Monday, June 28, 2010

Spey to Coast

I left home at 4.13 am. It would have been 4 am but my rushed preparations the previous evening meant that I had mechanical problems in the first 100M. The temptation to throw the bike in the hedge and crawl back into bed was overwhelming. I settled for cycling the first 25 miles or so on the back roads through in Insh and Kinguisse in a black mood.

My plan was to cycle out to the west coast via the Corrieyairack Pass, Kinloch Hourn, Arnisdale, the Kylerhea Ferry and back across the Skye Bridge to Kyle, all in time to get the 5.15 pm train back to Aviemore.

I had forgotten how rough the Corrieyairack was compared to the fast sandy tracks in the east but I made it to Fort Augustus at 9.05 am (56 miles), more or less on schedule. From here the route follows the Great Glen Way down the Caledonian Canal for a few miles to Invergarry.

The upper part of Gleana Lichd

A 14K section of miserable forest roads links Invergarry with Torr na Carraidh followed by a long 24K run down the tarmac to Kinloch Hourn where I thought I was still making reasonable time; 1 pm and (80 miles).

The climb out of Kinloch Hourn was a lot steeper than I was expecting but once the initial ascent is out of way there is an excellent section of single track and rough double track passing through fantastic nordic style scenery. The descent down into Glen Arnisdale was steep and rough.

View Spey to Coast in a larger map

Conscious that I had burnt a lot of time on the last section and might be pushing my 5.15 pm deadline at Kyle I stopped looking at the computer and tried to concentrate on cycling the next road section to Glenelg quickly. Luckily I didn’t look at the map too closely or I would have noticed the big hill climb on the coast road.

The full Scottish breakfast I’d wolfed down in Fort Augutus had done its job for the last 45 miles but I finally keeled over somewhere around Upper Sandaig. Two cheese butties and a snickers had the effect of pouring petrol into and empty fuel tank; instantaneous. I finally reached the ferry at 16.30 pm (104 miles), too late to make the train but worse than that, the bloody thing wasn’t running!

The remote Alltbeithe Youth Hostel

After a couple of phone calls the new plan was to cycle over to Sheil Bridge, try and find somewhere to stay then cycle through Glen Affric to Cannich the following day where Pat would meet me in the car. The immediate problem was the 340M climb over Bealach Ratagan to get to Glen Sheil.

Most B&Bs had no vacancies signs up but I found Fisherbeck Bed and Breakfast on the way to the Youth Hostel at Ratagan; friendly, very reasonable and good food.

The next morning I left Ratagan at 8.30 am and cycled up Gleana Lichd, through the steep and narrow passage to Fionngleann, reaching the Alltbeithe Youth Hostel at 11 am. A good track followed by the Glen Affric road got me to Cannich at 13.10 pm with a total distance of 153 miles from Speyside.

Section Details

Aviemore to Melgarve - Minor roads, tarmac.

Melgarve to Fort Augustus - Corrieyairack Pass, rough and stoney. Not much ridable on the way up but reasonablely fast on the descent.

Fort Augustus to Invergarry - A good cycle way by the side of the canal followed by a 3 mile road section. There is an alternative forest trail which would avoid the road but it was closed at the time of writing.

Invergarry to Torr na Carraidh - Stoney forest road with a substantial climb; hard work and uninspiring scenery make this the low point of the journey.

Torr na Carraidh to Kinloch Hourn - Minor road, tarmac.

Kinloch Hourn to Corran - A very steep rough climb out of Kinloch Hourn followed by technical single track with some carrying. Definitely the most interesting section of the journey.

Corran to the Kylerhea Ferry - Minor road, tarmac but with an energy sapping 200M climb in the middle.

Kylerhea Ferry to Sheil Bridge - Minor road, tarmac but with an even bigger 340M climb more reminiscent of an alpine pass than Scotland.

Morvich to Glenlicht House - Loose and stoney vehicle track.

Glenlicht House to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel - Great scenery but steep at first. About an hour and half of pushing/carrying until the track starts to level out on the other side of the watershed. Mostly ridable for the last 4KM to Alltbeithe.

Alltbeithe Youth Hostel to Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin - A good track which improves after Athnamulloch.

Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin to Cannich - Minor road, tarmac, down hill and fast.

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