A casual look at the weather revealed a storm was coming towards Scotland, the tail end of a hurricane lashing the US east coast. A normal person would stay at home and watch some TV. I thought why not ride to a bothy perched on the cliffs on the Isle of Skye and watch the wind and rain lash in, it will be super cozy. A perfect plan, expect I didn’t appreciate I would have to ride through the storm to get there…..
This was my planned route over the next day and a half:
Early Friday Morning I started the drive up north, my Tripster had its wheels swapped from the HD heavy duty Crosslights I used in Iceland to the lighter standard Crosslights with 28mm Continental Gatorskin tyres on. Anticipating the rain I squeezed my bivvying overnight kit into 18 litres of my Apidura dry bags. I love these new dry bags, bombproof and 100% watertight and I was certainly about to test them!
At Glencoe the three sisters were looking dramatic as I stopped for a breather.
At Fort William I parked the car but noticed the electronic sign stating the ferry to Skye was disrupted so I headed north to the Kyle of Lochalsh bridge. The road to Spean Bridge was quite busy and not the quiet mountain road I had in mind. I passed the Commando monument giving some inspiration to push on against the ever intensifying elements.
On I rode on a road, little realising that it was actually 70 miles to even reach the bridge to Skye. It was a long warm up to the main event. The scenery didn’t drag though as the mountains pierced through the dark clouds and the lochs reflected like silver mirrors.
Finally a sign that I was making progressing. The wind was picking up but more across and slightly behind so all was good.
Then the rain started to fall. I was getting closer as I stopped to eat the last of my Panda brand liqurice. The bike and my bags would be fine in this downpour, trusty not rusty as they say about Titanium! I sang the rocky theme over and over.
There’s something about Eilean Donan castle that requires you to stop and take photos each time you pass, was it in the Harry Potter movies? I think so. I’ll google it when i get home I thought.
The rain as the picture above shows was very wet and getting heavier. I stopped in the local Nice shop it was pretty pleasant to be fair, I had a steak pie (cold), strawberry mousse desert and a Ginger Beer for the road The guys in the shop were laughing at a chap planning on camping in this, I joined in. I didn’t mention I only had a bivvy bag so technically I wasn’t camping in this, I was going to be full on embracing it.
I left well fed and rode over the bridge, when i say rode I walked double over trying not to get blown into the road by the wind.
Once over it was sheltered and I cycled again. It was still relentless but being a cross wind it was getting dangerous, after a couple of big gusts I stopped to the side when cars approached. I then reached the Sligachan Hotel and campsite. I was tempted to stop for a drink and some food for the night. However the campsite had no real shelter or inside space to cook so it seemed better to carry on to Portree 8 miles away. The light was starting to fade and an odd patch of colour was in the sky to the west.
As the climb started the heavens opened, an unbelievable amount of rain was falling, the road was an inch or two deep, my Gore Tex was overwhelmed and I could feel my back getting wet, I’ve never experienced my jacket just giving up before.
Then the downhill started and it eased off.
The view to Portree was in an eerie light as the sun was setting:
I carried on before finding a campsite with inside space to cook and dry off. After 115 miles on the clock, I was sold by somewhere dry. I bivvyed under a caravan’s shelter for £7 it was worth it! To my great delight all my kit was bone dry no rain ingress at all into my Apidura dry bags, my clothes and sleeping bag were all shived straight in with no liner at all. I find it hard to imagibe heavier rain than that.
Later the stars came out and I regretted stopping so early as I would love a star filled photo from Skye away from any artificial light. It was a shame not to make the bothy I had intended but there’s always another day.
Day two and the sun was out. What a change.
I headed north to the Old Man of Storr along quieter roads. This is why I came here to ride.
Such a stunning view:
I wanted to get arty and take a picture of the bike with the coastline in the background. I lent my bike against the fence for this shot. A gust of wind then blew the bike to the right and down a cliff/steep embankment….disaster! Without thinking I ran after it as it cartwheeled down, luckily it stopped on a sheep track after 3 or four turns!
The brake levers had shifted around but otherwise all was good. I was pretty lucky it stopped as I struggled to lug it back up! You’ll agree the picture probably wasn’t worth it:
A bit further up I saw a sign for Kilt Rock and detoured to explore, I found this stunning waterfall tumbling over the cliffs:
Next up Quiriang the stunning cliff and pinnacles that make up one of the most photogenic and unique landscapes in the UK. What I wasn’t expecting was quite such a stiff climb pretty directly uphill to get there! The lead in was pretty cool:
The scenery was stunning with the dappled sunlight fast moving all around me like a spinning disco ball in the 20mph+ winds.
The climb was sharp but sweet, like a grapefruit?
Finally it was time for pictures looking back down:
THe path here is a mountian bike photographers dream and has been snapped countless times.
The roll downhill to Uig was fun but then I realised the time had come for the head wind as I turned south, it was going to be a struggle. Small steps at a time, head down on the drops and I progressed at a steady pace back south.
After getting lots of cake at the Portree bakery, I told them I was riding back to Fort William today, they offered a Chelsea bun, I accepted.
I blasted uphill towards Sligachan and the light on the mountains was really cool the Coulins were still not totally clear but it was much better than 18hrs earlier when I sheltered here in a bus shelter contemplating what to do next.
I wanted to get the ferry ASAP so put my head down and blasted towards Armadale and the ferry to Mallaig. The section from Broadfoot was due west and pretty exposed making my progress hard and slow with the persistent wind.
Finally I was there and the ferry was waiting. With ticket in hand I rolled on board with just a 35 minute wait.
The crossing was rough and not for the faint hearted, a tour bus on board full of Germans was pretty faint hearted it seemed. Car alarms beeping, waves crashing and spray the height of the boat, while the coach was rocking side to side!
Finally we approached dry land and it was back to Fort William in the fading light.
The blurry image represents how I felt as I made it to the town! I stopped for a Thai take out and got to the car just as the first spots of rain started falling.
Not a bad 36 hours covering 240 miles in some pretty testing conditions. Next time I would park by the bridge and probably skip the sections to and from Fort William on busy roads and go to Dunvegan instead but still a great couple of days on the bike!