This weekend I have mostly been cycling. And what a real treat it has been, getting out and active in the sunshine in the Scottish Highlands; a winning combination of stunning scenery, clear skies, adrenalin, fresh air, and good fun.
Fun, however, is probably not a word used by many to describe the Bealach na Ba Sportif. Starting and finishing in the small coastal village of Shieldaig, the route takes in the highest road pass in the UK, the (in)famous Bealach na Ba and 43 miles of the most stunning scenery. Did I mention that it also includes 6500 feet of ascent?
Ok, so after a while, the climb does start to hurt a little bit. Quite a lot in fact. But then there's the downhill on the other side, and whilst not everyone's cup of tea, I personally do rather enjoy it. I'm sure the view is fantastic, but at 45mph on skinny tyres with steep hairpins I can't say that I saw much more than the tarmac in front of me.
With the makings of a cyclist's sun tan and 15 minutes shaved off last year's time, we headed back home to Glencoe, well satisfied and slightly fatigued. Nothing that a little cake and beer couldn't sort out.
Compare and contrast the ride we did yesterday. A little more relevant to a Glencoe blog, and a little more 'inclusive'.
Every now and then we mention the new Sustrans cycle route being developed between Oban & Glencoe. Some sections are now complete, and so we decided to head south to Appin and enjoyed a very leisurely 14 mile loop.
The best place to park is at the long lay-bye at Lettershuna, just before the road takes the sharp corner and steep incline up to Castle Stalker View Cafe. Here, you can join the old railway line and follow it round the corner (at low level) past the picture postcard backdrop of Castle Arggghhh. The track continues through the Strath of Appin but alas ends before Creagan Bridge, where the next section of track picks up.
However, crossing over the main road takes you onto the very quiet back roads and round by North Shian, and on to Port Appin. And when in Port Appin, the thing you have to do is sit on the terrace at the Pier House with a cold beer, taking in the sun and the view across the sound to the isle of Lismore.
From Port Appin there's another short road section before cutting off on a narrow track to cut the corner off over the Jubilee Bridge. This track soon meets up with the railway line again, from where it's just another mile back to the car, with one last look at the view of Castle Stalker.
All told, the ride is about 14 miles and with one exception (a short walk if you're out of puff!) has very low gradients.