Glenshiel to Spean Bridge
Distance: 49.8 miles
Average speed: 11.1 mph
Total distance: 410.91 miles
Maximum speed: 38.1 mph
Kintail Lodge was really lovely, a spectacular position right on the shore of Loch Duich, and our room looked out over it. We ate in the conservatory dining room, including some excellent langoustine which were enormous and really tasty. Our waitress confirmed that our nearest distillery was still Talisker, so no new tasting notes to report, although we did try it again just to confirm it was still nice. Which it was.
Opening the curtains this morning we found leaden skies again, and a heavy downpour, and we steeled ourselves not to be as lucky as yesterday, when the rain cleared so quickly. The breakfast room was full of enormous hung-over belching Geordies (and that was just the women!) which was rather unpleasant, and might have contributed to our prompt start at 9:15…
When we set off it was spitting only mildly, and we pootled gently along the first five miles, knowing there was a big hill coming. We were also keeping an eye out for the feral goats indicated by a warning sign just as we came in to Kintail last night. They sounded rather terrifying, but nothing came hurtling out of the bracken to head-butt us, which was both a disappointment and a relief!
The big hill came and went, a really gentle ascent to around 900 feet over a number of miles, winding through the craggy highland landscape. Apart from the road the surroundings were wild and natural, and somehow the low cloud and mistiness was exactly right. There was the odd break in the cloud where blue sky and sunbeams were doing their best, and the sky looked generally brighter in the direction we were travelling.
We passed the site of the Battle of Glenshiel of 1715 on the way up, in a tiny bowl. It raged for only three hours before government forces prevailed, having previously captured Eilean Donan castle, where we were yesterday. The terrain looked far too enclosed for battle, with the river on one side and a steep hillside on the other.
After the climbing we rode along the side of Loch Cluanie for many miles, flat or gently descending, before turning due south for the second big hill of the day. This was a proper hill, though, none of this gentle ascent that you don’t really notice. There was even some puffing and panting… Just before the top we stopped to have a look at a weird field of tiny cairns. There was no explanation, although one or two had ‘In memory of’ stones with them, and we speculated that it was some spontaneous thing that had started with one and just grown and grown. They were quite striking, and lots of people had stopped to have a look.
After the cairns there was just a last effort up the the top at 1200 feet, then about eight miles of glorious descending along the side of Loch Garry, to find the Invergarry Hotel for lunch. The people there didn’t know the origin of the tiny cairns either, although they said lots of people had asked. We’d had an almost dry morning, which was a bonus given the early drizzle.
Just fifteen miles remaining now, and little bits of up and down, before we climbed the last hill onto the plateau above Spean Bridge, and passed the Commando Memorial on the hillside just outside the town. We stopped at the memorial in 2008 during our Land’s End to John O’Groats trip, on our way out of Spean Bridge. It was very popular today, lots of visitors, but we rode on past and down the hill into Spean Bridge, to the Smiddy House hotel and restaurant. A warm welcome from Robert, who was very keen to sit on the tandem, just to see what it was like – never been asked that before!
So, another big day in the hills tomorrow – Glencoe beckons!