Day 9 – To the Western Isles!

Farr Bay

Today was my first truly “non-map” day, but it was a day to remember nonetheless. The morning got off to a beautiful sunny start. Our first stop, 15 mins to the west by van, was the stunning Farr Bay. On my end-to-end in June 2008 we stayed at the inn here and walked alone on the beach under a surreal purple and yellow sky at 11pm. This was where we had run out of land after 11 days of cycling from Land’s End, and it felt like a very special evening. The incredible sky was reflected in the wet sand. It was an amazing, emotional experience. Today, my first time back in 14 years, the tide was further in, the sky was blue and the sand was a creamy white colour. Gentle waves broke on the shoreline. It was very beautiful. 

Farr Bay

Pushing on, the drive just got better and better, with huge, weirdly shaped mountains always dominating the horizon. There were moments when you gasped as a new vista of mountains and sea lochs presented itself. The road was tiny and quiet: single track with regular passing places for many lonely miles, especially between Tongue and Durness. Since I have all this to look forward to again when cycling in the opposite direction in a few days time, I will save the details and pictures until then. 

Balnakeil Bay

Near the village of Durness at the top left corner of the coastal main road is the stunning Balnakeil Bay, a huge, empty sweep of white sand facing west, sheltered by sand dunes and facing a turquoise sea that would not look out of place in the Caribbean. It made a lovely lunch spot, ahead of the even more stunning drive south to Ullapool. The huge scenery was almost other-worldly in its stark magnificence. I am now looking forward even more to being here, surrounded by all of this, on a bike. 

Ullapool, our gateway to the Hebrides, enjoys a sheltered location on the northern shore of Loch Broom. It is a setting to rival any small town I know. It is the only place of any size for many miles in any direction and a place I will see few more times in this trip. As we waited for the Calmac ferry to depart, we bumped into a man with a large back pack and chatted for a few minutes. Once again, I found my own challenge overshadowed. This amazing 69 year old, Dave Floyd, is walking the entire coastline of Britain, raising funds for Comic Relief. He’s already done 2,900 miles since February this year and aims to finish by October. His daily average is an incredible 35-40 miles. I have walked that far about 5 times in my life. I thought I was doing something pretty special. I cannot imagine what it must be like doing it EVERY DAY! He gave me his card and I’m going to make a donation. I will post it in my instagram feed so you can do the same if you like. He deserves it, and I wish him every success. Remarkable.

The crossing to Stornoway was smooth; but after a lovely day, we arrived in rain. Tomorrow should be better as we ride out to the start of the first coast-to-coast (of 26) of the trip, and one of several in Scotland that will involve a visit to the Western Isles. I have visited some of them before; but never Lewis. We will see what lies in store and hope for a fair wind.

2 replies on “Day 9 – To the Western Isles!”

I’m really looking forward to reading how your Island rides go. I hope the wind stays at your back.

Graphic! Ullapool is one of my favourite places in the world. I went there in 1987 at random at a strange point in my life escaping something, and it felt like a demonstration of excitement and adventure my new existence could have.

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