Author Topic: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter  (Read 7458 times)

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
The idea of this tour came about while drying out after a very wet RSF ride round Lancashire in January. Why not head as far north as possible, and then spend two weeks touring some of the most beautiful scenery in the country? Tickets were acquired in August (ScotRail have borked their cycle reservation system, so getting these tickets involved two trips to stations, one to a Library and one very confused member of rail staff) and we excitedly packed our bags and and headed out :)

Day 0 - Home to Lairg (train)
It started with a train, well lots of trains actually. I rolled down to Whitehaven for my first, carefully checking I had the train tickets for both of us for the trip and two trains later was standing on a platform at Edinburgh Waverley Station watching an East Coast Intercity pull in carrying Ruthie, her bike and a whole new set of fancy grey Ortliebs. After an hour eating sandwiches (and me introducing Ruthie to Millie's Cookies) we were then off on another train to Inverness and the trip was started. Inverness wasn't far enough North though, and eventually another train was whisking us further up the country in the dark to the tiny station outside of Lairg.

Disembarking 2 people, 2 bikes and 12 bags was quite an operation, and we had to draft in some of the other passengers to help us manage it, but here in the pitch dark dynamo lights were lit we set off on the first short trip, under a Super Moon sky to the campsite (at the top of the village hill - of course), pausing only briefly to retrieve a rear light that made a bid for freedom.


Day 1 - Lairg to Tongue (63 km)
The light showed at the campsite entrance a strange scene in miniature, lots of little characters based round a pond and mini bridge:-


It was also midgy, but with the sun shining we packed up and headed North out of Lairg on towards the Coast, the big skies flanked with distant peaks and the A roads getting smaller and smaller


Our first stop was at the Crask Inn, where we ate very nice sandwiches outside in the garden, playing fetch with the owners' dogs and remembering a good friend.




Suitably refuelled we then pressed on through Altnaharra, and, after replacing a blown inner tube patch on towards the Coast and Tongue.


Our accommodation for the night was at the former SYHA Hostel next to Tongue Causeway. Now it's independent and they are aiming to develop the site to include a holiday park. We were able to camp outside, but as there's no facilities outside yet, we were allowed full use of the Hostel Lounges, Dining Room and Kitchen. Ruthie put together a lovely dinner of Pasta, Salami, cheese and Pesto and then we listened to another resident's computer blaring out Downton Abbey (I fixed the computer later, plugging in her headphones made no difference to the sound the rest of us heard) while reading. We also met two walkers who were aiming to walk the Sutherland trail from Lochinver the following day.

More to follow soon :)




Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #1 on: October 13, 2015, 09:22:36 pm »
Day 2 - Tongue to Durness (50 km)

The Hostel is next to a Causeway, but down the hill from Tongue itself. Before we set off we went back up to the Village to gather supplies (and gain our first batch of Crowdie :D) then packed our bags and set off for the Causeway


On the other side of the Causeway is a long hill, rising from sea level to over 220m, and with the luggage it was a slow determined ride up, observing the vast expanse of moorland spreading out to the hills beyond, passing piles of drying peat turfs, and evidence of former inhabitants of the moor.




Then the road sweeps steeply downhill to a Bridge at Hope, and up a second hill at the top of which we feasted on chocolate, oat cakes and crowdie while sat on a log on the edge of a sheep field. Then it was a plunge down to the Banks of Loch Eribol in the sunshine :)




At the bottom of the Loch we turned north with the wind at our backs, and then headed through Laid, and on to views of gloriously sandy beaches at Durness.


We camped at Sango Sands Campsite in Durness, which is right on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. From there the sunset was stunning, with bright pink skies over sea and hills




Eventually after dark, we got a good view of the Supermoon :)

Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Ruthie

  • Her Majester
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #2 on: October 13, 2015, 09:30:26 pm »
I may have been singing a certain James song at the top of my voice riding down to Loch Eribol.

I loved it when my Garmin said 'Hope ahead', one of those nice little moments that make you smile.

We drank a toast to lovely jogler, and another to Marj, at the Crask Inn.  He was at the front of our minds a lot, that day.  Terribly unjust that he can't have that kind of fun any more. 
Milk please, no sugar.

Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #3 on: October 13, 2015, 10:48:29 pm »
This all looks rather nice ... I'm getting a hankering to head North.

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
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Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #4 on: October 13, 2015, 10:49:43 pm »
Enjoying this.  More soon please.
Quote from: Kim
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mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #5 on: October 13, 2015, 11:17:22 pm »
Day 3 - Durness - Scourie (42km)

This was supposed to be a short easy day, but the wind had other ideas. At something like 4am a Southerly gale blew up, leading to rapid extra guy rope deployment and peg realignment at toilet o'clock. It was still blowing in the morning, but after packing up we decided we couldn't leave without going for a walk on the beach




Then it was off into the wind along the Kyle of Durness. The views were lovely, but with the wind we decided against the 3 hour trip to Cape Wrath (we guessed the ferry probably wouldn't run anyway) and ploughed on into the wind that was whipping up white horses on the Kyle beside us.


