After a lovely party on Saturday at a friends we sorted ourselves out on Sunday morning and then set off for Richmond in Yorkshire where we had booked a room because it is a bank holiday weekend and things were pretty booked up. As it was this room was in an inn and no en suite so Clive was not that impressed. However Richmond was great. We had no idea about Richmond but I had booked here as did not want to stay in a premier inn type at Scotch Corner.
Richmond is very near Catterick army base. It has a Castle with a great “keep” and lovely views over the River Swale. To Clive’s horror we walked down the hill to see the Swale river falls. The horror was in the thought of walking back up the hill but he did okay taking it steady. Our inn, The unicorn inn had had an Inn on that site since the mid 1700’s. Being a bank holiday the inn was full of punters watching football and drinking and then in the evening….Sunday evening…there was disco music and a wee bit of Karaoke. Never though we would sleep but we did and it did stop. In the morning the town was celebrating its “meet” weekend on the bank holiday monday. Hundred and one stalls going up and the inn getting ready for 11 bands to play in the garden!! Throughout the licensee was very nice and helpful.
Monday 25th May
Head on northwards by taking A66 across to Carlisle and thence to Glasgow. Had tricky time getting Clive to take main road beside the motorway. It was empty and great once he was persuaded and we had fun riding. Through Glasgow and on to Balloch at the base of Loch Lomond. We had a walk around in watery sunshine and then ate in our guest house . Not brilliant!
Tuesday 26th May
Great scenery as we head to Fort William. Its cold, plunging down to 7.5c from max of 11.5c . Mostly dry but the odd little shower. Beautiful yellow gorse bushes and blue bells in the woods. Bleakish but magnificent glens with a remarkable amount of snow. Looked like you could still ski at Glencoe.!
We head on to Kyle of Lochalsh and thence over the bridge to Skye rather than the sea. Bridge is 20 years old. Fairly bleak Skye as we hit a bit of rain but close in on our booked b and b next to Uig. Check out ferry and very pleased that we can get on the morning one which was full when we tried to book the other day. We had had the prospect of hanging around Uig for a whole day till the evening ferry. Uig is not big and not sure that there is a great deal to do apart from climb hills. Clive is not keen on that, finding puffing up hills not his thing.
Wednesday 27th May
Good breakfast and down to ferry in Uig. Very slick ferry operators and off we go . Ferry full of young army “chaps” and girls, seemingly on a training week in Uist somewhere. They look like they are in for a shock. They have arrived on a heated coach to go camping. We head off or should I say I head off alone for Clive could not wait for me to post some post cards and put my camera on the handlebars. He has gone. Only 60 odd miles to do, the plan being to head down to the south, and do a circle on to Erinsay and then back to Lochboisdale where we had booked the only room left it seemed. I did find Clive on a stretch of road but he did not want to see the eastern beaches so we parted company again.
The weather was windy, on the nose and the temperature was about 9c. It began to gently rain and thus it became definately quite bracing. Road was narrow with passing places so progress was pleasantly slow. Several cyclists looking like it wasn’t all great fun. Countryside is peaty, bleak, marshy, watery. Sheep, cows, some deer, geese , few birds. Houses are white and scattered. No cafes, hardly a shop. No colour. But all very fascinating.
I plug onwards to Erinsay, no Clive to be seen. It is now raining so I guess he has gone to the hotel. I am not sure where we are staying but because all places are so small I am sure I will see his bike. Erinsay is sweet. Rain gets worse but find Clive in the only open cafe in Lochboisdale. We head to the hotel together in pouring rain….only a few hundred yards!
Thursday 28th May
Fishy meal, naturally last night and kipper for breakfast this morning. Weather looks better…sunshine and showers. Amazingly we managed to skip virtually all rain inspite of them being quite heavy showers but they were being moved along fast in the force 5 wind blowing hard from the west. We have now heard that this weather is not normal. Normally May is the best month to come…dry and sunny. I think the temp, about 8c to 10c is fairly typical. The cyclists ,of whom there are many , are having a very hard time. We saw a woman in tears. Many of them are older types perhaps come to have fun! It looked really miserable as they battled against the wind and sometimes rain. No real pleasure.
Rode slowly northwards looking at the few sights on offer. We rode down most of the roads..there are few. Cafes are rare and when we found one in the afternoon it shut in our face at 3pm. No pubs, no restaurants looking inviting. Instead hidden expensive hotels did offer cups of tea. But the scenery is amazi ng. The sky goes on for ever and the horizon is of land with houses dotted singly about. Ruined crofts with no roofs but the chimneys at each end and the 4 walls standing. Some are being converted into tourist accommodation. Very good self catering spots but so few shops to buy food from. Have to be organised with a car!
We , sorry I, do a walk in an RSPB reserve. I followed a trail, it took about an hour. Must say that there were a lot of different birds but I failed to hear a Corncrake and nor did I see any Otters. It seemed just the right spot and was not full of people. Then off to our B and B in North Uist.
Friday 29th May
Breakfast and off to the ferry. Plenty of time and new scenery but Clive rushing along again so much so he misses a turning and he is short of petrol.! I tear off after him and eventually catch him up and turn him round. He did make it to the ferry….petrol gauge shows 10 miles left. Ferry from Berneray to Harris dodging in and out of islands! The sun is shining. We head up east side of Harris to stay out of the wind perhaps? Very rocky, beautiful. Then after a cafe break (followed sign way off the road and up a track) things looked bleaker and we headed on to Stornoway for our B and B. Run by a Ukranian woman and our room had sloping ceilings at the top of a very scottish victorian house. The sloping ceilings meant you could not sit up in bed.! Clive not impressed but lady very friendly.
