1936 Cycling Tour of the NW Highlands

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A Cycling Tour of the North West Highlands and Skye - 1936

But the road became dreadful. Gosh - stones, holes and no road in places.

From The Diary of Mary M. Harvie

Born in 1918, Mary Harvie was a keen hosteller. Over the last few months, her son Harvie has transcribed a diary of her adventures and has kindly shared some lovely memories of a fantastic cycling trip to the North West Highlands and Skye with her older sisters in 1936, aged 17 years. Sat. 6th July

Left home at 7am Glasgow old Edinburgh Road. Anniesland Cross then main boulevard to Balloch. Lovely day, sun very warm. Had tea at Luss very nice place. Then on again through Tarbert to Ardlui. Grand scenery and peaceful water. Sunbathed at Ardlui for 2 hours & explored Glen Falloch. Very small church at Ardlui. Continuing through Glen Falloch to Crianlarich with Ben Vorlich and Ben More in the distance. Arrived about 6pm The hostel not quite finished but a nice crowd. Jock & David & Alex three joiners at the Hostel were very nice. We six went a nice walk on the Killin road and round the foot of Ben More. At their suggestion we arranged to climb Ben More on the following day with them.

Sun. 7th

Beautiful day so 11am saw us complete with haversack and camera start the climb of Ben More 3842 ft. We certainly did get sun burnt. It was terribly hot. We had a bathe in a mountain stream. Lovely

Crianlarich 28 28

and cool. On we went & after 3hrs. hard work we reached the top. Some bits very dangerous and rocky. We added another stone to the cairn and put our names in the homemade bottle. Lovely view all round Loch Lomond, Ireland and the Trossachs. We had a well-earned meal, while the sun burned holes in us. Then after a rest down we came. Rolling, sliding, sitting on the grass, running and jumping. We reached the bottom, Ella and I first, and kindled a fire to have another meal. But alas when the haversack arrived a search for tea proved fruitless. For spite we drank boiled water. Tired, but happy we arrived back at the Hostel in the evening. Bed time came, but we were so warm we couldn’t sleep for a while.

Mon. 8th

The next morning we were like lobsters but we cooled down. Another glorious day. Goodbye to the boys then off. Through Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy to Loch Tulla, where we had a lovely bathe and beautiful sands. A lovely free wheel

of 5 miles, then round to the Black Mount. A lorry passed us & he waved. When we turned the corner he was stopped. He offered us a lift to Ballachuilish we didn’t refuse. Each holding their own bike we sat on the lorry. What magnificent scenery all round. Glencoe is really beautiful. Jean knew the people in the bakers shop at Ballachuilish so we called & had a lovely free tea. Then we crossed over the ferry to North Ballachuilish, another beautiful run into Fort William. Straight through and along Glen Nevis to the hostel at the foot of the ben. Early in arriving owing to lift. Nice hostel and nice warden. Good store so after our meal we went for a walk along Glen Nevis. Back to bed.



Borve Portree Kyle of Sconser Lochalsh Ratagan Sligachan Kyleakin Armadale

Invergarry Tomdoun Mallaig Spean Dalwhinnie Glenfinnan Bridge Arisaig Killkiecrankie Glen Nevis Loch Pitlochry Ballachulish Shiel


Glencoe Black Mount

Still enjoying the best of weather we carried on. The road became better near Lochailort. The sun was so warm Jean put on her cape to cover her arms. She skidded and cut her hand and knee. I was

Dunkeld Bridge of Orchy


Perth Crianlarich Gleneagles

Ardlui Doune Tarbet Dunblane Luss Drymen Fintry Balloch Bearsden

Tues. 9th

Along to Fort William again accompanied by Peggy a dutch girl. On the road to Mallaig quite a good road to Glenfinnan where Prince Charles’ monument stands. At the end of Loch Eilt. Beautiful scenery here too. But the road becomes dreadful. Gosh stones, holes and no road in places. A lorry full of sand going past stopped and took all four of us, bikes & all. He took us as far as he was going. A good lift of 5 miles of terrible surface. We thanked him profoundly. We carried on till we saw a house on the hill side. Up we went to see if we could get something to eat, but alas the house was empty. We drank water from the burn and ate dry bread. A passing motorist and 3 women passengers stopped and gave us lemonade. He turned back as the road was so bad.

Fort Augustus


2 miles in front, so I had to turn back and look for them. I found them at the road side with a motor cyclist tying up her hand.

