Thursday 19th April
Last night the wind was so strong that we barely slept. The 40mph gusts battered the tent and shook the trees above us which created an amphitheater of noise to ‘entertain’ us all night. I was constantly worried that the lightweight tent pegs would come out and we would fly off, however our tent stood up to the test and when we stepped out in the morning everything was fine.
Today was set to be another hilly day so we packed up early and got going. We had 50 miles to cover to reach our end destination at a campsite in Ullapool, but job number one was to find a local shop to stock up on supplies for the day as we were going to be cycling down “Desolate Highway” as one of the locals dubbed it – a 20 mile stretch of tarmac which climbed to over 1000ft above sea level and had no form of inhabitants.
Once past Dundonnell we would be out in the wilderness and although not tired enough to stop normally we pulled in for tea and cake at a hotel. We would have eaten something more substantial however the hotel doesn’t start doing lunches until May! Here we met two guys who were riding the north coast 500 on mopeds who were really interested in what I was doing and even ended up sponsoring me!
Only a couple of miles down the road and we were stopping again, this time to take in a magnificent waterfall which was tucked away on the side of the main road. We wondered how many people had stopped and seen this as if you were driving past at 60mph you would never know it existed – having the time to stop and look around is part of why I love cycling.
All morning we could see the marbled snow capped peaks we were headed towards, but for the most part they remained out of reach of my iPhone’s camera ability. The road tilted upwards at the start of the long ascent that would see us climbing for the next hour. The gradient was steep at first and then slackened to a more manageable 6% which it stuck at for the remainder of the hill. Every time I flipped to the elevation profile on my Garmin I couldn’t believe that it continued on uphill! Even when the road in front of my eyes told me we were near the top the Garmin said we still had more to go!
Finally the summit was close and it opened up amazing views of the mountain range in front of us. There were no cars so we stopped in the middle of the road for some photos to mark our achievement – the best thing was that the remaining 15 miles to Ullapool were, on the whole, downhill.
In a cruel twist as soon as we crested the highest point it began to rain – I guess this descent wasn’t going to be as fun as first thought. Along the way down we passed what looked like a film crew setting up, perhaps they caught us on camera as we flew past at 30mph! We pulled in at a lay-by just before the road turned west towards Ullapool for a sausage roll and sat eating them with a view down the gorge. Once we got going again we realised that in the next lay-by there was a burger van selling hot drinks – this would have been much more welcome but we weren’t stopping again!
We made it to Ullapool in good time and found our way to the campsite where we pitched the tent before heading into the town to explore. Ullapool has this “last frontier” feel to it as it is the largest town this far north, beyond which lies the odd hamlet and other small settlements. The number one eating spot on Tripadvisor was the Seafood Shack just up the road from our campsite. It was getting cold and I didn’t want to eat a whole meal outside but we couldn’t pass on the opportunity to sample locally caught langoustines – they were fantastic and tasted so fresh!
With our appetites wet we headed to a local pub for drinks and dinner. Again the food here was really good and I finally managed to get my quota of green veg – I couldn’t have been happier as this is something I have really struggled with in Scotland so far!
As we ate dinner the sun poked out of the clouds and cast an amazing light on the bay. I sent Danny outside to take a photo as by this point my legs had seized up and I could barely move 😂.
Despite only being 8pm we were both really tried so went back to the campsite and were asleep by 8:30pm – all these miles seem to catching up on me so I’m taking every opportunity to rest that I can grab.