Day 4 – reaching the home straight

Day 4 – Ullapool represented the halfway point on the HTR430, and I saw it as being the target to reach within half the time to have a chance of finishing the HTR550 within the 8 days. It’s farther than halfway on this race, but the ascent profile gets a lot more severe from here on in so I realised I would need that extra time for all the pushing ahead.

I knew that I needed to stock up on food, and the Drumbeg store came highly recommended by pretty much the entire Internet. I realised I was only a few miles from it, so no point in getting up early to arrive before it opened. Bad move. While it’s only a few miles, the road gradient is so steep (1 in 4 in places) that I made very slow progress. I arrived at the shop, and it was indeed brilliant. The best flapjacks of the trip (the little things in life…), fresh bread, and loads of other niceties.

The owners are lovely as well, great chat too. I mentioned the race, and they said another rider had been through the day before – I figured it was Nik. I was getting ready to leave, and suddenly Nik appeared – he had stayed in a B&B in Kylesku, getting the little old lady owner to wash all his bike gear. Meanwhile I’d slept in a layby under my tarp in all my bike gear. Swings and roundabouts…

We rode together to Lochinver via some truly sublime singletrack that follows the shore. Lochinver has the Pie Larder – the best pie shop, anywhere. Every good route needs a pie shop. Some good routes even have a Pie Town, but that’s hopefully going to be another story someday…

The next part I knew was going to be hard, and with hindsight it was the crux of the route. 10 miles in 5hrs – not nice going. It started off so well, rideable singletrack, then it descended (not in a gradient sense) into dragging a bike over rocks, pedaling a few yards, then repeat. Anything up to this point was easy and enjoyable by comparison – this really was a mentally testing section as you couldn’t see an end in sight…

The road at Ledmore Junction was eventually reached, and I lay down partially in relief that it was over. Horrible!

I rode on to Ullapool in one push, deciding not to stop at the Oykel Bridge Hotel. A nice doubletrack ascent past a lodge of fishermen, eventually arriving above Ullapool as night fell. There then followed some lovely fast singletrack into the town, and I got in at about 10pm. No rooms anywhere (and I’d checked every pub, hotel and hostel), so I resigned myself to a night in the bivi. Sitting on the sea front, eating my Indian takeaway, Nik appeared, and then disappeared into the night to find the campsite. I got back on the route, and found a hotel just outside Ullapool (sorry Nik!!), and took the opportunity to clean my biking gear and demolish the free shortbread and hot chocolate before passing out in the comfy, warm, soft, comfy bed – luxury.


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