Scottish Highlands and Islands: Part One – Isle of Skye
I couldn’t resist writing something – we’ve been wanting to take the tandem to the Scottish highlands for some time and we’ve finally done it! It’s a part of the world that we are repeatedly drawn to. It’s where we first holidayed together and where we spent our honeymoon. It was definitely time to share it with the tandem. At last, we were able to make sufficient time to travel north into the mountains (it’s a long drive!) and enjoy immersing ourselves there.
We actually made several tandem rides on the trip – too many for one post! So, as my son might say, buckle up, here comes part one (of three – I hope you think it’s a worthwhile journey!).
As soon as we arrived on the Isle of Skye, we wasted no time driving straight from the ferry and making for an old road we had seen on our last visit (it’s only taken four years to carry out this plan!). The road had been abandoned once a faster route had been blasted out of the hillside on the way to Sligachan.
That left the old road all for us. No one was interested in it, potholed and rough as it was. Perfect! The route skirted the shore, providing ever evolving views as we curved round towards Loch Sligachan. We could see the gentle slopes of the Isle of Scalpay, just out to sea, then the beginning of the Isle of Raasay with its small volcanic peak jutting out from a flat skyline. As we rode on we could see north towards the rocky cliffs around Kilt Rock, and on the way back the Red and Black Cuillin dominated.
The bike ride enabled us to feel much more immersed in the island in a way that driving through in a car couldn’t – much more akin to going for a walk. This time though we were doing something new; rather than climbing amongst the Cuillin, we were hugging the coastline, bending as it bent, and watching the tides, seeing the bright orange seaweed blanket the wet, black rocks.
It wasn’t all peace and quiet though … the midges were still out in force when we arrived, as we discovered when we sat down to try and eat our lunch. As soon as we were in one place, they pounced! Especially on Pete! We abandoned trying to eat and hurried back on to our saddles – we could outride them at least! Future stops were very brief and in places where there was a breeze, which successfully thwarted them. Ah well, we were definitely getting the full highland experience!
(Fortunately(?) the weather cooled shortly afterwards and the midges departed, causing little bother for the rest of our trip.)
The next day, buoyed by the tranquillity of our first tandem ride (bar the midges), we headed further afield, to the northwestern edge of the island, sure that we would be alone again. We remembered a quiet road that we had discovered many years earlier, and that it had been a most peaceful spot.
As we turned off the Dunvegan road shortly before the village we vaguely noticed that we were by no means the only car taking the turning. Hmm. Undeterred, we unloaded the tandem and rode out.
The scenery was definitely as beautiful as we remembered … unfortunately, it was no longer an unknown road at the edge of the island. It was still a single track route with passing places, as most of the island had been once of a day. That’s fine when there’s not much traffic but now it seemed that word had got out that this was a lovely place to explore and, whilst not exactly busy, it wasn’t exactly quiet either.
This was when we discovered the particular challenge of a slightly busy single track road on a bike, especially on a hilly road, as that one was. Not only do you need to be aware of where the next passing place ahead is so that you can gauge whether you or the vehicle coming the other way needs to stop and use it, you also need to be aware of traffic coming along behind so that you can stop at a passing place to allow them to overtake. And all the time you lose momentum for climbing the inclines. Most frustrating! When all we wanted was a peaceful time enjoying the views (as did everyone else, obviously!).
And so that tandem ride came to a somewhat abrupt end. It was hardly a disaster though – we had our lunch overlooking Dunvegan Loch and the only sound was of the odd car passing. It was all much less frustrating when we weren’t on the road and somehow it didn’t seem so busy after all once we stopped. Peace was restored.