Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Saturday, 14 July 2012

Coasting around the West - Day 2

I awoke at 6 after a great nights sleep. I'd actually left one of the tent doors open so that I fell asleep and woke up to the scenery. It's not something I'd normally do, but a combination of the better weatherproofing of the Scarp tent and a dab of Smidge before bedtime is making me a bit more comfortable about any late-night intrusions. Somewhat cloudier than the night before, the wind had also died down a fair bit and a few midges were dealt with whilst having breakfast and packing away. I was careful to pack all my "overnight" stuff in one pannier and everything I'd need for the day in another. That's just my way of having less faff when looking for waterproofs, food or other items throughout the day. 


I was on the road for 7:30, with a few other campers just beginning to stir as I made my way out. never the busiest road, this also meant I had little traffic when heading towards Lochailort. I knew that there would be a few wee climbs today so I was pleased when I dispatched the first couple with little effort and I made use of the relatively new cycle track where possible so that I could dawdle along with less care about passing vehicles. 


My first stop of the day was actually at the Princes Cairn. This is one of those Bonnie Prince Charlie locations that I've frequently passed but never stopped at until now. 
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The turn off at Lochailort was one of the points I'd been most anticipating. This part of Scotland is pretty much overlooked by the hillwalking and biking scene and I feel that's a great pity. I was looking forward to seeing it in a bit more depth. Again, I was making pretty good time - so much  so that I passed a planned stop at Glenuig as there was nowhere open. Passing Ardmolich, I was confronted by Drynie Hill, one of the wee climbs I'd been expecting. It was nowhere near as bad as I'd feared, but then not being in a hurry, I was content just to get up and over it at a relaxed pace. From the top, I could see over the (currently hidden) Loch Shiel towards the hills of Sunart, an area I'd been mountain biking in only past year. I really love being able to join up these areas in my own in-brain "map" of the world. As for Loch Shiel itself, that looked completely alien to the wilder, mountain-sided loch familiar to me from the Glenfinnan end. Down here, it's a placid, wide body of water surrounded by green pastures and where it flows out to the sea there's a lovely old castellated bridge over the slow-flowing river.  
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Acharacle follows and that's where I eventually stopped. Unusually for this part of the world, it was positively awash with tearooms and I was happy to be able to avail myself of apple pie and coffee outside to enjoy the morning.
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The next junction, at Salen, is the start of one of those Scottish cul-de-sacs, the type that go on for miles. The weird thing about this one is that, unlike the other sea lochs I'd been circumnavigating all day, I'd not be coming back along this one, with a planned stop at Kilchoan campsite and a ferry to Mull the next day. The ride alongside Loch Sunart is really spectacular. each little rise seems to bring another viewpoint and the wooded sections (globally important temperate rainforest) are particularly pleasant. If there's one thing worrying me, it's that dark clouds are gathering over my shoulder, rather belying the blue skies in front of me. 


Again, I'm making good time and I do some recalculating in my head, juggling ferry times and snack stops. As I reach Kilchoan, I've just about made my mind up. I can head to Ardnamurchan Point, eat, and still make a ferry across this afternoon. With that plan now put into action, I turn northwards for the first time in a couple of days and meet head-on the wind that had been at my back so far. This last little section of road seems to go on much longer than it should, not aided by the steep little kickers needed to get over to the lighthouse. However, once I'm there I head round for a few photos and pop into the little cafe for some food and drink. 


It's almost exactly 30 years since I was last here, previously arriving on a motorbike. It's certainly a bit more lively now, with the cafe and visitor centre and what must be the UK mainlands most westerly set of traffic lights!


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Suitably refreshed, and after chatting with various other folk making this rather out-of-the-way place part of their holidays, I head back to Kilchoan and the ferry over to Mull. Another lovely sea trip sees me land at Tobermory in search of the campsite which, if memory serves me correct, is on the Calgary road. This proves to be the case, which is a bit of a shame as that involves cycling up the rather steep Back Brae with cold muscles and this proves to be one of the few times on the trip that the added weight of the camping gear is actually felt. 


The site itself is just about OK, if rather non-descript. I'm glad that the breeze is keeping the midges at bay because the rather wooded nature of the site makes me think it could be pretty hellish otherwise. 


After a quick walk into town for dinner, the rain which had been threatening all day finally arrives.  The irony of getting wetter walking around than during my 100+km of cycling is not lost on me but it soon goes off again in time for the stiff walk back to the site. 


Again, I'm ahead of schedule and I have a relaxing evening knowing that I can head off whenever I want to in the morning without worrying about ferry times.