Author Topic: Skye, Uist & Barra  (Read 1696 times)

Skye, Uist & Barra
« on: March 06, 2017, 10:03:31 pm »
When I decided to use some of this years remaining leave for a mini tour of the islands I was taking something of a risk with the weather. Setting out for Skye at the end of February means excepting that there will be a reasonable chance that the trip may be cancelled should a storm be forecast.  As it happens the weather was mostly glorious.

route by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

I left work at 1130 on Tuesday and 90 minutes later was waiting in the sunshine at Garlochead station for my train to Mallaig.  My arrival at Mallaig didn’t go so well, I decided to head for a campsite that a thought was 5 miles away which turned out to be a hilly 8 miles away and very shut. Though I found a very nice looking spot for a wild camp I could find no water. It was getting quite dark now so after riding back into Mallaig and buying supplies at the Co-op I pitched up for the night just off the main road half a mile outside the town ready for the early ferry to Armadale.

20170301_093529 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

Wednesday’s weather was warm and sunny and the riding on Skye was wonderful.  I did get a hail storm at lunch time but once it past the sun came out again.  I had to ride a few miles along the A87 which I didn’t particularly enjoy, too much traffic in too much of a hurry. That said everywhere else on the island was fine for both traffic volume and driver temperament.   
 
After visiting the Talasker distillery, (and buying a cycling jersey) I rode down to Talasker Bay to get settled in for the night.
20170301_155433 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

Talasker Bay was a wonderful place to camp. The sunset over the water was spectacular as was the night sky that soon followed it.  Just like the previous night I was bloody freezing. I recently forsake my trusty old Vango Omega 350 bag for a new Vango Ultra Light 900. Last week I discovered that the new bag ain’t half as warm as the old one. I bought the Omega in my late teens over twenty years ago for more than a week’s wages and its never let me down.  I bought the new bag quite recently out of a desire to cut bulk and weight but it hasn’t performed as well as the old one. 

20170302_085846 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

The morning was very windy and wet which made the bay seem a lot less idyllic. While pitching the tent with the door to the sea seemed a great idea the previous evening come the morning it seemed like less of a good idea.  It was fine once clear of the bay though and when climbing back up to Carbost the wind was even helpful.

The second day on Skye was brutally hilly.  Though I was able to spin the bent and its heavy load up all of the hills it left my knees and ankles in a bad way.  I would carry on experiencing pain in these joints for the rest of the trip and I still can’t easily get up and down stairs on my left ankle even now. I’ve often had pain in my ankles after longer rides on the bent but never as bad as this, it’s worrying me a little as although I really rather enjoy riding it I can’t carry on with these ankle problems.


Anyway I still had another terrific ride and when arriving at Uig had the campsite all to myself. 

20170303_073236 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

I’ll leave it there for tonight and post some words and photos on Uist and Barra another night.


Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2017, 10:13:11 pm »
Nice account, I've done most of that at one time and another.

You'll get the odd pedant trying to correct you spelling and grammar though. Proof-reading your own stuff is difficult, just compare your spelling of Talisker with the sign.

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2017, 10:25:06 pm »
Never mind the spelling, how was the whisky?

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2017, 10:43:32 pm »

You'll get the odd pedant trying to correct you spelling and grammar though. Proof-reading your own stuff is difficult, just compare your spelling of Talisker with the sign.
[/quote]

I probably shouldn’t write when I as tied as I am right now.


My plan to buy a couple of whiskey miniatures for sundowners in Talisker Bay was thwarted by the distillery being sold out!  They had plenty of full size bottles for sale but I didn’t really fancy lugging one of those around with me. The 16 year old Jura that I’ve got on the go at home is probably the best whiskey I’ve ever had, I might have to have another one of those when I’ve finished it.   

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2017, 11:08:54 pm »
Nice winter route.
Not sure why you thought any campsites near Mallaig would be open at this time of year though.
And can't imagine finding water would be that difficult around there, plenty of burns surely.
You rode 8 miles south of Mallaig, then back again for supplies? Arisaig is around 8 miles south of Mallaig and has a well stocked shop, maybe closed by the time you got there though.

billplumtree

  • Plumbing the well of gitness
Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2017, 01:44:04 pm »
As a softie who does this sort of thing in June rather than February, this is inspirational.  Looking forward to the next instalment

Bairn Again

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #6 on: March 07, 2017, 02:01:51 pm »
Looking forward to more pics, its one of my favourite parts of the world, more for walking than cycling but its fantastic. 

And as somebody who has carried out thorough research on the matter, Talisker is without question my favourite whisky. 

Hope you popped into the Old Inn in Carbost nearby, probably the best pub in the world.   

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2017, 11:35:04 pm »
Part 2
Spending the night at Uig campsite was ideal for catching the early ferry to Lochmaddy as it’s only a five minute walk from the booking office and jetty.  Though I had awoken to a frosty morning and a thick layer of ice on the tent by the time I’d packed everything away the sun was shining strongly enough to have removed all trace of the previous evenings chill. 

Despite the unseasonably warm weather I stayed below decks for the crossing choosing to examine and fret about my painful ankles and knees rather than join the rest of the tourists sightseeing on the upper deck. I’ve sailed round these islands often enough to know how they look from afar, on this trip I was more interested in seeing them from ashore.

As mentioned in my first post the previous days climbing had left my knees swollen and my left ankle painful to walk on.  As it turned out I’d go on to have a much easier time cycling with these injuries than walking with them.  Though the pain would persist for the next few days after taking the first couple of miles of each morning quite gently I’d soon loosen up and be able to pedal normally.

