Saturday, 9 September 2017

A bike packing trip in Easter Ross and Sutherland



 This year's all gone a bit wrong with my plans to Faroe cancelled and now my knee issues, but my friend Tom got in touch to ask about a little bikepacking trip from near his some time in September. It sounded like a great idea- I don't like to do everything on my own- but he's been at sea for 3 months and my knee is bad with osteoarthritis. Never mind, a trip we'd have, just a sedate one on quiet roads and landrover tracks though.

After much to-ing and fro-ing we came up on this plan. It'd work out as 278km for me over 5 days; plenty for my current state of play despite having done a 204km day ride earlier in the year. 
 

I took the ferry to Aberdeen and train to Inverness and once I'd picked up some brake fluid for my friend I set off north over the very lovely Kessock Bridge for Cromarty...
 

 With a brief stop at Munlochy Co-op for a very nice steak pie... 


I was soon on the north coast of the Black Isle and headed for Cromarty.


Only stopping to watch a heron on the shore and then pick some brambles I'd noticed. Well it seemed rude not to try them.


 Once at Tom's it seemed the brake fluid was a little low, but not the issue. Contaminated pads and disk was, so with little option we used some blue sapphire gin to clean the disk and replaced the pads. Hey presto a fully functioning bike!

A quick trip to the allotment for veg to go with vension steak for tea and it was time for bed and an early start.


 First stop the seasonal  half hourly Cromarty to Nigg  ferry...





From Nigg we were heading up Strath Rusdale and into Alladale Estate for a 'fisherman's lodge' I'd heard about, but we had some way to go to get there via a mix of quiet roads and estate tracks.

A breather for lunch and raspberries...



Tom seemed to like stopping for a brew. It soon became apparent that the stops were more to rest his beaten bum than anything else though!Months at sea aren't good training for a bike ride and with a big rucksack on his back his back end was taking a battering. Still he soldiered on.



The riding was easy going on generally very good tracks and the views were great with many deer and buzzards seen.

 


 Long steady climbs were followed by long steady descents over water sheds and some relaxed fun riding.



 And the odd industrial action...


 Still we had a great time taking in the views...



Alladale Estate seems very welcoming and the lodge we were planning to stay at seemed to be listed as 'The Badger Hide' on their estate map.


And it's a very beautiful part of the world to visit...

 

The Badger Hide!


Great from the front...


Great from the back...


And great inside...


It's open, with a stove, benches and great views. Obviously not meant as overnight accommodation, but as a hide, we arrived early evening and left early morning and had no issues.


 The next day saw us heading for Croick Church and then the track from there towards Ullapool. Though due to time and a certain delicate derriere we weren't going to go through to Ullapool.
 

The famous window at Croick Church


And the start of the track to Ullapool only 30 miles away...

 


Craig Mhor Bothy...


Obviously a work in progress, but a good place to stop...



We saw lots of these, but only one in the bed of a truck and then getting butchered in the estate yard for someones tea.


The tracks are very good and very CX-able...


The school house bothy is ace. We planned to stay here, but arrived far too early to hang about...



So carried on down Strath Oykel...



If anyone tells you there's bothy accommodation at the Oykel Bridge Hotel, there isn't. We asked, got short shrift being told it's booked and £32 per person a night!


We happily spent our pennies in Ardgay at the cafe of a million sauces...


And camped in a dead end of a forestry plantation. See it was worth carrying a 2kg tent all the way!


View from the tent over the Kyle of Sutherland...


Sheltering from the rain on the way to Nigg...



Second breakfasts were in Tain at Harry Gow's where we seemed to be accused of going to steal their monument by some old ladies! Didn't they know we only had a leatherman between us?


 And the next scenic stop was at Balintore where a mermaid awaited us...


Lovely little village...

 

 And we had a quick look at the nearby Shandwick stone...


Before the ferry back to Cromarty.


The next day I was on my own again for a run back to Inverness via the south coast this time.

Chanory Point, but no dolphins for me...

  

And lunch in Munlochy...


Before one last time over the Kessock Bridge and train and ferry home...


And here's a little video of it for your viewing pleasure...


Thanks for popping by!


2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the compliment re The Schoolhouse Bothy
    Peter Aikman M.O.
    --------------------

    Re the Oykel Bridge Hotel, their advert reads -

    "The Bothy Rooms

    New for 2017 at the Oykel Bridge Hotel, newly refurbished Bothy Rooms. These are situated alongside the hotel offering comfortable rooms – (2 double and 4 single rooms) especially for walkers who wish to rest their weary legs along the way.

    We also offer breakfast in the hotel, along with bar suppers and lunches. We also offer packed lunches. The bar is open at lunchtime and in the evenings. There is a facility for guests to get their washing done, and they can also use the drying room. The team look forward to offering the best of Highland Hospitality."

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    1. Well all I can say re. the hotel is we didn't get a 'Cheery Highland Welcome' But just 'we're full' and a door closed. I guess I don't count £32 a night as Bothy accommodation, was expecting maybe £10 bunk house style of affairs. The old school bothy is lovely, a fantastic job there. Cheers for popping by and commenting.

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