Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Puffing Puffins Tour Day 6 Mull: Craignure to Fionnphort and Iona Thursday 13th June 2019

Day 6

Today 73 km 765m Ferries: 2
Tour to date: 377km 4030m Ferries: 7
Isle of Iona looking back to Fionnphort on Mull
From Strava: Against the odds we stayed dry. Glorious day, was not expecting the variety of scenery out to Fionnphort but boy was it cold. That northerly is still blowing and overcast until later afternoon. Pitched tent at Fiddens Farm and huddled in tent to eat late lunch. Went over to Iona and did road right and road left. Warmed up in pub. Came back and had superb dinner in the Fionnphort pub. Now sitting on beach in gentle breeze and full sun at 9.30pm 💙


Good morning campers from Craignure
We are a little warmer at night now, not because the temperatures are improving but because the merino winter base layers are great. Merino base layers have past us by, mostly because they are a stupid price. Generally I'm too hot so why would I want to be hotter?  We had bought some lightweight T shirt ones before the tour, mainly for sleeping in. Those friends that banged on about them were right. I have since tested the lightweight one in extremely hot weather and they do absorb the sweat as well, so no chill when night falls/wind gets up/cafĂ© stop etc

We're away in good time, I know 9.30am is not most cyclists' idea of a good getaway but we're pretty pleased with that.

All we have to do is ride west my boy. The very strong northerly is a bit more of a crosswind today. We have a nice pass to conquer, Glen More, past Loch Sgurbain and a whizz down the otherside and flat all the way to Fionnphort where the ferry hops over to Iona. We want to pitch the tent and have a touristy afternoon pottering on Iona so not a big day. Really really want to have a wild swim too.

A very wonky snow depth marker to rest against on Glen More. I have had a bungee round my right pannier since Day 1 when one of the rivets on my Ortleib attachment bar popped. One of the few things we haven't brought as spares. Fortunately the other one did last. My frame is so small the tent sticks out a lot, just not very neat is it?
The climb past Loch Sgurbain
Up we go, wearing quite a lot of clothes, although overcast it's fairly dry.
A grand whizz down the other side to follow the coast from Pennyghael to Bunessan. We weren't expecting any facilities until Bunessan but there appeared the best Post Office/Stores and Café ever at Pennyghael. The small Post Office that had absolutely everything in a very small space. The friendly Post Mistress had a table and tea and two sorts of cake for the cafe corner, the lemon drizzle was gorgeous which we naturally appreciated very much, warming our cockles. I bought a lovely locally photographed card to post for my brother's birthday on Sunday, it got to Durham in time. I was tempted by the puffin china mugs too, but no room for souvenirs, so we bought some bananas and a few munchies. Fortunately, as we left, the lady informed us that after working for 4 months straight through 6/7 she was having a weekend off to go to a weaving exhibition on the mainland, a very well deserved mini break, so would be shut tomorrow/Saturday. We were grateful for knowing that otherwise I'd have been looking forward to visiting when retracing our steps before turning north in the morning. It's OK when you presume there is no café but if you very definitely think there is one and then it is shut. That's not good.
Pennyghael Stores friendly heron
Replete from the lemon drizzle we head back out. We loop a bit to avoid the main road before Bunessan, but the traffic is not as bad as we were led to believe. There are a lot of buses heading to Iona but it's not school holidays or the weekend yet and it's middle of the day

We come into Fionnphort and hanger left up to Fidden Farm campsite with the first tailwind of the holiday whoosh. I think I can remember the approach, we had a holiday here for a week camping in September 1995. A drought of a summer, until that week when the gales and rain came in. We remember the year as our two eldest girls were with us age 5 and 2, and we realised we were expecting our third that week, she was born the following spring. We built sand boats on the beach and watched our frame tent bending in the wind from Iona. 

We booked in at the farmhouse, and the farmer told us everything was exactly the same, with a very broad smile. Except there is now a toilet/shower block. What luxury. There are no boundaries but it is a rolling site, masses of camper vans parked up with a sea view. We pitched in a hollow away from the beach as the wind was still bordering gale force. No romantic beach/sunset views for us, from the tent anyway. We huddled in the tent and made and ate our sandwiches, it was far too chilly for a picnic. We set off without our panniers into the headwind to catch the ferry to Iona, and hopefully the coach tours would be finishing up and heading back so we could have a quiet couple of hours.

