It was time to say goodbye to the lochs and make a dash for Glasgow. For the first time since we left we actually found a cycle track that was well maintained, signposted and did not just dump us at a highway. We could also make out that were getting closer to Glasgow as the amount of smashed Buckfast bottles on the cycle track increased in abundance. Rolling into the city was bitter-sweet although the peacefulness and beauty of the highlands was divine, the lack of food availability and bike parts could sometimes become a chore but hey that’s the nature of the beast! Glasgow was also our first rendezvous with our ‘warm showers’ hookup. Warmshowers.org is similar to couch surfers however specifically made for touring cyclists. We spent the evening at a guys house by the name of Martin, a German which had been residing in Glasgow for the last six months. That evening was the first shower we had since leaving over two weeks ago. Up until this point we had been washing ourselves and our clothes at roadside restrooms or highland streams. An absolute delight indeed!
In the morning Martin led us to the central train station were we had booked ourselves and our bikes tickets to Newcastle. In Newcastle we had also lined up another warm showers host, Ashleigh and his flatmate. These were two young lads in their twenties which had bought a house and were in the midst a full renovation. They had kindly partially emptied their spare room to tightly accommodate a double mattress, our bikes and our gear with a cardboard box acting as the door. The whole house had been gutted the living room filled with building stuff, the kitchen reduced to a few capped pipes and unattached power points and in the bathroom toilet required a bucket to be filled from the sink and tipped into the cistern to refill. Nonetheless we were super thankful for the nights stay despite the fact the guys were super hard at work and for them clearing the space for us.
After a night sleeping behind a temporary door made of cardboard the time had come say the goodbye to the UK and take on the European mainland. We cycled down the passenger ferry located on the coast of Newcastle, changed our pounds to Euros, chained our bikes up in the cargo area of the ferry and waved goodbye to the country we had called home for months. The time in Scotland had been challenging both mentally and physically however all in all an amazing experience which I would do again in a heartbeat. Leaving Scotland felt like we had finally taken off our training wells and were ready to take on anything the terrain and weather could throw at us. Although the bike odometer only read around 600km every meter was was earned… the hard way. The next leg of our journey would be an uninterrupted cycle easterly cycle of the European mainland to cross over many boarders completely under our own steam.
We took a day off cycling to hang in Oban to explore the city some of Oban and collect supples. Thankfully the rain stopped for a the afternoon giving us the opportunity to dry/air out some pretty mingin’ clothes which had started to fester since Skye. Oban is a lovely seaside town albeit touristy and yuppified. It is also coincidentally which is where the awesome Oban scotch whiskey is distilled. It was also a day for internet-related logistics for the journey ahead. We had not has access to power or the next since we left Edinburgh so it was time to try get things sorted for the rest of the Scottish leg and the further afield: the European mainland. We spent almost half of the rainy day in an internet café having making the most of our first taste of wifi It was a welcome day off before we would move onwards to Glasgow, Necastle and Holland.
After being refused the previous day by a bus driver we were determined to not have this repeated. We got up at 6:30 and after breakfast with morning coffee headed off to the bus depot to get our bikes ready for transport. Janine organised bus tickets and a few other odds bits and pieces while I scrounged a nearby shop for cardboard boxes and began to pull the bikes apart. It took us a little less than 45 minutes to strip the pedals, handlebars, drop the seats and wrap the bikes just as the bus rolled in. With a high-5 we loaded our goods climbed into the bus and set off for Skye. Looking out of the bus window as headed north made me anxious to get on the bike again. I was glued to the window constantly evaluating areas to wild camp that were clear enough, flat enough and close to a river even if the bus was going to sail through anyway. It felt so institutionalised to jump out at prescribed stops in car parks half the size of football fields where thousands would gather daily to take exactly the same photos only to jump back on and continue riding. Although we were by no means the first to cycle through the Scottish highlands, having the route so strictly laid out just seemed to remove some much adventure from the trip. Nonetheless it was still a great ride through mountains with highland cows and small fishing towns a plenty.
Finally shortly after 1pm we arrived in Portabello, one of the largest towns on the Isle of Skye. We loaded the bags and the bikes off the bus again at immediately reassembled the bikes like a formula one pit-stop team while the already pissed locals watched on from nearby pub’s smoking area. To avoid having to remake travel boxes for the bus journey south we opted for folding them up and stashing them underneath a nearby power distribution box and hoped that they would still be there in a few days. We then found an awesome spot on the edge of a memorial area overlooking the town and settled in with a bottle of wine, rather chuffed with the day’s efforts. Finally we had made it to our most northerly camping point for the trip, something which had seemed so far away while struggling up hills for hours each day. Although we had to bus it for some of the leg we were really proud of our efforts.