Tag Archives: Mull

Cycle touring trip: Outer Hebrides and beyond

A second cycle touring trip, a second mad dash for the ferry, only worse. The lesson we never learn is accounting for caravans (and cars) driving at 30 mph. Amazingly we managed to catch the ferry after arriving in Oban after it was meant to leave. 

But, as soon as you get a spot on deck calmness and relaxation take over and the mad rush is forgotten. We certainly enjoyed the sun while cruising past the Ardnamurchan peninsula. 
  

As usual, we didn’t have any plans apart from our first stop being Barra. I’d heard from surfing chums about the beauty of the small island, just 23 square miles, and  it didn’t disappoint.

Andy showed off his mean set of wheels and packhorse style set up. He’s since earned himself the nickname Kelpie. 

 

We did a wee trip south over the causeway to Vatersay, passing the plane wreck of a Catelina from WWII. This island is tiny at just 3 miles long. 

 

A perfect evening to start the trip with a BBQ on the beach and a dip in the turquoise water below the narrow strip of machair holding the island together. 

  

  

We camped near Borve in Barra and then headed up to the north tip and managed to time it perfectly to catch a plane landing on the wide bay of Traigh Mhòr; the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use the beach as a runway. The beach on the west side of the airport is stunning. 

  

   
  

We camped near Bolnabodach and had an early start to catch the ferry across the Sound of Barra to Eriskay. Any ferry involved a near miss and this was no different! Eriskay is only 2 x 1 mile and super cute. 

We crossed the causeway and made our way up the Uists sandwiched with Benbecula to Lochmaddy where we ended up camping on the local football pitch. 

In the morning we caught the ferry to Skye and after arriving in Uig, cycled across the Trotternish Peninsula to the Quiraing. Full of pillars and pinnacles it was a welcome hike off the saddle 

   
 

  

The fast and sweeping descent to Staffin Bay was worth the climb from Uig to the Quiraing. We then cycled the undulating A855 down the east coast of Skye to Portree. This was a tough day, especially in the heat, and we were ravenous by the time we reached Portree and glad of all the food options in Skye compared to the less populated Outer Hebrides.  

  

   

We braved the midges and camped at Sligachen but there was no hanging about in the morning when they were out in force. Definitely glad I’d gone for the extra weight and protection of my scarp tent than the tarp! 

  

We cycled to Armadale and caught the ferry to Mallaig on the mainland. From here we followed the coast to our camping spot in Arisaig and had a stunning sunset with the sillouette of the Skye and Rum Cuillins set below the glowing sky 

  
   

     

We rode to Glenuig and had lunch at the Inn. I’ve driven that road a fair few times and nothing compares with the senses you get when cycling. Despite being a group, cycle touring gives you a sense of freedom and solitude. After recharging we continued to Resipole with multiple ice lolly stops to help with temperature control.  

  

 

We decided to head round the Arnamurchan Peninsula to catch the ferry that goes from Kilchoan to Tobermory. Another ferry almost missed but this time due to a mechanical. Luckily some cable ties came to the rescue.  

 

After a lunch stop in Tobermory we climbed the rediculously steep hill south and meandered our way to Craignure to catch the ferry back to Oban. I always feel a sense of sadness on the last leg but we certainly deserved a beer! 

 

This was an amazing trip. We were blessed with the weather but it did cause some sweat issues! 

7 islands, 250 miles, stunning scenery and a whole heap of giggles. 

Cycle touring is such a special way to experience our landscape, flora and fauna. Get out and explore. Don’t plan, just go with the flow and whatever the weather throws at you! 

