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Thursday 18 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 1 Home to Rowardennan YHDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Richard, Andrew B and Duncan on the banks of Loch Lomond near Milarrochy
Writing luggage labels outside Newton Abbot station
Kevin, Matthew T and Matthew B - after a dip in the Loch
Matthew and Andrew W contemplating a swim in Loch Lomond
Rowardennan YH, on the east bank of Loch Lomond
Rowardennan YH
The group outside Rowardennan YH
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. The report was written by co-leader Andrew Billington.]

The intrepid adventurers met up on Thursday 18 August at 7.45am outside Newton Abbot railway station - all except our fearless leader Mike who, having exhorted us to make sure we arrived on time, predictably failed to do so himself in spite of being the only member of the party to avail himself of the use of his parents' car to get him there! When he arrived at 7.55 he handed round the luggage labels that I remembered so well from last year, on which we were to write our name, address and destination and which were then to be attached to our bikes. This was to safeguard against British Rail being successful in their attempts to separate us from our machines during the journey, although as it happened they didn't really start trying until the return journey, of which more later. At this stage they confined themselves to omitting the carriage on which our seats were booked from the train, which meant that some of us had to stand during the latter part of the eight hour journey to Scotland.

Nonetheless we arrived safely at Glasgow Central station and rode through the centre of the city - which was a far less unpleasant experience than we had anticipated - to Glasgow Queen Street. From here we travelled on a Trans-Clyde train for three quarters of an hour. This resembled the London Underground in that it had automatic sliding doors and carriages isolated from one another, but differed from it in not being underground.

We arrived at our destination, Balloch Central, at about five o'clock and set off for Rowardennan youth hostel, eighteen miles away. For the last few miles of this we were cycling around the shores of Loch Lomond. This proved too much of a temptation for the more aquatically minded among us, namely Kevin, Matthew T and Matthew B, who had to have a dip while the rest of us sat around on the wall by the side of the road and tried to keep the vicious midges at bay.

We arrived at the hostel (which incidentally was an unusually beautiful and picturesque one) at about eight o'clock, unfortunately too late for the dinner provided but we set about feeding ourselves with enthusiasm. We set off for a stroll along the shores of the loch later on, but were soon put off by the increasing smell of sewage and went home to bed.

Friday 19 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 2 Rowardennan to Trossachs YHSunny
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Looking back at the YH from Rowardennan pier
Andrew Billington, Matthew Tewson & Richard Read at Rowardennan YH
Arrival at Inversnaid, Loch Lomond
Matthew Burrows on the Loch Lomond passenger ferry
Andrew Billington and others on the road from Inversnaid to Loch Arklet
Disembarking at Inversnaid, Loch Lomond
Loch Katrine from the cycle path
View of Loch Arklet from our lunch spot
Loch Katrine
Loch Katrine from the cycle path
Next morning we had to wait until twelve o'clock for a passenger ferry which would take us up the loch to Inversnaid, so we amused ourselves by skimming stones and dropping rocks in the water to splash each other - rather infantile, but vastly amusing. After the half hour ferry journey we climbed a steep hill and were forced to take a slightly earlier lunch than planned by Richard developing a puncture. Still, he chose a fairly good place to have it, by the side of Loch Arklet.

After lunch we continued to Loch Katrine with the sun shining all the way. We cycled along a road that was closed to motor vehicles, which made for very pleasant cycling indeed. The loch formed part of Glasgow's water supply, so swimming was unfortunately out of the question.

At four o'clock, having cycled nearly all the way round the loch, we arrived in the Trossachs at a grockle - sorry, tourist - area consisting of a car park, tea rooms, souvenir shop etc. After cycling in the heat a cup of tea and ice-cream were very welcome, though not both at the same time. Duncan bought himself a rather smart tartan hat, all the better to attract the local girls we assumed!

At the Trossachs youth hostel we were surprised, not to say disconcerted, to find that our dormitory had a sloping floor, as was evident by the fact that when Andrew W sent Michael's recently-acquired indoor bowls all over the floor they immediately headed for the far side of the room! The manner in which Andrew achieved this must not be revealed for fear that others might be tempted to imitate his bad behaviour, but I can reveal that it had something to do with giving Mike's bunk a hefty kick from underneath in an attempt to send Mike all over the floor.

We were also amazed to find that although the hostel was only a simple grade it boasted a table tennis table, a space invader machine, two pool tables and a television. Matthew Tewson and Andrew B went out for a quick exploration of the grounds in the dark and discovered the place to be crawling with frogs, one of which they took back to the games room: it didn't look too thrilled by this change of environment however so they took it back.

Saturday 20 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 3 Trossachs to Crianlarich YHSunny start, then showers
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Matthew B, Glen, Richard R, Kevin, Duncan and Matthew T at Trossachs YH
The group outside Trossachs YH
Water fun at the Falls of Leny
Andrew Winstanley at Trossachs YH
Kevin, Simon and Matthew B at the Falls of Leny
Matthew Tewson at the Falls of Leny
Andrew B, Andrew W, Richard R and Glen decide to watch the water babies from a safe vantage point
Saturday dawned sunny and warm. We set off at a reasonable time and cycled along the side of the loch to Callander to buy something for lunch. We also found time to visit a local amusement arcade: Duncan won four pounds on a lottery of some sort and celebrated by buying himself some very pretty earrings.

We cycled a couple of miles to the picturesque Falls of Leny where we stayed for lunch. We were entertained by the Water Babies (now including Simon) splashing about among the rocks.

When food had been eaten, photographs taken and bodies dried we hit the road again and headed for Strathyre where young Matthew had a puncture. While this was fixed Matthew, Duncan and Andrew B wandered off to sample the local shops and buy the ubiquitous cornettos.

We then proceeded towards Lochearnhead and after a while took a right hand turn as instructed by Mike. Five of us pelted off down the road until the message reached us that we were only taking this road to see some pretty views: we had to turn back and re-join the main road.

After a brief stop at Lochearnhead for refreshments the first rain of the tour broke out with a vengeance. We dived for the shelter of a barn and donned waterproofs before setting off up Glen Ogle. We rode down the other side and along an up-and-down road (thankfully no longer in the rain) to Crianlarich hostel, which was a bit cramped but interestingly situated right next to a railway station. It also boasted solid fuel burners with low stone walls around them that were cunningly situated so as to trip you up as you walked from end to end of the kitchen.

Sunday 21 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 4 Crianlarich to Glencoe YHSunny
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Lochan na h-Achlaise
Crianlarich YH
Matthew Burrows, Andrew Winstanley and Simon Haly
An American cyclist chats with us over lunch opposite Loch Bà
Glen Powling
Richard Read, Duncan Scott and Andrew Billington
Going up the ski lift at the Glencoe Mountain Resort
On the road towards Glencoe
Returning to the car park on the ski lift
View from the top of the ski lift
Andrew B, Richard R, Simon H, Matthew B and Matthew T prepare for a dip in the cool waters
A water break at Glencoe Falls in the Pass of Glencoe
Matthew B, Andrew B, Kevin P, Matthew T and Simon H on the Glencoe Waterfall
There's nothing as refreshing as in icy dip in a mountain waterfall on a hot day
View down the Pass of Glencoe to Glencoe Cottage
The Glencoe Waterfall from the road
The River Coe near Glencoe
The Three Sisters, Pass of Glencoe
Sunday morning the weather was fine and remained so all day. We took the A82 to Tyndrum, then up a longish hill and down the other side to the Bridge of Orchy. We decided not to stop for lunch but continued past Loch Tulla up a long, long hill. Beef burgers were definitely required at the top, and a kiosk provided them. Fifteen minutes later we stopped by the shores of a loch for lunch. At first we thought it would be a good idea to sit by the loch and eat, but a swarm of hungry midges speedily convinced us otherwise and we beat a hasty retreat back to the road. As we were eating an American cyclist turned up and stopped for a chat. We were particularly interested in his water bottle which was attached to his bike by means of a Velcro fastener.

