Monday July 22nd : Campbeltown – Carradale (25km)
I was wise enough to keep my first cycling day in Scotland rather short. The first campsite after Campbeltown was located at a distance of 25 km, the next one, 72 km. A bit too far on this tougher trajectory with longer slopes including sections of 15%, my absolute limit which I can hold out no more than a few dozen meters. Moreover, for the first time it was quite hot today, +20°, quite sweaty during the uphill sections.
Tomorrow I should cycle 50 km. This will be my maximum daily distance in Scotland, I presume…
Tuesday July 23rd : Carradale – Inverneill (53,5 km)
Today cycling went somewhat better than yesterday. The first part I followed a single track road that, as always, was very hillish, with several nosedives down to sea level to cross a river, and then steeply up again to embark on the more gradual ascent of the next hill. Fortunately, my legs were stronger today. I think I had not yet fully recoverd from the sea sickness the day before.
It was hazy until 15 hrs, and then the sun broke through.
As soon as I joined the A83 direction Tarbert, the trajectory smoothenend and I went much faster. Tarbert is a cosy town with many pubs and small hotels. I posted another 2-kg package to my neighbour in Belgium with some books and stuff I bought and some superfluous cloths, and I bought some 4kg in food reserves at the Co-op, since grocery shops are far apart here. Yesterday in Carradale there was none and I had to dine out. This is not good for my budget…
Tonight, I sleep in the very comfortabel Argyll Backpackers Hostel, which is run by extremely friendly people.
Uphill evening walk, meeting happy looking cows and calves that are certainly leading a much better life here than cattle kept in megastables.
Wednesday July 24th : Inverneil – Oban (70km)
I took the magnificent national cycling route 78. Today was an unexpectedly tough but very exciting cycling day.
My ride set out on a flat road along the coastal line. In Adrishaig I noticed a lock and I could not imagine why a lock was needed with mountains right behind it. Soon I found out that a few meters above and parallel to the A83 runs the beautiful Crinan Canal, boarded by a nice cycling track. It was built in 1801 to create a west-east shortcut through Argyll peninsula. It was often beset with problems, with mud and rocks from the mountains smashing locks and banks. The locks have to be operated manually by the boatsmen, as was the case with Canal 6 to Bath. The 15-km ride along the canal was highly enjoyable.
Subsequently, I crossed ‘Moine Morr’ or, in English, The Great Moss, an extended peat bog surrounded by hills that was created after the Ice Age 10,000 years ago. A straight road offered a magnificent occasion to practice ‘cycling meditation’.
Upon leaving this special nature reserve, just like in Ireland I came across a series of cairns, megaliths and stonecircles spread over quite a distance in Kilmartin Glenn. I coud not withstand visiting the most appealing ones and linger around for a while to feel the magic of these places.
The Nether Largie Standing Stones are arranged in such a way that they align with midwinter sunrise and with the autumn and spring equinoxes. One isolated standing stone located in a nearby sheep pasture aligned with two stones from the main monument. This can be seen on the pictures.
The two Templewood stonecircles built on top of cairns were smaller that their Irish counterparts, but well preserved. On the verge of the largest circle was a child grave. These monuments date back to the Bronze Age. Researchers presume that metalworking skills were transferred from Ireland to Scotland, at a time when patents did not yet exist…
Meanwhile the afternoon was passing by and I still had to cycle 30 km on a single track road alongside Loch Awe, of which the second half was going to be tough according the the altitude profile on Google Maps. The ascents were tough indeed, some of them with gradients of 15% or more. Overall, I had to push my bike six times on such murderous slopes.
Before the third and final hill, I considered camping wild, but threatening blackish clouds pushed me over the hill to the safety of a campsite just beyond Taynuilt, a detour of some 3 km.
I arrived at the campsite at 20 hrs and was given a cold shower welcome: this camping affiliated with the British Caravan and Motorhome Club does not accept tents, because it has no government permit for tents. My argument that is was late already, that I would be gone in early the morning and that I was very tired from the cycling was to no avail. This camping association simply coldshoulders bicycle campers, who are much more vulnerable and exposed than motorhome and caravan campers.
