Tour d'Ecosse Day 9 Gairloch to Shieldaig and Applecross Peninsula 85km 1176m ascent
Cumulative: 762km 8362m ascent Ferries 9 Islands 13
After a good breakfast, in the much nicer family kitchen of the B&B that actually has the nice view advertised, we head out. Just the warm up.4 lumps. Less ascent than yesterday. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. We won't be going over 150m, look the map says so.
|View from Shieldaig to Loch Sheidaig|
Be warned, today is a picture heavy day. A very picture heavy day. I want to drink in the scenery forever.
But I'm jumping ahead. The terrain this morning was not as bad as we had anticipated, just drizzle and midges to contend with as it was quite calm. Had to be quick taking pics! We came to signs for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve's Visitor Centre. Visitor Centre = Tea and Cake...right...must have, a given, a money making opportunity...but...it was a great visitor centre, staffed by a lovely bearded chap enthusiastic about his centre, the birds, scenery and topography/geology. We learnt about the Big 6. Ohh eck, that's rhinos and tigers isn't it? Phew, we're talking eagles and the like. This NNR was the first in Scotland, and protects an ancient pine forest plantation too. Webcams to watch the bird feeders, hides. The works. Free as well, a great resource. We took our time and enjoyed the displays. Um..no café. So unspoilt too as a result, a slurp of water and on we go to guaranteed facilities in Kinlochewe just up the road.
Except the Kinlochewe Hotel's bar doesn't open until midday. I'm not sure if that was an every day thing or a Sunday thing but it was 11-ish and now quite damp and chilly to loiter for service. I poked my head round the door and bravely asked if there was any chance of a coffee for none residents, given there is a bunkhouse there too, but no. Oh well, Kinlochewe Post Office is open and a group of friendly bikers, of the vroom vroom sort, were clustered at a bench outside with takeaway mugs of steaming hot beverages. They had exhausted the cafe/hotel/visitor centre options too. The Post Office in these parts are usually pretty entrepreneurial, hot drinks machine and very tasty home made tray bakes from the cheerful local teenager to take away to the bench and sit huddle under the brolly (another optimistic parasol) outside. Revived somewhat from hot drink, cake and chat with the bikers we set off up the second grind of the day.
|Up to Torridon Pass|
|Beinn Eighe foothills|
|Upper Loch Torridon|
When planning the holiday I really wanted to spend the night at the Torridon Hotel, Just go and look at the website and get a feel for the spectacular scenery and imposing architecture on their videos. However the lowest rate was £250 a night, and with dinner another £80 each. Not counting wine. It looks amazing though. Even if they had had a room at the cheapest rate when I was booking, we would feel a bit out of place. The sister Torridon Inn was a great compromise. £120 a night, can still eat in the restaurant. However I worked it we could not stay the night as the 15 day plan would not work if we were going to attempt Bealach na Ba tomorrow.
However we worked it being there for afternoon tea, which seemed a brilliant compromise, £20 each, as a delayed anniversary celebration, also didn't pass the number crunching as I had calculated we needed to be further on than Shieldaig tonight to make tomorrow achievable.
So we went to the Inn for lunch, it was great. We were pretty wet, it was smart, but wood and slate floor smart, walking boots at the door, plenty of people in damp clothing but we were the only cyclists. Heating on and surreally Andy Murray thrashing out Wimbledon 2016 in a heat wave somewhere the other side of the world, or it may as well have been! I had a delicious chick pea and bean cassoulet for £9. Very tasty, plenty delicious bread, warming and not too heavy for the afternoon of cycling to come but substantial enough to be my main meal today. So grateful to have some vegetables. Burger, pie, venison all superb cooking but not pretentious. I had read that the chef is the same for the Inn so win win, We had just the right amount of poshness without feeling uncomfortable. Our wet gloves steamed on the radiator and we staved off the chill that had been setting into the bones.
