Day 3: Oban to Tobermory

I had set my alarm for 8.00 am, but everyone else was up by 7.30, so I gave up pretending to be asleep and got up myself. Had I still been asleep, I would surely have been awakened by the fog horn of the ferry. I looked outside, to find that yesterday’s sea view had completely disappeared.


I retrieved my clothes from the drying room before breakfast, at which I also made a cheese and ham roll to tide me over until lunchtime. One of the hostel staff informed me that the ferry to Mull was running, albeit a bit late, but the ferry from Tobermory was not. This caused me a little concern, as it is this second ferry that I need to take tomorrow to get back to the mainland.


I was away shortly after 9.00 am, and at the ferry terminal less than ten minutes later. I bought tickets for both the ferries on and off the island, in the hope that they would be running tomorrow.


While I was cycling to the ferry, I noticed a woman with a bassoon case on her back walking in the same direction, and whom I thought I recognised. I spotted another bassoonist and a flautist in the ticket queue, so when I saw the female bassoonist again I introduced myself. She used to come over and play with the Ulster Orchestra, but hadn’t been over since she got a job with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra 23 years ago!


At the terminal, I saw another musician who I thought I recognised, but wasn’t sure, so I didn’t go up to him.


There were a couple of other cyclists waiting for the ferry. They were Scottish, from Glasgow, and were built like real racing whippets. This was confirmed when the taller of the two mentioned in conversation that he enjoyed coming over to NI for the Tour of the North, which he had done several times, reckoning it to be one of the best in the racing calendar.


The boat was 40 minutes late leaving, and 50 late arriving at Craignure. As she boarded, I assailed the bassoonist, and confirmed that I did know the other musician. It was a clarinettist who had been on trial with the Ulster Orchestra, and who was a friend of my nephew, Chris (also a clarinettist), at the Royal College of Music. I found him on board, and once he had recognised me out of context we had a bit of a chat. It transpired that the wind section were touring Scotland, playing concerts organised by the SCO, but making their own travel and accommodation arrangements. They were to be playing in Tobermory that evening, where I was also staying. William said he would text me when he knew the time and venue, if I would like to go.


I eventually set off from Craignure rather later than expected at 11.40. I didn’t bother to buy a sandwich there, as the cyclists had said that there were a few shops along my route. How wrong they were! They also mentioned 1 in 6 hills towards the end of my route, which caused me some small concern as I set off.


The roads were single track with passing places, and I soon got used to anticipating the traffic, of which there was not much, and pulling in, or thanking them for so doing. At one point early on I stopped to let half a dozen coaches past on their way with day trippers to Iona.


The scenery was ever changing. At one point early on I had sea views on my left hand side and mountain vistas on my right. The landscape seemed to anticipate when one might be getting bored with a similar view (not that I ever did), and round the next corner a different one would present itself. I saw my first buzzard, as well as myriad sea birds that I could not begin to identify.


The going was slow, however. At least it felt that way, but maybe that was partly due to the late start. At any rate, I was constantly surprised how far I hadn’t gone.


Shortly after my turn off from the main road towards Iona (signposted to Gruline) I stopped and had the roll that I had made up at breakfast. I had cycled 17 miles, and had seen nothing that remotely resembled a shop.


The first of the climbs started a few miles later as I turned inland. The back of my neck was getting the brunt of the sun, so I put my buff on to protect it. I stopped to refill a water bottle in a mountain stream, as the mist had mostly burned off by now, and it was warming up in the sunshine.


The day proceeded with ups and downs of varying lengths and degrees of steepness, but the best/worst of them were all bundled together in the last 20 miles. I passed a straggle of guys on mountain bikes going up one long, steep section, which did my ego no harm at all. There is a beautiful beach at a place called Calgary, but the charge on my phone was getting low, and I didn’t want it to fail to record the GPS data. I stopped in a cafe in Calgary (Hooray! First shop of any description in over 45 miles), and got them to fill a water bottle. I also plugged the phone in while I was there to charge it up a bit.


I had not got more than half a mile from the cafe before I dropped the full bottle while trying to drink from it, its precious contents spilling over the road, leaving me half a mouthful. Thankfully the top wasn’t broken, but I was now very low on water, and the mountain streams, which had been so numerous on the south side of the island, were now conspicuous by their absence.


I stopped half way up the climb out of Dervaig to eat a muesli bar and energy gel, and took the last of my water. Thankfully I found a stream with running water after cresting the switchback hill, and filled both bottles. Mountain water never tasted so good!


I had texted Will earlier to say that I wouldn’t make the concert, and I was right. I finally got to the hostel at 6.30, and by the time I showered, changed, and got something to eat, it was indeed too late. Plus I was knackered. I will be heading to bed as soon as this is posted. It would seem as though I will have a relaxing morning, as there has been fog here for the past five days in the morning, so I can envisage not getting off the island until mid-morning. I will take the Corran ferry across Lough Linnhe tomorrow to shorten my trip to Fort William.


A short day will be welcome – I found today hard going, even though I got up all the hills ok. I have bought some supplies in the local Coop, so I won’t be left without food again. The sunburn seems a little less bright red today, at least in the places I can see. The factor 50+ has done its job.

Day 3 Statistics
Miles ridden: 67
Miles ridden (Felt like): 167
Cat 4 climbs: 10 (that’s why I feel so tired!)
Cat 3 climbs: 1

Day 3 route

3 thoughts on “Day 3: Oban to Tobermory

  1. Sounds like hard going. Looking forward to today’s post, while watching Tour de France.

  2. I take it there weren’t any actual cats on your “cat climbs”? 🙂

  3. Spent many happy hours on Calgary beach as a kid. My father lost his wallet and cheque book to the tide one year. Duly recovered and dried over radiators!!

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