Continuing on our way we climbed for a while then dropped at a cracking pace for three and a half exhilarating miles. Spotting a sign indicating the existence of a chairlift in the vicinity we followed its directions and found ourselves at the lift. The journey up was pretty hair-raising at first; dangling in mid-air some fifty feet above ground level sitting on a seat without any form of safety belt is somewhat worrying when you're not used to it. However the journey passed safely enough and we all admired the view as we drank tea in the cafe at the top. I must admit though that it was probably the worst tea I've ever tasted.

After an hour at the top we took the return journey back down the hillside, which was considerably less nerve-racking than the upward run. We cycled a few more miles, mostly downhill, until we came to the Pass of Glencoe which boasts a spectacular three-tiered waterfall. This time nearly all of us went in. Even those of us who lacked the foresight to bring swimming trunks, namely the two Andrews, made the best of it and went in in their underwear. It was worth it: for many that swim was the high point of the tour. Splashing about up to your neck in icy cold water with a waterfall pounding down on your head is an amazingly enlivening experience.

Two and a half miles later we reached Glencoe hostel, and what an excellent hostel it was. We were warmly welcomed by the Canadian lady warden and investigation of the dormitories revealed really nice wood panelled bunks with duvets. Soothing music helped us unwind as we prepared our evening meals. This may sound like a ghastly idea, but it was quite pleasant just for a change.

Monday 22 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 5 Glencoe to Tobermory YHDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Preparing to leave Glencoe YH
Richard, Andrew W, Duncan, Glen, Simon, Andrew B and Kevin with the wardens at Glencoe YH
Matthew B, Richard and Duncan at Glencoe YH
Glen, Simon, Andrew B, Kevin and Andrew W at Glencoe YH
Loch Sunart viewed from near Strontian
The climb through Glen Tarbert, from Inversanda to Strontian
Loch Sunart
Looking back along Loch Sunart from beyond Strontian
Approaching Tobermory harbour on the small 1830 passenger ferry from Mingary
Looking back along Loch Sunart, from near Glenborrodale
Next morning, on retrieving our YHA membership cards, we were surprised to find that the spaces for photographs had been filled! Mine boasted a rather nice picture of a cat and others included cartoon characters and babies. After the usual procedure of photographing the hostel we took to the road and headed for Ballachulish. Once there we spent several hours wandering about the shops and a large information centre, but eventually set off again.

After crossing a bridge to North Ballachulish we took a ferry across the Corran narrows of Loch Linne and had lunch ten miles later. On reaching Strontian we spent an enjoyable half hour playing on swings. Next stop was Salen, where we stocked up with food from a large but rather sparsely-stocked shop. We then took a B-road to Glenborrodale and en route were attracted by a house with a sign advertising homemade cookies for sale. Stopping to sample these goodies the exceptional abundance of midges soon became painfully apparent, and Mike demonstrated his outstanding qualities of leadership by producing a bottle of midge lotion which saved us from further torment.

Further along the road a pottery works appeared that also sold coffee, and Mike decided that we had time to make a short visit. So we did just that. However, it turned out not to be short enough as we realised we were cutting our timing a bit fine if we were to catch the only ferry to the Isle of Mull. So we took off at high speed into the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The scenery was impressive but we had no time to admire it as we pedalled furiously over the hillside.

We reached the ferry at Mingary with precisely three minutes to spare and loaded our bikes onto it. The boat was only just large enough for us and our machines, and as we travelled across the water we were able to dangle our hands in it and watch the floating jellyfish as we went by. Kevin and Richard almost convinced us that they were not only edible but were likely to appear on the menu at Tobermory hostel - but not quite.

Half an hour later we disembarked and cycled all of one hundred metres to the hostel, which was not particularly prepossessing from the outside but was quite comfortable inside. Being tired Andrew B declined the offer of a walk to a lighthouse later on in the evening, but six of our merry band set off for it and later assured him that it had been well worthwhile: he was happy to take their word for it.

Tuesday 23 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 6 Tobermory to Oban YHWet
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Tobermory harbour (11:55)
Tobermory YH, Isle of Mull
Probably view towards mainland from near Tobermory
Probably view towards mainland from near Tobermory, with Andrew B
Matt Burrows walking along path towards Loch Ba
Probably the start of our walk to Loch Ba
The 7pm Oban ferry arrives at Craignure, Isle of Mull
Benmore Lodge on the edge of the scenic Loch Ba
Duart Castle, Mull, from the Oban ferry
Leaving Craignure on the Oban ferry
Arriving at Oban on the ferry
Next morning we were rudely awakened at 6.30 by the sound of a fire alarm going off. It sounded not unlike the sirens on American police cars, only about eight times as loud, and as it was situated in the middle of the ceiling of our dorm it must have taken all of 0.3 seconds to bring us from deep sleep to full alert. As it was pouring with rain outside we did not think it likely that there was a serious fire, and this was confirmed when the siren stopped as soon as we had put our trousers on ready to go and take a look. We later learned that it had been caused by smoke from burnt toast activating the smoke detector in the kitchen. As hostel rules require that silence be maintained before 7.00 we had amusing visions of the look on the guilty hosteller's face when, having crept out of bed, tiptoed downstairs and silently begun to prepare breakfast, the alarm started and he realised that he had just woken everyone in the hostel, warden included.

The torrential rain continued throughout the morning and developed into a thunderstorm. It was almost midday by the time the weather had calmed down enough for us to venture out in it, and as it was still somewhat dicey arguments ensued between those who favoured a long picturesque ride around the coast of the island and those who were keen to reach our destination with the minimum amount of effort and risk of getting wet. A compromise was reached and we set off, stopping for lunch nowhere in particular after an hour's cycling.

Later on in the afternoon an ice-cream stop at Salen turned into a two hour break during which five of us explored a nearby loch having been promised exciting views by Mike. The most noteworthy view, however, proved to be a rubbish dump.

The remaining twelves miles to Craignure were covered at a fast pace in spite of being into a headwind, and we arrived with an hour and a half to spare. This time was divided between sitting in a nearby cafe and making totally unsuccessful attempts to persuade the jellyfish that inhabited the harbour to do something other than just float about by throwing things at them.

The ferry, when it arrived, turned out to be an enormous steamer that was big enough to have had yesterday's ferry hidden in it. On the way back to the mainland Richard claimed to have seen a seal. Matthew immediately began to scour the sea in an attempt to match this achievement and was quite upset when he failed to do so.

We arrived at Oban at 8.15 and soon found the hostel. It was a bit hotel-like and somewhat impersonal, which is perhaps what you'd expect as Oban is quite a large town. It was certainly luxurious however. We met up with Jackie Lofty, who stayed with us for the rest of the tour.