Meigle Coupar Angus

Uig Dunvegan Borve Portree Sconser Sligachan Kyle of Lochalsh Kyleakin Loch Duich Ratagan Armadale Mallaig Morar Arisaig Lochailort Glenfinnan Loch Eil Loch Shiel Tomdoun Fort Augustus Invergarry Loch Lochy Spean Bridge Roybridge Moy Loch Laggan Laggan Dalwhinnie Loch Ericht Pitlochry Ballachulish Glencoe Blair Atholl Killkiecrankie Pitlochry Black Mount Tulla ApproximateLoch miles: Bridge of Orchy Tyndrum Glasgow - Crianlarich 59mi Crianlarich Crianlarich - Ballachulish 37mi Ben More Ardlui Ballachulish - Mallaig 79mi Tarbet Mallaig - Uig (viaLuss ferry) 62mi Balloch Uig - Sligachan via Dunvegan 51mi Ballinluig Dunkeld Sligachan - Invergarry 61mi Birnam Fort Augustus - Blairgowrie Pitlochry 89mi Pitlochry - Perth Meigle 42mi Coupar Angus Perth - GlasgowPerth via Drymen 78mi Gleneagles Total route Auchterarder miles: 558mi Greenloaning Dunblane Doune Kippen Fintry Killearn Drymen Bearsden Drumchapel Glasgow

Luckily we weren’t far from Lochailort Station so she took the train to Mallaig while Peggy, Ella and I continued on our way. We had tea in a nice wee cottage and Peggy had a puncture. Off again, the road winding up & down. Through Arisaig to Morar, beautiful sand, scenery. We met Jean and N. McMillan coming to meet us. Had a nice tea and wash up at Nurses. Jean slept here while Peggy, Ella & I were in a room. Very nice too. Had a walk round Mallaig, then bed.

29 29


Dunvegan village

Wed. 10th

A beautiful night with a full moon. We took a snap in the moonlight of Uig Bay.

Up and had a lovely breakfast from landlady. Left Jean with N. Mc. & we crossed over to Skye. Landed at Armadale, just a wee place but where the most trees grow on the Isle of Skye. Roads a bit rough but not too bad. Peggy had another puncture.

Fri. 12th

Up and off the next morning after visiting Flora McDonald’s grave bound for Dunvegan. Over some more rough roads sheep scattered all around. Peggy with us sometimes she was collecting rocks. That day Peggy had another puncture. We mended it. 3 miles further on I got one mended it then on to stop again. Ella had one. These were the only ones we had.

Had a nice tea after 30 miles over moors. Nothing but sheep and heather. Very peaceful. What a lovely Isle. Then to Sconser where we witnessed the nicest sunset we have viewed. Beautiful through a division in the hills and reflected a thousand colours in the loch. Wild birds on the shore, and pheasants in the heather were settling down. We found a C.T.C. place but on being told 6/- for bed and breakfast we took the bed for 2/6d.

Thurs. 11th

We rose, packed and along the road a bit. Where a bakers van being stopped we bought a loaf. The first house we went to for water told us she did not have any. The next, one decent soul made us a tea pot of tea and refused to charge for it, 40 yards separating the houses. The day turned out as beautiful as its predecessors. On we went to Sligachan, where we took the right hand fork for Portree. Jean had arranged to meet us here. A lovely run in the morning air & we arrived at Portree at 1pm We had


With the joiners newly got off the bikes when we spotted Jean and Mac across the road. What a coincidence. We walked to the harbour, took snaps and back had tea said cheerio again and off for Uig Bay. Another great run. Just out of Portree you take the right hand fork at Borve for Uig. We met a cyclist coming from the hostel and he said we would get in okay. Roads a bit rough but not too bad. Arrived in Uig a lovely spot. Uig Bay is unbeatable the sun had been shining all day. We found the Hostel a nice old Warden with a great store. Only two girls from Hamilton they were spending their holidays here for a week. Sat up after midnight listening to the captain’s yarns.

Ella and I arrived at Dunvegan rather a nice place too. With the famous castle and fairy flag. We went to the shop and made a lovely supper. Still burning with the sun. Peggy arrived later she had been rock finding. We went to bed early as we had to be up at five o’clock to get to Kyleakin to meet Jean at Mid-day at Kyle of Lochalsh. There were quite a few.

