leaky ones were fine when everything is wrapped in bags for life inside anyway.
    Starfish Bistro with rooms in Tarbert
    We realised the rain had stopped and having warmed up a bit we went for a stroll to buy a picnic. Good old Co op, we actually sat on a bench on the harbourside and feasted on mini Scotch eggs, the ever popular falafel salad with houmous they do, and a very extravagant box of blueberries.
    Tide's out!

    We strolled along and admired the working harbour, not prettied up for tourists but a good and honest hard working place.
    Not so sure about the oil film :sad:
    Although there was a flotilla of yachts in town for a festival, so not just a working harbour.

    The weatherbeaten colours on the boats in harbour are stunning.

    Scotia Star is obviously a hard working but beautiful fishing boat resting in her home harbour of Tarbert, Loch Fyne

    We went back to our room, unfortunately no view but we read, and knitted and looked forward to dinner, our final night.

    We changed into our evening gear, laughing at the novelty of the same outfit yet again for the 14th night in a row! It's a good job only we know that.

    Dinner did not disappoint. Absolutely superb seafood as you would expect. We had three courses and after being good all holiday and rarely photographing our food, I did. The flash was off though!

    My starter, it had to be Scallops with chilli, ginger and lime butter.
    Loch Fyne Queen Scallops with chilli ginger and lime butter

    I then had Seafood Stroganoff for main, it was delicious too. Fresh and smoked haddock and salmon, mussels and queenies in a white wine, cream and smoked paprika sauce
    Seafood Stroganoff

    Washed down with my favourite gin, Botanist from Islay. Oh and water from a recycled Botanist Gin bottle, isn't it just gorgeous?
    Botanist Gin has water in it!

    Can you get better than rhubarb and ginger crumble with proper home made creme anglaise. I almost couldn't eat it all. But I did.
    Rhubarb and ginger crumble and creme anglaise

    It was a lovely leisurely meal that made our day. Fortunately nobody was hurt in the hideous weather. Another turn round the harbour on foot after dinner to stretch and to work out where to go for the ferry in the morning. This is Scotland in July, still light at 10pm!

    Touring Tips in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter!

    1 There are over a 100 English words and phrases relating to rain. Visit Scotland and you will no doubt encounter 96.3% of them in any fortnight. I put "slugging it down" on my Strava notes for the day, not in the list so that's 101!

    2 Eat local food

    3 As long as no one is hurt it is a good day.
    Last edited: 2 Mar 2017
  15. OP
    Cranky Knee Girl

    Cranky Knee Girl Über Member

    N Somerset
    Tour d'Ecosse Day 15 Tarbert to Ardrossan via Isle of Bute Saturday 16th July 2016 THE END!

    Tour d'Ecosse Day 15 Tarbert to Ardrossan via Bute 97 km 940m ascent THE END!
    Cumulative: 1 207 km 15 327m ascent Ferries 15 Islands 16 Bridges 1
    The End...shall we get the boat to Arran and do it all again?
    Our final day. It was supposed to be a day of two halves, contrasting the Secret Argyll Coast with the industrial Ayrshire coast, which could not be avoided if we were keeping the route a complete loop, by finishing in Ardrossan where hopefully the car is still parked!

    In fact it ended up being a day of three thirds as we decided to go a bit off piste and disobey our carefully planned route properly for the first time! As we had had plenty of time yesterday we thought squeezing in another island could be fun, and were puzzled as to why the original (and as it turns out absolutely excellent and spot on about most of it's advice) guidebook we based our tour on did not do this (Cycling the Hebrides Richard Barrett Cicerone Press) I even messaged our good friends back home who had been cheering us on remotely throughout, to ask permission, and was given the green light.

