Did you know you can cross the Atlantic Ocean on a bridge? The water that flows under the The Clachan bridge is a sound that's connected to the Atlantic Ocean. It's why it's known as the 'bridge over the Atlantic'. One one side is mainland Scotland and on the other is the Island of Seil. The bridge is around 12 miles south of Oban
Highlights of the route
Train from Glasgow to Oban
This is a great way to start a bike trip. It takes just over 3 hours and you can relax with some of the best train views in the country. On this trip my highlights were counting at least 100 oystercatcher on a beach near Helensburgh. Around Garelochhead there were so many ferns that it felt like the train was fighting to get through them. I could hear them brush against the carriages and see them glisten with morning dew.
Bikes care carried free on this service, but you need to book in advance.
There is the smell of sea and the cry of gulls. It was August and busy with tourists. Despite the warm weather the whisky shop had a fire blazing. It creates the right ambiance for whisky tasting, curled up in a leather armchair. A crab sandwich from the Oban Seafood Hut is lunch perfection. Follow this with a treat from the Oban Chocolate Company and you are set up for the afternoon.
The A816 to Kilninver, 7.5 miles
There's no escaping that the only way to reach The Clachan Bridge is to use the A816.
You can avoid some of it by taking a twisty minor road that runs roughly parallel. This adds about 2 miles to the journey and you still have to do about 4 miles on the A-road. I didn't have time for this, so took the direct route.
The most unpleasant part is getting out of Oban. There are several supermarkets and other business out this way and this can make the roads busy, but if you are used to city cycling its not too bad and it doesn't last long. Once you are through this the traffic thins out.
It was a tough climb on this road. There wasn't much to see until I reached Loch Feochan. The road runs along the shore, so you get a great view for this part.
Churches are often the standout architecture when exploring Scotland. Even small churches, like the two on this route, have a presence. About 3 miles from Oban is Kilmore Church. It sits on a grassy bump that overlooks the loch. A different colour of stone has been used to pick out the corners and the window and door frames, giving it a distinctive look.
After leaving the A816 and turning onto the B844 you'll find Kilninver Parish Church. It was built in 1793. The front door is approached by a hedge-lined gravel path. That little walk is a joy. With the hedge enclosing you it feels like you have discovered a secret place. There's a wooden porch, a place to take off coats and leave umbrellas. It has a round hole cut in its roof for the chain that pulls the bell.
Inside the walls are white, offset by the dark wood of the pews. Light floods in from the large windows. A narrow staircase takes you to the upper gallery. A place to sit for a few minutes and enjoy how quiet it is and clear your mind.
To the bridge
It's just under 4 miles to The Clachan Bridge. There are a lot of hills on this road, some with 15% gradients.
The smells coming from this road were glorious. It was earthy from the ferns and grass, plus sweet from wildlowers. No candle can compete with the aroma sensation of cycling in Scotland.
Crossing the Atlantic
This location is spectacular. The view from the top of the bridge has islands and inlets and hills on the horizon.
The humpback bridge was completed in 1793, so it was never designed for motor traffic. I noticed that it's steep incline gave some drivers a bit of trouble with gear changes.
On the other side of the bridge there is a lovely scene of white-painted buildings. One of these is an inn called Tigh an Truish (house of the trousers). This curious name comes from the period when the Government banned the Gaelic language and the wearing of kilts. Islanders who crossed to the mainland would first stop in the inn to get changed out of their kilts and into trousers. When they returned to the island they would get changed back into their kilts.
The Slate Islands
After crossing the bridge you can explore the Slate Islands. Look out for my next blog.