Day 1 – Wednesday 12th June
The Caledonian Sleeper
On the eve of departure, I had a slight sense of trepidation about being completely unprepared. I had never been on a proper cycling tour before, yet here I was, going to one of the hilliest places in the UK with a 35kg bike, without even a set route as I was trying to cram in a bunch of hiking too. I had a list of places I wanted to visit; the Outer Hebrides with the quiet rolling roads and beaches, Assynt with the mountains of Suilven & Canisp, Wester Ross with the notorious Bealach Na Ba pass, Glenfinnan & Loch Shiel, and Ben Nevis. But there were almost too many potential possibilities on how to join them all together…
I had also almost overlooking packing what was to become one of the most essential items on my trip – a backpack. Cycling with a backpack is no fun, so I had dedicated more than enough time ensuring that I could fit everything nicely into the four pannier bags. But, hiking without a backpack is also no fun, and considering I was going with every intention to hike Ben Nevis at the end of the trip a backpack it was pretty essential! With no room left in the pannier bags it was swiftly bungee corded on top. Barely minutes later I was at Reading station and its handiness already came into play as I was able to pack some essentials for the journey.
A couple of hours later and I was all settled on the midnight Caledonian Sleeper on my way towards Glasgow, feeling a lot calmer but had started to perspire despite this… Unfortunately the lower bunk (next to the radiator) was occupied by an already sleeping businessman who clearly preferred to sweat through the night rather than actually sleep. Two zopiclone later and I did eventually doze off into a lovely sweaty sleep, Glasgow bound. The fact that I turned down the complimentary wake-up cup of tea the following morning goes a long way to describing just how hot it was in that cabin.