There aren’t too many long weekends in the working year, so it’s necessary to make the most of them when they roll around. That’s how i found myself, with my bike, on the train to Oban last Friday night. The plan - a turbo tour of the Outer Hebrides and Skye.
Planting myself in the closest seat to my bike, I found myself in the midst of a drunken stag party. Not to worry, they turned out to sound guys, and to top it off, amongst was a champion accordian player. The carriage was treated to a string of caleidh songs for the duration of the trip, much to my delight.
On alighting from the train, I befriended 4 old blokes who were also on their way up for a cycle tour. They’d done this religiously for the last 14 years. Old steel frames, toe cages, track pants and sand shoes. A new route every year, but the one i was about to embark on had not been ridden yet by these guys. Maybe next year they said...
Saturday morning, stunning and calm. Partway through the 5 hour ferry trip to Uist I realised this was not to last. I stood on deck, breathing deep lungfuls, willing my breakfast to stay down. The rolling swell was generated by a fierce sou-west wind. The very same wind that propelled me the 41miles from Lochboisdale to Lochmaddy in less than 2 hours. Not bad time for a loaded cross bike making several stops for photo ops.
I made it to the comfort of the hostel just in the nick of time. The wind was joined by lashing rain and the appeal of the outdoors vanished abruptly. The empty hostel filled to bulging as unhappy campers trickled in, their tents blown down in the gales outside.
Sunday morning - The ferry didn't leave until 11:50 - time to see a bit more of the island. Not wet but not sunny and still a howling wind. Oh well, it wouldn't be scotland if it was sunny and still , right?
An hour and a half to Uig, Skye, and 55miles of riding to get the length of the island. I wish i had another day there. Skye has a dramatic and changeable landscape, and by rushing down the middle of it, i think i left a fair bit of it out. The trip, only 13miles longer than the previous day, took over 5 hours, riding directly into the teeth of the vicious wind. I missed the hostel, rode 3miles past it, hand to turn round and ride back to it, squeaking out the last of my reserve energy (honestly, I was audibly squeaking...).
I thought I'd have a well deserved dinner of fish&chips, but it was Sunday and nothing was open in the port village of Armadale. I only had an earl gray tea and the last of my banana loaf to fill the void in my tummy. One of the other hostel guests took pity on me and shared her enormous stirfry with me. Mmmmmm. It was like Christmas.
Monday, and the rain was still falling but i only had the short trip to the ferry to make. 30 minutes later I was back on the mainland. On the train and back in Glasgow 5 hours after.
A whirlwind trip, but well worth it!