I recently re-read R.L. Stevenson's book Kidnapped, which tells the story of how a young Scots lad is taken to sea under duress and makes his way back to Edinburgh after the ship carrying him founders on rocks near to the Isle of Mull.
I was curious as to the route he would have taken, and started looking at some maps to get a bit more detail than that given on the map shown in the book. The idea then occurred that this could be a great route to do by bike - even if getting to the start might be a bit awkward.
A plan was made, a date was set and a fellow adventurer, Nick was signed up.
|Map from R.L.Stevenson's book|
|Sunset over Mull from the ferry|
After we had set up the tent I went for a wonder to the tidal island of Erraid – this is where David Balfour, the protagonist from Kidnapped is washed ashore after the shipwreck. Low tide was to be at midnight, so I set off at about 10 to cross the sands to the island. Once I got there I propped up my bike and got my camera out to take a picture of the starry sky. Then I noticed that there seemed to be fingers of light shining up from the horizon. There were no man made lights in view, so I quickly realised that this must be the aurora borealis.
|Aurora from Erraid|
It rained all night, and was still raining in the morning. In fact it had snowed down to about 500m above sea level, so the mountains were looking impressive where we could see them above the clouds. We elected not to start with the route up Glen Duror and down to Ballachuilish that I had originally planned. The day was going to be long enough without this hilly, and – I expected – boggy start.
|Nick climbing up the Chiarain path|
We followed the road to Kinlochleven and by the time we arrived the rain had stopped. We stocked up at the Co-Op and then set off up the Chiarain path, climbing on mostly good singletrack past the Blackwater dam and then on to the bothy at Loch Chiarain. As we climbed the cloud lifted and the sun came out revealing the stunningly white peaks of the Aonach Eagach to the south.
|Tom near the Blackwater Dam|
|Looking at the north side of the Aonach Eagach|
|Buchaille Etive Mor and the Black Mount across Rannoch Moor|
|Nick with the Grey Corries|
There was frost on the tent for the start of day 3, but it soon warmed up as we rode down the glen – a quick stop to pick up a bacon roll and a bridie at Mhor Bread in Callander keeping the fuel levels topped up. We took bike paths, tracks and back roads through Doune, Dunblane, Alva, Dollar and Dunfermline before eventually emerging at the Firth of Forth.
David Balfour had
to take a boat over the Forth, but we were able to roll across the Forth Road
Bridge. Soon we were in Cramond for the “official” finish of the route. Sarah
and Mary were waiting to meet us and pack our weary bodies and mucky bikes into
the vehicles to take us home.
|Spectators on the side of the trail|