It often starts with a train; some of the most interesting people appear to travel that way.
But people generally are interesting; even (or especially?) the most unpromising, at first glance specimens...
Have you ever asked yourself - "Why are they attempting to look so very ordinary?"
Bike was safely hung, fully clothed from the front wheel here; but nearly every train operator seems to have a favoured stowage position...
This one is 'Virgin Style'
My touring luggage is designed, and distributed, so as to do away with the need, for debagging the bike before boarding...
That's a particularly tedious process; under time pressure; on a crowded station platform; under the harassed glare of platform staff, especially if you travel by yourself...
My first table companion; upon leaving Exeter was a water engineer...
I was astonished to find, that up to that point; he'd never been closely interrogated by a fellow traveller, as to the destination of all the lovely sewage sludge, that we collectively create.
So much precious fertility; is it being used to best effect?
It seems we are performing (sic) better, than we were 10 years ago; but there's still much room for improvement...
Penultimate; homegrown tomato... And salad bag, one of the hardships of leaving the farm.
One should always travel hopefully, but at the same time, realistically.
Its unlikely that produce of this quality, will be available on the refreshments trolley.
So it has to be a case of "Have salad; will travel"
Achieved and traversed Glasgow; with remarkably little incident (by my standards)
The previous visit-with-a-bicycle to this fine city was unscheduled... Worth noting if you are required to stow your bike in the guards van...
Then onwards up the line to Crianlarich, forgiving, but maybe not altogether forgetting, a proper train controller of more diminutive stature.
Who absolutely insisted that I undress my bicycle, of it's luggage before getting on the train towards Oban.
Despite there being, quite clearly, no need whatsoever.....
It was very much a case of "My train, my rules" No matter how quixotic those regulations might appear to all others concerned; i had a fair gang on my side.. But -
Sometimes, you just know, by the set of the jaw, that there is really no point in arguing.
So as an alternative, some small victory might be won, by being unnervingly sweet, solicitous, understanding, and polite about it all.
" Shall I put it just here?
"Like this; yes?"
"Or a touch further forwards perhaps?"
"Is this OK?"
"Are you sure?"
"Gosh! you must have the most dreadful bother with uncooperative cyclists; poor you; a real challenge to the patience yes?"
Perhaps; the next person got to keep their panniers on?
Or alternatively, cycles are now banned altogether on 'his' train.
In which case; very sorreeee people. But really? Who amongst us can resist engaging with a 'jobsworth' for sport?
Simple pleasures... For simple folk.
After an overnighter in the very hospitable hostel abutting Crianlarich station, it was a relatively easy hour and some eastwards, on quiet enough roads to stay by Loch Tay. To spend the weekend indulging in some tecchy small scale, 'hairy farmer' business.
This amazing weather can't possibly last, its October, and the forecast is terrible.
But make the most of it, between workshop sessions and visit the Loch beach only ten minutes walk across the farm at Tombreck...
An utterly fabulous venue for a shindig such as this...
Honestly; don't go to Scotland, it rains all the time.... So they say.
By late Sunday afternoon, the farmer party was starting to break up.
But I was camping over until Monday morning before heading out west.
Some of the attendees did a diligent 'lost property sweep' as they left for Edinburgh.
As a result I was now (having foolishly left my waterproof, and a few other items unattended in a bag) about to set off for the West Coast, and Islands without upper body rain protection.
Even I, despite being a generally optimistic type, would never countenance anything so foolish.
So a very brief halt was made at Killin Outdoor Store, on the return journey to Crianlarich. Under three minutes to try on, and purchase jacket ...
Because how fortuitous! They were having a sale...
Pretty speedy shopping, even by standards of someone not, given to agonising over kit decisions.... After all, even the lowest quality goods on offer nowadays, would make a cyclist from a hundred years ago, gape with envy.
FYI the jacket is a pretty blue and manufactured by an outfit called Mountain Hardware. I've had their stuff before, and it taken a good few tears of wear to destroy. Sturdy stuff, as the name suggests..
And we're off...... Destination Mull, approaching. Look at all those lovely pointy bits,,. And soo clear.
This surely can't be that same guy from Glasgow? If so, I do hope he has a twin brother; sitting on the other side for balance....