You know it's tough going when you celebrate getting to 10km, which seemed to take forever. We decided we needed a break at one point, and dived off the road to brew up in some shelter on the bogland beside it. All the time though the skies were bright blue, and the views were amazing






Eventually we made it out of the valley, and as we were decending into Rhiconich it was a glorious autumn day. We went to get a drink in the Hotel there, but it was closed due to a private funeral, so instead we ate lunch on a very lopsided table (so much so I ended up chasing an orange off the table and down the road) overlooking the Loch and some sheep engaging in their afternoon scratch on the fence opposite.

Then we continued on through lochs and hills, following a road that must have been blasted through this rugged countryside with extreme effort




Eventually we reached Scourie, and pitched up on the seaside campsite there for the evening :)


A lot tougher than 42km should have been, but we had made it :D
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2015, 11:19:57 pm »
We need more photos of Supermodel Ruthie!!!  :thumbsup:

Sorry - wrong reading glasses  ;D

It looks stunning - windy, but stunning. Looking forward to the next bits.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #7 on: October 13, 2015, 11:22:12 pm »
We need more photos of Supermodel Ruthie!!!  :thumbsup:

Sorry - wrong reading glasses  ;D

It looks stunning - windy, but stunning. Looking forward to the next bits.

Indeed we do :)

Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2015, 11:25:08 pm »
 :thumbsup:

I found Loch Eribol a complete mental drain (I was on my way to Tongue on a 200) as you can see where you are going to, but realise you have to go a long way to get there!
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Ruthie

  • Her Majester
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2015, 11:25:23 pm »
Cheeky sod!

I was so fed up with that wind, but the resistance training would probly cost ££££ from a personal trainer so maybe it wasn't a bad thing.  I came close to throwing at least one toy out of my pram at that wind, especially stop/starting at the passing places to let cars past.  Made up for by the stunning surroundings, it was so beautiful that day.  Travelling through such incredible places, what a gift.  I felt so grateful to be able to have that experience.

mcshroom looked at my face as I sat on The Rock Of Grumpy at the roadside and put the kettle on and got the chocolate out without comment.  Sensible chap.

The sheep scratching on the fence were funny, as were you mcshroom doing a swan dive after that orange.
Milk please, no sugar.

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2015, 11:41:55 pm »
Day 4 - Scourie to Achmelvich Beach (48 km)

Today started with a bit of kit maintenance. First of all we got rid of the leaking cooking oil from Ruthie's front pannier, and then we did some washing


The road out of Scourie starts with a climb, and bounces up and down on the coastal edge for most of the day, giving wonderful views out to Sea.


This was a real day for views, with Imposing mountains, Shimmering Lochs and gorgeous blue skies. It became a bit of a joke that we'd crest a hill, or round a bend, and find another fantastic view. Here are just a few we saw between Scourie and Unapool







At the last photo, just north of Kylesku, we met the two walkers from the Hostel in Tongue. They'd decided that they were going to call it a day there, and stop in the hotel for the night, but had really enjoyed their walk. How they were going to get back to Tongue they weren't sure.

This whole area is a massive Geo-Park, and as part of that park there is an Exhibition space explaining the geology of the area, which also has a nice cafe that we stopped at called the Rock Stop.

After lunch the big climb of the day began. We had decided not to take on the Drumbeg road, but instead opted for the route over the side of Quinag and along Loch Assynt. Despite this being the "flatter" option, there was still a lot of up



Of course, what goes up, must come down, and we were rewarded by a brilliant decent to the Loch side, before following the Loch in the fading light.


The ride also had a sting in the tail, in the Achmelvich Beach road. It is very narrow, and contains lots of short steep banks that are not ideal for fully loaded touring bikes. The site at the end of it however is yet another wonderful seaside campsite, with cormorants and seals in the bay


That's all for tonight. Tomorrow it's on to Ullapool, Fish and Chips, and the ferry to Stornoway :)
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2015, 11:57:07 pm »
Lovely stuff  :thumbsup:   Bringing back memories of a few good trips.
Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

Ruthie

  • Her Majester
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #12 on: October 14, 2015, 12:02:51 am »
20150930_195113 by Ruth Irving, on Flickr

This was Jackie the Jack Russell, and his dad.  They were just off home for a Monkfish dinner, having had chicken fillets the night before.  Jackie's dad has a good relationship with the local fishermen and they eat very well indeed in the wee green caravan where they live, just out of shot near Achmelvich Beach.