Sat. 13th

Up for the bus going to Portree. One lad in such a hurry ran off without his marmalade so Ella & I took it with us. We left Peggy in bed and off at 6 am. We never met anyone for miles. The sun rose too early for we had some rain before we left the lovely isle. Back over mountain roads down & up some parts very hilly. Ella skidded on

some loose gravel and was quite annoyed because her dignity was hurt although there were only sheep to see her. We went for miles with the Cuillins on the right and lochs on the left. What a peaceful country. But it would be very lonely in winter. We reached Sligachan again from a different angle. The wind started to rise and worse the rain came on. We did look for a lorry but it was in vain.

honeysuckle. What a perfume after the rain.

However after battling against wind & rain (our first since we left home) we stopped at Whitegates a lovely house for our tea. We had tomatoes, meat and fresh lettuce boy, were we hungry. A gentleman from Glasgow that morning was here on holiday. He had cigarettes with him that lighted by drawing along the edge of the packet. Very interesting to talk to.

Weather clearing again. Misty, like heat following. A good breakfast some snaps then off. A Yorkshire lad accompanied us. We were now making for Invergarry to see Nell. To Shiel Bridge Inn is quite level but the hills are very high on either side. The deer fences were all up. Continuing to Clunie Bridge.

Broadford then Kyleakin where the rain had stopped. We crossed in the small ferry to Kyle of Lochalsh. After 5 mins. We found Jean with her bike and scratches. She had sailed from Mallaig to Kyle of Lochalsh. We went along a lovely road making for Dornie ferry. Lots of trees here and beautiful hedges. After 2 hrs. we reached the ferry the last bit of road like the Antrim coast in Ireland, rocks on one side and sea on the other. We crossed from Totaig with one other cyclist to Ratagan. A short run 3 miles through a lovely path laden with

The Hostel was very nice right on the shores of Loch Duich. We had a good meal then a short walk with some of the boys. Back to the Hostel as it was misty and the midges were out. Had a wash in a basin in one end. Then off to bed.

Sun. 14th

We took the road for Tomdoun, we were told it was rough but it shorter than going by Glen Moriston. You start off walking from Clunie Inn up among the hills for about four miles. We met some cars coming down so we knew it couldn’t be so atrocious a surface. We had bare bread cheese and water. But it was good. The sun came out as warm as ever. Gosh we were tanned. The Yorkshire boy was good fun. The road started going down amid beautiful scenery. But it also got rough in parts. Single file and cautious was the order. A lovely run & we reached Tomdoun. But no Ella. The Yorkshire lad turned and back on his bike. Jean and I

in panic dropped the bikes and ran back 2 miles to find her with her with a loose mudguard. We thought she was in the loch of course. Luckily a passing motorist had a screw to fit the mudguard. On again from Tomdoun to Invergarry. Along beside Loch Garry beautiful scenery & a lovely day. The Yorkshire lad and I went in front now. He could sing You Are My Heart’s Delight in Italian jolly good to listen too. We got off to wait for the other two. The road was very twisty but a good surface. Just this side of Invergarry at the end of Loch Garry we spied teas. The old wifie was terribly funny. She went out & covered up the bikes with a rug to keep the sun off. We had a very nice tea with the young lad telling yarns. He was a humourist. Then we came to Invergarry and said Goodbye to the lad who was going on to Auchterawe. We turned now at the bridge looking for the Home Farm. Stopping to read the labels on some milk cans we discovered we were there. In the gate we hurried and along a field. Maggie and her family were on holiday here. They were all pleased to see us. We had a wash then went for a walk & had a look at Invergarry Castle. In beautiful surroundings it is now in ruins. Ivy clings to all the walls. A lovely pond for boating. & gardens. Back to the house. Supper & bed.


Had our tea on the road after Perth. Could not get a lorry. Jean threatening to take the train.

he didn’t know how to mend it. Jimmie from Ayr offered his services.. He was quite delighted to watch the process. Gosh he was funny.


Mon. 15th

We had a long lie then porridge & eggs for breakfast. Went to the village 2 shops & took back some provisions for our dinner. We then got out the good old bikes & went to Fort Augustus. Great road but pretty busy. Along beside Loch Ness right into the town. We visited the Monastery here & saw the boat going through the draw bridge. Spent time and money in the town. Ella got a proper screw for her mudguard in a garage. We then enjoyed the run back to Invergarry. I had a fast run & waited at the bridge for the other two. We all went in & had our tea although we had had it in Fort Augustus too. W. Brown was ragging us and he accidentally threw my socks in the fire. Bed again.

