Our timing to get the ferry back to the mainland from Mull couldn’t of been better. We rolled up at the Fishnish ferry terminal, grabbed a coffee and a bite to eat and minutes later the ferry arrived. We were pretty much at the front of the short queue and the ferry sailed mostly empty.
From the Lochaline ferry terminal we headed north to the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct was made famous by the Harry Potter movies and they make the most of this at the visitor centre. The Hogwarts Express, is filmed crossing the viaduct in several of the films. The train shown is actually the Jacobite Steam Engine that operates over part of the West Highland Line on a regular basis taking tourists between Fort William and Mallaig.
The route to the Mallaig ferry terminal was a lovely twisty road but, we saw very little of the surrounding countryside due to the weather. In less than an hour we arrived at the ferry terminal only to find we couldn’t check in until 4pm.
Ben did get a photo of the Jacobite Steam Engine at the station in Mallaig on the way into the town which made up for not seeing it cross the viaduct.
Having checked in at 4pm we had two hours to kill waiting for the ferry. There’s not a lot to do or see at the ferry port and so Ben grabbed 40 winks whilst I looked at the map of Skye for campsites etc.
Once on board the ferry we got comfy and enjoyed the short ride across the sea to the Isle of Skye.
Upon arriving on the Isle of Skye we headed straight to Camping Skye to get a pitch for a couple of days. We decided to stay at the one campsite and then ride out each day to see the sights rather than move to a new campsite each day. This gave us sometime to use the clothes washing and drying facilities available as some of our gear was in need of some serious drying after the wet weather we’d endured.
The next day we headed out to Portree, the biggest town on Skye and also the capital of the Isle. It is the location for the only secondary school on the island, Portree High School. Portree has a harbour, fringed by cliffs, with a pier designed by Thomas Telford.
It’s a fairly busy little town with the main square being the place to be for food, drink and the Sheriff court, where we decided to park our bikes!
Fortunately the motorcycle parking outside the Sheriff Court was free and there was plenty of room for our two steeds. We assumed it’s probably the safest place to park in the town.
A walk up the hill from the town square gives a great view of the harbour front with its coloured buildings and stone gathering hall in the background.
We spent two days touring around the Isle of Skye taking in the views best we could under the low cloud and drizzle that seemed to follow us around. The scenery is spectacular and it would had been nice to be able to see it on a beautiful sunny day, but we made the most of what we had. There’s some great riding to be had on Skye which is covered in small, single track lanes that both follow the coastline and cut through the wilderness in the centre of the isle.
The Bealach na Ba pass is the third highest road in Scotland at 626 metres (2,054 ft), with steep inclines and hairpin bends. The historic mountain pass was built in 1822 so that cattle could be moved easily through the mountains. The name is Scottish Gaelic for Pass of the Cattle and is pronounced Bee-al-uch nu Ba(h).
Sadly once we got up fairly high we found ourselves in fine rain and mist, so we never really got to see any of the views. The video footage wasn’t too brilliant either as the rain constantly filled the lens of the camera. Most of the motorists gave way to us and waited at the passing places so that we could get past without stopping apart from one delivery van who was coming through whether there was enough room or not!
Once we arrived at Applecross we continued along the coastal route heading north to Ullapool where we would stay the night.
By the time we got to Ullapool my Tenere 700 was pretty much out of fuel as it only has a range of around 200 miles, unlike Ben’s Honda AfricaTwin that can cover almost 300 miles between fill ups. Fortunately one of the first things we saw on our arrival to Ullapool was a petrol station.
Ullapool is a small town located in Ross and Cromarty located around 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Inverness. Being a ferry port town it’s a busy little place with lots of people passing through daily. There is a regular ferry service to Stornoway, the main town of the Western Isles and the capital of Lewis and Harris.
Once settled in at the campsite we headed off into town to the Deli-Ca-Sea Fish and Chip shop for a bite to eat.
After a good nights sleep we were up fairly early to get packed up before the rain arrived. Being an early riser I’d had a walk along the beach before Ben had woken. I love the solitary moments where you’re completely alone with nothing more than the view and your thoughts.
There were a number of small Cairns carefully constructed on the beach which created some excellent photography opportunities. It’s the simple little things like this that you always remember about a trip. These simple memory markers will remind me of our time in Ullapool for years to come.
Heading north out of Ullapool, John O’Groats is only 158 miles away via the NC500 coastal road. 158 miles would normally take around 3 hours or so but, on these Scottish single track roads with constant stops to allow traffic through and photograph opportunities we planned for it to take most of the day.
Our first stop on the road north was at Ardvreck Castle. This 16th century castle stands on a rocky promontory jutting out into Loch Assynt and is just a ruin today. The castle was once the home of the MacLeods of Assynt family.
Ben took the opportunity to give his drone a fly and capture some aerial footage of the castle ruins.
A little further up the road we arrived at the Kylesku Bridge (officially known since 2019 by its Gaelic name Drochaid a’ Chaolais Chumhaing). It is a beautifully curved concrete bridge that crosses Loch a‘ Chàirn Bhàin. The bridge is set in a picturesque location and has one of the best wild camping spots we came across on the whole trip.
This was another great opportunity for Ben to fly his drone and capture the curvature of the bridge which appears somewhat straight in photos.
We spent quite a bit of time at the bridge taking photos, chatting with people and capturing video footage using the drone. Here’s a snippet from Ben’s drone footage, I’m sure he’ll be putting more online soon.
We continued north up to the coast at Durness where is was windy and cold. The ride along the north coast road was beautiful but the wind and cold took it’s toll on us and we had to make a stop for food and hot drinks on the way.
We finally arrived at John O’Groats cold and tired. We got the tents up and then headed over to the shops to see what we could find to eat. Sadly everything closes early even though there are loads of people on the campsite all looking for food in the evenings! We managed to get a sandwich and some pie and cheesecake from a cafe just as it was closing and headed back to our tents to get out of the cold wind and fill our bellies.
We spent the night at John O’Groats in the howling wind, waking early in the morning desperate for a hot brew.
From this point on every mile we rode took us a mile closer to home for the first time.
More soon …