Glasgow to Oban - Skye & The Hebrides - CycleBlaze

Glasgow to Oban

ferry to Isle of Mull and on to Iona

So close, yet so far. In all my years of living in adjacent England (35), I've never been to Scotland, one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Strange, I know. 

What had put me off was the fact that it does see quite a lot of rain and during summer vacations it gets a good few visitors. Then there are those pesky midges, the tiny flies that infamously love to attack anyone in the countryside - including cyclists. So instead, I usually flew to Spain, France and other mainland European countries where day-long sunshine is more guaranteed. 

Well, now that I'm 50-odd and living across the other side of the world, I reckon it's time to pay the place a visit and my plan is to tour the country's far west, focusing on the Hebrides, with a night in Glasgow to break up the long journey before catching a second train to the ferry terminal in Oban. 

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It's 9:00 PM when the train pulls in to Oban station and after riding along the seafront, it doesn't take long to find a B&B at the town's northern end, costing 34 quid. 

The ferry leaves in the morning to Mull, and once I've had my full Scottish breakfast, it's a short ride back to buy a ticket to the nearby island of Mull. It's not too long a ride and it's wonderfully sunny and hot.

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The original seat of Clan MacLean - Duart Castle on Mull dates back to the 13th century
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One off the boat, I get a few snacks and two cartons of juice from the shop at Mull's ferry terminal, then set off towards Iona on the narrow A 849. There's a slow gentle climb, but there's little wind and I call in for lunch at a pub and soon after notice that my rear wheel is rubbing against the frame. Strange. 

I stop and inspect it, removing the panniers and re-tightening the skewer, but it makes no difference. The bearings seem to be loose and the wheel is wobbling around. The hub is a Hope Pro III - an expensive bit of kit - with sealed bearings as they all are now and there's nothing to do but to keep on going.

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As I ride along, it gets worse and eventually the sound is bloody awful - crunching and squealing away, with my new Marathon tyre constantly rubbing on the chain stay. If I stop pedaling just for a second, the chain immediately snags and locks up, so the cranks have to keep turning. You might think this is no a big deal, but while descending it's a real bind and I have to use my brakes to keep at a reasonable speed. 

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Because the last ferry to Iona is at 6:00, it's all a bit of a struggle to cover the last 15 km riding like this, but I manage to get it (the cost four quid for a one-way ticket) and once off make my way to the island's Youth Hostel. 

The 9th century St Martin's Cross on Iona
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Inside the hostel it's real hive of activity and it feels like I've intruded on someone's party, with the guests - about 10 of them - crowded in the steamy kitchen, all in the throws of cooking or preparing food, which is something I've zilch of. 

Slightly embarrassed and feeling sheepish, it seems best to opt to have a look around for something to eat, and perhaps then camp wild somewhere.

Iona Abbey
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After visiting the remote, deserted  beach, I pedal back to a group of shops near the wharf, back wheel squeaking away, and find a restaurant with sea views where I enjoy a superb dinner. By the end of it I've asked if they have a room, which they do, and get offered a package of dinner, bed and breakfast for 78 quid. Deal.

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