Ferry to Iona
Towards Iona Youth Hostel
as it says in the sand...
Isle of Iona looking back to Fionnphort on Mull
We never made it to Colonsay but the gin was good on Iona.
Iona Abbey
Lobster pots on Iona
We rode right past the abbey, and left as far as the road goes. We didn't pay to go in again. Had a mooch in a shop, and went into a pub to warm up. Nice scenery but honestly not nice to be amongst others. we ended up being aimless like them. I really am getting intolerant in old age. In fact we had a bit of a row, Steve just wanted to go in a pub, any pub, as he was so cold, so I rode the roads and took a few pics on my own and joined him a bit later. It's not all hunky dory on tour all of the time. We got the ferry back to Fionnphort.

We ate at the Keel Row in Fionnphort and had a lovely meal. The day was definitely recovered after our not satisfactory attempts at a touristic afternoon. We ate and made up, planning tomorrow. We rode the mile back to the tent and the sun was now out so a lovely walk on the beach before bed. Unfortunately even I couldn't face getting that cold for a swim still.
Fidden Farm, Isle of Mull
Fiddden Farm 
Just perfect
From Insta:

Day 6 #PuffingPuffinsTour2019 already! Beautiful #cycle from #Craignure to #Fionnphort #Mull Varied scenery. We stayed dry but still very cold with the strong northerly and 10 degrees. Pennyghael Post Office and CafĂ© was a surprise find, lemon drizzle cake 😀We battled up to Fidden Farm Campsite where we last stayed 24 years ago and put the tent up in shelter of a hollow not overlooking the stunning beach! Lunch shivering in ⛺️ then off for the ferry to #Iona. We mooched and warmed up in the pub., I rode both roads, no idea why so many cars! Too many people even later in the day. Back over for dinner at #KreelRow pub which was excellent. Just having a smashing time. #camping #cycletouring #innerhebrides


Day 1 Puffing Puffins Oban to Isle of Jura: Craighouse Sat 8th June 2019
Day 2 Puffing Puffins Isle of Jura Sun 9th June
Day 3 Puffing Puffins Jura: Craighouse - Islay: Claggain Bay via Oa peninsula Mon 10th Jun
Day 4 Puffing Puffins Islay: Claggain Bay to Port Charlotte Tues 11th June
Day 5 Puffing Puffins Islay: Port Charlotte to Mull: Craignure via Oban Weds 12th June
Day 6 Puffing Puffins Mull: Craignure to  Fionnphort and Iona Thursday 13th June 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Puffing Puffins Tour Day 5 Islay: Port Charlotte to Mull: Craignure via Oban Wednesday 12th June 2019

Day 5

Today 29 km 232m Ferries: 2

Tour to date: 304km 3265m Ferries: 5
Shieling Campsite, Craignure Isle of Mull. Pot of Gold on Ardnamurchan!
From Strava: A north easterly gale 💹 for our 25km yomp north east for lunchtime ferry from Port Askaig. Hard work! At least the ferry was running. 2 sporks and a Lidl food shop in Oban and back for evening ferry to Mull -Craignure. Steve has a slow puncture.

We had tied the tent to the fence yesterday at Port Mor campsite near Port Charlotte, the wind has dropped a little this morning. It's still a perishing cold north easterly, but the morning brew was appreciated! We only have 25km to ride to Port Askaig today, for the twice weekly lunchtime ferry back to Oban, whatever happens we cannot miss it!
Good morning campers from Port Mor campsite Port Charlotte
We strike camp and leave by 9.15am. We should have hours of free time (ferry is 12.15) but the wind was just having a brief respite at breakfast and is back up to a good force 6 north easterly again, the perennial headwind! 
The Strand, Uskentuie Isle of  Islay
We push past another gorgeous beach coming into Bridgend. I miss the turn and we go back and promptly end up on gravelly farm track for a couple of miles but come out again past Bridgend. That's the gnarly off road done for today.
Looking back to Port Charlotte
We carry on hacking into that wind, the lay of the land is lumpier now riding into the relentless and brutal headwind (Steve's favourite word of the holiday) Did I mention the HEADWIND?! The 25km to Port Askaig had taken us exactly 2 hours, and it's not like we weren't trying! With a whoop and a swish down the switchback to the harbour we do still have time for a coffee at the Port Askaig Inn. Just one hour until the ferry sails. Fortunately we had no mechanicals as missing the twice weekly ferry to Oban was not an option. I may have already mentioned that as missing this ferry was not a minor inconvenience!!
Port Askaig Islay coffee stop waiting for ferry
Are there more whiskies than just Jura?
We board the 4 hour CalMac ferry#4 back to Oban and set sail at 12.15. There is an amber weather warning, and the captain is quite wary of his ability to dock at Colonsay to pick up passengers there. in the end with some skilful seamanship, they get lots of practice round these parts, we did pick up the Colonsay passengers and settled down to a recharging everything frenzy. I spent most of the crossing chatting to a lovely lady from Islay who was off for a mini tour of the Outer Hebrides staying in the hostels. We ate something for lunch, Cal Mac food is food, plenty of calories but not much more. Friendly staff though.