    We had checked the ferry times. We were not now going all the way to Dunoon but:

    Day 15 route

    The new plan was to:
    a) follow the original route from Tarbert/Portavidie to Auchenbreck;
    b) then divert south to Colintraive and catch the ferry to Rhubodach on Bute. Complete an ad hoc circle of Bute and catch our last ferry from Rothesay to Wemyss Bay back to the mainland;
    c) our very last stint, back en route, down the industrial Ayrshire coast to Ardrossan.
    Waiting for Ferry #13 at Tarbert (the Loch Fyne one)
    We left at 7.45 to snag the 8.00 CalMac Tarbert to Portavidie, aka Ferry#13 We purchased CalMac Hopscotch 4 Bute, Cowal & Kintyre tickets for our three ferries today: Tarbert (Loch Fyne) - Portavadie (Argyll); Colintraive (Argyll) - Rhubodach (Bute); Rothesay (Bute) - Wemyss Bay (Ayrshire). Three ferries for £6.75 per person, as ever bikes are free.
    Secret Argyll Coast

    The little hop on the ferry transported us to a secret world, cut off from everywhere, it felt like an island but was the mainland. it really was lovely, even with dank and grey weather. Hey it's not really raining! A stiff climb was dispatched in a solid fashion and we followed the coast until we came to this great bike. Unfortunately there was no time to stop and actually eat King Scallops. We had only had all in one porridge (blah) pots for breakkie at 7am
    Colintraive, Argyll
    The quick pop ferry to Bute was every half hour so we hailed the 11am one. No coffee or tea available at the ferry terminal aka portakabin! Here she comes...
    CalMac Ferry #14 Colintraive - Rhubodach (Bute)
    I presume this is Rhubodach?
    Steve had had enough and wanted to take the shortest way to Rothesay. He was very happy to wait whilst I looped round the island. So we had an argument, I stamped my feet and said after all this adventure why spoil it by not doing the last day justice, and doing it on my own would really spoil it for me, a true diva moment. I got my way and he trudged along. It was, embarrassingly, at this point we came across a father/ teenage daughter pairing out for a bimble round Bute. We sort of rode with them, sharing some mixed nuts and a bit of chat.
    Ruined chapel on Bute

    OK, we made a mistake. Bute is boring. Not boring in most people's terms, but not a jot on the scenery and landscapes and wild places we had travelled. Empty but not wild, all rather tame. The top half is very flat, and the bottom half fairly flat. Brilliant for short loops and family rides. Lovely bimbling on a sunnier day.
    Off piste

    We even ended up on our only totally off piste path, basically a track across a meadow. I fell off on a tussock. The only fall of the holiday, I plopped sideways about a foot. Nobody saw so it didn't happen really.
    Pretty flowers

    Back on track and Steve put his foot down, refusing to continue to Kingarth, he was right we were running out of time if we wanted to get back to my parent's house in Penrith in sensible time tonight. We still had 30km down the coast to do, back on the mainland after a half hour ferry.

    So we looped back north alongside Loch Fad towards Rothesay. To be honest honour was done, we hadn't abandoned the day and that cut up north was decidedly lumpy. We were also pretty darned hungry by now and were dreaming of fish and chips.
    Satisfying whizz down towards Rothesay

    At least it was downhill and suddenly we were in suburbia. Not a pleasant quaint Scottish seaside town but a brash, trash down at heel tacky seaside town. There was a ferry at 1pm, we could see it pulling out of the harbour. So we had an hour until the 2pm. Fish and Chips!
    East Bute

    So there was a fish and chip shop with an Italian name. It didn't look very nice and a local outside told us it was pretty manky, or words to that description. Vague hand waving as to where there may be other fish and chip shops. Surely one every 50 metres? Very much a "past its glory" town since it's heyday in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, before Glaswegians could get cheap flights to proper sun in Spain! Strava was off, but we cycled up and down the prom, to no avail. Gave up and returned tho the Italian Chip shop in centre of town. not recommended. We bought a large fish and large chips and rode down to the ferry to share romantically. It wasn't that bad as we were so hungry we could have eaten almost anything, but oh my the grease.

