Five days off in a row is such a luxury and I think I struck it lucky with some of the best days of the year - definitely Scotland at its finest. I cycled to Stewarton on Saturday over the moors road (very windy and not a great road), only to find the cake shop wasn't open yet -eek! Then back to Glasgow for a chilled out afternoon and Adam's birthday ceilidh at night.
On Sunday Elspeth and I drove up to Contin and rode the Strathpuffer trails. They're supposed to be waymarked but we only just managed to make it round (with one rather large detour) by dint of much squinting and trying to remember the different bits of the course through pain and tiredness (I think I remember falling off here... I think I saw a wildcat/ fox / chicken here...)
They've changed the course a lot since we did it and it seems much more technical and weatherproof. Perhaps if it's no longer the sea of mud that I remember if might be fun to do again? Still a bit scary though with lots of people around and maybe I shouldn't enter - it's probably enough that not only have I done one of the toughest bike races in the world but we also won it :)Might not be so lucky if the opposition turn up in future...!
I'm pleased that I managed to ride the technical section - it was way beyond my ability when we did the race. One man was there trying to persuade his daughter that she wants to race next year. I'm not sure she looked very convinced!
The real adventure started on Monday, waking up next to the shore at Ullapool, to a beautiful morning and large bowl of muesli! We took the road from the quarry up into the hills and started our mini coast to coast trip. The start was really smooth going (better roads than Glasgow) and Elspeth was wondering whether she should have brought her tourer. Further on and over into the next Glen it got a bit more technical, particularly when we took the 'scenic' route down by the shore...
The paths were really fantastic for most of the way. It must be an old drovers route and we hardly saw anyone on it - just a few deer, lots of potatoes and some cyclists pushing their bikes in the other direction.
Several lochs, hills and bogs later, we'd done 30miles off road and arrived in the village of Croick. From there on it was an undulating road ride (13miles) until we rounded the last corner to see Carbisdale castle up on the hill. Not exactly an inviting site (rather grey and menacing) but being tired helps to make even the white lady seem not too bad! It's an absolutely stunning place to stay and well worth the visit. Waiting until 7pm for the dinner was slightly difficult but we did get to stand around in a very grand hallway and inspect the portraits. My vegetable obsession was fulfilled (I never normally get enough veg when staying in youth hostels) and we had cake so everything was well with the world. They even have lots of cycling magazines to read in the evening and gave us a massive picnic breakfast for our early start.
Tuesday saw us do the same journey over again but somehow much easier. The lack of a head wind must have helped and we didn't take as many photos but still seemed to manage it more than an hour faster. So we were back having lunch outside the Deli in Ullapool by 1pm. A perfect end to a mini-adventure.
Thanks to Elspeth for being trip photographer.