Wednesday 24 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 7 Oban to Inverary YHDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Preparing to leave Oban YH
Oban YH
Andrew B and Richard on Deadh Choimhead
Probably Glen Lonan valley road from Oban
View to Loch Etive and Taynuilt from Deadh Choimhead
Matthew B and Andrew B on Deadh Choimhead
Andrew B and Matt B on the way down Deadh Choimhead
Matt B, Andrew B, Richard and Kevin on the way down Deadh Choimhead, looking towards the road and Loch Nell
Refreshment stop by Loch Awe near Cruachan
Richard, Mat B, Simon, Kevin and Andrew B returning to the bikes from Deadh Choimhead
Andrew W, Duncan, Richard, Matthew T and Andrew B beside Loch Awe
On Wednesday morning we made a comparatively early start at 10.30. The day's activities began with a visit to Oban glassworks, where we saw paperweight makers at work. After wandering around and admiring the craftsmanship for a while we left and headed for the hills. An hour's cycling brought us to the foot of Deadh Choimhead (a mountain) and as it was now one o'clock we stopped for lunch at a river by its foot. After heated discussion about whether or not it was worth climbing up the mountain, the top of which looked a very long way away indeed, six of us set off to scale the 1250 feet in search of the fabulous views promised by Mike's handbook. This worthy document assured us that tourists found the ascent irresistible. After struggling through bogs, dead trees and all manner of unfriendly undergrowth we found it difficult to understand why this should be so.

It took us well over an hour to reach the top of that mountain, but it was worth it. The views were fabulous as promised; the sun was shining and crags stretched as far as the eye could see, becoming swathed in mist as they disappeared in the distance. The summit, however, was guarded by a swarm of aggressive flying ants which soon saw us off and pursued us down off the top to make sure of their victory.

The journey down was quicker than the journey up but just as perilous, and by the time we re-joined the others we were bedraggled and weary. We set off at a cracking pace, however, to cover the remaining thirty five miles to Inveraray hostel. We stopped at a garage for ice-cream on the way and then covered the last ten miles in twenty six minutes. We nearly cycled straight past the hostel as it was on a downhill stretch and we were moving quite rapidly, but we spotted it out of the corners of our eyes as we were speeding past and piled in to collapse on our beds.

Inveraray is a purpose-built hostel that has been open for six years. It is quite well equipped but the warden was somewhat officious and there were "Keep off the grass" signs up. However it boasted something that very few hostels can lay claim to, namely tennis courts. Kevin in particular was anxious not to let this opportunity pass by and started asking around for a partner. He ended up with rather more partners than he required.

Thursday 25 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 8 Inverary to Loch Lomond YHDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
The group at the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint near Loch Restil
Inveraray YH
Probably Loch Long
Matthew T, Duncan, Andrew W, Andrew B and Matt B at the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint
Probably view of Gare Loch from the winding hill near Faslane
And so it was that at seven o'clock next morning six of us dragged ourselves out to take advantage of this unusual facility. Kevin had read that racquets were available from the nearby police houses. Imagining that these would be inhabited by police officials of some description we had no hesitation in knocking loudly on the door. As we stood waiting for a reply however, the private and residential appearance of the houses began to impress itself on us. It occurred to us that a police house was not at all the same as a police station, and probably meant a house that was owned by the police and rented out. Clumpy-down-stairs noises began to come from the houses and a light went on. As the horrible realisation dawned on us that that we had just woken a private citizen from his slumber, the door opened and an enormous bearded man in a nightgown looked balefully down on us out of red rimmed eyes.

"Er, I'm sorry, did we wake you?" asked Kevin.
"Yes," replied the giant briefly.

Fortunately he did turn out to be the tender of the tennis paraphernalia, which he lent to us when we had explained that this was what we wanted, and we left a generous donation in the tennis ball box when we returned it after an enjoyable hour whacking the balls about.

First on the day's official agenda was a visit to Inveraray castle. When we arrived there however, few of us were keen to part with the extortionate sum of money required to gain entrance, so most of us lounged about in the car park while Duncan and Glenn (I think) had a look round the castle. We then set off on the road round Loch Fyne and stopped for lunch in a woodland clearing by the roadside. We were soon joined by a lot of ants.

Lunchtime over we re-joined the road which took us through Glen Kinglas. This turned out to be a very strange stretch of road indeed. It was one of those optical illusion roads that occur sometimes in mountainous regions, appearing to be going downhill when in fact they are going up. So you look at the road sloping away in front of you and prepare for a pleasant bit of freewheeling, then find yourself having to pedal hard to just keep moving. This is, I assure you, an incredibly frustrating experience, and even when you realise what's going on it's almost impossible to accept that what your eyes are telling you is a lie.

After several miles of this we reached the bona fide top, a viewpoint that was aptly named Rest and Be Thankful. We relaxed over ice creams and contemplated the prospect of some genuine downhill cycling. We sailed joyfully down the hill to Ardgarten, by Loch Long, and then rode around the loch to Arrochar where we stopped for exotically flavoured ice creams. We then followed an A-road to Garelochhead along Loch Long, and after four miles turned left up a steep and winding hill. This took us first over a railway line and then past a military establishment, the boundary fences of which scarred the hillside for miles.

Regaining the main road we followed the side of Loch Long until we left it behind and reached Loch Lomond. Realising that this was our last chance we stopped for a dip. After splashing happily about for a while we continued on our way and soon reached Loch Lomond hostel. This really was quite a remarkable building. One of the enjoyable things about hostelling is that you never know what the hostels are going to be like, and this one proved exceptional. A former stately home, it was quite easy to get "lost in". We had to climb about three flights of stairs and navigate endless corridors in order to reach our dormitory, from which there was an impressive view of the surrounding countryside. Most of the evening was spent in the piano room where our revered leader Mike, in a rare display of one of his lesser-known talents, treated us to immaculate renditions of our favourite songs on the baby grand.

Friday 26 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 9 Loch Lomond to HomeDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glen Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Kevin Presland, Andrew Billington and Richard Read at Loch Lomond YH
The group outside Loch Lomond YH
Matthew Tewson, Jackie Lofty and Glen Powling at Loch Lomond YH
Duncan Scott, Simon Haly, Matthew Burrows and Andrew Winstanley at Loch Lomond YH
Kevin Presland, Andrew Billington, Richard Read, Matthew Tewson and Jackie Lofty
The group (with Michael) outside Loch Lomond YH
Matthew Tewson, Jackie Lofty, Glen Powling, Duncan Scott and Simon Haly
Duncan Scott, Simon Haly, Andrew Winstanley, Matthew Burrows and Michael Jones
We arose early on Friday morning, and after posing in the front courtyard of the hostel for interminable group photos, took to the road for the last time. We were heading for Balloch Central station: we were going home. In a way it was sad, for none of us wanted the tour to end, but we'd had a good run for our money and we were as cheerful as ever as we cycled along the back roads towards the station. Little did we realise that today was to be the day of an historical struggle: British Rail and Transclyde vs the CTC in The Battle to Get Home.

Our plan was to catch the 1045 from Glasgow Central which would take us right through to Newton Abbot without the need to change trains once. This was the only such train departing that day, so to be sure of being on it we reserved seats and set off in good time to catch the 9.08 from Balloch, which would arrive in Glasgow at 9.53. This would leave us an hour to cycle through the city centre to Glasgow Central, find the train, argue with the guards and generally perform all the essential preliminaries to catch a train. And just in case the 9.08 failed to turn up, or couldn't carry us all, there was the 9.38 to fall back on which would still get us there on time.

