Last month we introduced you to Illya Rudkin and his wife, Vida and they’re back with a film about a trip to Sandwood bay near Durness in Scotland. We very pleased to announce that we’ll be featuring Illya and Vida’s adventures in a series of Fat (video) Tuesday posts over the next few months. Here’s Illya’s thoughts about this week’s video.
Back in 2012 my wife Vida and I were touring the north west coast of Scotland in an RV. Our planned itinerary at the time had on it a visit to Durness, a small remote village on the most north westerly coast of the United Kingdom. There we heard about large golden dune beach that could only be visited by walking 10 miles in each direction. The fact that people were prepared to hike there and back suggested it must be quite a beach. A quick look at the map showed a significant yellow coastal area with no path to it from Durness. We did not have any spare time at the time so we entered this to the footnotes of our must visit places in the future.
This year (2016), while browsing bike packing videos of Scotland looking for our next adventure, I came across a Youtube video that showed a fat bike traversing a vast beach with extensive dunes. It was Sandwood bay. This got me excited as I assumed if the guy had ridden to it, then we could do that. I opened up the ViewRanger app for a recky. Yes there is a track that goes to the beach from the south. We had some spare weekends coming up so we booked one and kept our fingers crossed for good weather.
For that weekend we decided to book a day off to extend the weekend to get two days of riding in. It is a six hour journey to the nearest village to the bay from where we live (and we live in Scotland – single track roads).
It turned out to be one of the warmest weekends in August, it could not have been better. It also turned out we would not be the only people making for the remote bay that weekend which at the time was a tad disappointing but not surprising really. There would have been more if not for the fact that there is only access to the bay 12km north by foot or bike. We were the only people going by bike. It was amusing how many tourists turned up while we built the bikes and fitted the kit only then to realise they could only get there only by foot. They would walk around a bit, the highlight being the toilet building, then drive off.
In Scotland there is open access to most land. Tracks on the OS maps do not indicate the quality of the track (quality can mean many things to a mountain biker) but it was unexpected to find a purpose built track. This reconfirmed that perhaps this bay was visited more often than we originally assumed. It made for a pleasant but uneventful ride to the bay bar a few steps and drainage ditches interrupted periodically for yet another panoramic photo. One always hopes we (read that as ‘me’) will across some to die for single track but not this time.
As we approached the bay from a vantage point up high, the bay gradually revealed itself. It was as big as we imagined and some. A brisk wind was making itself ever more present which on a normal Scottish day would chill you quite fast. We descended to the beach looking forward to getting amongst the huge grass capped dunes.
We approached the beach by the shortest route. Even with the 4” tyres, traversing the soft sand was hard going; even impossible when the gradient was against you. Not too surprising but knowing we got a lot further than if on 2” tyres. On the beach itself we found there was a narrow band of sand between the water’s edge and dry sand that allowed us to cycle the full length of the beach.
The sun was setting time to find a camping pitch. The wind would keep the midges at bay so we decided to find higher ground back from the beach. We pitched the tent and ready to settle in. Then the wind stopped! This is one of a very few times we will remember as wanting the wind, some wind. The midges came out swarming. They came in waves. Arh but we had our midge net jackets with integrated hood. Bring it on. We set in our chairs as we watched the sun go down. Ok dusk, time to get dinner ready. It was then we realised we had problems. The midges were getting in everything. That meant we were drinking them, eating them and brushing our teeth with them. Here’s hoping we develop a natural midge repellant bio immune system. We’ll let you know.
The next morning we woke early to sheep rustling our tent. It seems we had pitched our tent on the sheeps’ morning walking path. They were not fazed by our presence – a rather nonchalant lot. We brewed up fresh coffee and made breakfast all with added midge. It was going to be another great day. Our plan was do some more filming then ride to some other beaches in the vicinity.
The journey to Sandwood bay and the other beaches may not have been epic but the memories and video will remind us there are some beautiful places in this world worth visiting at least once. I hope the video shows off another aspect of Scotland’s varied geography.
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