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Adventure on the Isle of Mull – Simon Pitman

Adventure on the Isle of Mull – Simon Pitman
3 March 2020

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

I always feel a sense of relief as soon as I start an adventure. Starting months before and building up, I get anxious about what kit I should take. What if my sleeping bag isn’t warm enough? How many pairs of socks should I take? These questions haunt me, right up until the moment I’m committed to sticking with what I’ve got.

For this trip that happened in Oban once I locked the car and rode my bike to the ferry. It was 7am on a cold November day, the sky was clear, and the warm glow of an autumn sunrise was on the horizon.

close up photo of a bike

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

I was heading to Mull for 3 days of cycling and relaxing, and I was really looking forward to it. I’m a complete novice in the world of bike packing. I’ve spent many nights camping and many days hiking to new spots. But cycling around an island I haven’t explored yet really appealed, I like the idea of covering reasonable distances, but slow enough to really take it in.

Mull is a really special place. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an island off the west coast of Scotland and is a little smaller than Skye. I’ve been once before, but I’ve only been to Tobermory, which is the main town, and was the setting for the children’s program Balamory.

For this trip, I explored the south side of the island. We arrived early at Craignuire and started cycling south. The weather was sunny but bitterly cold, and I was pleased to get to the day’s hill climb to warm up. The gradient was a gentle ascent to 200m and descended back to sea level.

Once past this, it was the perfect opportunity to stop for lunch. I stopped in the most remote bus stop I’ve ever seen, to shelter from the wind. I reckon it’s used more for that than getting a bus!

Man taking shelter in a bus stop

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

After fuelling up on cheese and oatcakes, I headed further south-west following the coastline to Bunessan before heading south to a small beach. It was the best spot I’ve ever camped in! I love looking at a map finding something that looks good and heading there not knowing exactly how it’ll turn out. It was a windy night and a calm morning; the sunrise was spectacular.

man camping at night

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

After a quick coffee, I packed up and followed my tracks back to the road. The wildlife was putting on a show that morning, the eagles soared overhead, and the seals bathed in the morning sun. I stopped in a local shop, to grab a cup of tea and ask about some of the birds I had seen that morning. It was great to chat with some locals and gain some knowledge and insight into this amazing place.

I made my way around the south side of Ben More, the island's only Munro. After another climb, I had a speedy descent down to the coast and cycled along some of the mightiest sea cliffs I’ve ever seen!

view of a sunrise over looking the ocean

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

Cycling through Salen as the sun set, I stopped and grabbed some food and a beer for the night. I felt I’d earnt it! The last section of the day was a gravel track to Tomsleibhe Bothy. It was dark, and a frost was starting to form that sparkled from my bike light.

Being tired, hungry and cold made it all the more pleasing to see the bothy hove come into view. I got a fire going, had a hot dinner and enjoyed my beer. I think everybody should stay in a bothy at some point. It’s a fantastic way to spend a night. The possibility of having it all to yourself, or sharing food and stories with strangers, is amazing.

The next day a frosty, grey morning greeted me, and after a short pedal back along the gravel, and a couple of miles east, I arrived at the ferry port. Tired but well-rested.

photo overlooking a table with a hot cup of coffee

Photo Credit: Toby Roney

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