Route:

 

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My 2013

January: Limekilns Breakfast Dip on the 1st January…..how the 2013 monthly dip challenge began

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February: Ben Nevis while up for the Fort William Mountain Festival

Ben Nevis

March: Finally got my hip operation after 5 years of drama. Finally a surgeon listened to me

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April: Rehabilitation was the focus and handcycling from Badaguish to An Lochan Uaine in the Cairngorm National Park was perfect

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May: Working on a bit of Yew to make a table

Yew

June: Summer solstice microadventure in the Pentlands.  MTB to Threipmuir reservior, swam across (with croc lilo), then hiked up hill for a wild camp

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July: Tiree – my haven. Perfect weather, lots of water action and topped off with the Tiree Music Festival. Always special

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August: Some chums were running the Isla half marathon so made a trip of it.  Wonderful campsite amongst the sand dunes at Kintra

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September: Trip to Mull where we stayed in amazing campsite at Fidden.  This photo was taken on Iona in the spot I went in for a swim, followed by dip

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October: Bow Fiddle Rock, Portknockie

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November: Sgurr na Banachdich, Cuillin ridge.  Cracking day on the hill

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December: the birth of my adorable niece Rosie. Too precious to share with the world

Mull meanders

For some reason, Mull has never been on the top of my list.  There always seems to be somewhere with a bigger draw, perhaps related to surf appeal. So this time Mull was the destination and I ordered a couple of OS maps to get an idea of where to go.  We were packed in the car rather than the other way around (van time beckons) and set off for the Corran ferry.  We decided to take the route through Morvern as it’s always nice to follow new paths and there are few things that beat the drama of driving through Glencoe. We arrived on Mull after a second ferry crossing from Lochaline to Fishnish and headed straight down to the campsite at Fidden Farm in the South West corner. Wow what a spot! Pitch your tent on the very edge of a rugged coastline with stunning views over to Iona.  You feel like you are wild camping only with a toilet/shower block 5-10 minutes walk (depending on where you decide to pitch).

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The forecast for the day had been rain for the drive up but we managed to get our tents up before the heavens opened.  Dressed in our finest waterproofs we headed to the local pub/restaurant (Keel Row) and were picked up in the farm owners truck a few steps into the 2 mile journey as he spotted us walking in the pouring rain.  What service!   After a delicious meal we sampled some whisky in the bar with the local fisherman and shared (tall) tales of adventures.

We had planned to spend the second night on top of Ben More but were put off partly by the wind on the Sunday morning but also by just how lovely the campsite was.  We decided to stay put and head across to Iona for the day.  Surrounded by tour bus groups walking onto the ferry, wasn’t sure it was going to be my cup of tea but we escaped the crowds and headed to the north of the island.  Absolutely stunning beaches, no people and some of the finest beach pebbles around.

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I got into my wetsuit, swam to a close by island, scrambled over the top and then swam back to the white sand. The water was crisp but clear with views of kelp and jellies with tentacles.

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Then it was time to drag the others in for the September dip, this time no wetsuits allowed.

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Back on Mull we went back to Keel Row and were greeted by the locals from the night before. They asked how we’d got on visiting the Fossil Tree and deep water solo climbing the granite on Erraid. We’d obviously had grand plans the night before but not the time to do everything.  After a quick bite we headed back to the campsite and Julie and I went out for a sunset paddle.  I couldn’t resist the lure of the clear water and ended up doing dip #2 diving off a ledge on Erraid.

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We we got a cracking fire going and enjoyed the clear night; it would have been perfect for a summit camp after all.

On Monday we made it up Ben More to some cracking views of Arran, Rum, Tiree, the Cuilins and Ben Cruachan.  We were tight for time with the last ferry but decided to descend via the A’Chioch ridge which was worth it. A bit of a bog fest but at least that was a bit softer on the joints!  No sea eagles but we spotted a couple of golden eagles gliding above the lower slopes.

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So after not expecting too much of Mull, we didn’t make it out the bottom corner and didn’t manage to do everything we’d planned in just that spot. The coastline is rugged and dramatic, the geology fascinating, and the sea needs further exploring.  I sense a future ‘fishing’ trip destination as it certainly deserves more than a long weekend.