What a different attitude compared with that of the elderly Irish lady in Ballybunion, who didn’t have a permit for tent campers either but who left me in and gave me the key of her private toilet. I will try to shun campsites affiliated with the British Caravan and Motorhome Club for the rest of my journey in the UK. Such an unfriendly attitude.
So I had to get on my bicycle again and make a U-turn to Oban. Underway I only saw three- and four-star hotels and B&Bs, but Oban Youth Hostel fortunately had a vacant bed and the reception would be open all night. No need to hurry.
Thanks to this late 25-km ride to Oban, I witnessed a beautifull sunset over Loch Etive. The late hour did not hold me back from staying there for a few minutes to enjoy the peace and quiet. But it was well beyond diner time and my hungry stomach pushed me onward.
When I was hoisting the panier with my personal belongings two staircases high, I felt how tired my legs were.
On Thursday, I will try to have my bike checked up. For the time being, everything seems OK, but I would not like a cable of my brakes to break during one of these nosediving descents.
Thursday July 25th : Day of rest in Oban
It was summer in Oban today, the right conditions for a leasurely stroll around the town. I decided to continue my northbound journey via the Western Hebrides and bought all the ferry tickets I need in one fell swoop. They cost 30 pounds for four crossings, which is very reasonable. I did not have to pay for the bicycle. Tomorrow afternoon I leave Oban and after x-days I will be back on the mainland in Ullapool.
Oban was originally a fishermen’s village and this is still an important activitiy, given the many fish seafood stalls on the piers.
About Columba Cathedral: Columba was a sixth-century Celtic Christian saint whom I also met in Ireland. In the IOASAS Celtic prayer centre in Donegal, I learned in a reenactment of his life that, after he had adopted an unyielding stance in a conflict with subsequently led to massive bloodshed among the local population, he felt remorse and voluntarily left in exile to Iona, a little island near the isle of Mull not very far from Oban, where he founded a monastery. This is not just an imaginary saint story, the monastery of Iona is still one of Scotland’s touristic highlights.
The painting shows pagan druids who chase Columba away from Loch Ness after he had paid a visit to King Brude in Inverness. These early bonds between Celtic Ireland and Pictic Scotland are fascinating.
Tomorrow at 10 o’clock my bike will be checked up and at 13:30 the ferry departs for Castlebay on the isle of Barra. Then I will start ‘island hopping’ on the Outer Hebrides.
Friday July 26th : Ferry to Barra (Outer Hebrides)
A few pics from Oban prior to my departure and the first images of Barra, the southernmost inhabited isle of the Outer Hebrides.
I was lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful sunset after pitching my tent.
It is much colder here than in Oban, I had to put on my down jacket again.
Saturay July 27th : Barra Airport
I filmed the arrival/ departure of the flight from/to Glasgow in Barra Airport, Outer Hebrides. The plane landed on the beach!s and crabs. They are left in the sea and hauled up after a few days.
VIDEO Barra/Outer Hebrides: plane Landing on Beach: click HERE
Sunday July 28th : Barra Isle/Borve to South Uist Isle/Kilbridge
Wifi is faster in the pub, so herewith a few pictures of Saturday’s ride from Barra Isle/Borve to South Uist Isle/Kilbridge.
Click HERE to view all the pictures of WEEK 10.
The traps on one of the pics are used for fishing lobsters and crabs. They are left in the sea and hauled up after a few days.
Monday July 29th : Kilbridge – Linaclate (Benbecula) (50,5 km)
Cycling is wonderfull on these two Outer Hebridean isles! A huge, flat plane dotted with loghs and some isolated dwellings, delimited by de ocean on the western side and by (dark)green hills on the eastern side.
Here, too, there are many ruins of deserted houses. Emigration movements from here went mainly to Canada.
In the huge fields, one can discern lone standing stones or overgrown funeral cairns, as was often the case in Irish fields..
To get to the Isle of Benbecula, I had to cross two elevated causeways linking the isles.
Walking to the beach in the evening, I witnessed a peculiar scarlet sunset, which, as usually, did not come out well on the photograph.