2011 Summer Tour – Stage 1
By the time we set off from the B&B in Ullapool, we’d pretty much decided that we’d be aiming to ride up to the north coast, across to Orkney, and looping back round to Ullapool to collect the car and complete the trip. Tonight’s destination was to be Achilitibuie or Lochinver.
We left Ullapool along the A835, a route which features some definite climbs, before turning off on an unclassified road towards Achiltibuie. This is a lovely road, which leads one into the characteristic Assynt landscape of peat bogs, lochans and astounding rocky mountains. We stopped before Stac Pollaidh to brew up a cuppa on our trusty Trangia.
Carol looks a little serious here – we were both concerned about the weather heading our way!
Stac Pollaidh is really quite extraordinary, and if it wasn’t for all the heather and bog around it could for all the world be in monument valley. Many years ago, I was on a school expedition in this area, and this was one of the mountains we climbed. [Actually, my school cleared all the 3rd year kids out for two weeks while the ‘O’ Grades and Highers were being taken by kids in years 4, 5 and 6 – this was one destination out of several.]
We pressed on to Achilibuie, but couldn’t find any B&B accommodation there. Our next plan was to backtrack, then ride on to Lochinver. After reaching the Lochinver turnoff, we stopped to heat some food up for lunch. Unfortunately, this got overrun by a shower, which curtailed this culinary extravaganza (and caused a significant drop in temperature!). We also had an impressive audience of nosey-parker sheep.
After lunch, we spent 12 miles of really beautiful but challenging cycling to reach Lochinver. This took us up and down some short but very steep climbs, and in and out of delightful wooded glens.
This perhaps goes to show what the landscape might look like without sheep. Quite a bit of this had been burnt recently, but seems to have survived.
Moving on, we got some views of Suilven – another improbable rocky mountain protruding from the peat bog landscape. This photograph shows this mountain end-on:
Eventually, we rolled into Lochinver and found a B&B. This seemed quite comfortable and again we had free WiFi. We showered and changed, then popped out for a beer and dinner. We both selected local scallops on black pudding mash. By the time we hit the sack, we were quite satisfied with the days cycling, and were looking forward to reaching Durness the following night. Overall, the weather had been considerably better than we’d expected, being mostly sunny with only occasional showers.