Conincidentally, I learned today that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), an island is defined as a naturally formed area of land, surrounded by water, which is still exposed at high tide. The name of an island can be officially recognised if it is known by at least two local people.
It’s a Wilma thing, to get a new fact along with the adventure. And today’s adventure was to be island based. Leave the island we live on, get a bridge to a smaller island, catch a ferry to an even smaller island, and (tide depending), walk across a causeway to a yet smaller island. Two new islands in one day. That doesn’t happen often.
Island number three was Raasay. Only 12 miles long, so the plan was to cycle north about 10 or 11 of those miles. When you use the words cycle, 11 miles and island to a Glaswegian, only one thing comes to mind. Millport, or more accurately Great Cumbrae. An island 11 miles in perimeter and whose coastal road makes your average pancake look lumpy. This was nothing like Cumbrae. I think these were the hilliest and hardest miles I have ever cycled.
A rather rough road surface and hill after hill after hill. The last couple of miles are along Calum’s Road, a road built by one man over 10 years to try and prevent the depopulation of the north of the island. I’ve just finished the book, and on paper it seemed like a Sisyphean task. The reality is longer, steeper, windier and harder than I could have imagined. He must have been some man to decide that it needed to be done, and if nobody else would do it, he would just get on with the job. At this point we didn’t meet any of the wild pigs the road signs warn of, but more of them later.
From the end of Calum’s Road in Arnish we took the footpath (also constructed by Calum and his brother) to Fladda, a tidal island with a few cottages now occupied on at least a part time basis. We passed 10 minutes in conversation with the owners of one, who have been coming here since before Calum built his road. It’s a whole new meaning to “away from it all”. Once you get to Raasay and drive north you leave the car 3km away and walk the cliff side path carrying what you need. Or take a boat round and the humph everything up the hill. Neither an easy option.
If only it had been warmer, a dip in the loch we spotted from the top of the hill would have been in order. But sense prevailed, so after lunch we turned round and headed back to the bikes, slightly concerned about the hills we would have to conquer to get back. But a stunning route back, with a red deer stopped in its tracks not far in front of us. Could that be the wildlife sighting of the day? Does it beat JT’s seaotter sighting?
Problem number one wasn’t the hills. When we had conquered the hills on the path, the bikes came into view. With the pigs. Who look bigger and much more solid in the flesh than they do here. I, of course, had to distract them while JT tried to get the bikes. I got headbutted on the leg as one looked for snacks, then it decided to try having a chew at my front tyre. 😱 my bike maintenance skills aren’t up to that! I sacrificed half a flapjack to try and encourage him away…
The end of the adventure showed almost 900m of climbing in just under 40km of cycling and walking. Some was also super steep, which suits JT. Give me the long slow drag any day, I can do that for hours. But I have to admit I failed on more than one ascent (and found that pushing the bike wasn’t easy either).
Top day out, finished off with a gold medal (aka Hebridean Gold beer) plus fish and chips. Cannae beat it.