Portree to Glenshiel
Distance: 49.06 miles
Average speed: 12.4 mph
Total distance: 361.11 miles
Maximum speed: 37.0 mph
Our day off in Portree was relaxing – we enjoyed wandering around the town square and harbour (which featured a few houses coloured in a similar manner to Tobermory). We did some laundry – that was exciting. We had the bike adjusted at the very helpful Island Cycles. Oh, and we ate some very good pizzas and a not very good curry – Lamb Passanda and Butter Chicken arrived with the exact same sauce – very poor…
The featured whisky, of course, was Talisker, Skye’s only single malt, which is strong, rich and peppery, and delicious to boot. It’s curious that Skye, the largest of the islands, boasts only a single distillery yet Islay has eight in a much smaller space.
Our host at the Givendale Guest House, an affable Dutchman named Jurriaan, looked after us well. Last night, on the walk back from the Indian restaurant it started to rain heavily and persistently. We were particularly aware of this as our room had three velux windows, and each time one of us woke up in the night we could hear the rain pounding against them. We awoke to gloomy skies and more rain, and at breakfast were amused to hear Jurrian relate that his father, when he complained about having to cycle in such weather, used to say:
“What is your problem – are you made of sugar?”
As we’re most definitely not made of sugar we too had no good reason to remain indoors, so we put on all our wet weather gear and set off in a southerly direction away from Portree and back to Broadford. All the serious climbs today were in the first twenty miles, and by the time we reached the bottom of the first climb we were drenched. The climb was fairly gentle, though, and the rest day seemed to have given us new strength, as we ascended easily to a plateau for a while before dropping down to the Sligachan Hotel, the departure point for most outdoor activities in Skye.
At this point, encouragingly, the clouds began to clear; there was the odd patch of blue sky visible. The long, steeper, second climb began, and by the time we reached about half-way up we were regretting that we were still wearing our rain jackets – all the effort we were expending resulted in an unfortunate “boil in the bag” effect inside our jackets! Unfortunately there were no lay-bys until the top of the climb, so we had to stop at the very top to release clouds of steam, and to cool off.
This was encouraging, though, as we hadn’t expected anything but rain all day. As we descended again to sea level the weather improved yet further. At the same time the traffic levels diminished, and we were able to enjoy the rolling coast road to Broadford, and then, beyond, to Kyleakin, at the Skye end of the Skye road bridge.
The bridge, sadly, is an ugly concrete construction, though it provided fine views to both north and south.
We were directed onto a cycle path over the bridge – a good idea, except that nobody had bothered to trim the path-side gorse and brambles, making for an uncomfortable transit. Soon, though, we were in Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland side of the bridge where, with thirty-five miles already under our belts, we stopped for a good lunch at Hector’s Bothy.
With only another fourteen miles to go, and most of the afternoon available, we were looking forward to taking a look at Eilean Donan Castle, en-route to our destination of Glenshiel. After a few easy miles along the side of Loch Alsh it suddenly came into view, and we stopped at the roadside to take some photographs.
Simultaneously the heavens decided to open, and we raced to don our jackets. Within a minute or so we were soaked again, by a shower that probably only lasted five minutes or so. It was definitely time to take a break, so we parked the tandem outside the Eilean Donan visitor centre and headed in.
We took hot drinks first, jackets dripping gently onto the café floor. Then, leaving our bags and helmets with the visitor centre receptionist (“Ugh – these are soaking!”) we crossed the bridge to the castle and spent a diverting hour therein. It was completely ruined after the Jacobite rebellion (a spot of English revenge, and possibly another reason for the current drive towards Scottish independence!), and only really restored in the twentieth century by the Macrae family. They did a fine job, and the result was that large numbers of visitors from many nations (chiefly Italy, for some reason) were there enjoying it too. We were particularly amused to hear an exclamation of “Porca Maria!” as one of the female Italian visitors came across a striking room in the castle. Italy has an interesting range of available expletives: this one, curiously, translates to “Pig Mary”!
During our visit the rain, thankfully, had ceased, and we only had half a dozen miles to complete down the side of Loch Duich, with lovely reflections on the water of the hills opposite. Our legs were still strong, and before long we arrived at our loch-side hotel just short of Glenshiel. It’s a lovely spot.
Tomorrow (and the day after) we have some “Hors categorie” hills to climb, the first within four miles of here on the way to tomorrow’s destination of Spean Bridge.