… was another day where we could have selected a direct eight-mile route – along the main road on Mull from Salen to Tobermory – or commit to a 30 mile circular tour. We started by heading south-west to Gruline. The bird-watchers we’d met the previous day had alerted us to the fine sight of ‘their’ golden eagles patrolling the cliffs and gliding with apparent ease, so completely in control of their medium – the air. The birders had explained where we’d be almost certain to see the newly reintroduced white-tailed sea eagles too. We were a bit puzzled by the directions until we encountered another gathering of these generous if nerdy beings. Thanks to another flock of twitchers – and I salute them and their huge enthusiasms and even huger lenses – we got a look at our first white-tailed eagle. People – especially birders – get excited enough about the magnificence of the golden eagle with its two-metre wingspan, but the white-tailed sea eagle is bigger still, standing a metre tall with a wingspan of 2.5 metres. Unlike the golden eagle, though, this one was perched at some distance, looking supremely bored and unlikely to go anywhere.
We pedalled on along the loveliest coastline entertained by the antics of eiders and divers and dive-bombing buzzards. I am fortunate enough to live in the gloriously green city of Cambridge. At home there when flashes of red or patches of blue catch my eye, they turn out to be Coke cans or plastic bags. Here they were orchids, thrift, violets and even the bright red bill of an oystercatcher.
Then my attention was drawn to an odd shape in the sea. The beast was small but seemed to have a dorsal fin. It took the binoculars to let me decipher this was an otter whose tail rose like a dorsal fin whenever he dived; we relished the chance to watch him fishing in amongst the kelp and bladderwrack. In the other direction we were treated to good views of patches of snow on Ben More as we headed roughly west along the loch to Ulva Island. Then it was north-west until we thought we’d try a “short cut” involving steep climbing up onto wild moors were curlews shouted at us and each other. The descent was weee-onderful, and dried the sweat efficiently. By this time I was thinking some refreshments were in order so the promised cream teas at the Heritage Centre at Dervaig sounded not-to-be missed. But they were. The place was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. This was a Tuesday.
On the next wonderful descent, something in the sky caught my eye. It was big and flying like a raptor. Then when two hooded crows started mobbing it, I realised it wasn’t big, it was huge. I screeched to a halt on a hairpin and shrieked at S to look up.
It was awe-inspiring watching such a vast bird flapping westwards, seemingly unphased by the angry crows that hassled him. Even so my focus was now firmly on hot chocolate; we soon found a pub – with patio defibrillator – to provide it.
Tobermory was as chocolate-boxy as the photos and a fine place to sit – feet dangling over the harbour wall – tucking into Fush and Chups, or in my case scallop and chups. The local gulls were especially skilled at catching chups mid-air.
... began with more rain. Sitting – hoods up – waiting for the little ferry to Kilchoan, I watched a wren poking about amongst fishermens’ clutter, and a diver fishing. A huddle of four eider drakes seemed not to be enjoying the inclement weather; they were preoccupied with preening and flushing sea-water over themselves. One of the men who worked on the ferry suggested that once we reached Salen – confusingly another place called Salen – we should strike north to one of the most spectacular castles in Scotland. It sounded like a long detour to me but I could see that S was interested.
We disembarked at Kilchoan but the only sign of ‘civilisation’ was a public toilet, albeit a toilet that sensibly included a weather-proof waiting area.
We’d reached the Ardnamurchan peninsular and signs directing venturers left to the westernmost point on the British mainland. We turned right and pedalled through the truly lovely Glenborrodale and on 19 miles, mostly in the rain and arrived – gratefully – at a splendid creaky Victorian hotel in Salen, or it would have been splendid if we hadn’t had to wait three hours for the hot bath water to heat up. We were the only guests.
Looks like I'll post on the final couple of days in my next blog; sunshine and my garden call....