Disembarking on North Uist I took a few minutes to allow all of the motor traffic to clear off before starting out.  Though the weather was still glorious it was forecast to turn stormy the following morning with 30mph winds and heavy rain from the North West.  With this in mind, and somewhat reluctantly, I decided to curtail my original route around North Uist and instead simply aim to get as far South as possible, thus reducing the distance to be ridden through the expected bad weather.

SUNP0028 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

SUNP0034 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

SUNP0025 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

Some people will say that the scenery on North Uist can be quite featureless and bleak but the panoramic views of open landscapes and blue sky provided from the seat of my recumbent were wonderful.  My photos don’t really to the scenery any justice.  I went and left the good camera at home and ended up using either my phone or the cheap Go Pro clone I got for Christmas.  Unfortunately having never used the little video camera for stills before I hadn’t realised just how bad pictures taken with it would turn out. 

Just a few miles outside Lochmaddy I came across this overturned grittier. I guess it either says something about what the winds can do up here or it says something about the drinking habits of its operator.

SUNP0017 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

The A865 was surprisingly busy.  The constant slowing down or speeding up involved in trying to time my arrival into passing places became quite a distraction from the business of just enjoying the ride. Most locals are quite adept at doing the same thing from the seat of their cars so I seldom had to actually stop in any of these passing places however there where the odd few who just barrelled through forcing me out of the way.  I’m not sure if I’d be very keen on riding these roads in the summer when the island is full of motor tourists. I’d probably find the constant stopping and starting maddening.     

Fortunately Both of the Uist’s provide opportunities to switch to quitter roads that often run parallel to the main road. Once on these roads the riding is perfect, mile after mile without seeing anything other than farm vehicles. 

As the afternoon wore on I examined the OS sheet for camping spots.  Right away a picnic area on the beach near Gearraidh na Monadh leaped out at me and what a wonderful site it was too. Right above the dunes and no one around other than me.

20170304_084943 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

The next morning heralded the arrival of the promised storm.  After struggling to boil water for my morning brew in the strong wind I packed up and moved on as quickly as possible.

The gusting side winds were often challenging and bottom gear hills became impossible as I couldn’t hold a decent line.  I just got my head down and put up with it for my short ride to the ferry terminal over the causeway on Eriskay. Thankfully the terminal had a heated waiting room where I could shelter for a couple of hours while waiting for the ferry over to Barra.

SUNP0042 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

Barra was defiantly that highlight of the trip. By the time I arrived the storm had blown itself out and I only had a slight breeze and the odd shower to contend with. I first rode North past the airport with its beach runway before about turning and heading South down the Eastern side of the island.  Pulling into campsite at Borve I was met by the owner who happened to be cleaning the amenities in preparation for the coming season. As his first customer of the year I had the site all to myself and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has everything the cyclist wants, its small, has great views and a small but superb set of amenities including a fully equipped kitchen.

Once the tent was pitched I set off again without my camping gear to explore Vatersay and its long sandy beaches.  These beaches might be popular during the summer months but on this afternoon I was very much alone.  Had I not already decided to use a campsite this could have been an absolutely brilliant site for a wild camp.   

20170304_171515 by Joseph Bulloch, on Flickr

The next morning required an early start so as to be at the ferry terminal for 0715. CalMac and Scotrail’s usual nack for synchronising services failed on this occasion and I was left with 4 hours to kill in Oban. Having visited Oban many times over the last couple of decades I had no interest in doing anything other than sitting in a café reading the papers and working my way through lots of tea. Mrs B suggested that I should cycle back to Helensburgh but I a) felt totally knacked, and b) really don’t like the A83 between Inveraray and Arrochar.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Though I immensely enjoy reading reports of extended tours in far off places, work commitments and a family which will always come first mean that short trips like these are the best I can do.  The next one’s in April and will be a few nights around Keilder with my brother and 7 year old son.   


Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2017, 11:36:30 pm »
Nice winter route.
Not sure why you thought any campsites near Mallaig would be open at this time of year though.
And can't imagine finding water would be that difficult around there, plenty of burns surely.
You rode 8 miles south of Mallaig, then back again for supplies? Arisaig is around 8 miles south of Mallaig and has a well stocked shop, maybe closed by the time you got there though.

I think that I just had one of those evenings were you spend a considerable amount of time faffing around and end up achieving sod all.

Having spotted a number of ok looking spots to camp I just kept on heading further and further away from the town trying to seek out a spot that was just right. Eventually I’d travelled so far I thought that I may as well continue to the campsite, which turned out to be closed.  After turning round and cycling back towards Mallaig I again past these decent looking spots but oddly enough just couldn’t seem to see or hear any running water, which isn’t a problem I’ve ever had in Scotland before.

Anyway eventually I was so close to Mallaig again that it was just as easy to buy a large bottle of water from the Co Op and while there also buy  provisions that I had intended to pick up once over on Skye.

Re: Skye, Uist & Barra
« Reply #9 on: March 09, 2017, 08:16:42 am »
Thanks for the write up and pics.  I know that area well from sailing round those parts and doing conservation work on Skye for a while.  Always think of the fabulous night skies you can get well away from the bright lights.

Have never ridden a 'bent but I do wonder if they are the best steed for the really hilly stuff?  I cycle in the Limousin, always going up or down and wouldn't consider abandoning my upright in those circumstances.   In fact I have never seen a recumbent in those parts.

Sic transit and all that..