Day 1 Down!

Pierre and Greg started the day with huge breakfast buttys (full English breakfast stuffed in a giant bread roll), and we then had a pleasant ride up the Hadrian’s Wall cycle path. We saw some Roman stuff.

Intrepid navigators
Riding along the quayside in Newcastle
Roman town in Corbridge
Vindolanda roman fort
Gorgeous views of the English countryside

We sadly didn’t make it to the Vinolanda museum before closing, but we could still see some ruins and excavation sites in progress from the road.Also, we came across a lamb panicking on the side of the road, trying to get back to its mother on the other side of the fence. We were able to herd it up to a gate and after a few attempts coaxed it through, thus earning our honorary sheepdog badges.We had dinner at a pub in Once Brewed and have set up tents at a campsite nearby. We got a bit of rain today but tomorrow looks like the start of a lot of very wet weather…

Lochs and Hills

The story so far: We had a great second day along the Hadrian’s Wall route and finally got to see a bit of it.

There’s a sign here asking people to not walk or climb on the wall. I then saw a man walking on it, and his wife called to him that he’s not supposed to do that. He shrugged and said, ‘That sign’s for the English; Scots dinnae listen!’

We then caught a train to Glasgow and had a ridiculously easy route out of the city on a nice bike path. I usually hate navigating big cities on bike tours but the national cycle routes are pretty well laid out here to avoid heavy traffic.Then into the highlands! The scenery is pretty stunning here and photos can’t do it justice.

We rode up along the west coast of Loch Lomond and then caught a ferry across, then wild camped near a big hotel that also had a nice warm room for hikers to dry out in. (We’re on the path of the West Highland Way, a very popular walking route.)

The next day I caught a train to Tyndrum to have a rest day while Greg and Pierre rode the long way around. Unfortunately it was a day of really heavy rain, and by the time they caught up to me they were ready to quit, so we checked into a hotel room and filled it with wet, smelly clothes.

On the plus side, Tyndrum is extremely vegan friendly, and I got some veggie haggis with my breakfast.

Lochy lochs and Caledonian Canals

Our luck with the weather seems to have turned in our favor, and we had an almost entirely rain-free day. After being woken up by sheep at our tent at 5am, we had a lazy morning before we checked the ferry schedule and realized we had to hustle the 10 miles there or wait until noon for the next one! It was a really pleasant and quiet ride in the sunshine, and a nice break from the heavily trafficked roads we were on yesterday.

Our sheepy campsite

Waiting for the ferry

On the other side of the loch we spent a good amount of time in Fort William, the biggest town we’ll see for quite a while. Pierre got his derailleur cables changed, we had breakfast at a vegan cafe, and we explored an eclectic museum that included stuffed birds, fossils, a WWII Commando exhibit, and lots of Jacobite stuff.

We left town pretty late in the day and stopped for a picnic at the ruins of Inverlochy Castle.

From there looked like an easy ride to the next campground, but the national cycle route we were on took us up a very rough dirt and gravel road through the woods for about 10 miles, following the west coast of Loch Lochy (the best named Loch in Scotland). It was beautiful but also pretty grueling riding on my recumbent bike, and even though we’d only done 30 miles I was wiped by the time we got to the canal at the tip of the loch. Fortunately Greg chatted up a woman who runs a little cafe there, and she offered to let us use the toilets and shower if we wanted to camp there! Of course we weren’t going to turn that down. We then discovered that one of the boats on the canal was actually a cute pub complete with couches and a very good dog.

Never thought I’d drink on a boat

The next day we hit the southern end of Loch Ness at Fort Augustus, and got innundated with goofy tourist stuff.

Crossing the canal

We had good weather up until about 10 miles from where we’d wanted to camp for the night, and then the wind picked up and it dumped cold rain on us for an hour. I was getting pretty discouraged, but then we got to the Claugie Inn, which is still in the process of being built up as a luxury hotel. Lucky for us, though, they’d just that day opened their bar and restaurant. We dried out and warmed up a bit over dinner and whiskey before setting up our tents just down the road.

We’re about to tour Eilean Donan castle! Getting pretty remote now and service is spotty, so may be a while before the next update!

Pierre pet a cat

After another set of short, but gruelingly steep, hills, we continued making out way up the coast to Gairloch. The beach here had such amazing turquoise water!

By the time we arrived at the caravan campsite the wind was starting to pick up, and the next morning had us riding into 20mph headwinds. Uphill. For mostly the whole day. I think this was one of the shortest touring days I’ve had yet – we only made it about 25 miles, but by the time we made it to our campground the wind had died down a bit and we had a nice night.

Cycling the North Coast has been pretty tough, but it’s also incredibly beautiful here; everywhere you look it’s been stunning, for days now.

We had an amazing tailwind and downhill ride the next day, and at the bottom of the hill we found a really cute cafe run by a sweet couple who had abandoned London life eighteen years ago for country living, and chatted with them for a while.

We then hit Ullapool, which felt like a bustling city after the last few days! We got a hotel and some Indian food, and got to see bored-looking teenagers doing a public performance of bagpipe music and ceildh dancing. The next day we decided to have a rest day since I was feeling pretty tired, and we rolled across town to a nice caravan site on the loch and set up camp. We then had a nice day of napping and lazing about in town, and Pierre got a sore arm from skipping rocks and petting the fluffy camp cat.

The next day I felt much better despite the tough climb out of Ullapool, and we sadly bid the dramatic mountain landscape farewell as the hills started to get lower and lower. We ended up wild camping in Rosehall aka Midgeville, and found a local pub that had takeaway cartons of cask ale!