Stunning scenery, lots of ferry crossings, steep hills!
The Isle of Mull is the second largest of the Hebrides, lying just off the west coast of Scotland about half-way up. It is an island of peninsulas which give it a long and varied coastline offering the visitor endless days of exploration and discovery. The economy is a mix of farming, fishing, and tourism giving the visitor a view of genuine island life while providing lots of interest.The mountains which stretch across the middle of the island rise to over 900m and are well loved by hill walkers. Mull has just one Munro (hill over 3000 feet), Ben More and it is visible from much of the island. The off shore islands of the Treshnish Isles and Staffa are bird reserves and boat trips are available. These will land you on the islands if conditions are suitable.
For most cyclists this will be a three or four day ride. The route is circular with four ferry crossings. The scenery is beautiful but the roads are hilly, particularly so in the north of Mull. This route has a four mile section on the A82 between the Corran Ferry and South Ballachulish. If you have come by car it might be worth while using it to ferry bikes over this as it is quite busy. Apart from this much of the route is on single track roads with passing places. The ferry operator, Caledonian MacBrayne offers discounted multi-trip tickets, bikes often travel free on these whereas they are charged for on single trip tickets.
Start at the junction of the A82 and the A828 immediately south of the Ballachulish Bridge. Some people like to ride down Glen Coe to start, early in the morning this is a fine thing to do, later on heavy traffic makes it inadvisable. The A828 is quieter than the A82; there are fine views across to Morvern. You pass Shuna Island then see Castle Stalker on a tiny island on the right. A mile after that take a right turn to a minor road for Port Appin. A foot passenger ferry takes you over to Lismore. If you are not intending to stay overnight on Lismore you need to catch this ferry no later than 2pm. There is a shop and sea food restaurant in Port Appin.
The road in Lismore soon climbs. Don't delay too long as there is probably no evening ferry to take you off the island and accommodation is quite limited. The ferry to Oban is a left turn after five miles signed Achnacroish Pier. Oban is a major departure point for ferries going to the Western Isles. You can arrive there from Lismore and depart for Craignure on Mull without leaving the ferry terminal. There are two bike shops in Oban. Just before you arrive at Craignure on Mull you catch sight of Duart Castle.
Craignure on Mull has a couple of hotels and a food shop. Turn left to the A849 after leaving the ferry. Wait for five minutes to let the cars and coaches travelling to Iona get ahead of you - island traffic travels in convoys dictated by the ferry timetable. You may have left the A849 by the time the next lot goes past! There's a hill immediately on leaving Craignure. You pass Duart Castle, see ABOUT THE ROUTE, then descend to Lochdon. There's an easy climb to take you over to Loch Spelve before you begin the first major climb over Glen More. Refreshment stops are few and far between now but there is a hotel providing food a mile or so beyond the A849/B8035 junction. There is a food shop next to it (sells ice cream).
The B8035 rolls easily along by the shore for a little bit then climbs over the shoulder of the Ardmeanach Peninsula to get to the spectacular sea inlet of Loch na Keal. As you descend there are wonderful views of Staffa, Ulva and Little Colonsay. Following this the route takes you round Loch na Keal with spectacular views all the way. The road on the south side is flat but there is a climb on the north side just before you get to Ulva. The village of Salen is slightly off route. It has a hotel doing bar food, a supermarket, a tea room and numerous B&Bs. There is no source of food on the B8073 between Salen and Calgary Bay.
The ferry to Ulva is at the most obvious point, the farmer on the island also runs a restaurant and there is some excellent mountain biking. You are not allowed to cycle on the adjacent island of Gometra. On Mull itself as you work past Ulva going west you pass an impressive waterfall plunging over the sea cliffs - take care not to fall over! The road winds up and down then begins its major climb over to Calgary Bay. There is a short cut but this is fiendishly steep and in any case misses out the beautiful bay. As you descend to Calgary Bay there is a panoramic view of the islands of Eigg, Rum, and the Cuillin Mountains on Skye. Linger on the sands or visit the gallery and restaurant just beyond which offers a wide choice of food. After Calgary Bay the climb over to Dervaig is easy enough. The climb after that between Dervaig and Tobermory could not be called easy. There is a pub in Dervaig just before the start of the climb. After that there are more ups and downs before you finally plunge into Tobermory. Tobermory is one of the most photographed places in Scotland. We catch the ferry to Kilchoan here. There are all kinds of places to eat, drink, sleep etc.
If you are intending to cycle from Kilchoan to the Corran ferry in one day you need to catch an early ferry from Tobermory. This ferry is summer only. There is a tea room and a hotel shortly after disembarking but no refreshment stops after that until you get to Salen. As usual the route begins with a climb, at the top you get a splendid view of Rum, there's un undulating section, then a descent towards Loch Sunart with amazing views. It's probably best to stop if you want to admire the scenery! Fairly soon you arrive at sea level but if you think the hills are over you will soon be disillusioned. The road winds up and down keeping close to the shore of the loch much of the time. The road runs through woodland, Scots pine, rhododendron, birch and oak with frequent views across the loch to Morvern.
There is a shop and a hotel in Salen. The hotel has tables outside overlooking the loch. Strontian has a supermarket, several hotels and numerous B&Bs. At this point you finally leave Loch Sunart and climb over Glen Tarbert to get to Loch Linnhe. The last section to the ferry at Corran is definately flat!