I had a lie-in today, thanks to cycling an extra 17 miles to Gairloch last night. But while those staying in Kinlochewe had an easy warm up along Loch Maree (the route I took last night), I was straight into the hills today with a stiff climb out of Gairloch setting the tone for the morning.
It was worth it: at the top of the hill was this wonderful view of a beach with the mountains including Beinn Eighe behind. I didn’t feel guilty about stopping so soon to to savour a view like this. Why tour the highlands if you’re not inclined to pause and reflect on the extraordinary landscapes and seascapes?
Later, I stopped to admire this view of Loch Maree, the lake that I cycled along for miles last night. Here I was passing the head of the loch.
Peak Tours arranged two morning brew stops today, the first mainly for those who had the extra mileage from Kinlochewe. I sailed past, aiming for the second brew. It was a rollercoaster morning – lovely ascents followed by a climb. But the scenery made it worthwhile. And I loved the sight of kayakers making their way across the gentle waters at Poolewe, seen above.
Sometimes, future pain is well signposted. This is the view that greeted me just after my morning brew stop: a road reaching for the sky. Time to take a deep breath, select the lowest gear and contemplate the joy to come on reaching the top…
Today’s lunch stop was the least impressive of the week, at Dundonnell, with a cold wind blowing through the open door. Soon after lunch we had a big climb past Dundonnell forest. Yet I enjoyed this climb: I took my time, taking photos of the waterfalls to the left and tracking the ascent on my Garmin. Eventually, the road levelled off and the skies turned blue as the rain passed. We had a lovely brew stop with a backdrop of a lake more reminiscent of England’s Lake District than the Highlands.
The final session to Ullapool was fast – a lot of descending and only short hills to punctuate our progress. We arrived on a fine afternoon, and I was very pleased with my accommodation for the next two nights: the lovely Eilean Donan guesthouse. I was given a small bottle of real milk for my tea in the bedroom – so much nicer than UHT milk! I enjoyed a walk round the town and found an excellent bookshop. All was well with the world.
It proved really difficult finding somewhere to eat tonight. A week ago I managed to book a table in the Essence of India curry house. The service was erratic but the food excellent. If you eat there, be aware you won’t be able to get a beer or wine unless you take your own. I was happy with a soft drink. I could tell Ullapool was a holiday destination: Tesco car park was full of camper vans!
The day’s stats
56 miles, 3,947 feet climbing, 4 hrs 38 mins cycling, 12.1 mph average speed