round Britain by bike

Leg 16 | Skye and Knoydart | April/May 2013

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After 2012's almost unbelievable blue sky marathon, I figured that our circuit of tourist-friendly Skye and wilderness destination Knoydart would provide the ideal opportunity for our friends James and David to join us on a more leisurely jaunt – and to my surprise, both agreed!

James had, of course, joined us four years previously for our leg around Aberdeenshire and Moray which was plagued by heavy showers throughout, so I was unsure whether he would be willing to repeat the experience; on the other hand, he had himself cycled around Skye with his old Uni buddy Malcolm some fifteen years previously, so he at least had an idea of what he was letting himself in for this time around. David on the other hand had come late to the cycling game, but had established a rigorous training regime of late, and so was ripe for the challenge.

We didn't actually need to 'do' Skye, since technically our trip is around the British mainland. However, the arguments for conceding to a quick lap are compelling; not least the fact that Skye provides the easiest route down to Mallaig, departure point for the boats to Knoydart, and eventual end point of this leg. In addition, Skye's island status is largely incidental, being separated from the mainland only by the two narrow channels of Kyle Akin and Kyle Rhea, as opposed to most of the other Inner Hebrides which are quite clearly stuck in the middle of the sea.

Knoydart is another slight oddity – despite being part of the mainland, the high mountains surrounding it to the east mean that it remains cut off from the rest of the mainland road network, and is only accessible by boat or via a two-day trek through the mountains, earning the peninsula its moniker as 'Scotland's last wilderness'. It also happens to contain the Old Forge, officially the mainland's most remote pub – in itself, reason enough for us to visit!

Anyway, after shivering through the coldest March on record, and despite a very mediocre weather forecast, we were hoping for warmer weather to establish itself as we set out on the journey from King's Cross to Inverness. Instead, the tone was set from the outset with lightning striking some signalling and rendering us stationary at Alnmouth for two hours. Eventually arriving in Inverness shortly after 10pm gave us just enough time for one last visit to our local (MacNabs on the banks of the River Ness) before one last overnighter at our favourite B&B, and the following day we took caught another train onward to Kyle of Lochalsh where our journey would officially restart.

Go to Day 1 (Kyle of Lochalsh to Broadford)