The whole beauty of this trip is that we have no itinerary. For three weeks we can do as we please, planning a day so in advance. Should the weather turn bad, we can stay put and let it rage. Should an opportunity present itself, we can seize the moment. Should we simply change our minds, so be it. And that's just what we have done.
All along we figured we would leave Aberdeen and head North. And so we did. However, once we reach Cromarty and had trouble getting lodgings, Rich became concerned about availability in the less populated far north. He advised that we switch course and head West instead. And just like that, the Outer Hebrides became our new next destination.
This revised route meant that we had to leave our beloved Cycling Network, as there are virtually no cycling routes in the western highlands. It was inevitable, though, and we fearlessly faced the real road traffic on A and B roads to get to Ullapool. Before doing so, however, we attempted a simple short cut to get to the main highway. It seemed a sweet way to avoid cars as long as possible, until we discovered the barbed wire fence that continuously separated us from the road. When a hiking gate presented itself, we took advantage of it.
While cycling a main 2-lane highway is not ideal, we had a few advantages. Traffic was relatively light, thanks to being well in advance of the main tourist season. I felt remarkably safe despite the complete lack of shoulders as every car pulled over to go around us. And despite threading our way through the highlands and constantly climbing, the pitches were gradual and manageable.
Rich found us a nice Inn where we stayed in the barren countryside 20 miles outside of Ullapool. The Aultguish Inn was founded in 1800 and still serves travelers in comfortable modern rooms as well as outdoor types in a bunkhouse. We found the food to be excellent, both at dinner and breakfast – a cyclist's delight.
Our route took us close to two sets of beautiful waterfalls, each with easy access from the road and suspension bridges to view the rivers. I think we probably set record, stopping to sightsee twice in two days. The first was called Rogie Falls, and reminded us of Jay Cooke Park.
The second was Corrieshalloch Gorge, which means Ugly Hollow in Gaelic. It is considered a “slit gorge” for the long narrow cavern formed back in the ice age. Far from ugly, it was an impressive sight.
The first lasting rain of our trip came while we were in Ullapool awaiting our ferry. With our cycling done for the day, we made good use of the Gallery Cafe to stay dry and use the wifi while we had a snack. I would like to have seen more of Ullapool which is a pretty port and fishing town, but preferred to stay out of the rain.
Soon we will board the ferry, bound for Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. These rugged islands are the most westerly in Scotland. When Rich decides to go West, he goes all the way!