We arrived on Saturday and on Sunday I did a quick training ride up and down to Dunvegan. The weather was lovely and the bike and I felt good. After that it was just a case of waiting for a decent day to come along for a trip around the north end of Skye. Monday's weather forecast for Tuesday indicated that it would be the best day for the attempt and so that's what we went with.
The RideThe plan was for the SO to meet up with me at various points along the journey to provide fluids, food and support. So we agreed on the stops and off I set.
Bracadale to PortreeNow Skye isn't exactly flat; in fact that's one of the reasons I love the place. So, setting off, I was almost immediately confronted with the first steep incline of the day. Long enough to test the legs, but not long enough to break the spirit, I was still happy to get over the top without using my lowest gear. I was sure there was time for that later. I wasn't wrong! The rest of the road to Sligachan was ok; a few inclines and some nice descents. Also the breeze was pretty much behind me so it was a great start to the day.
Turning north at Sligachan I knew I was going to be facing the breeze for another 27 miles. With nothing I could do about it I resolved to enjoy it as much as possible. A long hill took me from the famous hotel to Portree where, although I was early, the car was already waiting. 21 miles down, in good spirits and with fresh supplies it was time to be on the road again.
Portree to StaffinFrom Portree another long hill took me up to the rolling moorland of northeast Skye. And as I reached the top of this section here was the view of the Storr. Cycling is a lot easier when you have views like this.
The road rolled on with the rest of the Trotternish ridge providing many fantastic views. With scenery like this how can you not enjoy cycling?
Staffin to UigThis short section was always going to be hard. I had decided to take the short-cut to Uig, but that meant climbing over the pass just south of the Quiraing. The Quiraing is another fantastical landscape created by more landslips. Pinnacles and towers abound and exploring this area by foot is something everyone should do. Short of that, search for it on-line and look at the fabulous pictures.
For me, though, it meant a climb of around 800 feet in 2.75 miles. For me that's steep and I wasn't looking forward to the single track road either. I wasn't encouraged by the short climb up to the turn-off. I didn't even remember it. It just shows how you don't notice things in a car. Once on the single track it was still steep and I just tried to relax and enjoy it. Early on I had a lorry coming down that didn't want to make it easy for me but I managed to unclip and get off the road before they ran me over. If they had stopped on the corner I could have popped into the passing place and had a nice flat restart; but no, that's not how the driver wanted to play. The gradient eased off for a while which was nice but I could see the headwall approaching. 15% the sign had said at the bottom. Where? Well, that comes right at the top. For the last half mile or so the road just steepens all the time and then when you turn the last hairpin it is really steep. Did I use my granny gear? Oh yes, of course I did! But I got there and that's all that counts.
My support was there again for a quick congratulations before agreeing to meet properly in Uig. I was too pumped to remember to ask for a photo to be taken, so I took one of the view after they left. Even this is pretty spectacular.
For anyone else going this way the surface of the single track road is pretty good. Only a few potholes to worry about. It was made a lot easier by only a few cars. In the summer I suspect the road would be far busier which might makes things more unpleasant.
Meeting my support in Uig meant lunch and the fortuitous ability to shelter from the short sharp shower that chose that moment to pass by. The bike wasn't so lucky!
Uig to EdinbaneThis ended up being the toughest section of them all. It didn't start that way. Refuelled and slightly rested the climb out of Uig went well, and the views were lovely over the harbour and out to the outer Hebrides. The run down from there provided one of the flattest sections of the day and with the wind now helping a little spirits and speeds rose.
Of course, such things never last. My route turned off the road to Portree and headed to Dunvegan. Unfortunately it also turned into the breeze. I've driven this road many times and I've never thought of it as hilly. But let me tell you that it is. A seemingly never-ending series of downs followed by ups would describe this road nicely. And each up was harder than the last. I kept thinking, this must be the last climb before Edinbane and then each time I got to the top I found it wasn't. I suffered on this section and seriously considered cutting my losses when I met up with the SO.
Then, at last I, was there. Up at the caravan site above Edinbane. A lovely drop down picking up speed and then a short climb to the car parking place that was our rendezvous. I flopped down onto the picnic bench. I think my face says it all.
|Here - just!|
Edinbane to BracadaleOne climb and one short incline before Dunvegan and the turn for home and, more importantly, the turn to put the breeze at my back again. That's what I had in my mind. The climb was a brute! Roughly 400 feet in 1.6 miles. I just couldn't believe how long it went on. Never stupidly steep it just kept coming and coming. Little turns kept false hopes of the summit topmost in my mind. I'm not quite sure how I got to the top but eventually I did.
As ever the road dropped again and I feared the short incline would prove to be worse than that but in the end it was as advertised and soon the view to the west opened up and I knew I wasn't far from Dunvegan.
I still had to stop for one more photo opportunity. The Cuillin that had been notable by their absence earlier in the day were showing under their cloud blanket. These are the most fabulous hills in Scotland and if it weren't for this bike training lark I might well have been walking and scrambling on them this week.
A quick blast home and then, all of a sudden, I was there. Here's the evidence.
ConclusionThe day was good, no doubt about it. The SO and I managed to meet at the appropriate points, which is great. That's the first time we've done a multi-stop route and it went well. However the day confirmed some other things to me:
- The lighthouse to lighthouse route is going to be hard, very hard. Especially the 2nd day.
- I need to get my nutrition sorted out before then. Feeling sick on the bike isn't good.
- I need to believe in myself more; I can cycle these routes.
- In case you didn't notice I think my support is great!