Ah me, another glorious sunrise; after first pitch at Craignure on Mull.
Is it just me? Or do you ever feel like you've stolen someone else's good weather?
This is the A 849 heading west towards the Ross of Mull, One day; in my fantasy world; all A roads will be like this.
Cycling heaven, so long as the weather plays nicely. And boy, did it play nicely?
|looking back up the loch , past the log loading pontoon, can't resist a bit of heavy lifting gear action...|
And welcome refreshment right here with Joy, twice over on this day...
Once on the way to Ffianofort, to view, but not visit, the Island of Iona,
I could have hopped on the ferry and visited. but for some reason it wasn't calling.
Maybe best I didn't as I seem to possess, a mischievous streak. which feels almost duty bound; to lighten any very solemn; or earnest occasion with an inappropriately irreverent remark.I wouldn't want to get thrown overboard for impiety, en route to such a holy place.
I did however, managed to establish on my travels there, that Trevor is no longer the proprietor of Burnessan Stores.
I had been detailed to send him salutations from across the pond. He has alas; moved on - geographically speaking only; but the shop is still there; and a fine example of its type....... Absolutely everything crammed in; to such an extent that one dares not take anything off a shelf; for fear of dislodging the rest of the stock; and invoking the Ire of the new(ish) owner.....
I played safe with a somewhat over priced loose banana. But then why should a banana be cheap here? of all places? Can you imagine the journey it had made? What price a turnip in the Windwards?
Joy runs this, well placed and stocked shop, and tea establishment near the head of Loch Scridain....
We had fine chats about this, and that, and birds of interest viewable from the large plate glass window.
During which, were joined in our conversing, by an older couple who were also enjoying the hospitality.
Then, Joy enquired of the holidaying couple, from where they had come? How was their journey?
(What was she thinking of?)
Because this quite innocent general questioning, rather predictably, resulted in the extensive, nay exhaustive listing of all individual roads taken by the happy couple, en route to Mull.
Plus minutiae of traffic problems encountered. and possible route alternatives that could have been taken.
Nor did said gentleman omit to inform us, of all those highways which had been used on previous excursions, to this tranquil spot
(I do have details on a spreadsheet if anyone needs to know)
Suffice to say; after approx two minutes of this stuff, the females of the room were giving the front window good competition in the 'glazed over' stakes...
I resisted my temptation to kidnap the wife, and carry her off on my back rack, whilst crying.
"Come with me good lady; we shall flee; and sally forth with good heart and cheer; along picturesque winding roads the numbers of which, we are blissfully unaware..... Stopping at each and every tea shop to eat buns"
pitch 2, on the shores of Loch na Keal. There are plenty of fine places to camp on this southerly shore. And an abundance of clean water streams descending from the slopes of Maol Mhor.............
However; I didn't come on this trip to rescue damsels from their overly detailed road cataloguing travails...
Each; very much; to their own.
Getting over to Loch na Keal from Killichen involved a bit of a hill climb, first through what appears to be productive forage cropping lands on the loch shore.
Then leaving the mass of Ardmeanach to the West, the subsequent forestry clearance on the higher slopes gives a somewhat desolate air, before achieving the upland grazing at the pass.
|Making some headway, against a very strong headwind today. fantastically fine views but I did get blown off the road (b8035) once, or perhaps twice...|
The plan for the next day was to ascend (but not 'bag') Ben More. The only Munro on Mull ( I believe) its an easy enough walk up from the road at Dishig.
I stashed my bike alongside the shed of a kindly bungalow resider nearby; and started up properly provisioned.
The wind got windier, as it tends to with height, and the views opened up over north west Mull and the ocean.
|Yes, its a big one! (picture) but just look at that view, quite stunning. i know the picture is a tad slanty, but in my defence the winds were gusting towards 70 mph (according to weather reports - later)|
The wind was really having some fun with me now.
I only had a smallish, no too wind catching pack on for carrying lunch, waterproofs, gloves and nav' stuff.
It's an Alpkit* dry-bag type affair with comfy straps, fine for day walks, or a not overly laden overnighter.
