Mull, Ardnamurchan, Lismore - 2009
Ardnamurchan, Lismore, Oban (54 miles) - Thursday, 16 April
It was cold overnight with clear skies and slight wind. At around 3.00 am I got up and was shocked and utterly overwhelmed when I looked up, I nearly fell over with dizziness. With no moon, the star strewed sky shone with wall to wall constellations cut through by a crystal clear milky way - spectacular.
Another lovely morning, the sun woke me up.
Having washed, eaten and packed up, I was underway again into the headwind. After a few miles I was in Salen, a very pleasant village nestling in a small bay. A short while after, I stopped at the Resipole Caravan and Camping Park to buy water at the shop. This was a lovely spot with fine views up Loch Sunart. The nice lady seemed surprised when I went back in for a second time for yet more water, thirsty work in the sunshine.
The coast road continued up and down over intermittent nice new tarmac, paid for it seems by the European Union. The next stop was Strontian. I pulled round to the visitor centre which had a cafe and ate full breakfast on the veranda in full glare of the sun. It was so hot that I had to move round into shadow to prevent being roasted. Strontian seemed a nice place with white painted houses set in gorgeous scenery.
Back into the wind with more ups and wind killed downs. Then a long run took me past the head of the loch, up and over Glen Tarbert. A long pull up to the cattle grids at the top provided another panoramic viewpoint up and down the valley. Unbelievably I had to peddle down the other side, wind speed friction narrowly winning out over gravity. Back down at the coast, it was a real battle to keep forward momentum and round at Corran Ferry I sheltered from a howling gale behind the pub wall whilst waiting for the ferry.
The odd shaped ferry with diagonal offset ramps came across the narrow sound and disgorged its load. I boarded the boat behind a queue of cars and wandered around during the short crossing, the bike and I crossed for free! I pushed the bike up the boat ramp and up the footpath to the A82, now the wind would be behind me.
The southbound A82 thundered with traffic, slightly disturbing after the relatively car free single track roads of Ardnamurchan. With four miles to Ballachulish Bridge, I took it steady before receiving the unlikely help of roadworks. They were operating a time consuming convoy system which created long clear gaps between traffic streams. A high vis clad worker waved me through on the pavement and I reached the bridge on the relatively empty A82 having been caught by only two car convoys.
photograph - Ballachulish Bridge
I turned onto the quieter A828 which swung back round under the bridge. I felt the wind propelling me forward down the coast and it didn't seem long before I reached Appin House and then the turn to Port Appin. Two miles or so later I stopped at the shop for provisions and water. The road narrowed and came to an end at the dock at the bottom of a slope. I dismounted before venturing onto the windy pier. The small ferry 'Lismore' was tied up and the crew helped me put the bike on board.
A short choppy crossing later I was on the Isle of Lismore. As I cycled south on the single track road, I considered whether to stay overnight on the island or make for the Oban ferry. The ferry man had 'invited' me to a concert at the community hall featuring 'North Sea Gas' which was tempting. On checking the ferry times, I calculated that I had about 40 minutes to reach the ferry, so off I went.
A number of climbs later, I reached the turning to the port and ran down to the slipway. The ferry 'Eigg' was just arriving, so it was only a short time before I was pushing the bike onto the third ferry of the day. 50 minutes later, Oban hove into view and my short bike tour was over. I was surprised to have arrived a day ahead of plan, five ferry crossings and 140 miles cycled in two and a half days.
Cycle touring with a tent is a marvellous way to travel and I would recommend this route to anyone. The highlight was the road south west along the northern shore of Loch Na Keal in the morning sunshine, a truly unforgettable and awe inspiring touring bike experience.
View more photographs from the trip.