Wednesday, 20 April 2016

A little Highland bikepacking trip

Well, I'm back home in Shetland with no plans to be heading sooth again for a while. I've been away on a little trip with a friend mountain biking and camping in the Highlands, or bikepacking as it's become known.

Here's me loaded and ready for the off...


The plan was to get the ferry down to Aberdeen and train to Inverness, before cycling 180+km over a few days to Inverness via Glen Affric and the Great Glen Way...


Unfortunately we were on to a bit of a loser from the start with un-seasonally cold weather and snow forecast, but we didn't let that stop us. After arriving in Kyle Of Lochalsh just after 1.30pm we filled up at the chip shop and got on our way...



Across the bridge to Skye and over a pretty big lump of a hill to Kylerhea and the world's only remaining working turntable ferry.


Tom enjoying the view from the bridge...


The Bealach Udal was some hill to cross, both up and down...


Coming down the hill we saw a white tailed sea eagle and had a short wait for the ferry...




Once across we headed off towards Glen Elg before heading off along The Old Military Road over Bealach Ratagain, another nasty lump in the road.






Coming down the Ratagain to Sheil Brig we carried on a little for a hot snack and drink at Kintail Lodge Hotel before heading off road towards our stop for the night at Camban Bothy.


From Morvich we were off road and into the hills with a cold wind and flurries of snow. We did see a big herd of wild red deer though which was pretty impressive!


I'd had warning that the last 5km from Glen Licht House up to the Camban bothy was a nightmare with little riding and lots of swearing likely. Little was I to know that that was a bit of an understatement, especially with loaded bikes after a long day of travelling and riding...


It just went up and up an zigged and zagged and it got dark and it snowed...


And much of it we couldn't even just push, we had to manhandle and drag our bikes up rock steps. But it was a beautiful evening...


Finally at 10.30pm we saw the bothy in our head torches and it was empty too, hurrah! We were so exhausted we could do little more than roll our beds out and have a cuppa soup before collapsing in our beds. And that was our big mistake! We should have made sure we ate and drank plenty to replace our severely depleted energy stores while we slept and be fully hydrated. 

The next morning we got ready had a drink and porridge and set off down into Glen Affric with the plan to cut over the hills to Glen Morriston and over again then to Fort Augustus for the second night.


Looking back the way we'd come...


And down to Glen Affric...



The track down Glen Affric was good, but we soon realised how thoroughly spent our legs were after last nights efforts with every hill being a killer.

We stopped at Alltbeithe Youth Hostel for a snack and to fill our water bottles in the burn  and began our thoughts of mutiny...


Looking back where we'd come from...


Glen Affric has a reputation of being Scotland's most beautiful glen. I wouldn't argue with that...




It was around this point that we made the definite decision to bail on our initial plans and carry on down the Strathglass to Beauly. We were both pretty done for and the thought of going up and over even higher hills than we'd managed the day before was just unthinkable; we didn't want another dark finish. By the time we got to Cannich for a dodgy pub meal I was really suffering, food perked me up some what, but by the time we got to Beauly the weather was deteriorating rather drastically and so was I. We made arrangements to get the train and a lift to Tom's in Dornoch; trip over. Still we'd had a good ride by most standards, 120km, saw some great scenery and did a coast to coast of sorts...


 The next trip will have to be a little less ambitious, a little later in the year for the chance of better weather and more time to get summer fitness. Any how, here's a little video of our trip for your amusement...


So, with a few days spare once we'd got to Tom's it was time for a bit of more leisurely sightseeing with scenic drives and walks around Sutherland with the odd bar meal in the mix.

Falls of Shin...

 

 Migdale Woods...


Some one has bigger feet than me!




We saw ospreys, red tailed kites, buzzards, deer, but despite all attempts no squirrels! A good few remains of chambered cairns and brochs too...
,


 A meal at the Pier Cafe in Lairg was fantastic, but one cafe in particular wasn't great! A big selection of sauces to disguise the quality, but no relish which is what Tom had actually asked for...


Croick Church and roundabouts was both lovely and saddening at the same time...



Crofters, cleared from the lands for sheep, sheltered in the lee of the church with no homes to go to and scratched their messages on the church windows...


 Eventually I ended up back on the train to Aberdeen and ferry to Shetland. A very very tired and achy hobbit longing for his slippers and with the taste for adventure beaten out of him for a while atleast. Work tomorrow and then a long weekend to lick my wounds, but I did have a great time overall. We had a good ride and laughs and even the Camban bothy death march is feeling more like type 2 fun now than type 3!



4 comments:

  1. Good grief - that Camban bothy route looked like a killer!

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    1. Yep, it really was. Don't try it with a bike.Ever. Thanks for reading and commenting :)

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  2. Hi Kevin you sure like to push yourself, especially at this time of year! You might like to know that the turntable ferry you were on is the old Ballahulish ferry from the days before the bridge. I was on it regularly over 40 years ago OMG😵 when I used to hitch up to the Fort and Ben Nevis for a weekends mountaineering (ie not pure rock climbing). Believe it or not I still have a ticket for it kept in an old paperback of Bill Murray's "Mountaineering in Scotland" In storage somewhere I think.
    Orrabest
    Scott

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    1. Ha! Very good Scott. I'm feeling like I've pushed myself enough just now :'(

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