Isle of Skye to Loch Shiel (57 miles, 4,400ft of ascent)
The hill didn’t seem too bad as we left on Friday morning, it was worth it for the view! The road to the ferry had a few climbs which were made worse by the headwind, 20 miles seemed harder this morning. As we were approaching the ferry we could see it at the dock and the road appeared to follow the contours round the headland. As we got closer we realised we had yet another climb away from the coast!! Up the hill, yet another one of the outings for my 32’er! But at the top of the hill was a castle and we saw a sign for drinks and snacks, we pulled into the castle and treated ourselves to tea and cake. The most amazing chocolate and apple cake.
The ferries from Skye to Mallaig run very regularly so we decided to relax and get the next one, sitting in the sun was quite a novelty for the trip so far. Back on our bikes and ‘down the hill’ at last (!) to the ferry, one was due at 13:00, we had 30mins to wait or so we thought!! …..but it turns out that occasionally the tide isn’t right and they have to modify the timetable, today was one of those days!! We have 3 hours to wait!! Fortunately we only have 37 miles to go after the ferry but these are hilly miles with luggage, not quite what we’d planned but it’d be fine, we didn’t really have an option!!. A bacon buttie later and a lot of sitting in the sun (would have been worse if it’d been raining) we boarded the 5th ferry of our trip so far.
Its only a short sailing of around 30mins and the scenery is stunning. We had a nice chat with another couple doing a similar route who had experience of quite a few other routes in Scotland (ideas for next time!!) and then set off. To start with we were on an ‘A-road’ from the ferry which was relatively busy but nothing like as busy as an A-road back at home, we then turned off this road onto the scenic coastal route. This reminded us of cycling in Cornwall, if the road was flat you knew it wouldn’t be for long, it was constantly up and down, short, sharp pulls sapping the energy out of our legs, cycling with panniers I always feel like I have a bungee tied to the pannier and all of a sudden as you start the ascent it pulls and then harder and harder! On the flat you can almost forget you have the weight on the bike but not on the hills!!! but the views 😍wow, Bay of Islands New Zealand! Turquoise sea, white sand and islands of varying sizes splashed about for good effect, well worth the hard work!
This road finally came to an end and we were back on the ‘A’ road but it was even less busy than it had been, quite amazing and it soon became a single track road with passing places like we’d been used to on the Outer Hebrides. Today was a big climbing day (well for us and with the panniers) and we were starting to feel tired when the 450ft climb started. This was the time for the 32’er (again!), I just grinded up and after this we were both starting to count the miles, not long after this was a 300ft climb with an average gradient of 10%. I just kept telling myself I should be flying in Leicestershire after this with no panniers and a faster bike, just think of the training gain!! I had a little chat with myself which went a bit like this…”I can’t get up this” (as I could see the steep incline bending round the corner out of view) and the response was “well you have no option and cycling will be quicker than walking.” The last decent brought us over the final peninsular of the day and down to the valley of Loch Shiel. The last 5 miles or so was mainly flat and we could soon see the village of Archaracle in the distance.
We were pleased to arrive, at the Loch Shiels Hotel, a very busly place in the back of beyond with some good beers and a fully booked restaurant (we had fortunately reserved a table, there was no way I was going to risk it, the closest place was miles away). Another room with a view and if we hadn’t been Loch side for the past 3 nights we would have thought this view spectacular but as it was I said ‘it’s quite a good view’ !! A shower and a cup of tea after a hard day in the saddle is the best thing, now just lying on the bed looking at the sunshine and contemplating what I might eat tonight (& drink!).
Great meal. All staff so friendly and efficient. In bed for 10pm with the curtains open and the view in front, sunset up here is considerably later than back in the midlands.