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In photos: Cycling the Scottish Highlands from Oban to Skye

James Greig | August 11, 2016

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A three-day cycle tour along The Caledonia Way, then through Acharacle to Mallaig and over the water to Skye.

For years I’ve been on summer adventures with my Scottish friends to remote corners of the Highlands, exploring wild parts of the west coast from the Knoydart Peninsula all the way up to Cape Wrath.

Along the way, and after a whisky or five, they told me yarns from the early days of their trips and their youth, when they tried to take bicycles up hills that shouldn’t be cycled, and other such non-sensible things.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that I hadn’t cycled much in Scotland until recently.

The last time I went on a long ride with my pal Graham we rode from London to Paris in a manner that he had dreamt up, so this time it was my turn to plan the trip.

I’d already booked a cottage on Skye, and was wondering the best way to get there on public transport from Glasgow.

A combination of trains, ferries and multiple buses didn’t sound too appealing, so I started looking into cycle routes.

What I hadn’t appreciated was the lack of roads in the Scottish Highlands. Once you head north or west beyond the cities, the number of routes dwindles fast, which means that main roads are often decidedly unfriendly for people on bikes. This had me stumped until I discovered The Caledonia Way, which is route 78 of the National Cycle Network and runs from Campbeltown to Inverness, along a dedicated cycle way for much of the route.

I’d already planned to rent a touring bike in Glasgow, and Graham had persuaded a friend to lend him a bike, so we were all set to go. Forgetting that Graham likes to do things differently, I hadn’t counted on him turning up with an old mountain bike and enormous saddle bag. Perhaps not the most efficient way to take a cycle tour… but he seemed happy enough, and was soon affectionately calling it his ‘caravan’.

The ride was set to be three days long, the weather forecast was a standard Scottish summer of  “all the kinds of weather mixed together”, and the train was booked.

Day 1 — Oban to Clovullin
40 miles

(Trains are always a good place to meet new friends, like Wilhelm who was visiting Scotland from Switzerland)

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Day 2 — Clovullin to Roshven
43 miles

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Day 3 — Roshven to Camastianvaig, Skye
65 wet and windy miles

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This is the point at which Graham began questioning my sanity, as we battled headwinds and driving rain to get from the south of Skye to where we were staying.

“Did you check an elevation for the ride?” was a fair question, but because there was only one road we could take, I had chosen not too. I remember thinking to myself that it couldn’t be that bad…

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Day 4 and beyond — Exploring Skye

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If you’re wondering how we got back… we managed to get our bikes on the bus to the ferry. I was sure we’d manage the 40 odd miles, but the possibility of doing it for a second time in the rain lead us to seek out an easier option.

Posted to Journal
by James Greig

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