Days -1 to 0: Getting there (home to Barra via Loch Awe, Kilmichael Glen and the Oban ferry)
The first few miles of cycling to Glasgow to catch the train, our bikes carrying the weight of our home and supplies for the next 10 days, was a total slog… but the blow was offset by our Gordon Street Coffee espresso and croissant breakfast. We disembarked the train at Loch Awe – which might be Scotland’s quaintest railway station – two short platforms separated by a single rail track, our platform hidden from the road by an eight foot wall of lush foliage and sun-drenched fragrant flowers; the opposite platform backed onto the lake and it’s floating castle.
Along the loch our tree-dappled road undulated past the scene of a previous aborted puncture repair – the fact that we passed it by without further mechanical incident made it feel like we’d slayed a dragon (***k you, inner tube). No trip to a loch on a warm summer day is complete without a dip (starting bold in intention but becoming more and more tentative the further I submerged). Hubs looped my wet bikini through some bungee cord on his saddle bag where it flapped in the wind like a beacon flag of my brave victory over the cold water.
At a cafe en route we got chatting to a couple from Bruges who were partway through a tour of Scotland. They thought out loud that people are mad to cycle on British roads 😕.
Another day dawned, and another length of Loch Awe to cycle – and this time the lumpy one! I found myself mentally discarding nonessentials from our pannier bags – did we really need toothpaste? Clean socks? That damn bikini-flag?? Luckily we had bellies full of scrambled tofu and bags of chocolate banana loaf and cinnamon buns courtesy of our amazing hosts at King’s Reach bed and breakfast. Cake will be a recurring theme on this trip…
A quick stop off to see a bike mechanic conveniently situated in our particular neck of the middle-of-nowhere was needed on the way to Oban. He wore the tan lines and varicose veins of a seasoned cyclist, and had a lean old border collie who liked eating ticks.
The ferry from Oban to Barra was a behemoth boat and awash with excited tourists – there were cleat-gaited cyclists with creative pannier solutions; groups with bags of rope and top knots and climbing guides; folk wearing visors and tourist maps and North American accents and lots of camera apparel. Bottlenose dolphins and a minke whale played in the wake of the ship as it slowed into the port.
After dinner we cycled the short distance across the causeway to Vatersay and the official start of the Hebridean Way. From nowhere the rain started lashing down as we pitched our tent in a hurry by a crumbling old pier and we wondered – was this a taste of things to come?
🚲 Cycle mileage: 105
🥃 Whiskies: Jura Superstition (a pleasant lightly-smoked drink); Tamnavulin (a mouthful of caramel that makes your lips tingle); Talisker (a disappointment)
23 June, 2019