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 1

I have a plan. It's sort of evolved itself with some random beginnings and sprung to me almost fully formed earlier this year. However, I've not been in a position to do much about it until the option of a few days away came up and I was able to sit down with the maps and do a little route planning. 

As a result, I'm on my way to Kyle of Lochalsh courtesy of Scotrail and some of its random booking practices. In this case, despite getting verbal confirmation that my bike was, indeed, booked all the way from Edinburgh to Kyle, I find that the first leg - to Perth - is a first come, first served cubbyhole barely large enough for two bikes, and there's one in there already. I've also opted to take the camping gear for a change. For my previous road tours I've made use of hotels and B&Bs, but I wanted the option of some wild camping and also the flexibility that not booking ahead offers. Of course, this means a heavier load, but I've pared down as much as possible in order not to make it too uncomfortable on some of the inevitable hills. 

Despite there being more bikes than bike space getting onto the Perth - Inverness train, the guard lets us sort it out and somehow we all squeeze on. It's nice to know that it's not all jobsworths these days. What's more, the weather is looking brighter the further we get from the rainy central belt and by the time we reach Inverness, it's positively sunny. A quick changeover and now it's the Kyle train. This would be a lovely, scenic interlude if it wasn't for the fact that (a) I have a migraine and (b) the carriage is half-full of school kids off on their summer break. Oh well.....

Kyle is looking great. Manoeuvring away from the station, I make my way towards the bridge for the compulsory photo and I'm pleased that there's a reasonably brisk Northerly wind. 


The first leg of my journey is to Armadale and I'm hopeful that I'll make it in time for the last ferry across to Mallaig. Right enough, as soon as I reach the turn-off and head South, it's like a massive push in the back and I feel I'm fairly flying along. With this encouragement I decide to forego a snack stop and push on, not feeling the weight of the camping gear, reaching Armadale and the ferry terminal with loads of time to spare - enough time for food and a coffee at the cheery little pier-side cafe. 


The ferry trip from here is well worth it. On a good day like this, views across to Knoydart and into Loch Nevis are stunning and the whole trip is only spoilt by having Mallaig as a destination.

Bikes on boats - my favourite

Still, there are some shops and a bank and before long I'm off along the roadside cycle track, through Morar and heading for Arisaig. Just before the last climb, I wheel off towards Back of Keppoch where I know there are a couple of decent sites and I opt for Gorten Sands. It's the last site on the track and has some beautiful little coves and a roped off area for smaller tents. I'm able to pitch in a little shelter but giving me a nice view North East so I'm very happy.

After a quick shower, I hot-foot it along the road to the pub - the Cnoc na Faire - in search of some food. Although I'm past the last food order time, the staff are happy to whip me up a fish and chips, and what a fish and chips it is. The tartare sauce is complete with whole capers, the chips are hand-cut and there's a generous portion of mushy peas to go with it. I'm very impressed. The last time I was in this pub was some 30 years ago and it was a smoky little dive of a place serving not much more than fizzy lager. 

By the time I've finished, the sun is almost setting so I order a single malt (I go large at the barmaids suggestion) and wander out to enjoy it. What a great start to my my wee trip, a couple more days like this please.


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