Route plan for the day’s cycling:
The day began well: I was invited inside by the caravanners I had met the previous evening and treated to a fantastic bacon roll with coffee! I then sorted my laundry, which took until late morning, writing my journal to pass the time. At 10:45am I was setting off round the coast headed for Ullapool. The weather was cloudy, but there were some good views in the morning just north of Tournaig where I met a couple admiring the view, and later on there were dramatic scenes over Gruinard Bay towards An Teallach (a munro).
Unfortunately the weather later deteriorated and it rained or drizzled for much of the day, The latter half of the A832 from Dundonnell was slightly tedious: a long uninteresting climb. Luckily this led to a relaxed descent to the Braemore, where there were good views down the Broom Valley towards Ullapool. I didn’t stop to explore the Falls of Measach because I decided I didn’t have time.
At Ullapool (and civilisation!) I stopped at an award-winning fish ‘n’ chip shop, where I indulged in the most enormous portion of fish ‘n’ chips I’d ever seen! It was very enjoyable and much-needed after 50 miles of cycling. I stocked up with food at the Tesco store and bought a new memory card from a small electricals shop. I was really looking forward to the coming section of journey, particularly heading north through Assynt, because I’d seen pictures of and heard about its wonderful mountains, such as Suilven and Canisp which rise spectacularly above miles of sparsely-inhabited wilderness. However, the weather became quite oppressive – very dark with light rain which restricted the views, so I was rather disappointed.
I pressed on until I reached Ardvreck Castle, where I stopped for a snack. I offered a casual “hello” to a grey-haired middle-aged woman who passed by, but I might as well have sworn at her considering the acid tone with which she replied to me! I muttered something about her being a miserable female dog under my breath and hoped she heard it! The midges added to the misery – I couldn’t stay in one place for a second without swarms of the beasts hovering around my head. Keen to leave the place, I kept on cycling, although the ride was rather a slog due to the hideous dreich weather.
A sliver of sunlight was determined to improve my afternoon. As I reached Loch Glencoul, a small patch of blue sky drifted above, and the skies brightened momentarily producing a spectacular double rainbow. I stopped in awe, taking several pictures before realising that I wasn’t far from the lake, which would make a good backdrop to a shot of the rainbow, if I reached it quickly enough! I was pleased with the results.
It soon resumed raining so I resumed cycling. Realising that I wouldn’t reach Durness before dark, I found a spot to wild camp in a layby near Rhiconich, a middle-of-nowhere hamlet in the far northwest. As I was tightening the flysheet of my tent the fabric ripped in one of the corners. At that very moment, I heard a horrific cackle in the distance, which scared me witless at first with thoughts that there was some kind of deranged psychopath on my trail. I reasoned that it must have been simply a seagull! But nevertheless it was quite disturbing and I slept fitfully. Fortunately the rip in my flysheet was not enough to prevent me from pitching, although it was by no means ideal, but at least I had shelter for the night. In such a remote part of the country I would not want to be stranded in the dark, cold and wet without a tent!
The northern part of Sutherland I had cycled through during the day was strikingly empty, with only scattered settlements perhaps every 15 miles, comprising small collections of houses. I was starting to slightly regret my decision to head for the north coast, because of the bad weather and isolation. However, at least I would be able to say I’d cycled to the north coast, and I’d managed to reach within 15 miles of Durness, which would be my final destination before turning back on the long southward journey home. The plan for tomorrow would be to bag Durness then cycle as far south as I possibly could.