Tues 16th


Raining again. We were up earlier and had a good breakfast. We said Goodbye & off we went again in the rain. Past the well with the six heads along a great road for 12 miles when I got a puncture. I could hardly realise it was a puncture. We tried hard to get the wing nuts off but they would not move. Two cyclists came along & assisted us not only to take off the wing nuts but they mended the puncture. On again & we arrived at Spean Bridge beside Loch Lochy. Roy Bridge, then Moy road very rough in parts. We became hungry nothing to

eat and no houses to be seen. What a predicament. Scenery lovely beside Glen Spean the Loch Laggan. Sun came out in full force again. Ben Alder Forest behind Loch Laggan & Ben Alder 3751 ft. in the distance enchanted us. But still we were hungry. We met a roadman he said there was a house 4 miles away. On again. We reached Loch Laggan Inn. Jean stopped here but we persuaded her for another mile. A C.T.C. sign, gosh we dropped the bykes & up. The woman was very nice. We must have looked hungry. She gave us a big dish of custard each. Then tea, bread & jam were consumed. Feeling better we set off again in beautiful sunshine and reached Laggan. Taking the small road very rough and steep we reached Dalwhinnie. On to a first class road again we had a glorious free wheel of 6 miles through Blair Atholl to Killiecrankie. Here we were hungry again & had a nice tea in the P. Office. Away again to Pitlochry where Alan Cobham Air display was going traffic very congested, but on we went a lovely July evening. Five miles and we arrived at Ballinluig. Eight more & we reached Dunkeld through this lovely place to Birnam Y.H.A. No store so out we went for provisions. Shops all closed but we went to a house next one and he let us in. Everything we wanted, so back to Hostel. Been an old school. Warden put light out in C.R. at 11pm sharp as he wanted away. We had one in the wash place so with kettles


of boiling water Ella and I had a bath. Jean was in bed. Next morning I made the breakfast. Then we packed and off to Meigle. Going to Blairgowrie 12 miles. Another glorious day. Five more miles to Alyth then a twisty road round to Meigle. Just paid uncle Tom a visit had tea then off for Dunblane. We were brave. Five miles into Coupar Angus. Then 18 to Perth facing a head wind. Still, it was a lovely night. Had our tea on the road after Perth. Could not get a lorry. Jean threatening to take train. Wind was very stiff towards Auchterarder. It seemed a very long 15 mile. We called at Garth Terrace but no luck. On again past Gleneagles Hotel to Greenloaning 9 miles. Cheers only 5 miles to do but it was 9pm. A final effort & we reached Dunblane. Now for the hostel we took the wrong road through looking at the moon I think, but soon righted the error & Oh an S.Y.H.A. sign. Formerly a sanatorium it looked very nice with a sensible warden, nice company, boiling kettles, nice accommodation what more a reward than that. We enjoyed our supper & bed. Sleeping under glass roofs with the moon shining through. Riviera hadn’t a look in. Met a London lad next morning at breakfast & an Ayr boy. We were in no hurry as Fintry was our destination 14m. The Londoner had a puncture worse still

We all five set off till the parting of the ways near Doune. Jimmie was going to Fintry so he came with us. “Crianlarich” went off amid much laughter. Through Kippen for Fintry. Another lovely day after a shower in the morning. Hunger called a halt at the roadside. Bread and marmalade. Scraped the marmalade empty. A few miles on then a puncture in my tyre. Jimmie Ayr started again & mended it. We reached Fintry 4pm Mr Cuthbertson out welcoming us in.. We had a pleasant meal. Then a walk to the Endrick water which flows into Loch Lomond. A dance that night with the hostellers made our day complete. Cold sprays the next morning. Gee there were howls. A good breakfast, Goodbye and off we go. Killearn, into Drymen. Visited McGregors had a nice tea. Then the Stockiemuir Road to Bearsden. From there we took the back road into Drumchapel. The rain had commenced on the Stockiemuir road and did it rain? We arrived at Miss Turnbull’s soaking wet. A good fire and hot water soon put that right. Stayed the night then the next morning after breakfast and repack we left. Going straight through Glasgow on to the Edinburgh Road. Once again in boiling sunshine. We arrived home at 3pm Well we certainly did justice to the food for three days, then we settled down once more. The end of a great holiday while we wait eagerly for the time to come again. TRANSCRIBED June 2020 by Harvie Paterson


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