All in all we felt that this was a fool proof arrangement that left nothing to chance. And so it was, but we failed to realise that we were not contending with chance but the combined forces of two hostile rail companies. Arriving at Balloch at 8.45 we were told that due to an "electrical failure" the 9.08 had been cancelled and the 9.38 was running late. A young station official also informed us, with obvious relish, that the guard would never allow us to take ten bikes on it. We considered several possible courses of action, including sending the faster cyclists on to Glasgow by bike and, very appealing this one, staying over an extra night at Loch Lomond. However phone calls down the line ascertained that the train was carrying a large guard's van so we decided to chance it.

When it eventually turned up the train was almost half an hour late, and we learned that it was only going as far as Dumbarton, which meant more delay while we changed trains. Nevertheless we loaded our bikes on at top speed and were soon underway at a speed that felt frighteningly close to twenty miles an hour.

Arriving at Dumbarton we unloaded our bikes as quickly as possible and then loaded them on a train that would take us to Glasgow. This distant ancestor of the HST clattered down the line at its own pace, stopping at everything resembling a station, and it soon became clear that we were cutting our timing very fine indeed. Mike wrote messages saying that we'd only be a few minutes late and could they please hold the train up, and passed them out of the window to officials at every station we stopped at with the request that they be telephoned on to Glasgow. However his efforts were in vain: we arrived at Queen Street station at 10.40 and Kevin immediately dashed off at top speed to try and hold the train, but when he arrived ten minutes later it had already departed. Our only hope of getting home on time had left without us!

Deciding to make the best of it and at least make a start in the right direction we hopped onto a Holiday Special which got us to Crewe by 2.40. There was a departure for Birmingham at 2.44, but alas it was on the other platform, and the station was so crowded that by the time we discovered its existence we were unable to reach it on time and had to watch it pull away. Instead we took a train to Stafford, which is in between Crewe and Birmingham, and arrived there at 3.17. At 3.30 there was a train going to Birmingham, so we carried our bikes up some stairs, across the tracks on a bridge and down the stairs on the other side in order to reach it, only to find that the guard was not at all anxious to have ten bicycles in his van. In fact he flatly refused to allow us to try and load them in. He did however generously offer to take two. We treated this offer with the contempt it deserved and took our bikes across the bridge to the other platform where we waited an hour for the next train to Birmingham, which fortunately had a more amenable guard.

Arriving at Birmingham at 5.05 Mike saw the Area Manager and asked if, considering the circumstances, we might be allowed to take an HST. The Area Manager, with the helpfulness and consideration that British Rail is famous for, said no. We could only take the HST if we left our bikes behind to be sent on tomorrow. Having seen the brutal way with which packages marked "Handle with care" were treated, we had no hesitation in rejecting this possibility out of hand.

Having two hours to wait before the next train that we could travel on, we left the station in search of food. We couldn't find any so we had burgers at a MacDonald’s. We also took advantage of this time to make phone calls home to inform our parents of our expected time of arrival.

A 7.35 train took us to Bristol Temple Meads by 9.21 and at 9.40, as we prepared to board a train to Exeter we thought our troubles were at an end ... but no, there was still the guard to contend with. The guard's van was about the biggest we'd seen all day and was almost empty, but nonetheless the idea of letting us load all our bikes in just like that was obviously more than he could stand. When we'd loaded about half of them on and there was still plenty of room left, he suddenly announced for no apparent reason that that was it and he couldn't take any more. "Why?" we asked dumbfounded. "Well, someone might want to get on further down the line with suitcases," was the reply.

This diamond-sharp piece of logic nearly defeated us, but fortunately Kevin came up with the brilliant suggestion that we remove our panniers in order to pack the bikes together more tightly. This compromise proved acceptable to the guard, and the five extra flesh and blood cyclists were allowed on in preference to the theoretical suitcase-wielding travellers. And so it was that the last obstacle was overcome, and nothing short of derailment could stop us from returning home. Two hours later we were at Exeter and there were various parents waiting to whisk various cyclists off to various beds. Seven different trains had taken us between nine different stations that day and nothing had gone according to plan, but here we were. The tour was over and life could begin again as normal as from next morning.

Still, there's always next year .. .!

Thursday 16 August 1984
Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 1, Devon to Loch Lomond YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

The mention of Scotland usually conjures up happy memories in the minds of those experienced in cycle touring. The ancient hills of the Highlands and their remote communities wrapped in a shroud of legend possess a magic all of their own. One has only to visit once for the spell to begin to work, and it will then be just a short time before the call of that distant land draws you back into its glorious depths.

This is the story of one group of cyclists for whom that call proved irresistible.

The station official paced steadily along the narrow line that marked the edge of the platform. Naturally he had been warned. Eleven cyclists they’d said, for the nine forty-five. A glint of sunlight caught his eye and he gazed anxiously at the gleaming luggage-laden machines. He could only count nine, but no matter how he tried he still couldn’t envisage them all packed into a small DMU brake van!

There was no time to worry about that however. Unit number P465 had just appeared from behind the signal box and was approaching as quickly as its 112kW would allow. The cyclists, who had made themselves as comfortable as possible on the station furnishings, were not especially concerned about the logistics of packing nine cycles into a small van. They had done it many times before on previous tours, often with even more cycles. What did give them cause for anxiety was the unpredictable nature of the typical British Rail guard. How many times had they been confronted with an officious-looking gentleman in a funny hat, peering out of the window of an empty brake van and assuring them that there wasn’t enough room for that many bikes!

Michael was generally responsible for ensuring that the tour ran smoothly, and he was no preparing himself to do battle. As the train shuddered to a halt and the exact form of the enemy began to take shape the situation looked a little doubtful.

“It’s all very well for them to book space for bikes,” said the guard, clearly agitated by the fact that his universally-accepted right of refusal had been seemingly undermined by faceless pen-pushers at the travel office. “They don’t think about the other things that might be in the van.”

He had a good look at the large empty space in the van, but after numerous glances at the bikes he eventually gave permission for them to be loaded.

Exeter was the first changing point for the group, and was also the agreed meeting place for the other two members, Julie and Thomas. Julie, who lives in Exeter, had no trouble in finding the others despite the platform being crowded with people. And 15-year-old Tom would have had difficulty in missing them as he was on the train from Plymouth that they were about to catch.

This particular train is rather special. It possesses the usual property of dividing into two parts at Carstairs. This in itself does not seem too serious, but when coupled with the fact that the two parts then proceed to different destinations it can give cause for considerable alarm, particularly to those passengers who are generally confused by trains, railway timetables and the continuing advancement of time.

Some passengers have been known to spend the whole of their journey wondering whether their particular carriage will end up with the front or the read part. They ask other passengers, change their carriages two or three times and then realise that they don’t actually know whether it is the front or the rear portion which is going to Glasgow. At some point they discover that they can no longer get through to the buffet car. Panic grips them instantly and they dash to the nearest window, only to discover that the buffet car is no longer there and that they are speeding along an unknown piece of track. They invariably assume that they somehow managed to end up in the wrong train – and sometimes they are right!

The reader will immediately recognise the added problems involved for the cyclist who wishes to ensure that both he and his cycle end up at the same destination. It was therefore a little worrying when, having established the Glasgow section of the train to be at the rear (and not at the front as a station official had advised) the guard informed the group that the bikes would have to go in the front van due to lack of space!

Arguments were clearly going to make no difference to the situation, and so it was that eleven cyclists found themselves heading towards Glasgow with the sure knowledge that their bikes would end up at Edinburgh unless something drastic was done.

