Team SkyeJuly 28th, 2015 | Posted by in UK
Mallaig to Achnasheen
I hadn’t even unclipped my second cleated foot from the pedal when the whisky was handed to me. Just a wee dram. This is, really, how all days of cycling in Scotland should be finished. Indeed, it may be how all future days of cycling in Scotland finish now that we have, wait for it, a support vehicle!!
Like some sort of pro Tour de France team, we now have our own team car and soigneur in the form of my mother; but what Chris Froome lacks and we (Team Skye) has is the most glorious bright yellow midge tent. The midge tent, let me explain, is made from a lightweight tent semicircular shelter big enough for three people to sit that my mum purchased off the internet. But the shelter has now been enhanced by my mum stitching and clipping inside it a fine-mesh inner that keeps biting things out.
Joyfully our support vehicle came to find us at a viewpoint layby above Loch Carron. We brewed a cup of tea for my flagging dad and I inhaled some of the fresh supply of salted pretsels. We then offloaded our panniers into the support vehicle, just a short way before a 14% climb into the highlands.
The day had started in a B&B with a fantastic breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt, and the full Scottish with a poached egg and extra toast and a supplementary yoghurt. Today I would not go hungry. Refreshed from a good night’s sleep on a mattress and suitably fuelled I was ready for the cycling miles ahead.
We caught the morning ferry from Mallaig to Skye along with a couple of bus loads of tourists and a friendly Scottish cyclist who was doing a tour of his homeland. Thanks to a strong south westerly wind we we blown along Skye enjoying the views of boats on the sea and cottages by the shore and the magnificent Cuillin mountains melting into mist.
At the roadside we met two Polish cyclist’s, dampened by rain in clothing but not in spirit, so were doing a tour of Scotland. We stopped long enough to exchange greetings and hear about their route before pedalling off. We did, after all, have a rendezvous to meet.
To get back to the mainland we had to cycle across the Skye bridge. My Dad stopped to take photos while I pedalled on, head down, while muttering prayers to myself. I think the views were beautiful but frankly I don’t know. I will look at my Dad’s photos later to find out, when I am not high on a bridge and in fear of my life.
We stopped on a remote bit of roadside to enjoy a scenic picnic. Since the ground was damp and boggy and there was no picnic bench we hunched up on an uncomfortable rock in a little cutting of land. Gorse poked into my head when I moved but I enjoyed the views of mini islands in the blue waters ahead. The mountains of Skye were still visible, a few houses stood on the distance shore. As luck would have it, we passed not one but five picnic benches in the mile after our lunch stop. But hey, we still had the view.
We pressed on. Up and down, winding back and forth we followed the single track road the snaked through the woods south of Loch Carron. My Mum had already called so we were expecting to see her in a few miles time when we reached the main A route towards Inverness. My calculations of how long it would take to get there hadn’t factored in the rather steep hill at the end. I pushed on, hoping my Mum wouldn’t be fretting about why we were late. Then I saw: the outline of a figure walking down the road. Was it her? My mum’s usual walking jacket is a distinctive apple green colour. This figure was a different colour. But as I pedalled closer I could make out the shape, the sunglasses, the boots… Of our wonderful new support team. I waved, and she waved back.
I pedalled up the hill as fast as possible. I called a brief “hello” as I passed, followed by “have you got any milk?” And pushed quickly up the hill with my Mum now running behind me. By the time my Dad pulled into the lay by, the hot water was on the boil for a fresh cup of tea to revive him.
Never will I forget the kindness and generosity of my mother who was the real hero of the day. For she had brought pretzels, peanut butter, marzipan, a hand stitched midge tent and other such delights that brighten the lives of weary cyclists. Now without panniers to carry (and still with a strong tailwind) we made good speed up the hills towards Achnasheen. The scenery here is glorious: we cycled through a huge, huge valley, wider than your eyes can fathom, with steep sided mountains on each side and peaks that disappear into cloud above. We cycled under an avalanche shelter and later, as we climbed higher up the valley, my Dad pointed out red and white posts on the roadsides that are used in winter so they know where the road is when they plough the snow.
I led out a whoop of glee as I saw the sign for the campsite and then swerved into the car park to find my mum holding a wee dram of whisky to share. “Cheers!” We clinked glasses, took a swig and then marched up the hill to admire the midge tent.