2012 Summer Tour – Day 9 (Strontian to Oban)
This was billed as the day on which the weather would turn, with light rain afflicting our final day’s cycling. But would it? As I looked out of the window when I woke, the skies were still cloud free. Perhaps our tour would have fine weather all the way to the end! Today’s destination was Oban, where we’d left the car, and the day’s route involved two ferry crossings, taking the ferry tally to 9 crossings.
The bathroom window had unfortunately been left slightly ajar, admitting quite a few midgies to our accommodation! This was pretty minor compared to the clouds of the nefarious haematophagous arthropods that gathered around our heads as we loaded our luggage back onto the tandem and prepared to roll off. The planned route was to cycle to the end of the loch, then cycle over Morvern to Lochaline (about 23.5 miles), catch the ferry to Fishnish on Mull, then cycle about 5 miles to catch the Craignure to Oban ferry. If we were able make the 11.55 Fishnish ferry, we’d probably make the 13.00 Oban ferry.
The ride along the loch was flat and easy going, with the water pretty smooth as there was no wind. The weather by this time was cloudy with sunny spells. We took the turn towards Lochaline, which ran for a distance back along the other side of the loch, and was pleasantly undulating. However, the road was single track and motor traffic was quite disruptive to our progress, and seemed to come in quite large groups – presumably some of these corresponded to ferry-loads of vehicles coming over from Mull. Eventually the road reared upwards. The climb itself isn’t spectacularly steep, but it is quite long. And either it gets steeper nearer the top or we were flagging! I’d observed to Carol that we needed to keep up a decent air speed to evade the midgies, so perhaps it was the dread of exsanguination that motivated us… Fortunately we didn’t encounter too much traffic on the way up, though we did have to stop twice to let vehicles past. Between the summit and Lochaline, there isn’t another major climb, and the road descends from pretty bare hillside through wooded valleys. It does undulate quite a bit and this, with passing motor vehicles made progress quite tiring. We did reach Lochaline in time for the 11.55 crossing, as planned.
The ferry is quite small, and the provision for bikes seems a bit lacking – not a problem for solo bikes, which can be stashed anywhere, but finding a suitable spot for the tandem required some originality! The crossing takes only 15 minutes, and even after waiting for the motor vehicles to disembark, we were off and riding by 12.15. The ride to Craignure is pretty straightforward, though rather dull, as the road is lined with trees which cut out the views. We reached Craignure about 20 minutes before the ferry was to leave, and by the time we boarded (before motor vehicles), there were about a dozen cyclists of one kind or another. By this I mean some were clearly touring (like us) while others were merely using their bike as transport for themselves and quite a bit of baggage only short distances such as between accomodation and the ferry.
The crossing takes about 45 minutes, and motor traffic was unloaded first. Riding out into Oban after over a week on the Isles and west coast is always a shock to the system – Oban can be a surprisingly busy and bustling town. We quickly found ourselves negotiating traffic jams as we made our way back to the garage to pick up the car. By 14:15 we’d transferred our baggage to the car, mounted the bike on the rack and were driving homeward from Oban.
We had no rain at any point in our tour – we had 9 dry days cycling in Scotland! That’s unprecedented in our tours. But as we approached the Forth Road Bridge, the rain began…