It also does good service for carrying tent, and sleeping mat strapped to the top of the back rack on the bike, encased in another thick polybag to avoid too much road crud invading, and to prevent the straps getting involved in your wheels....
* I like the stuff supplied by this online-only shop, quality unfussy gear, produced in the UK quite ethically I understand.
And they also have a naughty (to my filthy mind) logo; with the strapline "Go nice places; do good things".... Well; who am I to argue; with such instructions?
The weather did have the last laugh in this case. After having been blown over for the seventh time;
(And that was before gaining the last rockier, and considerably more exposed section to the top)
I decided that retreat was probably the better option. The hill wasn't going anywhere, I'd captured some amazing views, moreover there wasn't a single soul in sight, to appreciate the full hilarity of my pratfalls.
So now skirting the coast-road around Loch na Keal, not speedily, no rush at all, as my destination intention for that nights pitch had been in full view all day.
And I'd done enough forward planning via local knowledge supplied, to discover that the tiny seven minute ferry ran 'on demand' up til 5pm.
Cycling in Scotshire seems to be almost less onerous, at least hillwise, than in the home county of Devon.
The roads there seem to follow the contours where they can, within reason, which may give for a more convoluted route, but is slightly easier on the thighs...
In the south west the byway is generally dictated by patterns of land ownership, so you can often find yourself taking the shortest, but steepest route.
|The Carn Mor Range viewed from the slipway at Ulva Ferry. the properly jovial ferry man was most accommodating. |
Once he realised how relatively light my load was, there was no talk of deshabille bikewards.
Another internet informant, had told me this little island was worth a look.
But being 15 miles long, so not totally teeny really.
And in possession of a satisfying ziggurat style geological arrangement to its rugged coastline.
Further to the west there is semi-detached Gometra, Reachable on foot at low tide.
I didn't make it there this time.
There is also a rather good boathouse cafe, serving generously filling meals at very low prices; especially reasonable given that their market is captive.
Another time I might chose to spend a couple of nights here, and explore further.
Parts of inland Ulva are fairly well wooded, and run as a shooting estate. The coastal areas are rockier, and more exposed.
|On the way to the south coast.|
Main road Ulva... No classification number whatsoever ; and it gets far gnarlier the further west you go.
I ended up having to push towards my pitch. Maybe a more rugged bike (or rider) would have coped.
But I've fallen off enough times doing dumb stuff; over the years; to have a little more respect for my poor middle-aged kneecaps.
It took almost ten years for a forcibly inserted piece of gravel to work its way out, after one particularly painful knee bloodying incident. it still grumbles on steep descents walking.
Another enviable pitch, showing some of the stepped layering of the coastal profile. Ben More - scene of many a tumble, mid horizon.
Oh Lord; not another annoying sunset. Iona just visible (I think) to the far south (LHS of picture)
I could have found a much larger, and far more levellised pitch, in the ruined village 50 yds below the spot where I decided to put the tent.
But, despite my claims as to having absolutely no truck whatsoever; with supernatural beliefs; of any sort.
I would still contend that there are very few true rationalists, alone, in a wind flapped tent, at four in the morning.
Especially when the local stags are in full bellow.
My random bag packing meant that I couldn't find the earplugs at two in the morning either.
But on trips such as this I've come to accept that a bit of waking up and thinking, or imagining is par for the course.
Life can take on a different rhythm when travelling; especially if there is no particular goal as such; no one else's acheivement schedule to keep to.
Its more just a case of being out there "doing good things; in nice places"
So unless there's a timetabled ferry, or train to catch; why not have a lazy sleep in, once the sun is up?
Tent somewhere on the flat bit, just above the chimney.
The village of Ormaig was deserted..... Quite some time back..... If there had been a tea shop, I would have patronised it thoroughly.
And of course the kite came too, she could have had an airing on Ben More, but the wind speeds encountered there might have added to my instability.
Return trip, showing the bosathouse cafe..... "Go there.... eat nice things"
On from Calgary, through Dervaig, towards Tobermory, still on the B8073. I'd been advised that this stretch of road could be described as 'alpine'
Now I know some folks relish the prospect of endless terrifyingly inclined switchbacks; up which they can haul, and down which they can hurl themselves.
