Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tour d'Ecosse Day 12 Armadale to Ardnamurchan Wednesday 13th July 2016

Tour d'Ecosse Day 12 Armadale to Ardnamurchan 98km 1900m ascent
Cumulative: 988km 12626m ascent Ferries 10 Islands 14 Bridge 1
Finally, a Highland Coo or two.
No more of these wishy washy taking it easy "rest" days. Back to bumpy lumps today.

Before we whizz back down to Armadale we say good bye to the horses in the field next to Flora Macdonalds Hostel, we left by 7.45 to catch the 8.30 to Armadale - Mallaig Cal Mac.It's been a few days since our last ferry, this is Ferry #10. We buy another Hopscotch ticket, this time Hopscotch #7 for the princely sum of £8.90 each for three ferries on Skye and Mull today and tomorrow.
Horses at Armadale's Flora McDonnald Hostel
The Skye to Mallaig ferry was uneventful, and thankfully I was feeling fine today. Today there were a lot of sharp ascents, starting in Mallaig. The first few miles were along the A830 aka "The Road to the Isles" from Fort William to Mallaig. It wasn't very pleasant with traffic, even though it was light we were not used to whizzy cars and lorries and were relieved to turn off at Lochailort onto country bumpkin roads again, even if a side trip to our old haunts in the Glencoe area and cycling across Rannoch Moor would have been appealing. Another time. We were much happier. Back to our own private roads with the odd local friendly van, car or tractor/quad bike. It's not raining!
Loch Ailort
Ardnamurchan geology
Loch Ailort

We came across a great looking community shop and cafe in Glenuig, at the start of another ruddy great long hill! As is the norm in the Highlands the opening hours were limited, and seemed to alternate afternoons and mornings. Of course Wednesday was an afternoon day, and it was well and truly morning. We're good at hitting closing time. so a quick diversion to the pub in the village for a coffee, and again it wasn't open until midday. No coffees before the big slog up Glenuig Hill. Steve has commented that I'm cruel taking pictures of him expiring at the top of hills so I am just taking descending pics today...
The whizz down the big hill that was Glenuig Hill
We were in our stride and just beginning to get peckish after another serious climb and descent we came across a restaurant utterly in the middle of nowhere just after Dalnabrek. Mingarry Park is a recently modernised resto with rooms near Acharacle.  Home made soup and a roll and a panoramic view of the hills, a great place for lunch and it looked a lovely place to stay too.

Watching a stag from our lunch table
We watched a stag whilst we ate.

It was very fortunate we had found a good substantial lunch as the hills kept on coming at us, In fact this was our hilliest day of the whole tour, nearly 2000m in total said Strava, although Ride with GPS had said only 1500m when planning. It got a bit warmer and the sun peeked out as we passed through Acharacle, yet another sharp hill before flying down into Salen.
Oh my goodness never come here, it's stunning. Very hilly but the ride along Loch Sunart is jaw dropping. It may have helped that the weather has improved and I took my arm warmers off this afternoon. Just look. It was one of those days that got better and better and better.
Loch Sunart
Steve had stayed in the Salen area in a cottage for a childhood holiday and it was coming back to him although he couldn't remember exactly where he had stayed. We went up and down, round the headlands, watching the odd boat in Loch Sunart with Mull in the distance. The biggest hill of the day is yet to come. We brace ourselves coming through Glenbeg. We're going on up again. Another alpine style climb contouring Ben Hiant.
Delightfully named Loch Mudle
But this was our reward. Spectacular views towards Mull and only 10km to go, mostly downhill.
At last...the descent to Kilchoan

which was fast

and fun, and we deserved it!

Nearly there. Kilchoan bound.
The usual faffing around finding our B&B in Kilchoan, another one we booked through Sawdays and we had high hopes for and boy we were not disappointed. We had made a couple of phone calls during the day to change our time for dinner, as we were eating in. So convinced it would be well gone 7 before arriving it was in fact just 4.30pm. We had made good time and immediately got a ribbing from David, the owner, who met us effusively and said we obviously had not done enough miles and perhaps we would like to visit the famous Ardnamurchan lighthouse before afternoon tea! Meall Mo Chridhe is a gorgeous ochre farmhouse on a small holding, up the last steep pull of the day that I gallantly did not walk up. David and Stella have done an amazing job converting and modernising their farmhouse, and kept the smallholding running alongside the top notch but homely B&B and finally I got to see lots of highland coos or cows. I already knew I never wanted to leave and we hadn't been inside yet.
Meall Mo Chridhe view from the drawing room
This is David and Stella's home, the drawing room is their living room, lined with hundreds of climbing, history and cookery books and David reckons there are only a handful of days a year he doesn't lay a fire. All guests love a fire, and it was lit later on even though it was a fine day! After making sure our bikes were safely under cover in the trailer, and a shower, we were spoilt with tea and cake (not advertised as being included so even nicer a surprise) and Stella obligingly shifted dinner back to an earlier time. Nothing is too much trouble for these two. Stella used to run her own catering company in the Midlands, and she is an astounding cook.
Lord of the manor...not! 
We had booked the cheaper attic quarters, with no view but still with our own shower room, incredible value for money. The room was lovely, charmingly a grown child's room, with bookshelves like our own daughters at home and a raised bed under the eaves, but the price difference nearly paid for dinner and we slept like logs. The main B&B rooms were stunning, and I would come back to one of these tomorrow for several days to explore properly. Staying in a stunning BnB in Kilchoan opposite Tobermory on Mull. Drop dead gorgeous.
Over the sea to Mull
Stella cooked a superb dinner, her take on a tagine. Wine is BYO, and David had even nipped to the local shop as it was going to be closed if we had been any later. What service. After dinner we walked around the farm, up the little knoll at the back to the ruined chapel and graveyard.
View from Kilchoan towards Mull, nearly 10pm
Ardnamurchan late July evening

Meall Mo Chridhe

A highland Cow at last!

Lots and lots of inquisitive Highland Coos and calves

Who are you?

Rusty Coos

This is the last coo pic honest!
We enjoyed the view for the rest of the evening, and had a sobering discussion with a lovely couple from Glasgow who had eaten in the village but were staying for 3 days, and now wish they'd eaten in for all three nights. We are still shocked and in mourning for the disastrous shock that is Brexit, been trying to forget about all the ramifications. nobody we know or meet can understand it. Why? We didn't let it spoil our stay and after lots of travel, exploration and mountain chat, and overheating in front of David's enthusiastic fire, we retire for a very good night's sleep in the raised bed under the eaves. We're still disagreeing as to the best day. I think today was it. The best day of our Tour d'Ecosse so far.
Nearly 11pm Meall Mo Chridhe
Touring Tips in Scotland

1 Open your eyes.

2 Drink it all in.

3 What goes up must come down again, eventually!


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!