24 December 2012

Western Scotland and Isles day 4: Fionnphort - Calgary Bay (Mull)

As I had predicted, I had a very rough night in the tent. The wind changed direction overnight, hitting the tent fabric directly. With all the noise that that carries, I only got some good sleep past 5 am, when it seemed to have calmed down.

If it weren't so far North it would be packed with tourists! View from the campsite onto the beach
 At 8 am I exited the tent and was gifted with a beautiful day, sun and no winds. I even saw a couple of other tents pitched on the campsite, at least one belonging to another cyclist. My right eye seemed to be ok now, but there was no way I could be wearing contact lenses today. After stocking up at the local Spar with some Isle of Mull cheese, I took advantage of the Westerly winds and set out to enjoy the roads I had barely seen the day before, retracing my steps. By 10:30 am I was already on my way back to the bus shelter intersection with the road leading up to Loch Na Keal.

The most scenic dental clinic I've seen to date. Fionnphort.

Caribbean beach in Mull, at the campsite
I could see the cyclist I had met in the campsite ahead of me, so quickly tried to catch up with him. As it turns out, Matthew was also on the YACF forum, and more surprisingly, was a regular of the Friday Night Rides to the Coast. The world is a napkin, as we say in Spanish. While talking to him, we both realised we had probably cycled together already, in some of the rides organised by the Fnrttc people. Funny.

The bus shelter I used to take a break the day before. The cyclist is Matthew
Matthew and I rode together for quite some time, exchanging experiences and ideas for future tours. He was on a 3-week tour of Scotland, carrying a large load of four panniers, a rack bag and a big Carradice saddle bag. We shared the headwind once we turned West, towards Loch Na Keal. This section of road promised to be really scenic, or so I had read...

Somewhere along the B8035 in Mull
Today was a completely different day. The wind was not as strong, it was dry, and most importantly, sunny. The scenery along the B8035 really spoke for itself. The road was undulating, relatively flat while going parallel to the Lochs, but quickly gained elevation when going inland. Some of those inland sections were heavy wooded areas - which Matthew quickly explained were pine trees planted between WWI and WWII to promote the timber bussiness in the UK, especially in areas that are useless for other types of farming.

Going inland. The mountains on either side topped 800 m or so, according to the GPS
The downhill sections were always fantastic. No traffic and amazing views of the Loch Na Keal. Once we got to Gruline, Matthew and I parted separate ways. I continued West towards Calgary Bay along the B8073, while he would carry on on the B8035 towards Salen for some hot food.

About the get down to sea (Loch) level

Can it get any better than this?
In Killiechronan I stopped for lunch, which consisted of local cheese with tomatoes and bread. The Mull cheese was amongst the best I've ever had, up there with our very own manchegos. The views from my lunch spot were, again, amazing.

Very nice Mull cheese

Lunch spot at Killiechronan
As it usually happens in Scotland, it soon started raining, so I rushed my lunch and got back on the bike. It is funny though, in Scotland it rains even if you don't have a clould formation on top of you!

The road got a bit steeper along the Loch, quickly gained altitude and remained at 100 m for quite a while. I cycled past some road workers, who I asked about distance to Calgary beach (apparently one of the 10 top beaches in the whole of the UK!). They confirmed it was about 20 km or so, meaning a bit more than 1 hour at my pace. 

The downhill to Calgary from 200 m down to sea level followed a very steep climb that had me on my lowest gear for the first time on this trip. Although my initial plans were to head to Tobermory and spend the night there, I soon decided to spend the night at the beach. To my surprise, there even was some basic facilities to use, free of charge, for campers. They were really gross though, but still, nice to know they are there.

Almost 200 m above sea level

Calgary beach on the left
As I was descending towards the bay, I noticed I had phone reception for the first time in Mull. I quickly texted Lucy and the parents saying something like "it was rough yesterday, but I think today it's been one of the best days on the bike". There was already a tent in Calgary beach, and with the sun out, I did not hesitate much to pitch mine up.

I had met the other campers on the ferry crossing from Oban, the day before. They were a couple on their first tour, combining B&Bs and camping, and seemed quite friendly. Apparently, they told me there was also a café up the hill as you leave Calgary. It turned out to be a not-so-friendly bunch of people in there, but they had local beer which I could not resist to get... I also filled the water bottles and returned to the beach.

This is the life
It was about 5 pm when I set up camp. The water was not too cold, but I was not in the mood for a swim this time, so went around the bay on foot instead, while the sun set.

Calgary beach

Sunset at Calgary Bay
I retraced to my tent, cooked some local sausage I bought at the café, and planned the following's day route with the help of the maps: Tobermory, then ferry over to the mainland and then...will see.

It had been a superb day on the bike. Mull had not disappointed, and as other cyclists say, it certainly is amongst the best places one could ever ride in. If the weather cooperates, it cannot get much better, surely.

Maps and ferry times

The stats for the day:

- Odometer: 92.7 km
- Max speed: 55.8 km/h
- Moving average: 17.1 km/h
- Moving time: 5h 24min

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