|Taking a picture of...see below!|
|Shores of Loch Shieldaig|
This is the part of the day we had been building up in our heads for a while. Reports of the Applecross peninsula are of stunning wild scenery and sea views but my goodness you work to be rewarded with the huge vistas. The ups and downs from Shieldaig to Applecross are the equivalent ascent to Bealach na Ba itself, the highest road pass climb in the land at 650m. Most cyclists do the route the other way round but research said practically everyone thinks they're done and then get caught out by the brutal climbs, just long and steep enough to be very hard work, round to Shieldaig. Cottages and crofts dot the hillside, lots of space between neighbours.
|Ardheslaig chuffing hill, ramps up to 15%, done.|
|It doesn't look it...|
|but this chuffing lump has been going on forever and|
|kicks up to 15% at the top...cruelty at the end of the day!|
I left my bike with Steve and tramped back up the hill and down a stone track and thankfully found the main house and was met by a cheerful Abi, we had found the right house, We chatted away and I returned to get Steve and bikes. Quite a rough walk back down the track with our bikes but well worth it. Abi led us over the croft land and machair to the yurt peeping it's red door in the bottom corner of the field. The midges were out, dry air but wet ground. Just look at our home for the night. Abi had filled the water carrier with safe stream water from their supply, offered us firewood for the fire pit, and showed us the toilet tent round the back. I am totally in love yet again. Really this is nicer than the Torridon. we can stay two weeks here for the price of one night in the Torridon. Value for money and total tranquillity. £25 a night. Extra £5 if you want duvets. Stunning value. Posh camping.
We had brought our sheet liners but the yurt had two z-beds, duvets, a raised floor and camping chairs.
A raised camping gas stove and pots and pans, matches. Solar lights. We were self sufficient. so airy yet cosy and no midges inside as long as the door was kept closed.
We are fenced in, presumably to keep the sheep at bay, and have our own gate and front lawn.
After damp bracken wading we opened the gate to the shoreline, the tide is in.
Yes I took my knitting on a cycling holiday. It's a "hap" or a working crofter's shawl pattern from a new book, the Book of Haps that I recently bought by the knitwear designer Kate Davies.
My "Hebridean Hap" is the Shore Hap pattern and I carefully chose the yarn before we left to reflect the colours of the machair, sea, crags and skies in the Hebrides, Cycling and knitting are perfect partners. Knitting on a ferry is normal too isn't it?
Dig the cycling socks and grungy lightweight but perfect sandals, my only pair of footwear other than cycling shoes. One pair full length leggings to keep midges out and a bright easy to dry fleece that can be worn on the bike if necessary.
|Yurt mod cons|
|Our fire pit to keep midges at bay|
We brewed up, having remembered to pick up tea bags, coffee and uht milk sachets from the BnB. This is the life. After our snack picnic we walked down to the sandy beach 5 minutes away through the stunning croft machair or wildflower meadow.
|Ox eye daisies|
|Our beach 9.30pm|
|My Hebriddean Hap|
I will make two halves, join and knit into the triangle at the back and then the ends can tie in many ways and not get in the way when wearing as an extra layer in cooler climates.
|I could stay here forever as long as I have midge repellent|
The frog looked at me as if to say " you are mad, nobody has ever brought their knitting here" I did not want to go back, it's still nowhere near dark at 10.30. I am sorry but I am coming back here, definitely. I have to do a weaving or dying course. I have to swim in the sea, sit on the beach, barbecue, read, commune with nature and cycle to Applecross Inn to party. At some point it got dark for a couple of hours but we were toasty warm in our Gurt Lush Yurt. We have done well. That's five big days in a row. Tomorrow is the biggest yet.
|What the ribbit is she doing on my beach?|
Touring Tips in Scotland
1 Mix up your accommodation, cheapest is often the most memorable for all the right reasons.
2 Stash away a couple of sachets of coffee and milk from B&Bs for the self catering nights.
3 Take time out to visit the visitor centres and learn about your environment. Don't expect a café.
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!