For the second successive day, we set off westwards on the A839 from Pittentrail up the gentle 13 km climb towards Lairg. The Fleet Valley is dotted with settlements some of which can only be reached by fearsome looking steep gravel tracks.
Beyond Lairg, we joined the undulating A837 through Rosehall before cycling for many a mile adjacent to the stately River Oykel which wends its way through lush Scottish meadows. After Oykel Bridge the roads climbs up to Loch Craggie as the river continues northwards, majestically, towards its source high up on Ben More Assynt.
Cresting the rise we are confronted by the first sighting of Canisp’s sweeping profile, Suilven’s quirky silhouette and Cul Mor’s twin summits. Dominating them all, in size if not in personality, is Ben More Assynt which guards the approach to the Drumbeg/Lochinver peninsula.
We hurtled down the slope towards the Altnacealgach Hotel for what was a good cup of coffee, some refreshing lemonade and a delicious cheese sandwich…..The Wattmeister banged out a few bars of Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars’ on the piano…..but we still had to pay for our food.
Here, with the assistance of mine host, who suggested the *FLAT ROUTE*, the decision was made to arrive in Ullapool (about 80 kms distant) via the A837 and Ardvreck Castle, Lochinver and a tiny road on the map which included such hamlets as Strathan, Badnaban, and Inverkirkaig.
The road to Lochinver passed through some devastatingly grand scenery before turning south into a headwind and chucking in a few leg busting roller coaster hills…..which were definitely not flat….nor part of the contract….*see above.
However, we made it to Lochinver and stocked up on food and drink in the village store.
In hindsight, had we not taken this route, we would tragically have missed out on one of the finest roads I have ever ridden…this being the little higgledy-piggledy, humpback crackerjack that leads south from Lochinver, eventually rejoining the A835 to Ullapool at Drumrunie.
If The Wattmeister was emperor, it would be mandatory for everyone to cycle this stretch of road. Every millimetre of tarmac yields an impression, a perspective, a feeling…..ever changing with each pedal stroke. At all times it is wild and protective, spectacular but tame….dominating and submissive. The western side of Canisp, Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and Cul Mor is quite different to the eastern approach. It is a magical world and this tiny road is full of spells…..oh, and by the way it is not *FLAT*.
Eventually, in warm evening sunshine, we were released from this enchantment to finish our ride into Ullapool, which has a magnetism of its own.