13 January 2013

Western Scotland and Isles day 5: Calgary Bay to Salen

The Brooks saddle is finally breaking in after more than 1000 miles of relative comfort. I thought that the rain and wetness of a couple of days ago helped with the process...

By 6:30 am I woke up to a wet morning by the beach. It had been raining most of the night and also the wind was pretty strong at times, so decided to wait inside the tent a bit and eventually managed to set off at 9:30 am.
Woke up to this
The first few km went by pretty quickly despite the rolling terrain. Past Dervaig, the B8073 kicked up and over a little bump that afforded nice views over the bay.

B8073 climbing past Dervaig (Isle of Mull)
Following the B8073 I soon got to Tobermory via some very scenic Lochs. As I was pulling into town, a guy  on another fully loaded tourer flew past me and asked if knew the way to the ferry terminal...He wanted to catch the 11 am crossing to the mainland! I had to re-stock on some supplies, and knowing that there wasn't much on the other side (apparently people from the Ardnamurchan peninsula cross over to Mull for shopping!) I decided to take it easy and catch the next ferry.

Loch before getting to Tobermory

Scenic Tobermory

Drying out the gear
While waiting in Tobermory, I looked over to the mainland and saw a couple of paragliders soaring by the cliffs. I then took the (bad) advise of a Lonely Planet guide and ordered the £6 fish and chips at the harbour's van - it turned out to be the grossest food of the entire trip, surely. Don't go there if you happen to be in Tobermory!

At 1 pm I was already on the short and shaky ferry crossing over to the mainland. Once on the other side, I looked behind and over to Mull to see the vistas.

The Isle of Mull from Ardnamurchan
I decided to ride the 10 or so km to the Westernmost point in the UK mainland - it promised to be a very scenic ride! I then noticed that my bottom bracket had developed some bad play after only 1600 km! Oh well, at least it was the cheap end of the market, so a replacement would be due as soon as I got back to London. I was worried it would failed me or got a bit stiffer given the wet conditions, but luckily it held up until the end of my trip.

Speaks for itself
Once I got to the actual lighthouse at the end of the road, I saw the bike belonging to the cycle tourists I saw back in Tobermory - as it turns out his name was Rob and he too was following the same route as I was but had been doing the tour of the lighthouse etc.

My original plans were to rough camp here for the night, but it was still 2 pm, relatively windy, and full of midges wherever there was no wind. I decided to press on and soon caught up with Rob, who had already set off a few min before me.
Westernmost coast of the UK

Lighhouse at Ardnamurchan point
The road back to Kilchoan was really narrow at places, but luckily mostly downhill. I quickly took a diversion to visit Portuaik, which had no more than a few house and some nice views of the bay.
Westermost mainland UK traffic lights!
While riding past Kilchoan, I spotted Rob in the background and pressed on to catch up with him. Together we rode along the very scenic B8007 all the way to Salen. It was a bit hilly at places, but really worth the effort, with some good descents for good measure.

Rob was a computer games engineer who was now living in Dundee. As I guessed from his accent, he was a Northener, from Manchester, who was now enjoying living in a small town close to the countryside. He was riding a Dawes Ultra Galaxy, and was also into building bikes, so we chatted the usual bike stuff until we got to Salen.

B8007 to Salen
It was already 4 pm, and we were getting close to Salen. It had been almost 50 km by the time we rode from the lighthouse to this town, and we literally did not pass any services/pub/supermarket along the way - it surely is one of the most remote places in the UK! Rob had heard of a pub in Salen (the only one!) and so we decided to have some hot food there. It would be the first sit down food of my entire trip.

The locals were enjoying some whiskies with ice and water, while we ordered an ale and a hearty lasagna. We took it easy. Rain started to hit hard again, so we did not leave in a rush. We decided to camp on the campsite near Salen along the A861. 

It seemed like a nice setting, by the Loch, and with good facilities. It cost £6, and was full of midges, so quickly set up our tents and retreated to them. Some 40 km or so separated me from the next town on the itenerary: Mallaig.

The stats for the day:

- Odometer: 83 km
- Max speed: 53.6 km/h
- Average speed: 15.5 km/h
- Moving time: 5h 22min
- Stopped time: 3-4 hours


  1. Some great pics there!
    Which Brooks saddle are you using?

  2. Many thanks Tim. It's taking me a while to write up the whole trip, but I am getting there!

    I got a B17, which after the trip got a bit saggy due to all the wetness etc. Not fully convinced about leather saddles and wet weather countries!

  3. Ah ok, I am slowly breaking in a Brooks B15 which is the best saddle I have owned to date. Proofide your saddle and water may just bead off it and that may help (with the weather) a little. My saddle came with a neat little cover too - If yours did not, am sure they are easy to get hold of and relatively cheap. Cheers!

  4. Thanks for your advise. I proofided the saddle as per manufacturer's recommendations and kept the cover off the rain every time, but still, I think it is a good idea to ride with the cover on while on rainy/damp environments. I will definitely get a cover for our upcoming tours!