Route plan for the day’s cycling:
Route plan for the day’s walking:
As forecast, the northerly had brought with it perfect cycling weather, providing excellent clear views over Loch Carron.
Up bright and early, I made it to Lochcarron village by around 10am and since the weather was so fantastic, determined to ride the Bealach na Ba – the Pass of the Cattle – the road to Applecross. Having seen footage of this road before, I knew it was one of the most formidable roads in Scotland with one of the highest sustained gradients of any UK road, rising from sea level to 626m (2053ft) at the summit. The road’s difficulties were clearly spelled out by a sign at its junction, where I refuelled with food in preparation for the climb.
The road at first climbed slowly but steadily, rising above the coastline before entering a dramatic valley surrounded by craggy rock faces. It then rose more steeply until a series of Alpine-style switchback bends with gradients of 20%. It was undoubtedly a tough ascent, especially with my touring luggage, but not as bad as I had expected – at no point did I have to stop and walk – the challenge is in the hill’s length more than in its gradient. Once I reached the top I was rewarded with marvellous views across to Skye and over surrounding hills. I met some German cyclists who were on a “Keymove” tour of Scotland, with a support vehicle behind. They were fascinated with my luggage-carrying system and that way I had packed so light! I asked one of them to take a photograph of me at the top.
The descent was very enjoyable, although I was unable to get any real speed due to the narrowness and sinuosity of the road. It was nevertheless a rewarding break from pedalling, leading through spectacular scenery down to the coast at Applecross. In the sunshine the beaches looked very inviting: I cycled past Applecross but a short way later found a sandy little bay in which to eat a snacky lunch. I even braved the sea for a few minutes, but only up to my knees – it was so cold!
The coast road is stunningly beautiful, but torturously hilly! Ironically I found this stretch of road more draining that the earlier mountain pass, probably because I was prepared for the long ascent earlier, whereas the coast road followed every undulation, descending and reascending steeply and frequently to and from sea level. At least the weather was excellent – there were marvellous views across the sea. Upon reaching the shores of Upper Loch Torridon I was very impressed by the grandeur of the lofty mountains surrounding it – Beinn Alligin, Beinn Eighe, Liathach – the panorama made the strenuous cycling worthwhile.
Upon reaching the village of Torridon, I stocked up on rood and pitched my tent. Having asked the advice of a local, I cycled to the bottom of Beinn Damh, a Corbett (Scottish hill between 2,500ft and 3000ft) in order to climb it. I had been told the ascent would be a manageable evening’s hike, and that should I be up there after sunset, there would be a good track which I could easily follow. The mountain, a few metres short of being a munro involved a steady climb through woodland and then up onto the summit ridge. A worthwhile walk brought excellent views over neighbouring peaks, towards Skye and onto the many lochs nearby. The sunset was absolutely magnificent.
Descending after sunset was fine, and there was enough ambient light to see the path clearly. I then retreated to my tent in order to grab what sleep I could before climbing mighty Liathach, “the grey one”, the next day.