    We did have an amusing exchange with a ferryman directing the cars. He wondered if we'd had a nice little ride round Bute. I told him about the rest of the tour. He looked us up and down, and grinned, and said in a very broad accent that I cannot capture on paper, "what the heck did you do so wrong to get community service like that?!" I took it as a compliment, I do not like being predictable and boring. He had us down as stark raving bonkers. Especially as he had realised the awful weather/gales the previous week that had disrupted ferries and when he found out we had done the outer Hebrides on those days he shook his head in disbelief.
    Glamorous breakfast/lunch in very last ferry queue, #15 Tour d'Ecosse Day 15 Secret Argyll Coast and Bute, Rothesay (Bute) to Weymess Bay

    Our very last Ferry #15 back to the mainland, 2pm Rothesay - Wemyss Bay. We wish we had waited and had CalMac fish n chips on the boat!

    We had only cut out 10km of the tedious but necessary coast route down the A78. 30km to go.

    Just to test our metal there was a very stiff southerly wind and drizzle trying to blow us back north. In the best peloton mode we can muster, we took turns grinding it out back down south. Through Largs, getting lost in lots of cul de sac car parks surrounding blocks of flats, tying to stay on the bike path rather than the main road. We admired the yacht club, and Hunterson A Power station and went back on the road.
    Largs Yacht Club
    Industrial Argyll Coast it certainly is

    The last 20km was the longest 20km ever. we made it, into Ardrossan, riding along the road we had driven exactly two weeks earlier. It was pretty emotional. We had made it. It seemed like months and minutes since we caught that first ferry. We had not suffered any injuries, our hearts and knees had made it.

    Round the corner, and along the last few metres to the end of the line at Ardrossan ferry terminal for Brodicck. The ferry was in, jaws wide open, loading for the trip to Arran. Yes I would have boarded and done it all over again. We detoured to the loo, bought a takeaway cup of tea in the terminal and took the cheesy end of trip selfie.
    Cheesy selfie again

    Tour d'Ecosse finished at 4.20pm. The car was still in the dodgy car park alongside. Frozen we shovelled panniers into the car, took quick release wheels off with frozen hands, upended the bikes into the back and pounced on clean dry warm clothes left in the car, shamelessly changing in the car as a run to the terminal would have meant the dry clothes would get wet.

    We still did a 100km and 1000m today, and after 1200km and 15000m can mention we had no punctures whatsoever and the only ongoing mechanical was Steve's bearings grinding that got worse and worse. Two days later his back wheel gave up the ghost on his 2km commute to work. How lucky were we?!

    We drove south, caught up in the tail end of the Troon British Open traffic, back in the hurly burly world. Crossing back into England the sun was out and the temperatures were over 20 degrees. What a shock. Back to mum and dad's in Penrith, contemplating not getting on our bikes tomorrow. It was strange. I just wanted to keep on going.
    Mum's garden in Penrith

    Touring Tips in Scotland, or anywhere else for that matter!

    1 You can do it.

    2 Be ambitious, take advice, but be your own ultimate guide as to how much you can achieve.

    3 Ride sensibly, accidents scupper everything.


    We did it. Even more amazingly I have finally finished writing it all up on the blog.

    1200km and 15000m Steve finally had his heart expert exercise physiology appointment at Bristol Heart Institute in September, the one we had been hoping for before the trip. The doc just said "listen to your body, be able to talk whilst exercising" and he wished more of his patients had our approach. Turns out he was "an ageing slow triathlete" in his words, so he "got it". Steve had a Type A aortic dissection in Jan 2015, the reason this trip didn't happen last summer.

    This year we are trying to decide between (all two weeks):
    The Upper Danube (flat and dry and warm) Steve's vote!
    The Wild Atlantic Way up the west coast of Ireland (wet, lumpy, windy and wild!)
    LEJOG Land's End to John O'Groats. I Got the Cicerone guide out of the library and a route I had had no interest in at all is now appealing. To explore over two weeks and not sprint.

    Never mind New Zealand dreams!!
    Bored Man, sotkayak, Crackle and 5 others like this.
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