I'd love to go back there one day and just spend a couple of days pottering around.  It's a special place, I think.
Milk please, no sugar.

Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #13 on: October 14, 2015, 01:13:44 am »
Smashing stuff!  Thanks

woollypigs

  • Mr Peli
    • woollypigs
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #14 on: October 14, 2015, 07:58:15 am »
Come on, it is nearly eight o'clock, you are burning day light here, chop chop, get on with it, lazy bugger ... :)

Fantastic write up, enjoyed it (and want more) yep that is a place we need to go.
Do join a demo near you - https://t.co/Ai5EfHuKUo

billplumtree

  • Plumbing the well of gitness
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #15 on: October 14, 2015, 08:20:10 am »
Great stuff, lovely write-up.  That first-day feeling really comes across - setting out in the sunshine on tiny roads, with it all ahead of you.  More please!

Graeme

  • Priest, Preacher and Prophet
  • @FatherHilarious
    • BalancingOnTwoWheels
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2015, 10:36:22 am »
Daisyhill is sick with envy, and I understand why. The way you've described this journey highlights everything that is idyllic about cycle camping and Scotland. I would love to follow in your footsteps/tyre tracks with Daisyhill and maybe one day we'll be able to. Absolutely fantastic, chapeau to both of you.
37. Because travel is the finest educational system of all; and cycling the cheapest, easiest, and most educational means of travel - Kuklos' 39 Articles

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #17 on: October 14, 2015, 10:41:18 am »
Come on, it is nearly eight o'clock, you are burning day light here, chop chop, get on with it, lazy bugger ... :)

Fantastic write up, enjoyed it (and want more) yep that is a place we need to go.

Unfortunately I have to work to feed my touring habit. More this evening :)
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #18 on: October 14, 2015, 07:36:27 pm »
Damn that looks great!

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #19 on: October 14, 2015, 08:59:26 pm »
Day 5 - Achmelvich - Stornoway (57 km)

The pressure of a fixed time ferry changes the mood a little, so to give ourselves lots of time we got off to an early start, and rode round into Lochinver, where we missed the road to the shop and instead had a very nice breakfast at the Lochinver Mission near the docks


Of course, like all good audax controls, breakfast was followed by a steep climb away from the Loch, and then we snaked round a narrow road that felt far higher than it was before plunging again down to the seafront at Inverkirkaig, and then really up our first chevron of the tour before gain dropping down to the coast, following the edge of the cliffs and feeling like we were the only people for miles


The cloud had rolled in overnight, but the scenery was still brilliant.


Then after climbing to the highest point of the day (was it really only 131m!?) the sun came out as appropriately we reached the Summer Isles road.


The road along this valley is wonderful, like riding to Wasdale Head in the Lakes, but much longer, and with even better views that just keep coming, as you pass the toothy rocks of Stac Polliadh, and the numerous other large peaks surrounding long lochs. After the continual climbing and decending of the coast road, this road was well surfaced and gently graded leading to some of the best riding of the tour :)






Eventually we left the valley and picked up the A835 south to Ullapool. Foolishly I looked at the 120m elevation we had, and the 14km left to the ferry and decided it would be mainly downhill. Er no it isn't. You give up that height very quickly, and then there's a series of climbs until only 3km from the port which was hard work after the morning's riding and in the heavier traffic. We did manage to make it through in time though, and the enjoyed a very welcome fish and chips before jumping on a ferry to Lewis*, where after a quick Supermarket stop for flowers and wine we met the lovely Windies who were our excellent hosts for the night.

Day 6 - Stornoway to er, Stornoway (9 km)

Having ridden some hilly roads for the first 5 days, today we had a day off. After giving Windy the YACF Visitors Book we walked down to the laundrette in town, had a look at a specialist tea shop, drank lots of coffee and eventually collected our bags and relocated to a campsite on the edge of town, before going back into town to get dinner and stock up. It was actually nice to have a relaxing day, and to reset for the next leg of the tour.




*On the old ferry bikes got on last, on the new one they are supposed to get on first. Ours ended up being lashed in a corner at the rear of the car deck.
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #20 on: October 14, 2015, 09:20:43 pm »
Day 7 - Stornoway to Ravenspoint Hostel (36 km)

Recharged for the next trip we set out south out of Stornoway, after a quick trip to visit a local statue ::-)


On a Saturday the Tarbert ferry only runs at mid day, and we didn't have any chance of making it there without a silly early start, so we decided to stop at a Bunkhouse towards the South of the Isle of Lewis. After climbing out of the town (which was much more pleasant this time than in the pouring rain when I last rode there in 2012) the road passes across large expanses of peat moorland, marked with lines where turfs have been cut for centuries for heating homes and cooking food, and every now and then a house or the remains of one. It really feels an empty place, and one where you visit on it's terms, untamed by urbanisation.


