Monday, 13 October 2014

Glenfinnan to Cape Wrath Part 3: Strathcarron to Gairloch via Torridon and Opinan

Continuing the epic struggle north from Strathcarron onwards to Torridon.

With special guest star Rob, and some goats.

Day 5: Strathcarron - Opinan

So... slightly demoralised after a tiring day of very little riding the day before I set off along the road to meet my friend Rob at Achnashellach, planning to then climb from Coulags and take in the famous descent to Annat. As I had chickened out of my longer route the day before (via Bearneas bothy) I had time to kill so sat and read my book in the station for an hour or two (I was attempting 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' for the nth time...) until Rob appeared, having descended from the Coulin pass.

We set off and very soon the challenge was met on the climb up from Coulags

 Nice and easy to begin with

 Tricky bridge to hop up onto with a laden bike. Common sense won over.

 Not quite as hard as I'm making it look.

Rob maintaining slightly more form than I was...

The Coulags climb was great fun, and I found myself attacking stuff that I wouldn't have bothered trying the day before. It was also good to have someone to chase up the trail. After a (relatively) short push we started down the other side, I wasn't sure what to expect and was hoping just to make it down in one piece.

Rob immersed in Torridonian scenery.

 Rob, about halfway down.

 Me being tenderised by the Annat rocks.

Annat corners and Loch Torridon view

What a descent! long sections of rock and slab, interspersed with perfect corners and the occasional waterbar for variety. Both me and the bike were beginning to feel a bit beaten up by the bottom though, so we stopped at the beach and had lunch with Liathach looming over us.

There was then a longish stretch of tarmac to Diabaig, before the final section of off-road to Redpoint and Opinan. Never before have I been reduced to twiddling my granniest gear on tarmac, but the roads around Torridon don't take any prisoners!

 Stop laughing at the back, this was REALLY REALLY steep.

Diabaig. We wasted precious height descending to the village
in search of chocolate. They didn't have any.

This was turning into a slightly epic day, and I had originally planned to stay in the Torridon hostel. However we had the hospitality of Rob's parents to look forward to, so continued to the end of the road and took the coastal path from Diabaig to Craig's Bothy and then Redpoint.

This path started brilliantly, and although we were tiring neither of us could resist tackling the trialsesque slab and rock sections on the well groomed track to Craig's.


Slabs + Scenery.  McMoab eat your heart out!

 Too tired, but too much fun.

Perfect singletrack

 Styling it up for the screaming crowds and my mum.

 Rob descending towards perhaps the most idyllic 
bothy in Scotland.

Craig's itself was pretty unique as bothies go. Lots of wee murals inside and out, 
plus a hand-drawn map of local caves, pools and, um, rocks. 

Nice view out of the window too!

All good things must come to an end though, and the path further north of Craig's quickly deteriorated. The goats and views of the Cuillins kept us entertained though

 Crossing Craig River

 Suspicious goat eyeing us warily

 ...and he's off.

 Looking south to Skye. From here north the map may as well have just said 'here be dragons'. 
I was officially in uncharted territory (for me).

 Reaching the end of the difficulties and getting back in the saddle.

 Approaching Redpoint Farm, where I am honoured to say we were 
barked at by Jamiroquoiaoui's collie.

Eventually though the end was in sight, and after a glorious roll along the tarmac with views to die for, we made it to Rob's parents, where we had a fine dinner and a few drams with Rob's folks, until I detected my chat was descending into 'mumbled nonsense' and went to bed.

Opinan sunset.

Day 6. Nothing.

Well, not strictly true, I got a guided tour of the Gairloch area, ate one of the most expensive bagels I have ever bought, did a fantastic walk above Loch Maree, and walked a large number of hyper-energetic dogs. We also paid a visit to the Badacro inn, which easily competes with the Old Forge for excellent location and pints, I'll be back!

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