Glenfinnan to Portree
Distance: 70.53 miles
Average speed: 11.2 mph
Total distance: 312.05 miles
Maximum speed: 37.5 mph
Speed bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing, and all that… Just the small matter of 27 miles to the ferry terminal first though!
We ate fairly early last night, a lovely meal in the Prince’s House restaurant, very friendly service from Ina, with husband Kieron cooking in the kitchen. They kindly arranged to lay out breakfast for us at 7am so we could get an early start on our long day, and we trekked down blearily (and we hope quietly, although every floorboard seemed to creak at huge volume…) to find it all waiting for us, even including milk and juice in a cool box, marvellous service.
A quick pump of the tyres whilst trying to avoid the early midges, and we were off by 7:45, no warm up before the hill out of Glenfinnan back the way we came in yesterday. We seemed to fly up it though, perhaps distracted by scratching for the first mile after the midge attack. We were soon back at Lochailort where we had joined the main road yesterday, and making good time towards Mallaig. We hit the coast, and enjoyed misty early morning views of Eigg, and the lovely coastline, calm waters reflecting all the little islands in the bays.
There’s been a lot of work on this road from Fort William to Mallaig since our stoker’s visits here 25 years ago, there’s even a cycle path now – the signs indicate that it’s once again a European funded project. Once we reached Arisaig we turned off the main road and rode down through the village – this is where parts of the film “Local Hero” were filmed. It seems to have changed very little in 25 years, still beautiful, although perhaps a little spruced up now, but not spoiled by any hideous modernisation, thankfully. On leaving the village we decided to take the ‘old’ road to Mallaig, superseded by the new (we think) main road, and now signed as the bicycle route to Mallaig. It’s a lovely road, winding around by the coast, past all the white sand beaches used in the film.
We arrived in Mallaig in good time for the ferry to Skye. Phew – first leg of the day done. It’s a mental challenge when you know you have 70 miles to do, but breaking it into sections really helps. We treated ourselves to a chocolate muffin each on the ferry, to keep us fuelled for the next leg to Broadford.
As we left the boat the sun came out, and we cycled along, around the coast to start with, enjoying the views and the easy roads. Jim had told us yesterday on the loch cruise that the best conditions for spotting golden eagles around these parts was dry, no rain and a little wind, and given that all these conditions were fulfilled we reckon that the huge bird circling up in a thermal above us was probably an eagle – its wingspan was enormous.
Almost before we knew it we were gliding down into Broadford, and we stopped at the Claymore restaurant for lunch with leg two complete, and just 26 miles to go. The restaurant was full of French families, pure coincidence as they clearly didn’t know each other. The daughter of one family was reading aloud from their guidebook, in French of course, but interspersed with the odd English word, like ‘shortbread’ (predictably) and ‘parsnips’ (less predictably?).
Still sunny after lunch, and we left around 2pm for our last leg. Two big climbs to come in this leg, and it did seem to take us a while to get back up to warp speed again. The road followed the coast, then turned in at an inlet, where we cycled into the wind for a while. There was a fair amount of traffic, and so we could see where the road turned uphill across the end of the inlet. It seemed like a tough climb with fifty miles already in our legs, but we made it, and then had the benefit of a long descent on the other side. The same pattern was repeated for the second climb, a push against the wind down the side of the second inlet, followed by a climb over the ridge to get into the next glen. We saw a couple on heavily laden solo bikes coming up the other side – that’ll be us on Sunday when we return to Broadford and then leave Skye via the ‘new’ bridge crossing at the start of our return south.
We could see Portree, our destination, for a while as we rode down towards the sea, and soon enough we were arriving in the town. There’s a very good bike shop here, so we’re going to treat the tandem to a mid-tour tune-up tomorrow, whilst we’re doing laundry and exploring the town on our rest day.
So we’re half-way now, in many senses. We’re at our most northerly point, we’re on day eight of fifteen, and we’re over half-way in mileage terms.
No entry tomorrow, as we’re having a rest day, before heading south on Sunday to Glen Shiel.