Three kilometers before the hostel I heard a pinging noise, and then a rattle from my rear wheel. One of the NDS spokes had snapped (in the middle), and so I making it safe I rode on to the hostel on 35 spokes.

The hostel itself is great. With a full kitchen (where I fitted my spare spoke, without having to remove cassette or tyre!), sitting room with leather sofas and a TV, and three dorms. We had one dorm to ourselves, and shared the house with a lovely couple who were touring (inna car) from America.


There is also a community shop attached to the hostel, with a wide range of food and very helpful staff (even if you manage to book the hostel for the wrong day :-[) and behind there's a small visitors centre looking at local crofting history, and with a full size model of a sea eagle.

For some reason I don't have photos of this place, but it was very nice - http://www.visitscotland.com/info/accommodation/ravenspoint-hostel-lewis-p914361
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!

Basil

  • Um....err......oh bugger!
  • Help me!
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #21 on: October 14, 2015, 09:33:38 pm »
Day 5 - Achmelvich - Stornoway (57 km)
[...]
 this road was well surfaced and genitally graded leading to some of the best riding of the tour :)

Erm.   ???   :o

 ;D
Quote from: Kim
And remember that friends who organise things on Facebook aren't proper friends anyway.

Ruthie

  • Her Majester
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #22 on: October 14, 2015, 09:36:10 pm »
That couple were really good fun, weren't they?  And someone had planted some Free Church sermon CDs in the kitchen, I think we managed to listen to about ten minutes before we hit the Off button, hard.  The Grace of God chasing you down like a bailiff, not my kind of religion at all.

Meeting the Windies was lovely, not least because they provided a mountain of fabulous home-made food, along with their company.  And their wood burning stove.  Real beds, too, lovely.  I felt like I'd met a celebrity.

I think descending past Stac Pollaidh might have been one of the greatest moments of my life. 

Whereas being confronted with Yet Another Climb on the way to Ullapool I fear I may have said 'and what the fuck is that?' to poor mcshroom, and it really wasn't his fault.  Highs and lows, every day, in every way.  Magic it was.
Milk please, no sugar.

Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #23 on: October 14, 2015, 09:43:10 pm »
Stuff of legends those Windies.   :thumbsup:

mcshroom

  • Mushroom
Re: Sea, Scenery and Supermoon! Ruthie and Mcshroom's Scottish Saunter
« Reply #24 on: October 14, 2015, 09:44:19 pm »
Day 8 - Ravenspoint Hostel to Uig (42 km)
Sunday in the Outer Hebrides is a day of rest and prayer. The shops don't open, and the roads are incredibly quiet other than the cars heading to church. It was also the day we were catching our ferry off of the Island, and between us and that ferry was the climb through the North Harris Mountains past Clisham.

Before the hills, though, we were treated to a sunlit view over the large sea loch Ravenspoint overlooks.


It's amazing how the sun brings out beauty in landscapes that has seemed flat and uninviting in the clouds the previous day.





Along the route there was a monument to the Island Crofters, and one explaining that this was where Bonny Prince Charlie had landed when on the run in the 18th Century. The first of many Jacobite sites we would pass on the remainder of the tour.


All the time in the distance we could see the Hills coming, with a little cloud gathering over them to add atmosphere


The climb over the top has an oddity that really irritated me the first time I rode it. Normally if you can see a transmitter mast, that's at the top of the hill and you can target it. However on this climb the road goes round the back of the transmitter, gets even steeper and carries on.


It's a slow ride to the top with luggage, and the hills on either side tower up, imposing themselves on your mind. Every now and then you find a piece of the old, single track road that used to be the main road over the hill, and even sometimes some bridges


Then there's a very long, fast decent, looking out over the Atlantic towards Taransay.







Of course the Atlantic is on the far side of the Island, so the road then swings inland and brings you past a conspicuously modern and bright white Secondary School/Sport Centre, and then down to the Ferry terminal



Our ferry, the MV Hebrides backed out of the narrow harbour and then set off for Skye. We met another tourist on the ferry, who was doing a short island tour. While I was talking to him, he suddenly jumped up and ran to the window. Beside the boat briefly was a pod of Dolphins :D

Unfortunately they were gone by the time I managed to get a camera out of my bag, and even more unfortunately Ruthie missed them as she was in the toilets at the time. Still a wonderful sight seeing them bouncing around in the ferry's wake.

From the ferry it was then a very short ride to the campsite, simply ride off the pier and turn left at the end. We were now on Skye :)
Climbs like a sprinter, sprints like a climber!