The problem was only resolved at Birmingham when a new and friendlier guard took residence in the brake van. He could see the difficulty quite quickly and allowed the bikes to be moved whilst the diesel loco was changed for an electric one.

Friday 17 August 1984
Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 2, Loch Lomondy to Loch Ossian YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
Part of Loch Lomond (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The group at Arrochar station (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The train journey across Rannoch Moor (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Overhead cables near Inverarnan (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Lunch by the jetty near Loch Ossian YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Nearing Corrour (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Tom desperately tries to retrieve his water bottle from Loch Ossian (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Lunch on the jetty near Loch Ossian YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Andrew Billington admires the view of the hostel and the track to Corrour station (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Success! (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The eastern end of Loch Ossian (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The western end of Loch Ossian, showing the location of the youth hostel (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Cotton grass on the mountain (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

John Stuart gazed upwards at the seemingly endless sea of steps that stretched out in front of him. He had heard rumours about the size of Loch Lomond hostel but he had never imagined it to be this big. It was huge! He seemed to have spent all the previous evening trying to find his way to and from the dorms, kitchens and washrooms. The carved hall, dining room and chandeliers were all very nice, but three flights of stairs? He paused a moment longer to consider how on earth he had managed to land the job of sweeping them, and then dutifully set about completing his thankless task.

A mix-up over the breakfast order the previous evening had meant that the group had missed one of only two chances in the two-week tour to get a hostel breakfast provided for them. This, coupled with the need to leave early, had meant that there had been some confusion in the hostel kitchens that morning. The confusion later spread to the hostel store as numerous individuals attempted to stock up with what few provisions were available in readiness for the day’s great adventure – a foray into the uncharted reaches of Rannoch Moor. Few knew what the hostel at Loch Ossian would hold in store for them, but most had made up their minds that whatever it was, it probably wouldn’t be very nice.

It was around nine o’clock when the group finally set off for Arrochar. They should have left a little earlier, but the road proved flat and fast and the time was quickly made up. The sun shone brightly to welcome the new day. As the road twisted its way along the side of the Loch, some riders noticed a hostel on the other side which brought back happy memories of an earlier tour. The magic of Scotland was beginning to work on everyone.

The plan was to catch the 11.11 train from Arrochar to Corrour, but the group had made such good progress since leaving the hostel that there was time to visit the local shops. BY the time everyone had stocked up with their own food there was little room for the communal milk, bread, jam, marmalade and pickle that Michael had purchased. Matthew solved some of the problems by strapping a loaf across his pannier rack with an elastic strap, radically altering the shape of the load in the process of course.

It was only when they were part-way along the track to Corrour that Michael realised it was his 25th birthday. He reflected for a moment on why he hadn’t arranged for the tour to start a few days later, but as he gazed out of the carriage window at the little yellow engine gleaming in the sunshine and pulling its load along the most scenic rail route in Britain he decided that he really couldn’t have had a better birthday.

And the scenery really was spectacular. The train followed the main road through Crianlarich and on as far as Bridge of Orchy, but then veered sharply to the right as it began its lonely trek across the moor. There were countless viaducts bridging the wide scars in the landscape, and as more and more desolate hills rolled up in front of the engine, doubts about the nature of a hostel that could survive in such conditions began to mount.

The train pulled to a halt. Everyone piled out on the platform, bikes were unloaded with perfect efficiency and the train was gone. There was silence. This was Corrour.

Young Matthew eyed the footbridge. On the other side were a few chickens, a three-wheeled buggy that looked as though it was made for negotiating the lunar terrain, and a solitary farmhouse. Beyond them a rough track wound its way over the hill. It didn’t look very welcoming, but the sun was shining and it was nearly time for lunch, so there was no point in hanging around.

A short ride along the tack brought the group in sight of a large loch. A few trees adorned the near side, and nestling amongst them was a small grey building which everyone presumed immediately to be the hostel. Closer inspection revealed a rickety jetty protruding into the loch, onto which was nailed a large notice bearing the words “Members use this jetty at their own risk”. Along with a neighbouring grassy bank it proved a highly suitable spot for lunch.

It was during lunch that Tom’s water bottle, which he had carefully placed on the edge of the jetty, fell into the loch. There was a little wind and this served to make the rapid progress of the bottle alongside the jetty all the more enjoyable for the onlookers. Tom arrived at the edge just in time for the bottle to be out of reach as it pursued its stubborn course towards the centre of the loch.

Some less cautious people nearly fell into the loch themselves with laughing. When they had finally recovered sufficiently to wipe the tears from their eyes they were confronted with the sight of Tom appearing from behind the hostel wearing nothings but swimming trunks. There was a sudden splash, a short squeal, the sound of numerous cameras and then the sight of Tom swimming out towards his bottle, which by now had drifted a considerable distance into the loch. More fits of laughter obscured any further attempts to view the spectacle, but one things was abundantly clear: this hostel was shaping up to be one of the best in the whole tour.

There can be few pleasures in the universe more enjoyable than lying on a slatted wooden jetty on the edge of a remote Scottish loch on a warm summer afternoon watching fleecy white clouds going by and knowing that no-one can disturb you. It was just such a pleasure that Michael and Andrew were enjoying on the second day of their epic tour. The other members of the group had set themselves the task of climbing the nearby mountain, and this fact was not entirely unrelated to the degree of peace and solitude that now surrounded the hostel.

There was a loud splash. A variety of different-sized water droplets fell onto the two boys. They sat up, annoyed, and were greeted with the sight of 13-year-old Paul squatting by the water’s edge, grinning. Evidently the mountain had proved too steep for him.

‘There are some interesting creatures in the rushes on the other side of the hostel,” began Andrew. “I saw a frog there earlier and ..”

With the second sheet of water came the realisation that the pleasurable place to be was now on top of the mountain, so the two peace-lovers reluctantly vacated the jetty and began to dress for higher altitudes. As they were about to set off a flash of inspiration prompted Michael to try the hostel door which everyone had previously assumed to be locked. The result was that the boys had the first choice of beds and a chance to investigate some of the delights that the hostel had in store for them that evening.

The exact location of the lavatory evaded the boys at first, but eventually they found it – a small square shed outside the washroom and overlooking the loch. Inside was a chemical toilet and a message “Please pee on the grass”.

The washroom consisted of three empty bowls and nothing else. The kitchen was homely, with a single tap and a paraffin lamp. Closer investigation revealed that the tap was fed from a tank near the porch, out of which came a plastic pipe. Following the pipe led one down to the loch side, where there was a hand pump whose wooden handles were well worn. Clearly the evening was going to be entertaining!

There turned out to be a wealth of pleasurable things on top of the mountain, not least of which was a profusion of whortleberries growing amongst the heather. Some considerable time was spent filling Andrew’s woolly hat with these delicious fruits, though many proved just too delicious-looking to save until tea-time.

At last it was possible to get a real idea of just how remote the hostel was. Barren, bleak moorland met the skyline for as far as the eye could see, interrupted only by the distant station, the hostel and the loch. If there is a pleasure more enjoyable than lying on the slatted wooden jetty previously described it can only be gazing at the said jetty from the desolate, heather-strewn top of a nearby mountain, gorging oneself with freshly-picked whortleberries and musing over such things as the vastness of the loch, the length of the path that followed its circumference and the sheer lunacy of the three specks who were apparently attempting to run around it.

