Thursday, 23 July 2009

Tour d'ecosse - stage 5, Gairloch to Achmelvich

By 9am the rain has set in and the view to Torridon has vanished. This is the sort of rain that has animals lining up in pairs!
By 11am I'm on the road again but only for a short distance to Poolewe, and tea and cake at the Bridge Cottage coffee shop.
From here the road is a complete joy! Long fast straights and sweeping corners. I have some music from Slumdog Millionaire paying in my helmet when the sun comes out, the road dries up and it's hard to know where machine stops and I begin. This is the moment. This is why I bought the bike.
Forty miles after Poolewe is Corrieshalloch Gorge. It had been recommend as a must see. All I can really say is wow! There is a small suspension bridge going over the gorge which had a worrying sign saying only six people at a time on the bridge! It is truly spectacular and so deep it surprises me that some enterprising New Zealander hasn't set up a bungie jump!
The last 12 miles to Ullapool pass quickly along the tree lined road, with shafts of sunlight streaming through the trees in a pattern like that of light through venetian blinds. It is the ride of deep joy.

I've no sooner sat down in the Friggate cafe in Ullapool for pea and ham soup when my friend Trish rings. She's also just arrived in Ullapool! Brilliant timing.
After some lunch we head out, me on my machine and Trish in her open top Mazda, and reach the single-track road turnoff, signposted for Achiltibuie  and Lochinver. The road twists and winds its way along the coast with spectacular views to Stac Polaidh, and further on the mighty mountain of Suilven.
The youth hostel is just three miles beyond Lochinver and the setting is idyllic. Settled in, and after a walk along the white sands of the bay looking out over the still turquoise waters, we head back in Lochinver for a meal to celebrate Trish's birthday.
It has been a perfect day, and the first day that I had a grin on my face through the absolute joy of riding the bike through some of the worlds most beautiful scenery. The weather, though overcast most of the day, has been kind, and the evening is still and beautiful.
Tomorrow is the longest journey, north to Durness, turning east to Tongue and then turning south to start the journey toward home. Tomorrow night I will be staying at the SYHA flagship hostel of Carbisdale castle.

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