Sky Ride - The Misty Isle On Two Wheels
Bicycle touring breeds a mentality. It’s a mentality that few understand on the intimate level a cycle tourist does. It’s pedalling your heart out to the top of a hill. It’s wanting, needing, the incline to give way to your front wheel so you can take a much needed breath. Hating in that moment the situation you find yourself in. Your body hot from exertion. Your hands numb from the cold, clutching your frosted handlebars.
As you summit, the pedals move more freely. You look back on the landscape behind you, an irrelevance mere moments ago, and you allow yourself to bask. The view that you behold is stunning. Cars may pass you and their occupants may gaze objectively at the same sights that meet your own tired eyes. However knowing every inch, bump and pothole, of road makes the spectacle infinitely sweeter.
Unsurprisingly, the cycle tourist has learned that sometimes this sense of reward can be a long time coming. The searing hot magma that cooled to form the jagged Cuillin peaks in this far-flung corner of the tempestuous Atlantic ocean was roughly 2.8 million years old when John Boultbee Brooks was tensioning the springs on the first of his leather saddles 150 years ago. The Isle of Skye knew little and cared less for the seismic effects that Mr Brooks would go on to affect upon the rapidly expanding world of the travelling cyclist.
Perhaps feeling that the smooth curves and serene bounce of Brooks’s creation was a perfect contrast to her own capricious and severe temperament, the Island shook off her infamous mists. Revealing to two seasoned cyclists the rugged majesty for which she is renowned.
The two adventurers were bestowed with the divine feeling of nature and machine working together in perfect harmony. These powerful forces coalesced to deliver the most cinematic riding experience for those brave, or foolish, enough attempting to conquer this Hebridean Island in the grasps of winter.
The land itself still bears scars of the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. Families were forcibly removed from their homes by wealthy landowners in order to redistribute the land from agricultural industry towards the more profitable raising of sheep. Vacant crofts and once noble houses, now fallen to ruin, puncture the deep greens and ochres of the earth. Lending a gothic charm to the winding and unpredictable roads.
Ever-present sights of cool still waters and rough seas provide landmarks to move towards. Landmarks that transcend any measurement of progress that can be recorded in miles or kilometres. Passing through this landscape it’s difficult not to believe the rich folklore from which parts of the island take their name. One can almost hear the cries of ghosts, ancient warriors and the drunken revelries of the fairy folk.
As the sun dips beneath the horizon on the final day of exploration, weary legs can rest having powered the creation of many fond memories. I can only hope that if you and your bicycle ever venture this far north you too will be blessed with similar conditions to recast this ‘misty isle’ into a cycle tourist’s magic kingdom.
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