The warden arrived on his lunar motor-trike. People were gathered around his stop-watch which was hanging from the door. When he’d taken on the wardenship of the hostel he hadn’t bargained for the additional duties involved with being timekeeper of the “Run around the Loch Ossian in an Hour” event. There were many signatures on the role of honour, and he should have guessed that the CTC would be keen to add their names to the list.

Matthew Burrows was the first to appear, which was quite an achievement at the age of eleven. He had covered the eight-mile round trip comfortably within the hour, but his father was apparently having problems along with John Stuart. Simon Haly and Richard Wiseman, aged fourteen and seventeen respectively, also managed to complete the course in the allotted time. The story of Tom Woodman, however, who got blisters after attempting the course wearing someone else’s trainers, is pitiful indeed.

It was about five o’clock and the group felt that the hostel had provided enough surprises for one day. There was still one further delight in store for them however – midges.

There were millions of them – nasty, biting ones that found their way through the smallest cracks. Everyone rushed into the hostel, closed the doors and windows and smeared midge repellent over everything. Breathing a sigh of relief the contingent settled down to play board games and prepare some food.

It was whilst Duncan and Michael were hazing out through the misty window at the swarming enemy and watching their numerous attempts at gaining access to the terrified prisoners that the warden entered the dormitory and announced that the water had run out. Someone had to go outside to work the pump! The task only took on a more acceptable light when viewed alongside the possible alternative of cleaning out the chemical toilet next day, and so the chore was dutifully, if hastily, completed.

Saturday 18 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 3 Loch Ossian to Glen Nevis YHWet
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
Loch Ossian YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Preparing to leave Loch Ossian YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Loch Treig on Rannoch Moor, from the train (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Boarding the train at Corrour station (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The Commando Memorial at Spean Bridge (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

Saturday was a distinctly wet day. To make things worse, a number of people had woken up feeling about as flexible as a wooden plank. Taking all things into account the train seemed a more attractive proposition than the track route originally planned, and so only four members cycled across the moor. The train group disembarked at Tulloch station, and both groups then made their separate ways via Spean Bridge and Fort William to Glen Nevis hostel, where they settled down to enjoy their meal in the crowded but tastefully-decorated kitchens.

The warden discovered a dirty pan lying by itself on the draining board. This must have been contravening one of his most basic commandments for he suddenly turned into an evil, foul-smelling ogre. Blue smoke came out of his ears as he roared at the poor hostellers. Eventually a shaking figure came forward from the crowd to clean up the offending pan.

Sunday 19 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 4 Glen Nevis to Garramore YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
View of Loch Shiel from the top of Glenfinnan Monument (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The group at Glenfinnan Monument (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Richard, John, Simon and Julie by Loch Shiel with the Glenfinnan House Hotel behind (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

Everyone was ready to leave. The milk had been stashed away in various saddle bags, chores had been done and the thought of doing some real cycling at last was cheering everyone up. But where was Duncan?

Duncan had managed to do what every self-respecting cyclist always tries to avoid: he had locked his bike and lost the key. Ransacking the dormitory had failed to locate the offending item and he had now gone searching for a hack-saw. He finally appeared from behind the hostel looking rather embarrassed. It was at this point that he discovered just how easy it is to break through a cheap cycle lock – the whole sawing process took little longer than thirty seconds!

Andrew led the group along the Road to the Isles to the Glenfinnan Monument, where lunch was taken in style beside the loch. A few brave souls ventured to climb the monument. Emerging through a one-metre square hatch at the top one finds oneself standing on a small parapet, surrounded only by a knee-high barrier – not recommended for acrophobics! The sound of a piper across the loch sent everyone into a dreamy mood, but eventually the group made a move.

Only a short bathing stop at Loch Eilt, which proved to be infested with aquatic triffids, and the purchase of an “elephant egg” interrupted the afternoon’s cycling. Garramore hostel is quite modern and is set in beautiful surroundings near white sand beaches. Unfortunately the group’s milk had been affected by the warm weather and was unsuitable for consumption, but the hostel had some supplies to ease the situation.

Monday 20 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 5 Garramore to Raasay YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
The Skye ferry at Mallaig (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Preparing to leave Garramore YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Preparing to leave Mallaig (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Side-loading vehicles onto the ferry (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Disembarking the ferry at Armadale, Isle of Skye (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The ferry leaves Mallaig harbour (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View from the Raasay ferry (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
First view of Raasay in the distance from near Luib on Skye, with Scalpay on the right and the coast road to Sconser on the left (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The last ferry of the day leaves us on Raasay (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Approaching the isle of Raasay (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

The ticket-collector glared uncompromisingly at Phil Burrows. “I’m sorry sir, but the 10.15 ferry is fully booked,” she repeated. “Unless you have a reservation ticket you’ll have to wait for the afternoon service.”

“But I’m sure Michael’s booked us in,” replied Phil. “He’ll be here any minute with the rest of the group.”

“Look sir, you can see there’s a queue of people waiting to be served. I can’t give you a ticket, so if you’ll just stand aside and let me get on …”

It was just at this moment that Michael arrived with the necessary reservation tickets. The lady made a feeble attempt to prove that the papers were invalid, but quickly realised that there was nothing to be done but to issue the tickets.

The ferry from Mallaig to the Isle of Skye has front loading capability, but for some reason the quay is not designed with this in mind. All cars have to be loaded from the side in batches of about six and then lowered down to the car deck by means of a huge hydraulic lift. The whole process takes about three quarters of an hour at each end, which seems rather ridiculous when one thinks that the crossing takes only twenty minutes.

Having been hydraulically ejected from the boat, the group began their journey around Skye towards Broadford. There was time for fruit juice at a country post office along the route before lunch was taken in the shelter of some trees near Duisdalemore.

The scenery was perhaps a little harsher than that of the mainland, but otherwise it seemed much the same. The afternoon sun was certainly beating down on the happy crew of cyclists, and several items of clothing were removed as they continued on their way.

Broadford was the last hope of obtaining provisions for the next hostel. Fortunately there were two shops open, both selling milk and bread in addition to the other requirements. All that remained for the day was the ride to Sconser for the ferry to the Isle of Raasay, so there was even time to stop for afternoon tea at Luib.

As with all tea stops, it is easy to stay too long. In this instance there was quite a rush around the coast road to reach the ferry by 6.15 and the leaders almost lost their cool when they saw the last ferry leaving just as they approached the jetty.

Perhaps this was to be split-second timing that went wrong for Torbay Section?

“Don’t worry,” said the ferryman with a wry grin. “We’ve had to put on an extra ferry today. He’ll be back again in half an hour.”

Simon and Matthew watched the boat as it navigated through the deeper waters of Sconser’s natural harbour. However would they occupy themselves for a full thirty minutes? Their eyes turned to the end of the jetty and instantly they were struck with the same inspiration: this would make a perfect diving platform!

Freefall water antics kept everyone thoroughly amused until the ferry returned for its last journey of the day. Raasay looked strangely barren and uninhabited as the sun set over its highest peak, Dun Caan, and threw up a dazzling reflection from the sea.

Raasay hostel is situated at the top of a long climb, with superb views across to Skye. It is a simple-grade hostel consisting of a kitchen/common room and a few small dormitories. There is a wooden hut above and behind the main hostel which accommodates male hostellers.

“There aren’t enough beds!” announced one of the boys, returning from the hut.

