A 39-day adventure by Darren and Janet Read more
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  • 5countries
  • 39days
  • 306photos
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  • 38.4kkilometers
  • Day 1

    Changi transit

    May 6 in Singapore ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    After an overnight stay at the airport hotel, our 9am flight to Singapore was comfortable and uneventful - the only way flights should be!

    We have an 11 hour transit in Singapore, so took advantage of their free bike hire from the airport. Their suggested trip to Changi Village was estimated to take 2 hours return, but we were barely a third of the way there after an hour... and we'd only stopped for 1 cache 🤣

    The humid weather wasn't conducive to fast riding, so we turned around at the water treatment plant and had a leisurely ride back to the airport.

    After a walk around the butterfly garden, a shower and a meal, we settled in to wait for our 2.25am departure.
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  • Day 2

    Queen of the South

    May 7 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Our flight arrived in Manchester later than expected, then we had delays collecting our hire car (but we did get an upgrade!), so we didn't set off north until nearly midday.

    Traffic was heavy on the motorway, until we reached the rolling hills between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, then and onto Gretna Green, just over the border.

    After a visit to the famous Blacksmiths Shop, where runaway couples from England have wed since 1754, we headed towards Dumfries for the night.

    Dumfries is nicknamed Queen of the South, which is also the name of their soccer team in the Scottish leagues. It was the birthplace and childhood home of JM Barrie (author of Peter Pan), resting place of Robbie Burns, Scotland's National Poet, and, less famously, home of Alex Graham, creator of the Fred Basset cartoon.

    We walked through the historical centre, along the River Nith and had dinner at a local pub , before walking back to our hotel to watch the Eurovision song contest semi final.
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  • Day 3

    Bowling to Dumbarton

    May 8 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    We started the day with a visit to Robert Burns' mausoleum in the grounds of St Michael's church in Dumfries. The mausoleum is quite out of place in the cemetery as it's the only thing painted white.

    We drove on the minor road towards Glasgow, then joined the motorway to skirt the city, heading to the northern bank of the Clyde River.

    First stop was the linear village of Bowling, hemmed in between the mountains and the River Clyde, with a harbour and locks leading to the Forth and Clyde Canal. The canal opened in 1790 and provided a route for the seagoing vessels between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. This allowed navigation from the port of Glasgow on the west coast to Edinburgh on the east coast.

    After coffee and cake at the lock we continued to Dumbarton, our stop for the night. We visited Dumbarton Castle, which sits upon Dumbarton Rock, a natural fortress overlooking the River Clyde. The castle last saw action during World War 2, when anti-aircraft guns were placed there to protect the nearby shipyards from German bombing.
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  • Day 4

    To the highlands and back

    May 9 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    We woke up this morning to the first rain of the trip and the temperature had dropped considerably with it.

    We left Dumbarton and travelled up the narrow, winding road along the western shore of Loch Lomond, before continuing north towards Glencoe, the skiing and bushwalking centre of Scotland, and the start of the Highlands. The clouds got lower, the traffic got heavier and the scenery more spectacular at every turn.

    We stopped for lunch at Kings House Hotel, which is a popular stop for bushwalkers on multi day hikes, before continuing on to Glencoe and a walk down the main street.

    We then headed back south towards Oban, our destination for the night... but not without stopping first at Castle Stalker, an island castle best known in popular culture as "The Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh" in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

    Dinner tonight was at the Oban Wetherspoons, part of the chain of 850 pubs across the UK. Fun fact, each Wetherspoons pub has unique carpet, representative of either the building or location. I've included a photo of the Oban threads for the record 😁
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  • Day 5

    Double island day

    May 10 in Scotland ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    We started the day with a visit to one of the most recognisable features of Oban, the unfinished McCaig's Tower, which looms over the city on Battery Hill. It was based on the Colosseum and planned as a lasting monument to the builder and designer John McCaig, and his family. Unfortunately he died after only the outer shell was completed and his family refused to compete it, so it remains unfinished.

    We drove a few miles south of Oban and visited our first island, Seil Island, via Clachan Bridge. Because the Clachan Sound connects at both ends to the Atlantic Ocean, and might therefore be considered part of that ocean, the bridge is known as the Bridge over the Atlantic.

    The hotel next to the bridge is called Tigh an Truish (The House of the Trousers). It’s named this because several years after the Jacobite rebellion - when the British government tried to suppress Gaelic culture, banning kilts, tartan, bagpipes, and language - islanders heading for work on the mainland would change into trousers here and back into their kilts when returning home.

    Our final stop, off the south western coast of Seil Island, is Easdale, one of the Slate Islands. Once the centre of the Scottish slate industry, it is dotted with disused quarries which filled up with water following a storm in 1850 and were abandoned. The island has no roads, and a population of 60 permanent residents, and has hosted the World Stone Skimming Championships since 1997. It is the smallest inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides.
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  • Day 6

    Mull and Iona

    May 11 in Scotland ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    We were up bright and early today to catch the first ferry of the day from Oban to Craignure, on the Isle of Mull.

    It's only a 45 minute crossing, so we hit the ground running at 8.15am and headed towards Duart Castle, ancestral home of Clan McLean, built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the straight. Original construction began in the 13th century, but after various periods of siege and abandonment, much of what we see today is a 1911 reconstruction.

