At the end of June 2010, I began planning a solo cycle tour of England and Scotland. The idea came to me because of my love of cycling and the outdoors, a desire to see the country, and a need to “escape” after months of exam revision and study.
I researched online and wrote down places that seemed scenic or worth visiting. Scotland seemed particularly compelling because of its mountainous terrain, coastal landscapes, its islands, and the convenience of its location meaning that I could manage a return trip from my home in Cheltenham.
My original intention was to tour the Western Isles of Scotland.
First would be the Isle of Arran – “Scotland in miniature” – with its sandy bay at Brodick at the foot of iconic mountains such as Goatfell. It boasts excellent ridge walking and scrambling, and a huge variety of scenery for an island just 20 miles long and 10 miles wide.
Next, the Isle of Mull, with its remoter, unspoilt beauty – mountains (Ben More, the only island Munro outside of Skye), lochs and coastline.
Thirdly, the Isle of Rum, a gem of an island, one of the Small Isles. For a roughly circular island of only 8 miles in diameter, it has impressive mountains rising to 812m on Askival, part of a range known as the Rum Cuillin. I was drawn by its remoteness and isolation (16 miles off the coast from Mallaig).
Finally, back on the mainland, I noticed Torridon. The spectacular, wild, raw grandeur of its mountains – Liathach, Beinn Eighe and Beinn Alligin being some of Scotland’s finest munros – ensured that Torridon was a firm definite on my itinerary.
I linked these places together on the following intended route plan:
I aimed to cycle all the way, there and back, without any help apart from catching the ferries to the islands. (I actually ended up extending the tour a further 150-200 miles by going up to the North Coast of Scotland at Durness, rather than turning back once I reached Torridon).