Graham's End to End - Part 4
Graham’s Great British Jaunt Part 4
AWAY FROM THE HIGHLANDS
A wet, but downhill start to Strontian and Loch Sunart where I was faced with a hail shower before tackling what I consider to be one of the hardest roads encountered in many years of cycling. Some years ago Annabel and I had driven this road to reach Mull with its one Munro of Ben More, so I knew what to expect. The road climbs directly from sea level to its summit of 750 feet in about 1.5 miles. Walking up the hill I was constantly passed by riders in the Scottish Six Day Trials for motorbikes – I had encountered this event in previous years – largely held off the road. Near the summit I stopped to watch the fun as they had to tackle a section up the rapids of a stream, swollen by the recent rains, followed by several miles of moorland. Mr Bidlake would have been interested as he was very well known in the motor cycling world through the demands made on his time and skill as a timekeeper.
A downhill section was a welcome relief, but this was followed by another grind into the wind to another summit before a long descent to a beautiful two miles by a river running through some woodlands. I had to pay for this as there was another long slog alongside a conifer plantation, but a short and steep descent brought me down to the ferry at Lochaline for the short crossing to Mull.
Mull gave five miles of easy riding if one overlooks the spell in a bus shelter to escape a heavy burst of rain. The ferry to Oban had been delayed so instead of a long wait for a later one I was able to be first on, but last off. I decided to award myself a first class meal in a fish restaurant overlooking the harbour as recompense for the trials of the past few days.
After a disturbed night at the youth hostel I decided that some hostels are not really for me so I was away promptly from Oban on the road south which I knew was hilly In fact to my old legs it seemed mountainous as it dived up and down following the western seaboard of Loch Feochar and Loch Melford. The scenery was superlative despite the heavy rain and I was glad to dive into a café at Kilninver followed by a lunch stop at Kilmelford. The terrain flattened out, the sun and the wind now helping put a different perspective on Scotland. The southern arm of Loch Awe reaches this region named Dalriada, the land of the colonists who came over from Ireland to settle here. The region abounds with traces of this ancient kingdom and includes the 19th century Crinan Canal in which Telford was involved. A good run along Loch Fyne ended the day at Tarbert for my overnight stop at West Loch Hotel.
On Sunday, May 10 I was able to fulfil a lifelong ambition in visiting Arran, although it was only a short visit of a few miles between ferries. The weather was very good, and after a sharp climb and a quick descent I was in good time to catch the ferry from Claonaig
to Lochranza on the northern tip of Arran. Lochranza is a small village in an idyllic setting – sea, hills, loch, castle, distillery and farms – but there is a long drag up the glen in the shadow of Goat Fell, the highest hill on the island. A good run through Glen Sannnox took me from the west to the east of the island with views over the Firth of Clyde to Brodick, where the ferry took me to Ardrossan on the mainland. A local cyclist with an almost identical Tifosi informed me that we were on the Ass road, namely Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Steventon. Irvine, Troon and Prestwick led to Ayr where I found an excellent bed and breakfast and an Indian Restaurant which rounded off a happy day, especially watching the sun going down over the hills of Arran.