Like a migratory bird I am drawn to the North. Our time in the USA, and two bike rides across the continent taught us of the lure of West there, to the exclusion of any mention of middle. As the warmest and wettest December on record came to a festive conclusion, we packed our bikes and walking gear into the car and drove North to Gairloch.
We had managed a Christmas day bike ride, and a brace of other East Lothian outings to push the festive milage close enough to 150. Winter miles count double in my book. The wind, the cold that can lock your jaw and eyes stung red-raw for the evening if you have to ride without your shades.
Most rides recently have been damp, wet or sodden. It comes as a shock after the last of the dry rides, that hesitation in stopping on wet rims. The winter bikes have a hard time and nothing labelled water-proof ever really is.
New Year’s eve was the shortest ride of the whole year. No wind to speak of is a rare thing for Gairloch and a bright start to the day raised the excitement levels. There is not a river, burn or gulley in Scotland that can hold even a cup of water more. Waterfalls have sprung into life all over the mountains, and irregular streams now flow across roads. The first of these had frozen overnight. There would be countless ones ahead on our route. My twenty year old self would have carried on, but with well under 1 mile done, we went home and put the bikes away.
The turning of the page from one year to the next is a time for planning. We were out most weekends when the weather was not unspeakable. But still we have ended the year having ticked off less than half of our to-do list. More nights bivvying in the woods of East Lothian, more bike trips to the Borders and the South West of Scotland.
We did walks along the beaches and coast, then a walk into the hills in search of a waterfall. All the time the plans expanded to return with bikes. We had time to take the long way home. There are not many more road miles in the route, but it takes almost twice as long. Gairloch – Torridon – Stromeferry – Loch Alsh – then A87 to Invergarry – Spean Bridge – A86 to Laggan – Dalwhinnie to the A9 to Edinburgh.
Lots of single track road, most of which took you on a journey along two sides of a triangle. Scotland was in the most marvelouse of Gothic moods. We did not cover more than 10 miles without pulling over to take it all in and pull out a camera. We will return with the bikes and tent. There are plans for loops with the road bikes and longer tours. Time to get out the maps and look for the road less pedalled.