Cycling the Atlantic coast of Europe from north to south during the summer of 2017. View the archive, the route so far, or donate to MSF.

Over the sea to Skye

By Stuart Lowe on

I donned my makeshift anti-midge gear and escaped my tent spot with a very poor packing of my tent. I rode the 7km to Applecross where there was a toilet. I packed my tent properly before the rain set in.

In a cafe I had a vegetarian breakfast and tried to charge my phone. I was basically putting off the "big climb" I'd been warned about. The climb was up the Bealach Na Ba (way of the cattle) which someone had described as "Britain's toughest climb on a bike". In Applecross they told me this was the "easier" side to approach from. It would still be tough. So often drivers don't seem to be aware of how hilly a route is. This time even they were saying it would be a hard climb.

I waited until near noon in the hope that people driving north along it would either plan to reach Applecross for lunch or do it in the mid afternoon. Even so there was still traffic and not all of it courteous. One big white Chelsea Tractor couldn't wait for my to reach a passing place and roared up past me very nearly clipping me.

At 485m I caught up with a young girl who had been cycling up ahead of me. She was met by her family (Ian, Aisla, and Charlotte) who were encouraging her up the rest. Ian was kind enough to give me a tenner for MSF. Both of us set off again. I didn't know how far I had to go. A funny Australian, coming downhill in a 4x4, told me it was another 10 miles.

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Thanks to Ian and family

It turned out the summit was 625m above sea level (which is where Applecross is). That is higher than any summit I climbed in Norway. By quite some way. Will I ever get a break from the hills? At the summit I was welcomed by the family I'd met 140m lower.

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About to descend the Bealach Na Ba

Then it was down the switchback turns of the south side of the Bealach into an amphitheatre of rock. This side was certainly far more dramatic. I was clutching my brakes hard most of the way down. Before the bottom I stopped for a late lunch. Out came the frying pan. I'd earned three eggs.

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Lunch stop looking at Loch Kishorn

Around a Loch and up over another hill took me to Lochcarron where I had a great piece of jaffa cake cheesecake. Double cake! Or is it half cake half biscuit? I still had a good way to go to the Kyle of Lochalsh and it was partly along single track roads with all the surprise hills. At 6pm, after a rain shower, I was bowling along a glistening woodland glade perched up on the side of the Loch with a railway line far below.

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Back up Loch Carron

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Glistening wood

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Why did the chicken cross the road?

At the Kyle of Lochalsh I found a Coop and bought a berry tart for six people. That would be pudding later. Then I was up the bridge and over the sea to Skye.

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Over the sea to Skye

On Skye I was hoping to find a campsite but the one I could find had a sign outside saying "totally full". Every B&B said "no vacancies" too. It looked like Skye was full. I made a decision not to cycle around it but just to ride to the ferry at Armadale. That wouldn't be tonight though as I'd missed the last ferry. I had to wild camp up amongst the bogs. A haven for midges but thankfully there was enough wind to keep them at bay. I passed the evening with the best phone/Internet signal I've had in Scotland even though I was surrounded by bog on Skye.