For day two of the ride, I’m on the A830 pretty much all day, but I’m not too worried about this. The road is good, and there’s not too much traffic on this stretch. The main hazard is the logging lorries, especially as the woosh past in the rain – of which there’s a lot! It follows the spectacular railway line for a large part, criss crossing each other as road and rail try and find their own ways through the increasingly hilly, rocky terrain.
The start, in a light drizzle which quickly fades the further I get from Ben Nevis, isn’t too exciting, following Loch Eil pretty much to the letter, on a long, straight stretch of road. Towards Glenfinnan it starts to open up a bit, as do the heavens. This is convenient as there’s a nice little tea-room here, so I have my first proper stop of the tea and dry off a bit, before taking a look at the Glenfinnan Monument. The famous railway viaduct is nearby, but I decide I don’t have time to check it out on foot – plus it’s still raining.
So on I pedal, as it starts to get equal parts more hilly and spectacular by the mile. It’s on the approach to Loch Eilt, working hard on an uphill and with some music on for company – Allo’ Darlin’s gorgeous History Lessons I think – when I’m pretty much floored by the sheer combined beauty of the moment, the song, and just being in Highland Scotland. Luckily I manage to stay on two wheels. Just a few minutes later I’m tearing down the same hill at full pelt, rain stinging in my face and I can’t tell if my face is streaming with tears of joy, tears of pain, or just rain. It doesn’t matter though, because (once again!) this is life, this is living.
At the junction with the A861 (about the only junction seen all day), I lunch in the pub there, once again to take refuge from the rain. It’s one of those places you wouldn’t really visit unless you have to. From a limited lunch menu, jacket potato is off (“no potatoes”), macaroni cheese is off (“no macaroni”), so that leaves, er, a toasted sandwich with about 4 soggy crisps and a slice of tomato on the side. At least I get dry for a bit.
Having been travelling westbound into a headwind all day, the road eventually veers north-west and, finally, north, putting the wind in my sails as I speed into Mallaig. Before that though, there’s more rain, a stop at a beautiful roadside cairn/monument, a stop under a railway arch where I spot wild strawberries for some much-appreciated sugar, and a final quiet-roads bit between Arisaig and Mallaig, which passes a really lovely old cemetery with some Second World War graves in it. Which gives pause for thought – those poor young men sent to their deaths for our liberty.
The first sight of the sea, the first sight of Eigg, playing Cate Le Bon’s The Eiggy Sea – it’s all kind of too pure, too perfect. Sure, it’s raining, but this is Scotland.
I roll into Eigg tired but, crucially, an hour ahead of my friends Donna and Pete on the train from Glasgow, so there’s time to check in at the recommended Mallaig Backpackers, have a shower, and then walk down and meet them, all smug like.
Another bike ride completed, still no punctures. I love you, bikey bike!