“Don’t be silly,” replied Michael, reassuringly. “We’ve been booked in for months. If anyone’s in our beds they’ll just have to vacate them!”

Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as that. The annexe was inhabited chiefly by a bunch of geologists who had, it seemed, been in residence for several months. One glance at the litter-strewn floor, unmade beds and the general scattering of dirty clothes was sufficient confirmation of this fact. Most of the remaining beds had been occupied by another group who had turned up on the off-chance and who had no intention whatsoever of vacating them. The warden, apparently, had not yet arrived so there was nothing to be done but wait.

It was ten minutes later when the warden rolled along and decreed that he wasn’t going to turn anyone out of their beds. Instead he put half the CTC in a girl’s dorm in the main building, leaving the other half to battle through the smelly socks of the annexe to the few beds that weren’t actually being slept in! A swarm of flies, presumably attracted by the array of partially-cleaned washing strung on the line, added to the delights of the accommodation.

Still, the scenery of the area was delightful. Plans were made for an excursion to Dun Caan next morning before catching the 12.15 ferry back to Skye, and with these happy thoughts the group got down to the job of preparing meals in the cramped but homely kitchen.

It was later that evening that four weak and exhausted individuals staggered into the hostel. Everyone gathered around to hear their story. They seemed to have difficulty in talking, but managed to say the words “Don’t go to Glenbrittle” as they pointed to the countless thousands of midge-bites covering their bodies.

Tuesday 21 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 6 Raasay to Glenbrittle YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
Raasay YH from behind, showing view across to Skye (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Raasay YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Simon, John and Tom accompany Michael on the climb to Dun Caan (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The annexe behind Raasay YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Looking back to Loch na Meilich (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Tom on the banks of Loch na Meilich on the path up to Dun Caan (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View back to Skye from the slopes of Dun Caan (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The volcano-like summit of Dun Caan (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The road to Carbost from Merkadale, Isle of Skye (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View along Loch Harport from Merkadale, Isle of Skye (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The Cuillin Hills (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View of the Cuillin Hills on the road to Glenbrittle (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The River Brittle near Glenbrittle (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

“Hurry up Mike,” shouted Tom frantically. “We’re going to miss the ferry!”

“OK, OK, I know,” was the calm reply. “You shouldn’t let these things worry you.”

“But there isn’t another ferry until this evening!” retorted Tom.

The three mountaineers came within sight of their target. There, on board the little ferry, were the rest of the group who had chosen not to attempt Dun Caan. It was 12.15 as the three sped along the little road to the ramp. They could hear the shouts of the others now, willing them on.

Four pairs of wheels rolled onto the hydraulic ramp. At the same instant the ferryman pressed the button that lifted the ramp and the ferry was off. Talk about split-second timing!

The day’s journey involved a fairly short trek across Skye to Glenbrittle hostel. There were those for whom the thought of being eaten alive by midges held no great charm, but others considered it a challenge and had stocked up with midge-repellents in anticipation of the forthcoming battle.

The ride to Carbost was leisurely, even allowing time for waterfall bathing along the way to alleviate the effects of the hot sun. The majestic Cuillen Mountains towered above the glen as the apprehensive band descended down towards the hostel. And when they arrived they were greeted with the sight of the hostel’s own personal waterfall – one of the best they had seen!

The rest of the afternoon was spent bathing, but shortly after five the midges descended as promised. There was nothing to be done but to retreat to the dormitory. The warden said he had never known the midges to be so bad – even sealing off all the air vents with cardboard and insulating tape didn’t keep them out! One wonders how Scottish people survive the summer months.

Wednesday 22 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 7 Glenbrittle to Kyle YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
The private waterfall near Glenbrittle YH that provided so much fun yesterday afternoon (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The group outside Glenbrittle YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The ferry from Kyleaking to Kyle of Lochalsh (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

Wednesday was a fairly uneventful day. Phil Burrows led the group back along the previous day’s route to Sconser and then on to Kyleakin for the ferry back to the mainland. The hostel at Kyle of Lochalsh was not especially interesting and would not have been on the itinerary if there had been some way of avoiding it. However the warden was a health-food fanatic so everyone was able to enjoy a good evening meal.

Thursday 23 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 8 Kyle to Applecross B&B
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
Kyle YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Kyle YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Richard admires the view approaching Plockton (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The group at Diuranais, on the way to Plockton (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Plockton Post Office (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Richard and Julie on the approach to Plockton (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Plockton harbour looking towards Locharron (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Plockton village (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The foothills (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The challenging sign at Tornapress, the start of the biggest climb of the tour (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
One of the early hairpin bends, opening up views towards the top (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View from the Russel Burn (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Andy within sight of the upper hairpins (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The main climb comes into view (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View back down the main climb (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The final hairpin bends to the top (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Andy celebrates reaching the top (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View back from the final hairpin bends (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Heading down towards Applecross (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Congratulations all round at the Pass of the Cattle (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The final descent to the village (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Glorious sunset over Applecross Bay (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by Michael.]

Thursday was the day everyone had been waiting for. Accommodation that evening was to be a bed and breakfast at Applecross, and the route promised a great deal of spectacular scenery.

The first stop was Plockton, a delightful little National Trust village set on the sheltered edge of the almost Mediterranean Loch Carron just north of Kyle. It was complete with its own primary and secondary schools, railway station, bus terminus and post office, and yet was quiet and unspoilt. It should be mentioned that the post office only just qualified as such, being no more than a small garden shed with a table and chair inside. It was only given away by the postbus parked outside!

The lazy atmosphere coaxed everyone into a lochside café for refreshments – and water pistols. There was still time for a few photographs of the boats bobbing up and down near the island in the loch before the ever-rising sun reminded the group of the journey that lay ahead. Reluctantly they continued on their way, following the beautiful wooded lanes that ran towards Stratcarron.

“ROAD TO APPLECROSS (Bealach Na Ba): This road rises to a height of 2053 ft with gradients of 1 in 5 and hairpin bends. NOT ADVISED FOR LEARNER DRIVERS, VERY LARGE VEHICLES OR CARAVANS AFTER FIRST MILE.”

So read the massive sign that now towered above the hesitant group of cyclists, marking the beginning of another great adventure into the unknown. Julie, who had been unable to work up any real excitement about the road from the outset, felt even less enthusiastic now that she was at the bottom of it.

“Don’t bother waiting for me at the top,” she said, convinced that she was bound to arrive at least two hours after everyone else. “I’ll meet you at Applecross.”

Richard, Phil and Matthew, who had definite inclinations towards competitive cycling, set off in the sweltering heat at a fair pace with the intention of reaching the top within forty-five minutes. The others, who had no such ambitions, began the climb at varying speeds and soon divided into small groups of two or three.

Hairpin bends skirted dangerously around the steep and rugged slopes of Sgurr a Ghaorachain as the little road made its tortuous way up to the dizzy heights of the Pass of the Cattle. Every new bend revealed a new and longer stretch of the climb. Fluid supplies soon ran out as sweat flowed off the poor cyclists, but mountain streams provided lusciously cool and refreshing refills.

The final hairpins climbed to the head of a huge amphitheatre, enclosed on three sides by the steep mountains. Michael and Andrew gazed back to the bottom where they could just make out a small, yellow dot that must have been Duncan and a small, dark dot that must have been Paul.

“Hel-lo,” rang out Michael’s voice, momentarily disturbing the surrounding solitude. The echoes died away and there was silence once again. The dots stopped moving. There was a pause, and then came the reply. In this way it was possible to hold a conversation, although the inherent delay involved in the transmission did cause a few problems with the flow.

