Posted by: paulgilders | September 21, 2012

Scotland’s Western Isles

Our first Scottish Isle was Arran. We cycled down the east coast of the island with sunshine and showers all the way. Here is the brightest moment near Whiting Bay.

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Our campsite for the next couple of days was at the little village of Kildonan on the south coast. It was in ideal place for a break, since our tent was right on the beachfront. We had views to the islands of Pladda and Ailsa Craig, saw seals and dolphins from our tent and had the Kildonan Hotel nearby for essential food supplies.

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After a couple of days rest, we cycled north up the west coast of Arran. It was a blustery and wet day of cycling, but the roads were quiet and the hillsides were covered in heather.

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We made it to Lochranza extremely wet and hoping for a warm night at the youth hostel. Unfortunately, the £80 per night wasn’t within budget, so we ended up camping again. That evening we had a number of further heavy showers and the groundsheet was feeling sloshy! Here’s the view outside the tent door.

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The following morning, we managed to mostly dry out (more due to wind than sun) before getting on our next ferry over to the Kintyre peninsula. Once again we trudged our way through rain, eventually arriving in Tarbert. Without a campsite (and without much will to wild camp), we enquired about staying in some cabins. They proved to be an excellent option, not least to enable us to get some laundry done (a lot of wet, stinky bike clothing).

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We stayed in Tarbert for a couple of days. It is a beautiful town with a lively fishing and sailing port.

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We could have cycled directly from Tarbert to Oban in 3 days, but we elected instead to take a ferry journey. The ferry stopped off at Islay, Colonsay and finally Oban. The hard part was catching the boat at 8am, afterwhich we enjoyed a wonderful 6 hour trip around the coast and through the Islands.

The journey began by passing inbetween the islands of Jura and Islay. Here is the view of Jura.

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This is at Port Askaig on Islay.

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A lighthouse on Jura with Mull in the distance.

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This is the harbour of Scalasaig on Colonsay.

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The sun shone more as we approached Oban through the Sound of Kerrera.

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We finally reached the bustling port of Oban – otherwise known at “Gateway to the Isles”.

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Our plan had been to camp in Oban, but we found the campsite to be about 3 miles out of town. We therefore decided to take the next ferry straight to Mull.

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The crossing from Oban to Craignure on Mull is spectacular. This is a view looking north on the crossing.

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Our final destination was at the excellent campground at Craignure. The view from the tent was again magnificent. Unfortunately, we were to be marooned at this campsite for a further 2 days due to high winds. There was no way we could cycle directly into strong westerlies. The wind gusts were up to 70 mph (115kph) and the ferries were all stuck in port. Our tent took a battering – we have 8 guy ropes and 12 pegs, but we still ended up with bent tent poles.

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After 2 days, the winds eventually subsided and we made our way to Tobermory at the north end of Mull.

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The following day, we welcomed the sun back and continued anticlockwise around the coast of Mull.

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We climbed up to the top of a pass with beautiful views to the southern end of Mull.

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We also passed many fields with Highland cattle. We even had to share the road with some of them!

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Here is Gill cycling along the quiet roads.

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There are many pretty cottages on this stretch of coast, but we could find none to stop at!

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More highland cattle.

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This is the view over to the southern end of Mull.

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We are now back in Tarbert, having retraced our steps to via Craignure and Oban. I am left with mixed feelings of our time in Scotland. The beauty of the landscape is without question and we would like to have seen more. We had originally planned to go up to the Isle of Skye, but our progress has been slow and our time is running out. Additionally, cycling here in September hasn’t been easy. Whilst we’ve had many sunny periods, it takes only a short time to get drenched and soon after cold. The wind is a constant companion, but we have been fortunate so far to avoid the worst of the midgies. We have met many other cyclists doing similar trips. They are either extremely tough or have more luxurious accommodation booked.

Our time in The Western Isles has been wonderful, but I’m glad to be heading south again!


Responses

  1. I would have thought that you’d have found a cottage and just moved in and stopped there. Done! But then again NZ calling…..


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