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, 31 May 2014

Torridon at last

There's no escaping the plaudits that Scotland gets for the quality of its Mountain Biking - both the organised trail centres and the "natural" routes that are available through Scotlands relaxed land access laws. Time and again they are internationally awarded and feature in many "must do" travel guides. High amongst the recommendations are the trails in and around Torridon. However I'm rather ashamed to admit that, despite walking many of them during my Munro bagging exploits,  I'd never ridden these trails. With a wee bit of determination to put this right I loaded the Blur into the van and headed off towards Torridon hoping for some great weather.

Well, I was a wee bit disappointed when I got there to find low cloud and a fine drizzle blocking the view of the summits but, leaving the van behind at the visitor centre, I set off into the headwind, uphill towards the start of the Coulin Pass. I knew this was the least hilly of the options but, having passed the Right of Way sign on many occasions, I was determined that this would be part of the outing. 
It's pronounced "cow-linn" (apparently)
The ride started well enough with a spin along an easy estate road and past the two lochs. The climb out at the end of the glen went in easily enough too and I was, by now, beginning to get used to the feel of the smaller wheels on the Blur, plus the rather unfamiliar feel of the frame bending in the middle. Over the col and there was a sign relating to forestry work and pointing out a diversion. I reckoned that there would be nothing going on, it being Sunday afternoon, and whizzed down the wide, fast forestry road to Achnashellach station and the most complex set of bicycle lanes to be witnessed in the highlands. 
Looking along Strathcarron
 Another scoot along some tarmac (aided by the wind this time) and I was at the start of the "big" bit.

Definitely "coo-lags"
I'd looked at my GPS before starting this bit and noticed that sunset was due in six hours (it's shown on the "home" screen). I recall thinking "great - no hurry" and then comparing this to the rather rushed and panic-stricken mode I'd been riding in for the last few months. Here was a chance to savour some great Scottish scenery without worrying about how fast or slow I was covering the ground. 

The track again starts easily enough but there are a few steep bits before the bothy and more than enough water bars to interrupt the flow. I can be quite happy tackling these on the bike but it very much depends on where I am and who I'm with. Alone in Torridon aren't the best circumstances to suffer a major wheel problem or a stupid fall. 
The weather did pick up for me too.

Coulags bothy
After the bothy the track deteriorates into a boggy mess for a while but picks up again before the climb up to Loch Coire Fionnaraich - and the view to the path out of the corrie. 
The last of the riding for a while

That'll be the path to the col then
Across the top of the Bealach na Lice and the main fun is delayed for a while circumnavigating the edge of Loch an Eoin. Then, with a view north to tempt you, it's all downhill as fast as you dare. I thought I was doing fine, the full suspension of the Blur working hard, until I had one brief moment of indecision. With a large rock ahead, I had to opt to go left or right of it, chose neither, and hit it head on resulting in a comedy over-the-bars moment. That was enough to sober me up for a wee while but it's so much fun finding away down the various little drop offs and across the massive rock slabs that I was soon back up to full speed and having a real hoot.
Some of this stuff
Lots of this stuff
I can see the van from here!
Passing Carn Dhonnachadh I could see the settlement of Torridon far below me and I was expecting a really steep descent but the path contours further round to annat so the fun is extended quite a bit.

Finally, with a bit of a bump, I was deposited and Annat for a relaxing warm-down along the road to the van.



I also managed to fit in my May bivvy night after this ride. A drive out the long cul de sac from Gairloch to Red Point and then a short walk past the lovely beach to a little rocky headland had me in as lonely a spot as you're likely to find, with a view over the water to Rona and Skye and the Outer Hebrides just disappearing into the twilight, backlit by the setting sun. With nothing much to do but watch the birds and the waves, trying to work out if the tide was coming in or going out, it wasn't long before I had trouble keeping my eyes open and dropped off to one of the most relaxed sleeps I've ever had outdoors.


On the short walk in
Outer Hebrides
The tide was out....
Fellow campers
Rona and the Staffin peninsula from the bivvy spot