Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Balloch to Fort William

The bike’s old chain broke early in the morning but I fixed it properly this time. I now know that I have to buy a new rear gear set before I fit the new chain (otherwise it jumps the old cogs) alas there were none of the rear gear set range I wanted to be had in Carlisle. Amazing that I wore out a rear gear set since cycling up from Barcelona.

When I stopped for a coffee there were Jason and Paul on their light road bikes and small backpacks cycling LEJOG in 11 days for charity. We rode together much of the day leap frogging each other when one or other of us stopped for different reasons. They caught up with me just as I was coming into Fort William in the pouring rain but (they) still in high spirits.

I was astonished to find Scotland so empty. Between Balloch and Fort William there are few towns - all of them tiny. No fields, no people no cottages no livestock. Those Lairds who cleared the glens certainly didn’t fuck around!


The mountains (sorry Munros) around Glencoe were just spectacular and obviously popular walks. Scottish mountains have a charm of their own – quite unlike Lake District fells and Swiss peaks. They are just there right in front of you and so close up.

The road traffic wasn’t so bad and variable and all motorists very well behaved towards cyclists.
Much of the day I had the West Highland Way in sight one way or another and indeed part of it is a cycle path. I’m now glad I cycled this section, in one day, which would have taken me five days walking, with sparse accommodation and midges. I saw a few walkers and my heart went out to them later in the day when the rain hit.

At one stage I was lured off the main road to an Information centre, and took a footpath back to the road by mistake. In doing so I stumbled across the site of the Glencoe Massacre.

I chose not to use the Glen Nevis YHA because it was too far out of town / off my route and I was soaked through and tired and chose the town Backpacker Hostel instead. A group of five Germans arrived at the hostel late in the day clad in serious wet weather gear (they all looked like giant walking condoms with transparent waterproofs that covered them and their backpacks from head to toe) and glad it was all over for them, especially the camping among the midges.
Yet in spite of all the warnings about ferocious Scottish midges none have come near me.