First sector - Kilchoan to Craignure 35 km
Second Sector - Oban to Brodick .. 122km
Ever been to the Isle of Arran ? No ? Then simply get there. Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 bucks. Simply go. NOW ! More on that later .
Impossibly quaint Tobermory with its mutlitude of colourful houses.
The day started with leaden skies and a 1.5km roll down the hill from the hotel to the ferry terminal In time for the 8 am Kilchoan to Tobermory ferry. Clutching our take away breakfast with us.
Scottish ferries are like Norwegian Ferries. They run on time. There the similarities end. More on that later.
37 mins after leaving Kilchoan we arrive at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull. I had slightly miscalculated and so it was a bit of a thrash of a ride for the 33km to Craignure for the 10am ferry to Oban. 1 hour and 20 mins to ride 33km with heavy bikes and undulating terrain. It was arse up and heads down type riding. We arrived at 9.53am and I was hooting and a hollering as I could see a row of cars yet to board. Our elation was soon deflated by a sour and grumpy ferry ticket attendant who seemingly had great delight in telling us that the 10am was cancelled and the next sailing to Oban was the 11.10am .
“You wouldn’t have made the 10am anyway” she said. “As we close boarding for cars at 9.45am “ .
“Ah, but we’re cyclists “ I replied .
”Aye, but you’re not pedestrians” she responded with most dour of faces.
“ I guess you’re not as flexible as Australian ferry masters then”
“Aye. We’re not.”
Saw an Otter and also a seal on the crossing to Oban which quickly diluted the grumpy attendant experience.
Close to where the Otter and the seal were spotted.
Entrance to Oban
Oban and the route south was a lovely ride. Respectful drivers, smooth bitumen, and even the sun started to make an appearance.
Given the glacial pace I was cycling the squirrels were not under threat.
Lunch break at a roadside pub.
Turning left off the highway for the ferry to Arran and the mother of all hills. 14% gradient for 4km. Great in a car. Not so much on a bike already having done 95km.
Some hills though. And then some more. However it was beautiful scenery. I want to come back to this area. In a powerful car or atop a BMW GS1200R motorbike.
The left turn off the highway to Skipness (where we would catch the ferry to Arran) confronted us with the mother of all climbs on an impossibly narrow country lane. We both agreed that the Scottish road engineers could learn a thing or two from their Norwegian brethren and utilise tunnels instead of the old method of going up to them go down.
The ride down to the ferry point for Arran was a highlight. With Arran laid out in front of us (across the inlet) and a beautiful late afternoon sun on our backs it seemed a just reward for the 125km already covered.
Lochranza port lies in the far north West Point on the Isle of Arran and it was our landfall for our final ferry trip of the day. Isle of Arran from the ferry point at Skipness.
A few years ago as I rode to Nordkapp I arrived at the Lofoten Islands (far far north west Norway) from Bodo. The day was clear and the terrain spectacular. This fell only marginally short of that.
Even though a fellow ferry passenger had warned us about the climb out of Lochranza (“A 65 year old guy had a heart attack on it two weeks ago and died“) it was simply STUNNING. (Caps intended). Yes the climb was brutal but even as we climbed the views were stunning. Think craggy mountains, verdant pastures, innocent sheep, no traffic, whisky distilleries, impossibly cute seaside hamlets, and a very late afternoon sun with even the hint of tailwind.
Ferry arriving to take us to Arran
The picture below tells the story
The climb out of Lochranza on the Isle of Arran. The hill that kept on giving.
Seriously. This was cycling nirvana.
And the hill…..
The 25km from Lochranza to Brodick (even given the 4.5km climb out Lochranza) was one of those special moments that you wish wouldn‘t end.
Then there was the down bit.
Passing an idyllic campsite on the way down.
One quaint hamlet and inlet after another.
BnB front garden views
Mind you I might be thinking alone here. When Brent said for the 4th time (about 15km from home) ..” I am running on empty” I actually started to believe him.
A quite stunning end to a day of cycling that will be banked in the memory for those shitty rainy days when I am doing laps of Richmond Park.
Surely the only appropriate way to end the day? Yes. I thought so too. Meanwhile the Sth African boy was sipping on his lager shandy. :-(
In case you didn’t believe me the first time. Isle of Arran. GO NOW !
Stats of the day
Number of midge bites - 0
Number of long to very long hills when you question your existence - 7
Number of times I changed gears to accommodate undulating terrain - 325,457
Number of times I stopped on the Isle of Arran said “Wow” and took a photo - 47
Number of times I gave the thumbs up to a passing lorry driver who had waited patiently behind me when climbing a hill - 17
Number of times I gave the “you‘re a twat” sign to a passing motorcyclist who passed unnecessarily close to me - 3
Number of times I opened a conversation with “I am an Australian and not English” - Every time.