So. Many. Hills.

26 Oct

Portree Loop Ride (21)Today was the big one. The day to really push the envelope, and hopefully not push the bike. I’ve been in South Skye so far, but I really wanted to push up to the north, and set my sights on Portree. But just cycling up there would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

So as well as cycling up the coast to Portree on the east coast, I added in an extra loop to the west coast as well. Crazy, I know. Portree is the main town and port on Skye, so it made sense to get up there.. but I was pretty certain there was lots to see and experience on the way!

Portree Loop Ride (13)Portree Loop Ride (6)

The nagging puncture seemed to have calmed down, so I set off north with a spring in my step. When you’re cycling out and back you tend to take note of the hills… ‘that’ll be nice to come back down’ and ‘not looking forward to that on the way back’. You’d think that a coastal path would make life easy, but the geography of Skye had other plans! Northern Skye is volcano territory, long extinct, but the towering caldera pepper the skyline, the clouds sometimes forming a teddy boy’s quiff over the edge, at other times a badly fitting toupee.

Portree Loop Ride (15)I made my way over the first hill, past the desolate island of Scalpay, and over the headland to a welcome descent into Sligachan and the old bridge. Which is where I turned inland, headed for the west coast. Autumn seems a superb time to visit – the summer crowds have disappeared, as have the midges, and the roads are quiet. Autumn colours are vivid browns, with heather holding on to its colour while bracken and fern – and trees – create a stunning palette of browns and oranges. I cross miles of peat, the hedgerows of broom and gorse.

Portree Loop Ride (7)A slow climb leads to a drop into Struan harbour – I am briefly tempted by a trip to the Talisker distillery. Wiay island sits out in the bay but I turn inland, headed for Portree at last. These are narrow lanes, impassable in winter. I find a new hazard – cowpats. Although the cows are relaxed and calm as I pass, the sheep are skittish and can’t be trusted not to run in front of me.

Portree Loop Ride (9)Finally, I drop into Portree. Nothing much to write home about, but time for coffee and a sandwich. I have ridden 60km. A trip to the isle of Raasay (more distilleries) tempts me but it is a bit late now.. and as I ascend the long steep climb out, the nagging puncture finally makes itself known in no uncertain terms. I stop by the side of the road and attempt a repair, but the patches aren’t sticking. I replace the tube, and cycle on.

The hills are calmer now, and I realise that my hostel isn’t quite as far as the route tells me. I cycle gratefully up… my legs ache and I wish I had remembered the padded shorts. I make this 105km. Which I think is my longest single day ride ever.

I have managed so far without incident.. until today. I cycled up on to a pavement in search of dinner, but forgot (come on, I have just cycled 60+ miles) the requisite bunnyhop to hop onto the kerb. Net result, the bike stopped dead, and I toppled gently into the gutter. #novideoeveidence

This is the last day on Skye – tomorrow I must cycle across the bridge… and away.

TimSignature

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