Mull, Ardnamurchan, Lismore - 2009
Mull to Ardnamurchan (54 miles) - Wednesday, 15 April
What a brilliant morning. Woke to sunshine projecting subtle orange tones onto the surrounding hills, it would be half an hour before the sun cleared the crest behind me to bathe the bay in strong sunlight.
In that time I had breakfast, packed up and was back on the road. I was still travelling vaguely east around the loch into the wind but that soon changed as I rounded the head of the loch through points north and eventually west. There was a helicopter flying inland with a large bucket slung underneath.
Down the other side of the loch, the scenery just became better and better. In the still early sunshine, the hills and cliffs on the opposite shoreline just shimmered. This is probably the finest road to cycle down in the morning light anywhere in the UK, simply gorgeous. The cyclist from Arran was right, just how did the road manage to find land enough to cling on under the cliffs?
Eventually a climb marked the mouth of the loch as the road rose up and turned northish. The island vista opened up from the road and the sea appeared to gleam blue. I soon passed the Isle of Ulva and continued up the coast. Eventually a major climb took me up in a series of ascents cutting inland. The descent was exceptional, providing outstanding offshore views of islands set in a blue blue sea. Eventually I rolled round into Calgary Bay.
And what a place. Pure white sand on a perfect crescent beach, backed by soft green dunes. The sea turned from turquoise to blue in an infinite number of hues, giving the place a tropical feel. I stopped and propped up the bike against a picnic table and started on my snack before mooching across a little stream onto the beach.
A reasonable climb out of the back of the bay took me up into a pine forest and led to a very pleasant ride inland eventually running down into Dervaig with its 'space rocket' church steeple being the most prominent feature. A road sign pointed towards an impressive climb up the opposite side of the valley showing eight miles to Tobermory. In the heat and on seeing the bar, I decided I needed food and drink and The Bellachroy Hotel provided both.
Fully sustained, I ventured out into the bright sunshine and began the tough climb which consisted of hair pin bends and steep ascents. Still, the view from the top was impressive. A long sweeping descent took me between two lochs, and all the time I could see the road stretching forward up again over a new summit. This was a killer climb, up and then left before the final descent into Tobermory.
What a lovely place, the harbour and front were bathed in sunshine. I bought water at the Co-op and wheeled along the front to the tiny ferry terminal at the end of the road where I waited for the 4.00 pm ferry.
photograph - Tobermory ferry terminal
Loch Linnhe was quite choppy in the easterly wind, a pleasant crossing in the sunshine nonethless. I was now back on the UK mainland at its most westerly bit, Ardnamurchan. I cycled up to Kilchoan, a picturesque village with white painted houses and turned east on the road towards Corran ferry, 42 miles away.
This turned into a tough climb inland over a pass. I caught sight of two large birds high up wheeling around each other, they looked like the sea eagles I'd seen earlier. The view from the top reached right across to the other side of Ardnamurchan to islands shimmering in the distance. The road turned back seaward and the descent was the best yet for speed, through woods and alongside a small loch. A slight climb took me out of the valley and then down again to the sea.
I followed the road up and down over small headlands before it eventually hugged the shoreline. I started looking for a camp site and chose a small, sheltered waterfront spot to set up camp on the northern shoreline of Loch Sunart. I made supper and watched the hills as they changed shape and colour in the fading evening light.