    The main road around Mull is a single lane road, with passing turnouts at regular intervals, usually 100-200 metres apart. If you meet a car coming in the opposite direction, one of you must stop at the nearest passing bay and let the other through. So progress can be slow, with lots of stopping, headlight flashing and waving to other drivers!

    We arrive at Fionnphort in time for lunch at the pub, before boarding the ferry for Iona.

    Iona is known as the birthplace of Celtic Christianity, with Iona Abbey founded by St Columbus in 563. It has a small art, craft and tourism industry, focussing on wildlife and nature conservation. There are a small number of roads for locals to use, but no tourist cars are allowed, so walking and cycling are the preferred transport methods.

    We returned to Mull late afternoon and drove back to the east coast via the central road. The scenery along the way is spectacular, so we made plenty of stops for photos, caches and animals on the road, arriving at our accommodation in Salen after 5pm.

    The hotel we are staying in has a pub quiz tonight, so we had dinner and a night of quizzing before catching the end of Eurovision.
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  • Day 7

    Mull northern loop

    May 12 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 18 °C

    Our day began with a visit to the mausoleum of Lachlan Macquarie, former Governor of New South Wales. He was born on Ulva, an island off the west coast of Mull.

    Our drive today took us north, with windier roads and more reversing into passing bays - we had good luck yesterday and could see the upcoming road, but with the windy roads and limited visibility, at one stage we had to reverse 3 times in 10 minutes after meeting oncoming cars.

    We visited the aptly named Eas Fors Waterfall, a 3 tiered waterfall that falls directly into the sea. Eas is Gaelic for waterfall, Fors is Norse for waterfall... so it is literally named Waterfall Waterfall Waterfall.

    Our lunch stop was Calgary, a hamlet on the west coast (and the origin of the name of Calgary in Canada). We were almost resigned to having snack lunch from our emergency rations, but were very pleased to find a cafe open for lunch on a Sunday! Calgary Bay is also one of the most popular beaches on Mull.

    Our route home took us along a series of hairpin turns, part of the course of the Rally of Mull, where the island's roads are closed for a round of the British Rally Championship each October.
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  • Day 8

    Destination: Tobermory (not the Womble*)

    May 13 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

    We had an easy day today, with only a few kilometres of driving planned. We began with a visit to Aros Castle, an abandoned 13th century castle just north of Salen, our base on Mull.

    Next stop was a walk in Cill An Ailean, a forested area with an ancient chapel and cemetery.

    We continued north to Tobermory, the colourful capital of Mull. The name is derived from the Gaelic Tobar Mhoire, meaning "Mary's well", which refers to a well dedicated in ancient times to the Virgin Mary.

    The city centre is concentrated along one street on the waterfront, running between the ferry terminal and the marina, with multiple souvenir shops, a bakery, pub and distillery most prominent.

    We snacked on local produce from the weekly produce market at the marina, topping it off with some fare from the award winning fish and chip van by the pier.

    On the way home we stopped for a walk in Aros Forest, with multiple waterfalls and views across to Tobermory harbour.

    *For those unfamiliar with the 1970's TV show, the main Wombles are Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory, Madame Cholet, Orinoco, Wellington, Tomsk and Bungo)
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  • Day 9

    Mull to Fort William

    May 14 in Scotland ⋅ ☁️ 17 °C

    Our final morning on Mull, after grabbing a couple of caches we caught the ferry from Fishnish to Lochaline. This ferry has no bookings, just turn up and wait in line. We got to the terminal 20 minutes before departure, so had no problem getting a spot.

    The weather today has turned very Scottish - overcast with drizzly rain all day. Fortunately most of the day was driving, taking the scenic route up the western shore of Loch Linnhe, to Glenfinnan.

    Lunch stop was at Corran, watching the ferry go back and forth across the loch.

    Our plan for the afternoon was to visit the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the tall, arched bridge made famous by the Harry Potter movies. But it seems everyone else had the same idea. We arrived a few minutes before the steam train was scheduled to travel through, and the carparks were already at capacity and had been closed, leaving many people to park along the main road and walk great distances. We were happy take a snap of the viaduct as we drove past!

    We arrived at Fort William and visited Neptune's Staircase, the longest staircase lock in Britain, rising boats up 20 metres through 8 locks.

    We walked back into town for dinner at a local hotel.
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  • Day 10

    Walking Wednesday

    May 15 in Scotland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Back to sunny days with 24 degrees forecast, so it's shorts out again!

    We had a full day around Fort William, so we began with a walk along a section of the West Highland Way, a 96 mile walking trail from Glasgow to Fort William. The section we walked was along the Old Military Road and was the site of the Battle of Inverlochy (1645), one of the many battles between Highlanders and Royalist troops.

    We headed back into town for lunch in the High Street (soup and a Scotch pie, while watching a busking bagpiper). We visited the West Highland Museum and browsed the shops, before heading towards Glen Nevis for the afternoon.

    Glen Nevis is a valley near Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK), and the most popular walking track is along the gorge to Steall Waterfall, the second tallest waterfall in the UK at 120 metres. It's a 3.5 km walk along uneven terrain, so took us an hour to walk in, and about 45 minutes out, with a steady stream of walkers going in both directions.
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