We have been warned that Sunday on these islands is taken rather seriously. All go to church, nothing is open and no one does any work and that can include hanging out the washing or gardening. Luckily we are booked to take the ferry on Sunday but not till 2.30pm. We think things may be a little less severe in Stornoway itself.
Saturday 30th May
Weather holds and we ride all the way up to the Butt of Lewis, lands end in these parts. Then head down the west, see ” Black houses”….well I go round the inside while Clive hangs around outside. We see “Blackhouses” in Arnol and further down at Gearrannan village. I found it very interesting . Then we finally found a beautiful beach right at the end of a point off Great Bernera. In addition there was a stone age house and a modern graveyard! Sky threatens and it is back to Stornaway. We are happy to leave the islands tomorrow. It has been cold. It is bleak looking at miles of peat bogs with no trees. Beautiful hills but again bare trees. It is a tough place to live in unless you have a good house. Great place to walk but restricted by sheep fencing which is everywhere. Sheep are also wandering the roads so care needed by us. I was amazed how clean and white the sheeps’ wool was….very clean sheep. Loved all the bits of water..lochs and pools.
Sunday 31st May
Wake up to rain and very grey skies but we are okay. Catching ferry from here so no biking to do if we don’t want to. Instead take a walk up to Lews castle and generally mooch around. Rain stops and soon we are on the ferry. Meet a couple who are biking round the world. So far they have taken 3 years to reach here from Canada via South America and Madrid.! Think thats quite a long time….
Monday 1st June
Set of from Ullapool where we spent last night in a fairly sterile B and B. The rain holds off again and we head north to Ledmore and then over to Inverness. Much better than main road. We make a visit to a whiskey distillery recommeneded by cafe lady. It is called Balblain. It was all most interesting as we took our own guided tour round. The downside cost £6 each for the tour and a tiny bottle of whisky. I am not a whisky lover but this whisky is sweeter and I quite liked it. On to a B and B in Inverness. This one quite up market in style…and price. Jolly meal in an Italian restaurant over the river in the centre near the castle…full on a Monday night.
Tuesday 2nd June
Time for a castle and we head off to see Cawdor castle. Described as fairy tale looking you could not spot the castle till you were walking towards it so hidden in its wonderful mature gardens and woods. We did the whole thing, toured around inside and the gardens. Loved the 6th lord’s description of each room. Very witty and irreverent, they made the tour. Very cosy rooms even though in a castle. The family move back in for the winter after tourist season is over. It has been owned by the same family for ever…since 1300’s I believe , Campbells of Cawdor. The Thorntree room has a small tree in it…dead…and now considered a holly…that has been dated as at least 500 years old . Today there is a lot of trouble because the estate has been left to the 7th Earl and the castle to his czech born stepmother, the 6th Earl’s wife. She is called Countess Lady Angelika…look her up on google. The two of them seem to be at war…..
Make our way to Elgin and then Rothes in the Spey valley for the night. Weather hit a high note of 14c briefly but ended in more rain and grey skies as ever.
Wednesday 3rd June
We fiddle our way towards Balmoral. I have a lovely circular walk at some stage and the weather is essentially dry. Lovely scenery. We are heaxing to Balmoral because we are spending the night with the Gledsons. Richard was the agent at Holkham before getting his job as factor here. Charlotte greeted us and very kindly walked us around for a view of the castle later. We had a lovely supped with them.
Thursday 4th June
Richard takes us for a drive and we see woods and deer, moor and rivers and the new hydro electric set up which has replaced an old one on a tributary of The Dee. Very kind, we so enjoyed it and seeing their house. Off we went however to head back to England so that I can walk up Scafel tomorrow. We head to somewhere near Keswick. Have now discovered that it takes ages to drive round to Wasdale where it is the best and shortest route.
Friday 5th June
I set off early to head round to Wasdale on my bike. Clive is going to do his own thing and we are going to meet at Scotch Corner in the evening. I have selected the southerly route via Wrynose pass not realising that it is quite a road. Beautiful but quite a challenging drive round some of the corners. Get to Wasdale, change into my walking gear and off I go. Have map, waterproofs, a sandwich and even some drink. Mobile for location finding. Forecast is for some rain to pass through about midday. I have left at 10.30am. Reach summit in cloud, wet mist, by 1am. Had decided to come back via Corridor route…not the way I had gone up but a longer way down. Set off down and got on the Corridor route so had done quite a lot of down before the rain started. Did not think it would be continuous rain so did not put waterproof trousers on . By the time I realised I should have it was too late and trousers were soaked thus shoes got water in them too from water running down my legs. Top was okay as I had put waterproof jacket on. Half way down I lost the path. On my own, in the mist, pouring with rain and was I heading for my bike? Did look at phone location and that was encouraging. I followed a stream that took me downwards and finally out of the mist. Then I could see and orientate. Luckily I had cut the corner as such and that was good. Tired legs, very wet and thankful to see where I was. Finally got to bike. I had taken 3 and 1/4 hours to get down. It had been very slippery on the rocks and I was worried on my own.
Then biked north this time and round to Keswick and across to Scotch Corner to meet Clive. We then had a nice supper in Middleton.
Forgot, …Clive had found out that Appleby fair was just starting. He had visited earlier and seen the shenanigens. Horses trotting up and down hills and more. I popped through on my way across, police everywhere and so were lots of Irish horse dealers and more.
Saturday 6th June
An uneventful boring ride home via motorway and A roads BUT the sun shone and no rain to be seen. The next day it was hot! Clive says he is not heading north again!!