07042015 – Applecross and Ullapool
After two nights in our luxurious loft room in Ose it was time to move on as we had two nights booked in Ullapool, about 3.5 hours north and back on the mainland. After another fortifying breakfast cooked by Kenny, Karen packed the gear bags and I loaded up the bike ready for the day’s ride.
Originally we’d planned to travel to the northernmost tip of the Isle of Skye on our way out as that would of taken us past the ‘Old Men of Storr’ – a stone outcrop used in the opening scenes of Prometheus (for all you Alien fans), but Karen wasn’t feeling too flash so we turned south instead and made for a quick exit off Skye.
A few days earlier we’d been chatting with a few riders waiting for the ferry at Maillag to take their bikes across to Skye, and they were all planning to tackle the mountain pass to Applecross, just north of Kyle of Lochalsh. Top Gear have rated this mountain pass road as one of the best drives in Britain, and warning signs at the start advise against learner riders, caravans, or winter crossings. The pass is single lane only, very twisty, about 20km in length, and has passing bays every 50m – 150m to allow traffic to pass. In places the gradient is 20% – and the final few turns of the twisty track are very tight and steep, and were wrapped in fog as we rode up to the snow line.
We stopped for a brief photo opportunity in the snow at the top of the pass, the bike shrouded in fog as we walked across the small carpark to a memorial plaque, and for a brief moment the fog lifted revealing blue skies and allowing us to see all the way down to the coast and across to Skye, before it closed in again. Karen was keen to play in the snow for a while, and took good aim at me with a couple of snowballs, but it wasn’t long before she started to feel the cold. We remounted the bike and rode down the single track to the tiny coastal village of Applecross, and popped into the even tinier Applecross Inn for a warming lunch of garlic mushrooms for Karen, and green Thai chicken curry for myself.
We left Applecross bound for Ullapool via the “coward’s way” – the northern coastal road that was only slightly wider than the mountain pass and certainly not as steep, but still very scenic and a pleasure to ride. We passed a lot of sheep in the fields with many lazing right next to the road, and some wooly highland cows.
The road twisted and weaved around the shores of a loch, rising and falling like the waves. The scenery was spectacular with snow covered peaks visible in the distance. Rejoining a more major road we stepped up the pace a bit and were making good time enroute for Ullapool when, 20km short of our destination, Karen was feeling so ill from her treatment that she needed to pull off and have a break for a few minutes. We’d stopped near a shallow stream flowing through the fields so I took a few quick photos whilst Karen gathered herself for the last push into Ullapool. The GPS directed us right to the front door of Creagan’s Guest House, and Harris the collie came and supervised me as I parked the bike down the driveway, a pebble strewn challenge to finish the day with.
Karen introduced herself to our hostess Kathleen, and upon mentioning that she was feeling ill Kathleen made an appointment at the local doctors for Karen, and we walked around the corner to see him, before racing down to the pharmacy on the high street to get some scripts filled before they closed for the day.
Dinner that evening for me was four shortbread fingers, liberally covered in Nutella, which I’d found on the Isle of Skye, and we were in bed by 7:30pm. Some exhilarating riding today, quite challenging across the mountain pass but also very rewarding, but the enjoyment of the riding was offset by the knowledge that Karen was in extreme discomfort from her treatment.