Tag Archives: Skye

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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Sensational Skye

Skye is a funny one.  For some reason, it has passed me by as I use it as a stepping stone to get somewhere further afar.  Apart from a trip a few years ago, I’ve not actually spent much time there. I think the size puts me off; it’s easy to forget you’re on an island with some of the driving distances involved.  Yet, as soon as you arrive the islandisms are there. People have time for a blether, wave as you pass in the car, and are really helpful.

We drove up on the Friday night to Armadale and had a severe case of deer dodging.  I’ve never encountered so many close to the road and there were a few near misses. One of the things I love is arriving in the dark, not knowing what lies outside your window/tent and discovering a lovely surprise like the views over to the mountains guarding Loch Nevis.

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After a look round the Christmas craft fair and stocking up with goodies from the Isle of Skye Baking Company, we drove round towards Glen Brittle for a visit to the fairy pools.  Perfect timing as we arrived in the car park and a double rainbow showed us the route

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walk in to fairy pools

We’d left it a bit late so there wasn’t much time for ‘proper’ photography. We scouted out the best fairy pool jumping spots, changed into our wetsuits and had a little something to warm us up before taking the leap

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fairy pool

A collection of the jumps can be found here http://vimeo.com/80510389

Tracy’s stylish take off

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It was quite exhilarating – a combination of the cold hitting your head and the jump itself.  I was slightly concerned I’d damage my body further when Gill touched the bottom from the high jump.  She is about 3 stone lighter but I think her perfect technique sent her through the water like a spear whereas my less so perfect style created some drag.

We had a great feast (courtesy of head chef Tracy) and enjoyed being back in our cosy lodge with some whisky for company

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The plan for Sunday was to tackle the Sgurr na Banachdaich part of the Cuillin Ridge.  We left the car opposite the Glen Brittle hut and walked up towards the Eas Mor waterfall. I’d forgotten I’d been there on another trip when we took the right fork to Sgurr Dearg.  It’s pretty dramatic

waterfall

We had a steady climb before a steeper ascent into the Bealach Coire na Banachdich.  The snow was deep in places and it felt like the start of a good adventure.  When we reached the Bealach it was time to refuel before heading north west along the ridge.

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We had amazing views and the crisp air was still. There were quite a lot of up and downs as we weaved our way along the ridge.  At one point, the confidence rope made an appearance for a steeper descent. We were all feeling pumped by the time we reached the summit although I was a bit concerned that there wasn’t much daylight left and didn’t know how much scrambling the descent from the top would involve.  It was really straight forward but tiredness had kicked in and towards the bottom there were a few slips and nosedives as we lost our footing.

Cuillin

Absolutely cracking day and once again Tracy cooked up a feast. Still can’t believe I ate a whole pack of halloumi cheese while the others devoured a roast chicken.

An adventure weekend really needs to involve a ferry so we took the boat to Mallaig.  We had considered a wee kayaking trip around Arisaig but decided we’d had plenty of adventure and took an easy drive back.  We had a lovely bonus as we emerged from Glencoe to catch the end of a wonderful sunset.

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