Day 9: Kershader to Ullapool

The armchair sadists amongst you will be delighted to hear that last night I was sharing a room with the loudest snorer of the trip so far. So adept was he at this skill that he could even snore loudly while sleeping on his side. On the odd occasion when his snoring would cease, the rest of us would then be treated to an extended bout of wind-passing from the same individual.

 

Talking to an American couple this morning, they said that the previous night had been worse, and for that reason the girl had slept in the living room downstairs last night.

 

I was up at 8.00 am, and had a ham roll for breakfast, making up the remaining two to eat during the morning. I was away just before nine, having left the money for the night’s accommodation (I will not say sleep, although I did manage some) in an envelope on the dryer.

 

It was a much brighter day than yesterday, at which I was a bit surprised, as I thought that I had heard rain during the night (between snorer’s breaths). I was not displeased, however, especially as the wind didn’t seem just as strong as yesterday.

 

I was soon back on the main road to Stornoway, enjoying views of Loch Kershader, on whose south side I had stayed last night. I stopped to check the map a couple of times, to ensure that I didn’t miss the road off west, but I needn’t have worried, it was well-marked, even if only signing villages en route, rather than my intended visiting points.

 

Once I turned west, the going got harder as I turned more into the wind. I got into the drops to make myself a smaller target for its halting power. I was still able to see a change in the landscape. Until this point, there had been myriad hillocks, nestling a similar number of small lochs in-between. Now, the land became more open, with peat bogland becoming the norm.

 

I reached the Callenish stone circles shortly before 11.00, and was able to power up a marked 15% gradient short cut to arrive shortly before a coach party. There are three stone circles, of which the pictured one is the largest. They were put up before Stonehenge, apparently. I would have liked to have stayed longer, but I needed to be in Stornoway by around 13.00, to be in good time for the boat to Ullapool.

 

Past Callenish the road turned towards the north, and the sun, which had been struggling to get through the clouds, finally managed to, and the day, and I, warmed up. By now I was getting some views of the western shore. I was ready to refill my water bottles by the time I arrived at Carloway broch. A broch is a dun, or a fort, and they were built between 2,300 and 1,900 years ago, partly for defence, but more for prestige by the chieftains. The two concentric walls had passages in-between them linking floors, and there would have been wooden floors, although the nature of their construction is still up for debate.

 

It was in a wonderful location, with both sea and land visible, and I had a good hoke round it before reluctantly leaving to start back to Stornoway.

 

The road that I was wanting to take must have been the only one on the island not signposted, but I saw a man leaning on a bridge, and he was able to confirm that the road that passed underneath the bridge was, in fact, the road that I wanted.

 

This road went straight over peatland, and after a few houses petered out I had the place to myself. Jut me, the pentland road and a small river, trickling with peat-stained water. Although on a road bike I am never going to go where no one has gone before, this road across the peatland was about as close as I was going to get on a tarmaced surface. In 50 minutes a total of four cars passed me, two in each direction. I stopped just before what I felt would be the final rise, to get a better feeling of ‘big sky’, and space around me in every direction. I could see the outlines of the hills of Harris dissapear into the distance in every paler shades of greyish-blue.

 

It was as well that I stopped when I did, for round the next corner I came across a quarry, and some very nationalistic birds on a loch. Maybe they were ALBA-trosses?!

 

I dropped down into Stornoway, pausing at a local Spar to get some lunch, before heading to the ferry terminal to check in. After being asked to jump through hoops in a particular order getting on the ferry from Uig to Tarbert, I was ready for them, but when they saw my ticket and completed boarding pass, they said that that was fine, and to go and queue up.

 

What they didn’t mention, and which I found out a bit later, was that the ferry was delayed by over an hour as it had broken down earlier in the day. I wandered into the town, and bought some earplugs from a pharmacist before returning and chatting to the American couple, who were also taking the ferry, and another cyclist, who lives on Arran, and who had been cycling up all of the Outer Hebrides, camping as she went. The time passed quickly enough, and soon it was time to board. I sat in the observation deck, as I had from Uig to Tarbert, and hung my phone from the ceiling ( the high level sockets?) to charge it up. The ferry left Stornoway at about 3.50.

I nodded off surrounded by sea, and awoke with a stiff neck to see land on my left. It was another 45 minutes before we docked, however.

I have now washed my stuff, myself, and am having a pint in the pub next door before going for some food with the American couple and their English Australian friend.

Day 9 route