I love nothing more than a post-dinner cycle to view the sunset and enjoy that special golden light bathing the landscape.
In the height of summer there is plenty of daylight right up to 9 or 10pm. When I am staying overnight at my destination I always try to head out for a short cycle after my dinner. It is a magical feeling to be out on the bike at this time when everyone else is indoors and I have the roads to myself. There is peace and quiet and I almost feel like I have the entire country to myself. The landscape always looks its best at this time of day because of the performance the sun puts on. If the sun had a personality, it would be an evening person that suddenly comes to life during those final few hours before sunset.
Mallaig to Morar
One of my favourite sunset cycles is the three miles from Mallaig to Morar. Mallaig is on the west coast of Scotland and the final stop on the West Highland Railway. When I got off the train I headed to the harbour where there is a brilliant blue sea with views towards the Small Isles of Muck, Eigg and Rum. It is a stunning location. With fishing boats bobbing and gulls swooping and squawking I started to feel like fish and chips for dinner.
This town is certainly the place for a good fish supper. The Cabin is the top destination if you like your chips chunky, your batter crispy and your fish melt-in-the-mouth.
After dinner I took the cycle path alongside the A830 to Morar. Malliag is a small town, so there is no lengthy prelude of buildings or built up areas- the coastal scenery begins immediately. On the left is the single track of the West Highland Railway and on the right uninterrupted views of the sea which was devoid of even a single ripple. In the distance the Isle of Rum stands out the most because of its rugged and wavy mountain profile.
When the road turns inland it starts to climb, but not too steeply, and a sign warns of sheep for the next two miles. I never saw a single fury white creature and this section is quite barren with steep hills of grass, rock and heather sheltering the road.
The road curves and dips allowing for a fast, peddle-free, sit back descent to Morar. At the bottom I look the left turn into the village and past mostly modern semi-detached housing with the occasional stone cottage or Victorian manse house mixed in.
The Morar Hotel
It was all uphill, but at the top there was a treat awaiting. The Morar Hotel looks over the water towards the silhouette of the small islands. The outdoor terrace is the perfect place to sip your favourite drink and watch the sun make its final dip. It was not quite time for this yet, so I kept exploring and decided to save this for last.
Opposite the hotel is the tiny Morar train station where the tracks cross the road. Or the road crosses the tracks- I am not sure which came first. The trains and the motor traffic must be equally infrequent because there are no crossing gates, just warning lights.
A bit further on there is a left turn signposted for Loch Morar. This a real twister of a road with virtually no straight sections. It leads down to the shore of the loch where I took another left turn. The water was tranquil this evening and the only movement was wave upon wave of midges.
Morag the monster
Loch Morar is the deepest lake in Europe at 1000 feet. It is also very remote with this minor road giving access to only four miles of its 12 mile length. The vast bulk of the loch is deep within the wilds and can only be accessed by walking or boating. This wildness and loneliness perhaps makes the existence of a Loch Morar monster more believable.
Loch Ness has the world famous Nessie and Loch Morar has the lesser known Morag. Whenever she is sighted it is believed that there will soon be a death of a member of the local MacDonald clan.
I pottered along the shore road for a few miles more, savouring the peace and quiet and thinking how lucky I am to be able to visit places like this and have the time to enjoy them.
I returned to the Morar Hotel to make use of the terrace, ordered a whisky and watched everything turn golden. This is why I love sunset cycling.
The map shows the cycling route I took from Mallaig to the Morar Hotel and then along the Loch Morar shore road. The map clearly shows just how large Loch Morar is in comparison to the tiny distance that the shore road covers.
View Mallaig to Loch Morar cycle in a larger map