We dock at 16.15 and have exactly 2 hours until our ferry to Craignure. This does feel like "re-positioning day" but we will get a full day cycling tomorrow by avoiding an overnight in Oban. An impressive audax style "no faff" run into the ticket office for our Mull return tickets was our first stop.

Steve wants to go and see if the car is OK, I will not let him because if it's not OK it will wreck the rest of our holiday. There is an argument for more clothes from the car, but we don't really have anything in the car that will help. So we stop first at Mountain Warehouse. Very fortuitously, their merino base layers are about 75% off so we purchase a winter long sleeve one each, and two more sporks. Cos we snapped one spork and a second spork is free, we now have a spare. Sporks are us. We also purchased a gas canister for the stove. Then we headed to Lidl for a picnic dinner tonight and breakfast and lunch supplies for tomorrow. As ever it feels very strange being in civilisation, a choice of food is exciting but otherwise a loud interlude in our peaceful existence. It's not like Oban is a huge place but it feels it when you're living out in the wilds.
Back in Oban queuing for a different ferry, Craignure, Mull this time.
We form an orderly queue of 2 bikes for ferry#5 Oban to Craignure at 18.10. We dock at 19.00 and hop on our bikes for a kilometre to the pre booked Shieling Campsite, left and left again. The threatening rain is holding off, and we have a prime sea view astro turf pitch, with midges as the wind has subsided. That's a first. Steve notices he has a soft tyre. He changes the inner tube, slightly annoyed the new inner tube on his old wheel wasn't swapped over with the new tyre, a really old perished inner tube is in there. We're relieved it didn't go on the race for the ferry on Islay.

We gathered up picnic stuff and retire to the mess tent as the heavens open, we were running anyway as the midges were out in force. It's very comfy with tables chairs (a television too but I hate television bursting the bubble on holiday), hobs, kettles, toasters, a fridge and freezer, games box, wood burner (purchase logs) and plug sockets. It seems Scottish camping doesn't mean holing up in your tent for days in bad weather or escaping midges  any more. Very clever marketing to get you to stay and not abandon a holiday I suppose. The ablutions tent is next door so a luxurious hot shower each was enjoyed. These tiny man made micro towels do do the job but a proper towel is a bit of a dream. A hard fought game of scrabble and we head off to bed now wearing 5 layers in our sleeping bags. There's a pot of gold on the Ardnamurchan peninsular as the sun peeps through late evening after the rain. The re-positioning day has gone well.
Slow puncture repair Shieling Campsite Craignure

Bye bye #Islay hello #Mull. We worked our way back to #PortAskaig from #PortCharlottee this morning, only 25km but into the teeth of a north easterly gale. There were mutterings in the peloton. Still plenty of time for a coffee before the twice weekly Islay-Oban service, we could not afford to miss it. We’ve really seen much more of Islay and Jura this time, superb. 4 hours later we dock in Oban, a quick purchase of another spork, one between two isn’t enough Then Lidl for picnic supplies. We have 5 layers on in the queue the wind has been so cold today. Rain held off until tent pitched at Craignure on AstroTurf and the sunset resulted in a rainbow 🌈 and hence a pot of gold on #ardnamurchan #cycling #cycletouring #innerhebrides #PuffingPuffinsTour2019


Day 1 Puffing Puffins Oban to Isle of Jura: Craighouse Sat 8th June 2019
Day 2 Puffing Puffins Isle of Jura Sun 9th June
Day 3 Puffing Puffins Jura: Craighouse - Islay: Claggain Bay via Oa peninsula Mon 10th Jun
Day 4 Puffing Puffins Islay: Claggain Bay to Port Charlotte Tues 11th June
Day 5 Puffing Puffins Tour Islay: Port Charlotte to Mull: Craignure via Oban Weds 12th June

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Puffing Puffins Tour Day 4 Islay: Claggain Bay to Port Charlotte Tuesday 11th June 2019

Day 4

Today 105km 930m Ferries: 0

Tour to date: 275km 3033m Ferries: 3 

What it says on the barrels. more importantly Botanist Gin is made here too.
From Strava:

We had to sacrifice a day on Islay when planning so fitted most of a 2 day plan into 1. So glad we did, just stunning. A very strong north to north easterly so a long hack straight to Bowmore We passed 6 of the 8 Islay distilleries today. Such big scenery. We looped round to the north coast and had a picnic lunch overlooking the beach. Blown into Port Charlotte and the campsite at Port Mor. The tent is tied to the fence and off we go without luggage for a 20km loop to Porthnahaven. What a stunning town and harbour. Then up into the hills and headwind. So glad we still did this. A tough but exhilarating day.