Julie didn’t take as long as she had feared, Richard did make it in forty-five minutes and everyone was thoroughly relieved to be resting against the plaque that marked the highest road in mainland Britain. However the road to Applecross could only be downwards, and no-one was about to delay the undoubtable pleasures involved in the descent.

Rounding the first corner a myriad little discs came into view. They were lochs, nestling in the tops of mountains far below. The road twisted and turned all the way down to Applecross Bay. The four miles must have taken only a few minutes, for it seemed no time at all before the experience was over. It seemed impossible to believe that until the mid-seventies that road formed the only approach to Applecross, giving it the reputation of being the most inaccessible community in mainland Britain. The new coastal road would be used the following day, but it didn’t take much imagination to forget that it existed.

This village, stretching along the desolate coastline, boasts a primary school, but secondary-age children have to board at Plockton. Most men of working age work at the Kishorn oil site over the mountain. Many of the inhabitants have lived there all their lives, having gone to school I the now ruined communities of Lonbain before the track was replaced with the road.

It seemed that life was standing still. There was no rushing here: there was time for everything. Three local families at nearby Camustiel gave the group the best night they had spent on the whole tour, and as they settled down to sleep they looked forward with anticipation to the second half of the tour.

Friday 24 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 9 Applecross to Torridon YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
Mrs McRae (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Mrs McRae at her house in Camustiel (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Duncan rides through the remote coastal village of Camustiel, near Applecross (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Mrs McRae's friendly dog (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The abandoned village of Lonbain near the "new" coastal road (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View across Loch a Mhuilinn towards Milltown and Applecross (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
One of the few intact houses at Lonbain (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Derelict Crofters houses at Lonbain (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Cuaig (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The desolate coastal scenery near Kainakill (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View across Loch Shieldaig from the descent to Ardheslaig (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View across Loch Torridon from near Kenmore (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
View to Shieldaig from the coast road (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by co-leader Andrew Billington.]

The VIP treatment we received at our Applecross Bed and Breakfast accommodation made a very pleasant change from the rough and ready Youth Hostels, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do a permanent swap. The restraints imposed by the fact that we were in somebody else’s house, and the consequent necessity of behaving in a gentile and polite fashion, would soon have worn me down.

Nonetheless it was a good opportunity to get some of our used clothes (which by this stage had begun to wriggle about in the farthest recesses of our panniers) washed. Half of our hideous pile of contaminated clothing, which technically would probably have been illegal under the Biological Weapons Convention of 1972, was dealt with here, while we made for the local campsite in order to deal with the other half. This was a fairly lengthy operation and it was 2.15 by the time we finished, at which point we retired to a nearby beach for lunch. The local midges also appeared to favour this beach as a lunch spot and on this occasion cyclists were a popular choice on the menu.

All in all it was a record-breaking retarded four o’clock by the time we actually started covering the miles, and there were twenty seven of them to be covered. The coastal road on which we were to cover them could well have been the inspiration behind the invention of the roller coaster and the hurricane force winds that blew along it did not make progress any easier. After miles and miles of this we finally hit the main road near Shieldaig.

It was now seven o’clock so we went into town in search of a quick snack to keep us going. Finding a fairly reasonable café we decided to stop and make a meal of it. At nine o’clock we finally arrived at Torridon hostel.

Having been purpose built quite recently it boasted all mod-cons as well as being exceptionally roomy and having loads of mysterious corridors and rooms to explore, had we had time to do so adequately. As it was, the small amount of free time we had left was spent by most of us on the mammoth task of trying to use up the fourteen pints of milk we had ordered, while Tom demonstrated his powers as a chef by making a batch of oat-cakes. Very excellent they were too.

Saturday 25 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 10 Torridon to Carn Dearg YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
View to Gairloch from the "beach" at Loch Kerry (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Torridon YH (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Tea and cakes provided by a very kind lady Mrs McKenzie at Croft 14, Port Henderson (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Cycling along the lane to Port Henderson (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Heading back towards Badachro along Loch Bad na-Achlaise (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Tea and cakes at Croft 14, Port Henderson, with Croft 18 behind (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
A Highland Cow greets us as we approach Badachro (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by co-leader Andrew Billington.]

Saturday dawned bright but breezy. No sooner had we begun to propel ourselves in the appropriate direction when Paul’s rear changer collided with his spokes, bringing him to an abrupt halt. Fortunately Richard was on hand to put his expertise as a cycle mechanic to good effect and we were soon underway again.

Ten windy miles later at Kinlochewe an ice cream stop was in order, and we stopped for lunch soon afterwards at the loch-side Beinn Eighe nature reserve visitor centre. Continuing along Loch Maree the picturesque mountainous scenery helped the miles to fly by, and by four o’clock we were at Kerrysdale, within six miles of Carn Dearg hostel – pronounced, as we were assured by a local, Karn Jerrig.

At this stage Mike convinced seven of us that we were within range of a beach that was well worth a visit, so we duly followed him along the delightful lane through Badachro in search of it. The others were not convinced by his smooth talking and went into Gairloch for a cup of tea.

This turned out to be a sensible move, for although we cycled a few miles we never found that beach! However, a nice lady at Port Henderson took pity on us and insisted on bringing us out tea and cakes, refusing any payment.

Back in Gairloch we spent time in an information centre ordering posters before heading for the hostel, where we received a warm welcome from the midges.

Sunday 26 August 1984Tour: Scottish Highlands and Islands Day 11 Carn Dearg to Ullapool YH
11 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Phil Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Duncan Scott, Julie Strong, John Stuart, Paul Williams, Richard Wiseman, Tom Woodman
The coast at Little Gruinard (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Carn Dearg YH near Gairloch (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Fabulous cycling along the private road at Strath Beag near Dundonnell (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Gruinard Island and the government warning sign (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The start of the descent to the Altnaharrie Inn (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The start of the track at the top of the hill, passing Loch na h-Airbhe (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Continuing the descent (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The descent gets steeper as Ullpool comes into view on the other side of Loch Broom (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
The Altnaharrie Inn, from where a private ferry will take us across Loch Broom (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
Ullapool now in full view (raw slide scan, to be cleaned)
[This tour was organised by Michael within Torbay CTC, as South Dartmoor CTC was not created until 1985. This report was written by co-leader Andrew Billington.]

An early start was necessary on Sunday morning for most of us because we had a ferry to catch by 4.30 and for Phil, Matthew, Richard, Julie and Simon because they were taking the long way round and had many miles to cover.

Before long we passed within sight of Gruinard Island, which looks like any other but is in fact infected with Anthrax after germ warfare tests during World War Two, all attempts at decontamination having failed.

Continuing along scenic mountain roads we made good time and stopped at a viewing point for a lunch of odds and ends. During the afternoon’s riding we turned off the main road at Dundonnell on to a side road lined with trees and green fields, which was strangely reminiscent of Devon after days of heather and windswept rocks.

From here we climbed a steep hill and then came to a rocky track, often un-ridable, which took us steeply down to the ferry that would take us to Ullapool. At the bottom of the track was a hotel, the Altnaharrie Inn, and while we waited for the ferry we refreshed ourselves with smallish glasses of lemonade at an extortionate 30p a time. The ferry was an hour and a half late, but at last we loaded up and were taken across, arriving at the hostel five minutes before the active ones.

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