Cycle Tour of England and Scotland – Highlights and Lowlights

Most enjoyable day?
Day 14 was my favourite day of the trip. The weather was excellent and the scenery was superb. I cycled up the Bealach na Ba, Scotland’s highest mountain pass before climbing Beinn Damh in the evening for an incredible sunset.

Me at the top of Bealach na Ba

Me at the top of Bealach na Ba

Least enjoyable day?
Day 23. Although other days were more challenging, day 23 was probably the most depressing because of urban cycling through Blackburn, then Bolton and then past Manchester.

Most adventurous day?
Day 5 was probably the most adventurous day. I went scrambling on the Isle of Arran, but the ridge was much more exposed and much more difficult than I had anticipated with 1000ft drops off the sides. We couldn’t find the way off one of the pinnacles so used a rope that someone had left behind to get down. I slipped but fortunately managed to hold on!

The way I had to divert down the mountain

Looking back up at the way I had to divert down the mountain

Most challenging day?
Day 6 was the toughest day because I woke up to flash floods in Lochranza, Isle of Arran, which almost went into my tent! Fortunately I was woken just in time but it took some determination to keep going after that incident. I had to wait around for ages until the ferry could get me off the island.

Floods at Lochranza campsite

Floods at Lochranza campsite

Favourite place?
Overall my favourite place was Torridon in the NW Highlands of Scotland. I visited the area on Day 14 and Day 15. The mountains are superb and the scenery is breathtaking.

The idyllic Torridon area of Scotland

The idyllic Torridon area of Scotland

Most magical place?
Guirdil Bothy on the Isle of Rum is a very special and very remote place – the island is already 20 miles off the coast of Scotland, but to get to Guirdil you have to walk another 6 miles across the island. The bothy is on a beach at the bottom of a dramatic sweeping valley. When I arrived there was already another person in the bothy who invited me in for tea! See Day 12 for more details.

Guirdil Bothy

Guirdil Bothy

Best place to pitch a tent?
I have two nominations for this.

First, Killiechronan campsite on the Isle of Mull (Day 7), which is absolutely stunning and overlooks a beautiful loch surrounded by mountains.

Killiechronan - view over Loch na Keal

Killiechronan - view over Loch na Keal

Second is a spectacular spot I found just outside Mallaig on Day 10. I came across a local crofter who told me I could pitch anywhere on his land. I ended up on the shores of a tiny little beach, which I had all to myself.

Beach near Mallaig where I camped

Beach near Mallaig where I camped

Worst place to pitch a tent?
On Day 13 it was getting dark and I desperately needed to camp somewhere. I asked some locals where might be suitable but they told me the only place was in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel, which was surrounded by “Keep Out” signs. After removing rubble and trampling down the area of overgrown vegetation I somehow managed to pitch the tent!

Pitched in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel!

Pitched in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel!

Scariest moment
It was a dark, gloomy evening and I was pitching my tent absolutely in the middle of nowhere, in the far north of Scotland, on a roadside verge next to a quarry. When I was tightening the flysheet, it ripped. Instantly I heard this terrifying cackling noise as though there was some sort of deranged psychopath following me and laughing at the fact my tent had just broken! It scared me witless, but I think it was just a seagull! See Day 16 for details.

Favourite mountain walk
On Day 15 I climbed Liathach, near Torridon. This is a breaktaking mountain consistently rated as one of Scotland’s finest Munros (hills higher than 3,000ft).

View from Liathach

View from Liathach

Best sunsets

Third prize goes to the sunset from Killiechronan on Isle of Mull (Day 7).

Killiechronan evening light

Killiechronan evening light

The second best sunset was from the Forth Road Bridge as I approached Edinburgh on Day 19.

Forth Bridge Sunset

Forth Bridge Sunset

Finally, my personal favourite – the sunset from Beinn Damh near Torridon.

Sunset from Beinn Damh, Torridon

Sunset from Beinn Damh, Torridon

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