2009 Summer Tour – Day 3 (Oban – Tobermory)
We woke to see sun and clouds, and this later cleared to give clear skies and, yes, more hot weather! However this did make for an excellent day of cycling on Mull, an island we’d not visited in about 15 years.
On a weekday morning, Oban is mighty busy, and getting to the ferry was a little awkward (and I even made a wrong turn in the 0.75 miles from the B&B to the ferry terminal!). Once there, we bought tickets (one of the ‘Island Hopsctoch’ tickets) and embarked, along with many others, including 6 coaches – everyone seemed to be heading for Iona.
As a result of the numbers of people heading for Iona, we made a quick change of plan – and decoded not to visit Iona on this trip. This was supported by the singletrack to Fionnport being very busy with Iona-bound traffic. Still, we rode along that road for a fair while, including a lengthy climb through surprisingly varied terrain, mixing wooded areas with quite open landscape. After this climb, we descended to the turn-off for Salen. Shortly after this we stopped in a wonderful location by a sea loch (Loch Scridain) for lunch.
We were entertained by a highland cow in standing in the sea, presumably because it was overheating a bit. We had considered dipping our feet for the same reason, but after seeing the cow defecate copiously and repeatedly, we changed our minds. Our lunch spot was surrounded with wildlife – insectivorous sundew plantss, dragonflies, damselflies, whirligig beetles, with ducks and herons out in the loch. And framing all this, as in many places in our tour, the ubiquitous yellow flag irises.
After lunch, we cycled over another climb to Loch Na Keal. From the top we could see the island of Inch Kenneth. This is a small island that’s of historical interest mostly because it was the home of Lady Redesdale, mother of the Mitfords – in fact Unity Mitford lived there for a number of years after the war until she died from the consequences of her failed suicide attempt. Apparently they used to have their groceries supplied by Harrods, which must have been quite some undertaking.
Onward and down to the shores of the sea loch. Here we noticed myriads of jellyfish washing up against the rocky shore! For the last seven miles to Salen, we were riding on freshly tarmacked and gravelled roads, whic was a bit iffy at times. Salen lies in a sort of narrow isthmus, and despite having some amenities, we decided to press on to Tobermory (the idea being to cross to Ardnamurchan on the Ardnamurchan-Kilchoan ferry in the morning.
For the first few miles after Salen, this was a pleasant ride on reasonably wide singletrack. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten how hard this road was as we approached Tobermory (our previous ride on this road must have been about 15 years before) – there are some very tough climbs. Knowing that Tobermory main street was at the bottom of very steep streets, we were keen to find a B & B before there, which we did (bizarrely on top of the hill). After cleaning up and changing, we wandered down to Tobermory itself.
The harbour at Tobermory is delightful – the houses along the street are painted in bright colours, and the harbour itself seems to be very active, with ferries running to Kilchoan in Ardnamurchan and many boats ranging from small dingys to quite large yachts. Tobermory’s probably most famous nowadays asBalamory of children’s TV fame.
Tobermory Harbour (image from Wikipedia)
In fact Tobermory would appear to be one of the fishing ports developed a couple of centuries ago by the British Fisheries Society who identified likely sites for fishing communities in western Scotland in the 1700s. Tobermory’s superb natural harbour made it an excellent candidate for such a community. The streets above the harbour reflect this planned development and have a regular grid array (much as do those of Ullapool, another planned fishing town)
We’d identified a restaurant for dinner. Unfortunately, this was completely full, and we retreated to eat fish and chips from the highly rated fish and chips van on the harbour. I had haddock and chips, Carol had king scallops (!) and chips, and we can confirm its excellence. After this, a quick pint of Belhaven 80/-, and we strolled back to the B & B.
48.43 miles; 9.3 mph ave; 41.6 mph max; 5:11:10; total distance 177.44 miles