I had just spent 4 months working close to Thurso in the North of Scotland and I had three week to kill before starting my next placement in Nottingham. I wanted to spend the majority of this at home. Usually it is a seven hour drive from Thurso to Dunvalanree but I had the time to kill and, as I’d never been and it is signposted from everywhere up North, I wanted to go through Ullapool. As usual talking my plans through with people evolved them and soon I was stopping in at Applecross, heading over to Ardnamurchan point and spending a night on the Isle of Mull. I looked at Island Hopper tickets on the CalMac website and it seemed sensible to also take in Skye. I decided to give myself three days to make the trip.
I had a busy morning loading the car with all my stuff. I had gone out the night before to fit the roof box (a modified fish box) and trailer so it was really just a case of moving boxes from the house to the car. An interesting game of Tetris resulted in a very tightly packed car.
I tested my brakes on the way down the hill and everything seemed to be working fine so I put on the first track of my Spotify road trip play list and turned it up loud! My first stop was Balnakiel to get some chocolate for various people. Cocoa Mountain is the furthest north chocolate factory on mainland UK. This was the first point I turned my music down and heard the scraping of my brakes. Unfortunately it was a Sunday in rural Scotland and there wasn’t an open garage for at least 200 miles, I would just have to keep going. The other issue with starting on a Sunday was catching an open petrol station so I made the decision that I would stop at every open one I passed. I passed the first one 10 miles into the journey and thought it was a little too early to stop. This was a little foolish in hindsight as the next few weren’t open at all and the only 24h petrol pumps were broken. I eventually limped into Ullapool running on fumes and was able to fill up. Still no open garage to get the brakes fixed though.
The road just passed Ullapool was probably the busiest of the road trip and even then, it really wasn’t too busy and I quickly turned off onto the road to Applecross. I passed Ben Torridon in the fog and the weather certainly didn’t improve as I continued west. The road was very twisty and only a little scary with a trailer. I had been prior warned about the “bad road” into Applecross and had been told the other route was a lot better. I hadn’t known which was which but decided that this must be the bad one.
I got to Applecross campsite and set up my tent before heading to the Applecross Inn for some food. Like all good places they specialise in local seafood and as I’d never seen squat lobsters on a menu before I had those for starter. I then kept with the shellfish theme and had a half portion of prawns. The plate was well filled with prawns and they were also pretty good. After a couple of beers I had an early night as I had a ferry to catch in the morning.
I set off along the other road out of Applecross and noticed the sign warning people towing caravans to avoid it. So this was the “bad road”. This of course meant it was fantastic and it became obvious why there were plenty of bikes and sports cars at the campsite. The views were fantastic and it was a much better day so it was a great drive to Kyle of Lochalsh. I cross the bridge over to Skye and as I was a little early for my ferry I drove on to the furthest west point of Skye. When I returned to the ferry I was first in the queue which meant prime position on the boat. I got a couple of good photos of the car from above. While waiting at the terminal I phoned a brake place in Oban to book my car in for the next day. I only had to get down to Mull and I’d be fine.
The road out of Mallaig was another “busy” road but I quickly turned off to get to Ardnamurchan Point. This was a great twisty road which was a fantastic drive in the sunshine. I almost forgot about my brake problems. There is a traffic lighted single track way up to the lighthouse which I wasn’t expecting, I had to reverse a little to allow cars to pass but the car got stuck after a little bit, I assumed I’d hit something as I couldn’t see the trailer in my mirrors but when I got out to check there was nothing. I thought nothing more of this until I tried to turn round at the lighthouse.
I unhitched the trailer to give myself a little more manoeuvrability but still struggled to get the car to go backwards. It looked like the way the brakes and disks had worn meant they were happy to go round one way but the friction was considerably higher going the other way. This would just have to be lived with until Oban.
I spent a little bit of time at the most westerly point of mainland UK before heading back to the Kilchoan Ferry Terminal. Again I had a bit of time to kill so as it was such a great day I had a play with the camera.
I was the only person on the ferry so it was another great opportunity to get some pictures of the car. I can understand why they wanted to get rid of this ferry route, but wonder what affect it might have on the residents. There can’t be many mainland communities who have to go to an island to do their weekly shop!!
Once on Mull I decided to take the west route down to the Ross as I don’t recall ever having done that route before and I was in no hurry. I filled up in Tobermory and started down the single track road, it was fairly busy but Mull has a number of good drivers who will normally try to get to a passing place at the same time so you don’t actually have to stop moving, it keeps the flow of the trip going which is quite nice. Only once did I have to reverse into a passing place (I don’t think the opposing driver could see I was towing) and I got an apology for making me reverse.
I got to Knockvouligun at about seven and as there was no sign of the farmers I just set up camp. I was making my way down to the beach when Linda turned up and I went over to say hello. I stopped in for a cup of tea and an agreement that she would come get me when dinner was ready and I went down to the beach for an hour or so. I came back up and read at my tent until it got dark (bear in mind this was just after summer solstice) and by this time I felt pretty hungry. I started walking over to the farm house and could see that John and Linda were only just finishing up work. Dinner was delicious and as expected was accompanied by way too much beer, wine and whisky and I stumbled back to my tent at about half one.
Again, I had a ferry to catch so I was up earlyish, but not early enough to catch John who was already off into the fields (such is the life of farmers). I had a small breakfast and jumped in the car to Craignure to meet the ferry, I wasn’t so early this time and was quite far back in the queue, at least I’d booked. I headed straight to the brakes place when I got to Oban and dropped my car off and wandered around the town for a few hours. I have been going to Oban regularly since I was tiny so there was nothing new to see so I just walked in big circles while I waited.
The car didn’t take too long and I was back on the road in no time, this section of the trip was the one I knew best but I was thinking of heading through Kilberry as I’d never been. As I tuned into the junction, however, there was a big sign saying “road resurfacing expect delays” so I decided to give it a miss this time. The sign was still there a few weeks later so it’s probable the council just forgot to take it down. From here I got home in no time at all. The dogs were very pleased to see me.