Days 13 and 14 were fun. I was settled into the routine of exploring and trying to do what I want be a little bit more ‘impulsive’ and honest about what things are going to make me happy. A lot of my trip was a mental rebellion at the idea of forcing myself to do too much and force a 'really great time'. There was so much to take in that I really wanted a rest.
Day 13 - Bla Bleinn
After a doing a touristy hike, I wanted to aim for something a little bigger and off the beaten track. The Storr is no slouch at 720m high, but it was tiny compared to my earlier Ben Nevis marathon. Bla Bleinn seemed liked an interesting peak that would be fine to solo and off the beaten track enough to be a peaceful walk. The sumit was 928.
The way to the start point was down a single track road for 7 miles. It was a good ride and in parts I was practising standing on my foot pegs to see ahead and watch out for the lil lambs and that bit was fun. On the way I saw a motorcyclist with a BMW motorbike who had clearly camped the night by the side of the road. We waved a greeting to one another. I thought about stopping to chat but didn’t; in hindsight I should’ve done so. I’m pretty interested in the idea of camping from the bike but the main thing putting me off is that I’ve never done it and therefore have no skills, and don’t have any friends who could show me the ropes. Bummer. I'll have to give that one some more thought.
At the car park a few people set off ahead of me, but the walking was mainly done alone. Again I was following someone else’s walk, from photos of a map on my phone. I stopped at one point to jump around the top of a waterfall, aiming to get a nice photo either up or down the valley (and a good excuse to take a break after the initial ascent).
After that it was a lot of uphill walking. The path began to slide between the thighs of the nearby mountains, and after half way of the ascent, it sort of levelled out in an area between 3 or 4 separate hills. I spotted a tarn and headed across to see if the photos were any good, but as it was windy I couldn’t get any nice reflections because the water was moving too much. Much of the terrain nearby looked to be soft, grassy slopes except the one I was due to climb of course!
I watched someone descending my route and checked in against the map...it looked like it would be tough, and it was. It involved lots of scrabbling up a scree slope, where I used the edge of a face of rock for purchase; without this I would’ve been relegated to hands and knees. After 20 minutes of this scrambling, I reached the ‘almost top’. The route I was following suggested you would be able to reverse a little and complete another Munro on the way down, but I really couldn’t see where the path went or how to get there so I scrapped that idea. Making it up as I went looked like it would be really risky, and as I was by myself I was opting to stick on the right side of risky (I had to do all the planning, motivate myself and keep myself safe).
Continuing on to the summit of Bla Bleinn, the path wound its way back and forth, and at some point disappeared and I was left to guess the way and do a bit of bouldering to get to higher ground and rejoin the path (maybe the result of a rock fall?). My route in the end felt a little bit custom. Custom meaning making it up as you go along. I guess my entire trip so far had been 'custom'.
I made it up top and had a well deserved rest, and jotted some notes in a notebook whilst I huddled out of the wind for an hour or so. Summit sunbathing is one of my favourite past times. On the way down a nice local chap took a snap of me looking out to sea, then I continued the long, windy route back (I hate going down). This was pretty custom too as I really didn’t want to go back the way I came.
Back at my bike, I was pretty knackered. But I thought it would be really cool to head to the edge of the coast and check out the village of Erdol. It was only another 7 miles of singletrack and the views were great so I did it. Along the way there was a one big hold up, where a dog was trotting down the road with 4 vehicles behind it. The dog was in no hurry, and as I had no idea what was up so I waited and watched in a passing place. Do I dive in and coax the dog off the path? No...I'll leave the dog to do as it pleases. A dog knows what its doing.
When I reached Erdol it seemed like it was a bit more of a destination than I anticipated. The views from the car park were stunning. The water stretched out towards the Black Cullin range, and I could also see the peak I just hiked all in one view. The coastline here looked amazing. I got chatting to another BMW motorcycle-camper about his trip and places I should check out.
Tired and most definitely sun-kissed, I headed back to my Airbnb and grabbed carrot sticks and dip on the way for snacking.
Day 14 - Applecross
After hiking two days in a row, I was pretty tired. I could feel it deep in my bones. I decided Friday would be a more relaxed day. The biker I spoke to the day prior recommended I check out a village called Applecross. It was an hour and a half ride north through mountainous roads.
Riding out and then finding a place to eat, chill and read sounded great to me. On the way I went via a village called Plockton. There I was able to take some cool photos whilst it was still sunny and I saw this old Moto Guzzi motorcycle and sidecar that was decked out in an anarchist vibe. It looked badass, though would’ve been far too short for me to ride comfortably.
The riding was good, although in parts it felt a little risky with all the singletrack sections of road. At some point my path crossed over with the north coast 500 and I spotted a lot more bikers parked up whilst on that portion.
The road to Applecross itself is the most steep and windy road I think I’ve been on it. It was one of those zig-zag up the side of a mountain affairs with plenty of hairpins and passing places which meant you had to be looking far ahead to watch the traffic. When I started out a sign warned it was usually impassable in winter months and it gave me flashbacks to Hardknott pass in the lakes.
The village looked cool and as I passed through I could see there were a few bikers who had come to explore as well. As I was after a remote, peaceful experience, I headed through and found a quiet spot outside the village to park. From there I hiked a little way to the beach. The sky was moody and overcast, and just as I found a spot to sit it started spotting with rain.
I was determined to realise my picnic dreams and so I persevered as the rain was light. After that I did a little reading and did a bit of thinking. What do I really want to do next? I decided that what I really wanted to do was to head home on Monday. I was due to spend the next week travelling, with an idea to book a stay in Northumberland, and then head down to meet friends in Harrogate. But when it came down to it...I was tired and I’d be travelling by myself for far longer than I ever had previously. I wanted to head home, sort a few things and do some chilling and for me this trip has been a lot about just doing what I want.
The ride back wasn’t too bad, but there was one bit of a drama when my top box flew off the back of the bike as I hadn’t locked it properly. Ugh...dumbass! The box luckily only received a bit of a scrape, and in process of reattaching it at least I learned how to take it off and put it back on (genuinely had never done that before). Partway back I was followed by an obnoxious SUV driver who was intent on doing 75+ in an NI zone. I did have a few visions of jettisoning my topbox and its 9kg chain it his grill. Fortunately I can overtake slower moving vehicles and leave morons like that behind (not a fan of tail-gaters).
I spent the evening chilling and planning what to get up to on my last day. (More pics below)