We struck camp. Not wet but we're cold, we're wearing all our warm clothes in our bags at night and still shivering! First distillery on the three distilleries path:

Ardbeg Distillery
The Three Distilleries Bike Path
Lagavulin Distillery
Lagavulin Distillery was next, I forgot to take a pic of Laphroaig before rolling back through Port Ellen and the lovely clean public conveniences. These things are noteworthy when wild camping. 

After a 20km hack NNW into a force 6 northerly on the straight road past the airport, we came to Bowmore. Distillery number 4 of the day already. We had a bad memory of Bowmore Tea shops on the last trip so we pushed on. second breakfast was being very much anticipated.

Bowmore Distillery
Fortunately we came across Cafaidh Blasta on the road to Bridgend. A cheerful community café with great cake coffee and lunch options, besides a cream tea. A mini bus of older residents came in, we had a lovely chat with them. The staff taught us a little Gaelic, I'm very ashamed to say that half an hour later my pea brain had emptied it all out again.
Cream tea for morning coffee at excellent Cafaidh Blasta
Luck would have it the Bridgend Quilting Group had an exhibition on. Mighty fine talent in the detail of the quilts. I'd love this one on my wall.
My favourite quilt in the exhibition
Incredible stitching and detail

Feeling suitably refreshed and socially rejuvenated we pushed through the headwind to Bridgend around the bay and onto the north coast on an out and back at Sanaigmore.

Heading down for lunch on the beach.
Well lunch overlooking the beach.

Our lunches are not pretty but very tasty. A spork is your friend. Far too much plastic though. We carried a packable small cube cool bag that fitted the top of a pannier, kept all the food together, easy to access and also prevented spillage from butter etc. Not that we had any problems with "spreadable" butter, it was always hard for the whole tour.
Gourmet lunch

The sheep kept us company.
Finally a bit of a tailwind!
Kilchoman Distillery in the middle of nowhere, number 5 of the day
Past Kilchoman Distillery (#5 today), but we didn't have time to go to Kilchoman beach as well as we were headed for Port Charlotte to put the tent up and then do a loop to Portnahaven before dinner.
Bruichladdich Distillery - also makes Botanist Gin in Port Charlotte
The most creative distillery logo at Bruichladdich coming into Port Charlotte. That's 6 out of 8 Islay distilleries today. Hate whisky, love Botanist gin that is also distilled here. We found the pre booked campsite out of the other side of town at Port Mor. Quite an exposed site for such a windy day. We checked in, treated ourselves to tea and cake in the cafe and set off ready for a smashfest as we have no luggage on the back now. We had tied the tent to the fence with our guy ropes.
It was glorious out to Portnahaven. It felt quite Cornish with the cottages all around the harbour.
Portnahaven panorama
We saw some seals basking in the harbour
We turned north up the coast directly into the almost gale force northerly. It was a battle for 10km with steep hills
Eventually we turned SE and swooped back down to Port Charlotte and baack to the campsite around 18.30. Very satisfied with our day. If only this cold wind would abate! Islay is giving us bucket loads of panoramas. We enjoyed our curry at the campsite cafe, we had earned it.
Day 4 #PuffingPuffinsTour2019 #islay #ClaggainBay to #PortCharlotte, put the tent up then a loop out to #Portnahaven without panniers. After a grey start the sun came out but a very strong northerly (plenty white horses so a Force 6 in my book) kept us working hard. Great stop off at the Gaelic Centre near Bridgend, bonus #quilting exhibition. Lunch overlooking the beach on north coast. 105km and 950m climbing. Don’t come here! #camping #cycling #cycletouring #innerhebrides


Day 1 Puffing Puffins Oban to Isle of Jura: Craighouse Sat 8th June 2019
Day 2 Puffing Puffins Isle of Jura Sun 9th June
Day 3 Puffing Puffins Jura: Craighouse - Islay: Claggain Bay via Oa peninsula Mon 10th Jun
Day 4 Puffing Puffins Islay: Claggain Bay to Port Charlotte Tues 11th June
Day 5 Puffing Puffins Tour Islay: Port Charlotte to Mull: Craignure via Oban Weds 12th June