While planning to circumnavigate Iceland by bicycle (3000km in 20 days) I found myself in Western Scotland and looking for a long ride which I could use to train my body for the upcoming challenge. A demanding cycle, worth every minute for the beautiful scenery.
It was a spontaneous decision to plan a 200km route around the Isle of Mull in Western Scotland, but I wanted a good long ride to get stuck into to make the most of the amazing weather of the 2018 summer.
The Isle of Mull is a beautiful island, one of the largest Scottish islands, and one of many terrains. On Mull, you will cycle through wild mountains, open wilderness, white sand beaches, waterfalls and (hilly) coastal roads and tracks.
The island has it all, and this route drew all of those amazing places together in one long loop, and an amazing day out in Scotland’s wild corner.
This blog follows my route around the island. This is a long day and can be cut short by missing the section on the Ross of Mull. Nevertheless, this is a challenging and hilly route, but you will be well supplied with coffee shops throughout, provided you start early enough to catch all the opening times.
There are a lot of fresh water rivers which are drinkable, but plenty of food is essential on the long hills and remote areas across Ben More.
It was an early start, or at least, it was meant to be, until I woke up at 4am to the pouring rain. Needless to say, I went back to sleep and started when it was sunny a few short hours later!
Starting in Tobermory is both a blessing and a curse, it is the perfect start/finish point as the amenities are good and the bakery breakfast is amazing, but there is a hill to climb upon leaving the town, and it is a savage start to the route. Once you have completed this though you are on to the winding single track around the north of the island towards Calgary.
This route is amazing, the smooth and flowing single track road weaves it way through idyllic lochs, glens and through the centre of Dervaig. It gets hilly towards Calgary, but this builds up the appetite ready for the Calgary Café which has amazing coffee and cake and do the best bacon rolls, all essential fuel for the rest of the route to come.
You are currently 21km in at this point, and no, its not too early for a cake stop!
Next on the route is the wonderful descent to Calgary bay, a pristine white sand beach which is the holiday makers magnet on Mull. Despite the crowds, you can still find some quiet corners of this beach and it is a truly wonderful place to be.
Following the road around the northern tip of the island rewards your uphill efforts with views of the Outer Hebrides and Treshnish Isles. The road turns to a weaving ribbon of perfection on the western edge of the island as it leads down to wards Ulva. On the way, it is always worth stopping for a dip in the Eas Fos Water falls to recharge the body.
What comes next is a long stretch to the far South West of the island, if you have not stopped already, it is worth stopping at the Hen House café to refuel, they have the best scones on the island!
Following the route to the North of Ben More leads to some of the most spectacular coastal road that forces itself through vertical Jurassic cliffs as you enter the wilderness of Mull. A long relentless climb rounds the top of the Berg and a long and exhilarating descent towards the Ross of Mull.
It is at this point that you can turn left to Craignure and miss off the Ross of Mull, but otherwise, a twisting and exciting single-track road brings you to the sandy beaches of Fionnphort, overlooking the ancient Iona Abbey.
Returning along the same route on the Ross of Mull may seam counter-intuitive, but firstly, there are no circular routes on the peninsular, and secondly, the view across the southern hills and Ben More are awe inspiring.
The route through Glen More does involve a long and relentless hill, but this is off set by the amazing downhill on the other side and the views through the woods below Sgurr Dearg.
Once in Craignure, 20 miles remain to return back to Tobermory. The initial stretch of this is on single carriageway road, but soon turns to single track north of Salen. Although, no visit to Salen is complete without stopping at the Coffee pot café with the best home cooked cakes and a legendary bacon, brie and cranberry baguette!
The final 10 miles from Salen to Tobermory is a hill and twisty single-track road with four main hills, once at the top of the fourth, a single carriageway hill descends all the way to the welcome sight of the colourful main street of Tobermory.
This route is a long day, I completed this on a steel frame off road touring bike with gravel tyres and took 10hrs to complete the whole route including café stops.
But upon completion you will have circumnavigated the whole island on some of the most spectacular roads and views in the Scottish Highlands.
You will almost certainly be greeted by seals on the beaches and golden eagles over head (a White Tailed Sea Eagle if you’re lucky).
Following 7 years as an Adventure Training Instructor in the British Army, Ben decided that he would become a freelance instructor for groups and individuals anywhere in the UK. Mountain leader, personal trainer and motivational speaker, Ben has a great love of the outdoors and all it has to offer.