The Hebrides by Bike – Day 6, Chris Young’s adventure, delays and a return to Loch Sunart

Someone staying at Camusdarach was having a great night’s sleep. I could tell, because this individual was in possession of a resonant, sonorous snore.

The proud owner of this weighty wheeze turned out to be Chris Young, a former social worker on an incredible journey by foot around the coast of Britain for charity. You can read more about Chris and his entertaining blog, while you can donate and gain an understanding of the important reasons behind his pilgrimage here.

One thing immediately struck me about Chris: he possessed a wonderful open personality and was keen to talk. This quality is no doubt coming in handy as he is conducting this journey without funds, relying on the generosity of others.

When I met him he was relatively ‘flush’, as the fine folk at the Applecross Inn had held a raffle on his behalf. In addition to encounters along the way, Chris’s other half joins him from time to time and they opt for the relative luxury of the BnB. Oh, and he said a documentary team visits him on occasion, too.

I caught up with him a wee bit later on the road, rucksack shouldered and handcart in motion. He cut a contented figure set against the beautiful beaches of Arisaig.

A few minutes talking to Chris and all was well with the world…

Lying in my tent that morning, woken by the (very) early morning light, I ran through my route for the next couple of days. I’d toyed with the notion of riding to Fort William before heading south to Oban along main roads. This, of course, was ridiculous.

Moidart and the Ardnamurchan were much more attractive. Not only would the roads be quieter, I had the opportunity to visit one of my favourite parts of Scotland around Loch Sunart. Depending on how I felt, I could then either head down the peninsula to Kilchoan and then Mull, or travel around Loch Sunart to Fishnish and then to Mull.

Having driven the former a few years ago, I knew there was a hefty climb to negotiate, but I’d always wanted to ride the Ardnamurchan. The plan was set for my second Kraftwerk Tour de France moment.

On the main road from Arisaig, a decent cycle path made progress easy and the turning to Moidart was soon reached. Here, a sign for the Gleniug Inn gave me ideas for a leisurely lunch as today would be relatively short, easy riding.

It was another glorious day, and the inviting waters of the loch met a deep blue crystalline sky. Slightly curious, though, were the number of aggregate trucks passing me. Roadworks somewhere ahead? All would become clear later that day.

Lost in a sublime cycling rhythm, I made the Gleniug in time for lunch and stopped. I followed the lead of Wolfgang at Leverburgh and had a beer, although accompanied it with a pint of water. Lunch was a plate of exceptional mackerel, smoked within walking distance of where I sat, with olives and a superb potato salad. If you’re in this area and need some tuck, check it out!

I struck up a conversation with an American couple from New Hampshire. They said I could thank them for the stunning weather as it had been balmy since they arrived. Duplicating the kindness I’d received earlier that day from a couple at Camusdarach, they offered me some sun cream, which I applied liberally to my face on their direction.

As they got up to leave, they told me to be wary of the hill that I was soon to face.

Very satisfied with my lunch, I headed off slowly and started to climb. ‘So this is the hill?’ I thought. No problem!

A few miles down the road, I reached a sunbathing road worker who jumped to his feet when he heard me whirring along.

‘Road’s closed,’ he said.

‘Sorry?’

‘Aye, road’s closed. Open at half-three.’

‘Even closed to cyclists?’ I enquired, perhaps optimistically.

‘Aye. No way through.’

This was a pain, but so what? It was a beautiful day and I had nearly an hour and a half to kill by a lovely loch. I could always be working.

I found a spot to sit and caught up with my journal… before a siesta. My slumber was later disturbed by a procession of cars lining up for the road to open. I joined the queue and we were on our way right on time.

Reaching the road works, the hill that New Hampshire had referred to came into view. It posed no problems with its gradient, but the soft, newly-laid macadam was tricky. A guy working on the road told me to keep left to avoid sinking.

Tar collected on my tyres, which collected grit, which rattled under my mudgrards. I raced through the works, legs spinning wildly and emerged at the top of the hill gasping. I cleared as much gloop from the tyres as possible, although they would now pick up stones and grit for the remainder of the trip.

On my descent to Loch Sheil, a motorist flagged me down.

‘Is it open?’ he enquired, somewhat flustered. ‘The road…’

‘Yes.’

‘Thank God… I don’t know what we would have done. We were just thinking about turning back. What’s the road like’

I told him it was soft, and that I had survived even on my skinny wheels. Jumping into his 4×4, he drove off with a cheery wave, seemingly jubilant.

Man, I love Moidart! Great place to walk, great place to ride, great place to fish. It looked particularly superb today and I rattled through to Acharacle when I stocked up on supplies.

I knew I was close to Resipole Bay and the holiday park, my destination for the night. I don’t know why I like the site at Resipole so much. It’s full of statics and seasonal caravaners who like messing about with boats and a road, albeit quiet, separates it from the shore. But when I stayed here a few years ago it captivated me. I’d sit on the loch shore for hours watching fishing boats hugely content.

An incomer runs the site who, on my first visit, was permanently attired in a boiler suit and seemed to be constantly racing around in a purposeful Defender. How things change. He’s still there, still chatty, but less rushed and that day sported a colourful shirt of almost Hawaiian hue.

He looked very well indeed. Business must be good.

One thing I really like about Resipole is that folk with tents are not treated like second-class citizens. They can choose from well a well-manicured pitch at the front of the site, or a quite field by the burn at the back.

The facilities are first class too so I set about my laundry with surprising relish.

After a substantial bowl of pasta, I went mooching on the shore in the evening light. I sat in ‘my’ spot, watching the boats. Very content, once again…

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About Matt Hobley

Hillwalker, backpacker, cyclist, whisky fan.
This entry was posted in Cycling, Scotland and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Hebrides by Bike – Day 6, Chris Young’s adventure, delays and a return to Loch Sunart

  1. surfnslide says:

    What a cracker of a day. That self potrait really does capture the image of man at peace with the world :). Great write up with lovely vignettes of encounters with the people you’ve encountered

    • northernwalker says:

      Thank you so much for the kind words Andy. It was a superb way to see a part of Scotland I have a deep affection for.

  2. Pin says:

    Enjoyed reading your Hebrides trip write-up. I did a similar trip but spent longer on the islands in 2008 and again 2009 (In all, I went up to Scotland with my bike and tent 6 times over a couple of years. Now I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter and want to do a trip with her in the Chariot (Chauffeur). I will need front panniers as otherwise the front may lift up hill. To minimise hills and traffic, I thought of taking the train to Fort William, then on to Loch Ailort, then join your trip to Ardnamurchan and back round to Fort William. Planning to go end of May, but not sure what the stats show for weather in May-June (over the years it’s been so changeable!) I checked the route on cyclestreets and the hills didn’t seem too bad, except the last one to Kilchoan. I hope I’ll be able to manage with the trailer. We will be equipped to wild camp, but will make use of the campsites, particularly Kilchoan. Any advice???

    • The climb to Kilchoan is a challenge but an excellent one at that. I really enjoyed this push… although I had splendid weather. If anything, it was too hot for climbing. As you know, the weather is always a risk in Scotland. I can only go on my own experience, having enjoyed drier conditions in May than September. I imagine October is a great month, if cooler. As for campsites, I didn’t stay at the one in Kilchoan but it looks la lovely spot. While I enjoy wildcamping I tend to make use of campsites when I can to avoid uneccessary toilet trips in the wilds. That said, I have stayed at a few campsites when wildcamping would have been a more restful option :-) Generally, the sites are good in this part of Scotland – if pricey for a solo cyclist at times.

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