Monday, August 08, 2016

Tour d'Ecosse Day 3 Jura-Tayvallich to Oban Monday 4th July 2016

Day 3 Jura-Tayvallich to Oban 71km 878m ascent
Cumulative 222km 2778m ascent Ferries 5 Islands 3
Jura Passenger Ferry Jura to Tayvallich
Weather alert, very brave in shorts. Dreich* plus a bit. eating! 500m from hotel to ferry terminal (aka pier) and the blighters chomped my legs!!  I still love Jura. 

*From the  "A combination of dull, overcast, drizzly, cold, misty and miserable weather." At least 4 of the above adjectives must apply.

Weeks before, after seeing a reference to the Jura Passenger Ferry in Richard Barrett's superb Cycling in the Hebrides book (that we based our holiday on), I had booked us and our bikes on the first ferry at 8.45 from Jura to Tayvallich on the mainland. Ferry #5

We said goodbye to the lovely Jura Hotel after a superb breakfast, packed up the panniers and sauntered down to the dock. We were getting better at this routine already. Here is the plan:
 Originally we had wanted to take the CalMac sailing to Oban (from Port Askaig) possibly via Colonsay, where on a Wednesday or a Saturday you can spend 4-7 hours on the island arriving from the twice weekly Islay-Colonsay-Oban service  and then get the daily Colonsay-Oban CalMac ferry in the evening. However we routed it we could not make it work for a Saturday or Wednesday without having to cut the plan elsewhere, as days go to waste. Even if we had parked in Oban and worked the route as a figure of 8 we were scuppered. But Richard's excellent book mentioned that the private Jura Ferry runs daily, and fortunately it still has funding and is running, but you need to book, as there is limited bike space and only 2 crossings a day (none on Wednesday and only 1 on Sunday). This "Plan B" then entailed cycling up to Oban from Tayvallich. The crossing (around an hour) was a bit more exciting than CalMac, but we didn't see any seals as it was so claggy.
Tayvallich has a highly recommended Inn that serves delicious seafood, we were told, and a 7 day a week community shop and café, where we spent some pennies in the shop on lunch and bananas as the café stop isn't allowed before any effort has been expended! As we had already found,  there are often are no cafés when you want one, so emergency supplies to last the day are necessary "just in case." It's also very picturesque and remote. Route finding is not hard when there is only one road. It skimmed the wooded shore and was very picturesque. The weather dried up a bit and we waited ten minutes for a swing bridge to be swung so we could proceed on our way to Oban. I am sure we had a cereal bar or a banana as we appreciated the scenery and waved at the yachts chugging through.
Patiently waiting at the lock
Slow boat to ....
The terrain got lumpier and we did end up on a dirt cycle track at one point that would have been perfect on a mountain bike but was at the limit of the road bikes. Mightily relieved when we escaped back to the road. We joined the main A816 and the first of three big lumpy bumps today. We reckon anything over 100m ascent to 10km distance classes as lumpy...we exceeded that ratio today, and most days. I spotted a sign for a marina and cafe/pub/restaurant at the bottom of Loch Melfort and we diverted a couple of miles for lunch. Big mistake. Well, it added on a hell of a kick of a lump and after that diversions for nice looking cafés were rarely allowed. This turned out to be a very run of the mill pub and we had a perfectly OK soup and ploughmans but it was not worth the detour! Snotty Yotties all tied up in the marina, as ex-dinghy sailors call them ;) We are booked to stay at Loch Melfort next week, but the other end.
Loch Melfort marina
The rain returned and got steadily heavier as we hauled our way over the lumps to Oban. To be honest it was not very pleasant, not that much traffic for a trunk road but an artic or bus every now and then, no alternative route and it was the main road to Oban from the South. Coming into Oban we got a bit lost round the suburbs and had a couple of false starts tracking our B&B down which was up a ruddy hill of course! It did mean there was a great view.

We did feel a little out of place arriving like wet otters dripping at the lovely Sawdays recommended Greystones. I had been very lucky that they had had a one night gap as this place is usually full and only takes bookings for 2 nights plus unless a gap. All the rooms here have a stunning view of the harbour and the ferries coming and going, it was worth that last climb! We were also kindly allowed to leave our bikes in the shed, which entailed a cross country style yomp down slippy steps in the garden. We were very glad to get to our lovely room and start the nightly hot shower, washing shorts, drying off us and clothes, warming up and eating routine. Very nice home made Florentines were left out for us on the tea tray. I am very good at weighing up a B&B by their complimentary tea trays.Home made offerings are essential. Greystones was excellent. The architecture was very Scottish and very stylishly updated, and had originally been the Maternity hospital. No ghosts of labouring mothers though. I took this picture later on when it had stopped raining and we had cleaned up a bit! Again a 2-3 night stay here would be great. Walking distance to the centre but very peaceful.
Greystones B&B - not the laird

View from our bedroom at Greystones
Oban Harbour
Oban Prom
Oh look, a whisky distillery, Oban
We walked into town having managed to get an early booking at The Waterfront Fishouse on the CalMac pier. The early-bird £13.99 (and lunch) menu was good value and delicious but not quite enough for two hungry cyclists so we did partake of dessert too, which bumped the bill up a lot! Eat here, but watch what you order. We didn't stay out late, and as this was the fanciest B&B we were staying at we went back to appreciate our room, although not a stunning sunset it was still a breathtaking view. We may also have had a complimentary sherry that was left out for guests, a nice touch.
View from our bedroom; time 22.45 !
Touring Tips in Scotland

1 Try and avoid trunk roads, although not busy by any means rumbling lorries do make for a workhorse approach to "getting done". There were only 2-3 sections in the whole holiday like this, not bad really.

2 Do not spend the whole holiday dreading the one section of road we knew we were reversing part of later in the holiday. We made the lumps into Mount Everests in our head by the following week. We were fitter by then and laughed at ourselves for making mountains out of molehills, well lumpy molehills but nothing like we remembered!

3 Wash cycle shorts out whilst having a shower, as if treading grapes, squeeze excess water out at hourly intervals and even with heating you are lucky if they dry by morning. No hope of dry shorts if camping in this weather.

Tour d'Ecosse quick links:

Day 1 Isle of Arran and a little Mull of Kintyre
Day 2 Inner Hebrides: Isles of Islay and Jura
Day 3 Inner Hebrides: Isle of Jura-Tayvallich to Oban
Day 4 Oban to Outer Hebrides: Barra and Vatersay
Day 5 Outer Hebrides: Isles of Barra Eriskay South Uist Benbecula Grimsay North Uist Beneray and Harris
Day 6 Outer Hebrides: Isles of Harris and Lewis to Callanish Stones
Day 7 Outer Hebrides: Butt of Ness to Stornoway and Ullapool
Day 8 Ullapool to Gairloch
Day 9 Gairloch to Shieldaig - Applecross Peninsula
Day 10 Bealach na Bà from Applecross to Plockton
Day 11 Plockton to Inner Hebrides: Isle of Skye Armadale
Day 12 Inner Hebrides: Isle of Skye Armadale to Ardnamurchan
Day 13 Ardnamurchan to Inner Hebrides: Isle of Mull to Oban to Loch Melfort
Day 14 Loch Melfort to Tarbert, Loch Fyne
Day 15 Tarbert Loch Fyne to Ardrossan THE END!

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