Achnasheen to Ardmair
If only all cycle touring was this good. It is a lot, and I mean A LOT, easier going if you have a support vehicle which carries your kit and drives ahead to the lunch stop to slice the tomato.
There’s more energy for noticing other things along the way. A stag, to put us in fine Scottish mood; orchids; flesh eating plants (well, insect flesh); possibly an eagle (possibly not, it’s hard to say); jelly fish that look like transparent frisbees decorated with red onion; and a double rainbow arching over the barbecue bucket.
Last night I slept soundly inside the delightful midge tent. As the tent is open on one side I was a tad concerned that it might rain in the night and I would have to run shrieking and cold out the tent to find shelter inside the bathroom or the car. But instead I enjoyed my cosiest (extra blanket) and most peaceful night’s sleep and awoke to find blue sky the other side of the midge-proof netting.
For the first 10 miles we flew downhill. Our speed picked up and pick to over 15mph, something which is almost unheard of in a touring bike. Ah, but although we are touring we do not have the cumbersome kit to carry. Rather I just carried a small bag with flapjack, waterproofs and a repair kit. We enjoyed majestic highland scenery: huge, wide valleys that must have been carved out by ancient glaciers. A small patch of snow was still visible on the top of some of the mountains, though some other peaks disappeared into cloud as the sunshine and showers was blown by a stiff wind down the valley.
At lunchtime we only needed to pull into a lay bay on the shore of Loch Glascarnoch where my mum was parked, already midway through chopping up veg sticks and tomato to have with our cheese and oat cakes. It was only 11am but we’d made such good progress in the morning thanks to having lighter bikes.
The afternoon ride went swiftly as well as we sped down the hill towards Ullapool. Since Ullapool is the launching point for ferries to Stornoway and the Outer Hebrides then I saw surprised to find such a small, neatly packed town that fitted into one square kilometre on my OS map. We restocked our food supplies, assuming this small town will be the last outpost before we turn home, and refuelled with coffee and tea. My parents discussed whether what we could see was the sea (my Mum) or a loch (my Dad). The cafes were promoting their sea views and the ferry boats leaving the harbour clearly go out to sea, but the body of water is labelled as a loch on the map. Either way, it offered a beautiful view with steep sided mountains behind it.
An easy 3 miles brought us to the campsite in the tiny settlement of Ardmair. Though it makes it onto the map there is not much here except a campsite, a cluster of white houses perched on the bank along the beach and a beautiful panorama that looks back at mountains and forwards to rocky shore and the blue outline of the Summer Isles out in the sea. After pitching the famous midge tent, my mum and I walked along the beach where we found bizarre looking jellyfish. At first we thought one must be a child’s lost toy but on closer inspection (including a small prod) we realise it must be a living thing. Strange thing that it is though for it is the size of a small side plate, squidgy and gelatinous as you’d expect, and complete transparent save for what look like four small rings of red onion inside. How can it be that this odd disc is a) real and b) alive. My mum and I joked how being on a failing diet but be so much harder to lie about if you are a transparent jellyfish.
“Chocolate biscuit? No, I haven’t eaten a chocolate biscuit. Not a crumb!” Said the fat jellyfish.
“I can tell you’re lying,” the slimmer weight-watchers champion jellyfish said, “I can see right through you!”
What an odd thing life is.