Route plan for the day’s ride:
The day began slowly as I enjoyed a delicious Scottish breakfast – with toast, muesli, yoghurt and honey and hot chocolate. I set off at 11:30 to cycle to Oban for the ferry to Craignure on Mull. Just two miles in, I had my second puncture of the trip. I replaced the inner tube and promptly pumped the tyre back up, but the presta valve promptly broke, so I had to use replace the tube again! Fortunately I discovered what had been causing the punctures: where the spokes meet the rim, there is a little hole, with sharp metal exposed. This is usually sealed over with a plastic strip, but the strip had worked out of place, leaving exposed metal which was puncturing my inner tubes. I therefore taped the strip back into place. I then took the opportunity to enjoy the view of the Kintyre coastline, despite cloudy weather.
After a few miles of scenic cycling, with good views back towards Arran, I was soon heading north alongside a loch, towards the picturesque harbour village of Tarbert. Tarbert occupies a narrow neck of land connecting the region of Knapdale to the Kintyre Peninsula, known as Scotland’s “only mainland island”. Viking ships were once dragged over the isthmus connecting East and West Loch Tarbert.
From Tarbert, 15 miles of pleasant lochside cycling took me to through Lochgilphead and I continued north, stopping briefly at Kilmartin. Kilmartin Glen contains one of Scotland’s finest collections of prehistoric sites – cairns, standing stones and monuments, some of which are visible from the roadside. After another 15 miles, I stopped again at Kilmelford, where I bought a lunchtime snack from the small village shop. The road north was very picturesque, well paved, and fairly quiet, winding its way up the coastline towards Oban.
I reached Oban after a total of just four hours’ cycling, averaging 15.4mph which was relatively speedy considering my touring load. I headed straight to the ferry terminal but had plenty of time to spare and enjoyed a chicken soup whilst waiting to board the boat to Mull. Whilst on the ferry, I spoke to another touring cyclist. He had cycled from Glasgow, and was carrying a terrific touring load. I discovered that he would be wild camping on the island, and even purifying drinking water from streams using a portable UV filter! His aim was to explore all of the roads on the island. I was also interested to hear about a previous expedition to the USA, where he had covered 8,000 over six months!
The ferry journey provided scenic views of the rugged Scottish coastline, although the weather was still overcast. However the skies were beginning to clear over Mull, bringing some dramatic lighting effects over the distant hills.
I stocked up at Craignure with enough food to last me until the next evening, because the campsite I was heading for would be quite remote. 14 miles of cycling took me to Killiechronan where I pitched my tent for the night for just £3. This was a stunning campsite on the shores of Loch na Keal. I spent the evening admiring the views and relaxing by the loch shores. I also spoke to a wildlife enthusiast and painter who had spent three weeks on the island. Through his spotting telescope I was able to see a Sea Eagle perched nearby. White Tailed Sea Eagles are Britain’s largest birds, and the Isle of Mull is home to 11 of their nesting sites. Indeed, the wildlife and birdlife on Mull is one of its principal tourist attractions; it is home to over 250 species of bird, and mammals including otters, deer, seals and dolphins. Before I retired to my tent, I marvelled at the scenery from the shores of the loch. The skies had brightened during the evening, leading to a fine sunset. However the respite did not last long and it rained overnight!