But the reality here is none too daunting. Devon is a good training ground for hill climbs.
The bright lights of Tobermory, after pitching at the campsite about a mile and a half up the road.
Mmm hot shower, then fish and chips in town, the full luxuries of the road.
|Bikes generally load on and off the boat first...|
Back to the mainland now.
At the ferry port there was a young girl of about three, accompanying her mother on the journey to Ardnamurchan.
As the boat approached she jumped up and down calling excitedly.
"The ferry is coming; the ferry is coming!"
I feel it's kind of a shame that we so called 'grown ups' have to internalise these feelings; if we're not to risk being seen as totally crazy types.
Therefore it was nice to have company nearby; to vocalise my feeling of anticipation
The sunny uplands of Ardnamurchen, once again, beautifully empty, with well surfaced roads.
setting out across the wild feeling uplands; after leaving Kilchoan where the ferry from Tobermory makes landfall.
Heading here towards the South side of this little visited peninsula.
Probably made famous most by the soothing* UK shipping forecast; which mentions Ardnamurchen Point, as it poetically circumnavigates by name, the convoluted coast of these isles.
The extremity of this projection is the most westerly part of the UK mainland; where stands a particularly fine lighthouse.
* Perhaps not so soporific; if one is actually out boating when heavy weather is predicted.
I did apologise for being so intolerable; in fact I think by now, I was even starting to annoy myself ...
It turns out it is possible to be so smug; as to try; even ones own tender patience...
Really guys; don't go to Scotland; the weather is truly awful...
Up and down, and over and along. By the time I got there; the road to Salen felt a good deal longer than the 18 miles proposed at Kilchoan.
Then I had to remind myself that I had inadvertently added an extra 6 miles to that distance....
I finally found a good flat pitch by a dinky boathouse, looking up towards the mouth of Loch Moidart. The boathouse gave good windbreaking cover for the meths stove.
Bit of a rush next up the A830 from Lochailort to gain Mallaig for next ferry Rendevous.
great beaches along the way, but no time to stop and admire.
On reflection I wish I had done some portion of that section by train which follows a similar route. It wasn't so much fun being on a heavily used highway: especially after pootling around the byways for days.
Those laden log lorries aren't so concerned with making room, for holidaymakers.
I know all about asserting ones right to road space; but the moral high-ground isn't much use if one finds oneself under the wheels of such a fearsome pantechnicon.
But first I had a couple of hours to kill; so opted for the scenic back road route from Kilbeg to Achnacloich on the western shore of the Sleat peninsula, giving splendid views over the clear topped Black Cuillen.
Then an undulating coastal route to Ord, before recrossing the hills further up; to regain the main road north.
Lowering clouds yes; but still dry; and warmish. Approaching Ord. Its a stiffish detour for the end of a day; but scenically rewarding.
|The jagged ridge of the Black Cullin, ove Ord.|
Back on the eastern edge of Sleat now, scoping out a pitch not very far from this evenings pre birthday sustenance. Camus Croise
Interior shot (plus two more inside) at the most hospitable hostelry at Camus Croise.
I arrived here very damp one early afternoon in August 2011 having cycled from central Skye in heavy rain; the fire was banked; and clothes were dried. Later that day I was even invited out for an impromptu boat trip; to inspect shrimping pots if I remember correctly...
So this seemed like a good place to aim for; in order to imbibe pre birthday libation....
Fantastic venison casserole; followed by a guided tour of the malts...
With some new friends made. It would have been most rude to refuse.
|Knoydart across the still waters; and yes; another whole day older.|
Birthday morning; interesting formations skywards... Ongoing fair weather promised; but nothing is ever certain.
Somewhat clouded (fuzzy headed?) vision as to where I was headed next.
I had some ideas; and indeed many options.
But rather than just rush off for the sake of it; as is often my wont; inclining to bustle myself bossily through inaction.
I decided to sit; and be still; with the uncertainty; consider the options.... Here? Or there?
The "what if's?" Came crowding in: ferry times; long range forecast; sore achilles: going too far?
Or not going far enough...
The terrible fear of not making the most of the time allowed.
Still another seven days to play with...
Too lucky; for sure; for words.