20 June 2013

Outer Hebrides Tour Part VI: Ullapool - Inverness

(Editor's note: We seem to have gotten a bit behind in posting our touring entries! This blog is the last in  our series about our April tour to Scotland, not to be confused with our June tour to Scotland which we promise will be written up in better time than this one was!)

We docked at Ullapool in the evening and headed to the campsite (which was conveniently located about 30 seconds from the ferry dock) where we had a bit of trouble finding a place to set up the tent as the grass was only superficial on most of the site with hard surface underneath. The campsite is nothing special, although it does enjoy a nice view of the water which is a plus.

Checking out the views from the edge of the campsite in Ullapool
We set up the tent and set off to explore Ullapool. After checking out literally the entire town (it's not very big) we ended up at a pub near the campsite where there was a special deal on fish and chips, so we both ordered that. It was nice to have a somewhat special dinner in a restaurant on our last night camping.

We woke up the following morning to the sound of rain on our tent -- for the first time ever with this tent! Fortunately it didn't last too long but the chilly temperatures and wet tent kept us moving rather slowly so that we didn't actually get on the road til almost 10:30.

We had a big climb out of Ullapool and it started raining lightly. We stopped at the top of the climb to put waterproofs, which clearly meant the rain stopped about five minutes later.

Traffic was relatively light on the A835 (certainly by Southeast standards!) and most of the cars left plenty of room when they passed. It helped that we had waited until after the big rush from the morning ferry arrival had passed.

Ullapool dock in the morning
The major roads make cycling so much faster and the chilly and cloudy weather meant we weren't really interested in stopping that much, so we were making good time. We stoped just before Garve to make a quick sandwhich, and again at a roadside cafe in Tarvie for some tea and cakes.

On the A835 to Inverness
We decided that we were making such good time that we could afford to divert to Strathpeffer which Alberto had been curious about, mainly because of the Strathpuffer 24 hour race that takes place there in winter. It was a cute town, though nothing too special, and after wandering about a bit we phoned our Warmshowers hosts Sarah and Keith. They were at home and gave us some directions to their house, so we set off from Strathpeffer just as it started to rain again.

In a little over an hour we arrived at their cottage in Kirkhill just as the rain began to get heavier. It was such a relief to come into their warm house with a fire going in the sitting room. We showered and ate a delicious meal that Keith cooked for us and enjoyed chatting about bikes, Scotland, and lots more with Keith (Sarah had to go work the night shift). As we sat in the comfort of their living room it started to snow, lightly at first and then more heavily. We were so grateful to be sleeping indoors in such a lovely and comfy house! It was our first time using Warmshowers but certainly won't be our last.

Leaving Keith & Sarah's house in Kirkhill
We got up early the next morning and as the snow continued to fall we headed the 15km or so in to Inverness. It was extra rewarding to arrive at the station in Inverness freezing cold and wet from the snow, to get on the train and change into warm clothes for our 8 hour journey back to London through the snowy highlands and down the East Coast mainline.

We loved our 9 days in Scotland and vowed to return as soon as possible - turns out that was June (stay tuned for that story in the future!).

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