Cycling Scotland -

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This trip was essentially the trial run for me, as the next expedition was going to be a large one. This route was also a concerted effort to see more of my own country before I ventured further a field. Fortunately I found a kindred spirit in Ruth, a friend, of a friend, of a friend… who I actually knew 10 years ago. Ruth had the time… and strangely, the inclination to join me and also wasn't phased by the "see how it goes" attitude.

Day 1 Inverness to Helmsdale

The sun was blazing for our planned 9am departure, however, minor teething problems with new panniers allowed us to eventually set off at 11:30am. After crossing the Kessock Bridge we followed the cycle route off the main road as far as Tore, but after that it was the A9 all the way. An all too brief lunch stop was in order at Tain where we were offered up a lovely view over the Dornoch Firth as well as some healthy portions. The remainder was a solid slog to Helmsdale with cars and trucks flying past, we eventually arrived just before six.

Our campsite for the night was a cosy spot next to the golf course and after dinner we discussed the next day over a cheeky wee pint. With only a couple of sores on my butt we decided we could do the same mileage again and head for Tongue.


Day 2 Helmsdale to Tongue

After a restless night - I don't think it actually got dark - we were a bit stiff and slow to get up and away. Once in the saddle, at about 10:30 am, the A897 allowed for a surprising turn of pace. As such we made excellent time along the quieter roads through the Flow Country and got to Melvich for lunch. On this stretch the back drop of Loch an Ruathair with Ben Griam Mor and Beg was particularly memorable.

The North coast road came after lunch, the road is hilly but not relentlessly so. In between the up and down, we enjoyed the coastal cliff and sandy beach scenery, which was almost… but not quite tempting enough for swimming.


5pm heralded our arrival at Tongue and we pitched the tent in the campsite that had stunning views of Ben Loyal and castle ruins over the Kyle of Tongue.

Another quick discussion over a game of pool concluded that the next day would be a half-day to allow the trip to Cape Wrath.

Day 3 Tongue to Durness

For a change we set off at 08:30, as we weren't keen on missing the last ferry. There were only 30 miles to do but we knew the route would be hilly. We were soon to find the hills weren't to be the problem. After initially getting a picture postcard view of Loch Eriboll and its white beached, boat dotted isthmus (where a sand or shingle bar ties an island to another island or to the mainland) we found out why it was nick named by its war time inhabitants Loch 'Orrible. We had to go all the way round and the 5 mile stretch on the other side was into a howling northerly wind.

Fortunately once we started heading west again we quickly arrived at Durness and booked into the Lazy Crofter Bunkhouse. Whilst the wind was pleasant to cycle in, I wasn't sure our tent would cope - well, that was my story and I was sticking to it, but basically I was desperate for a comfy sofa.

After some lunch we made the obligatory trip to Cape Wrath via the ferry (£3.80) and minibus (£6.50). After this mildly relaxing day we felt Ullapool was within our grasp rather than Lairg. This minor alteration to the original "plan" would allow us to take in a bit more of the West Coast.

Day 4 Durness to Ullapool

Day 4 kicked off in heavy rain that looked ominously steady, but after only half an hour it stopped and the sun couldn't help itself… my padded lycra shorts felt invincible once more! From then on this section proved to be the most memorable chunk of the trip. The scenery was both stunning and varied - Kylesku and its Lochs, Quinag, Suilven, Cul Mor, Stac Pollaidh and Ardmair Bay to name but a few highlights.

We arrived in the metropolis that is Ullapool and booked into West House backpackers before going for a hot chocolate in The Ceilidh Place. Day 4 had been hard work, mentally and physically. Given that Day 5 required no planning, we just had to get to Inverness, I collapsed into bed.


Day 5 Ullapool to Inverness
After another couple of pannier problems we were off at 9:30 and ready for the easy cruise back to Inverness. We hoped the aforementioned cruise would kick in after the stiff climb up to Corrieshalloch Gorge, the impressive head wind didn't make it any easier. The wind continued to make it hard work through the open Dirrie More and even once we started heading downhill from Aultguish Inn to Garve we felt depressingly slow.

Once past Garve we were sheltered from the wind and moved swiftly on to Contin for lunch. From Contin the sun was out and we took some more direct and quieter back roads into Inverness, namely the A832 to Muir of Ord and then the coastal cycle route through Redcastle (northern side of Moray Firth) all the way to Kessock Bridge.

View from Melvich towards the Isle of Hoy Cape Wrath Cul Beag, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor
Click on the thumbnails for fullsize images

After a great trip we celebrated with a few drinks in Johnny Fawkes' and of course started planning the next one - The Western Isles!

As always the photos so not do justice to what we saw. If you've only time for one day there's no surprise that I would recommend Day 4 - it really shows Scotland in it's full glory.

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