John Peet, former General Secretary of L'Arche UK, is hoping to raise £30,000 by cycling 1500 miles around the UK and visiting every L'Arche Community and Project on the way. The money will go to L'Arche in Zimbabwe, where funds are so desperately needed just to keep the Community going, and to the Projects in Glasgow and Manchester that, with your help, will soon become L'Arche Communities.

Saturday 14th June

Route: Gruline, Mull to Iona
Mileage: 39.51: Total so far 598 – 902 to go
Weather: Broken cloud, sunny, light wind

The peacocks, which had perched on the newly refurbished roof of General McQuarrie's former house, proved a persistent alarm clock, but I deferred the inevitable hour until 7.30, snatching another few hours sleep. At breakfast I learnt a little more about Mull's population of eagles which Fiona is employed to watch and research on behalf of the RSPB, and the problems of managing the Harmer's sizeable estate which the Rhododendrons are threatening to over-run if they are not controlled through spraying. After a walk down to the Loch for a photo or two, it was time to say thank you to James, Nicola and Fiona for a most enjoyable stay.

Equipped with a couple of much appreciated sandwiches, I left the Harmers in bright sunshine and the prospect of good weather for the journey ahead. I had been warned about the climb past Gribun as the stunning coast road swings south inland and over the lower reaches of Ben Na Sreine. It was a long hard pull but I managed it with just one stop to look back, as the Harmers suggested, to take in the elevated views behind me. Whitewashed cottages, almost engulfed by green fields, set against a deep blue sea and cotton wool-clouded azure sky. Postcard images in front of my very eyes.

Effort is normally rewarded and the run down though the forest to Loch Scridain lifted my already high spirits as another coastline came into view, and the glint of car windows in the now strong sun gave a clue to the path of the Craignure road. This I would join near the Aird of Kinloch. after what had been a semicircular route around Ben More.

Once on the more major road, I stopped at Pennygael Post Office for a hot cuppa and met Jim, Doreen and Brenda who kindly offered me a lift to Iona. I politely declined although I have to say I was tempted! Jim was visiting these parts to survey all premises serving alcohol. Apparently, new legislation is coming in which requires all such premises in Scotland to provide floor plans detailing where alcohol is stored and sold, and without certification by a certain date, hotels and restaurants will be heavily penalised. Hope I've got this right Jim!

Onwards to Fionnphort for the ferry to Iona. After buying my return ticket, I was waiting by the jetty when a lady saw my pannier adverts and remarked that she knew L'Arche. So we got into conversation. It turned out that the person in question was Joan Lewis Le Morvan who had helped to set up the RC House of Prayer and who had lived in Chichester before moving up to Mull. It transpired that she knew Kathleen O'Gorman, the current national Chair of L'Arche UK! Accompanying her was Terry Clarke from St Catherine's Parish in Manchester who was interested to hear more about the new L'Arche Project Group meeting round the corner in Didsbury. I'll give your details to the Committee Chair, Terry.

Joan is a mine of information about Mull, and was keen to tell me of the 5.00 pm Mass that afternoon which was being celebrated by a priest from Uganda at the House of Prayer overlooking the Sound of Iona. After arriving on Iona I had a look in the Nunnery then called at the Columba Hotel which I had been told had internet access. Here I met Sam and Lynn from Pateley Bridge, and Jim and Jackie from Todmordan. Great to meet you all - your support is much appreciated. Then I headed to the north end of the Island to find the Hostel, a private initiative set up and run by John MacLean and his wife. It's hidden from view, nestling in the lea of a rock outcrop. Ahead is the most stunning view of the near Atlantic. As I write this blog, I can see Lunga, Rum, Col and Tyree.

The hostel is really well planned, equipped and managed. My room has two bedded bunks and occupied tonight by another cyclist, Steve and a couple walking, Kevin and Helen.The spacious kitchen would be the envy of any farmhouse and, with windows on 3 sides, takes every advantage of the surrounding views.

I hurried back to the ferry terminal, to get some provisions for supper, and then up to the House of Prayer to catch the beginning of Mass. Fr Ernest Siervers is a White Father and a brief chat afterwards over a sherry with Sister Jean who runs the House of Prayer revealed that he knows well Andrew Yooumbe, the L'Arche Zone Co-ordinator for Africa. The web of connections expands.

On return to the Hostel, the kitchen was a hive of activity, and fellow guests included people from Germany, Argentina, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, England, and Scotland. A convivial evening finished with guitar playing and singing.


Geoff said...

Read the details you have posted - very interesting - but rather you than me!
If you are around Essex after 9 July please give us a call. Otherwise we shall get in touch when your ride is over - assuming you survive that is!!! Still better than cycling over the Himalayan Passes no doubt
Best regards and safe travels
Geoff & Esther

Craig Larson said...


Wonderful ride and blog! I just returned from pilgrimage that included Iona. Experiencing the island would not be complete without meeting Joan Le Morvan - DELIGHTFUL! ...a welcome representative of the Benedictine tradition still present on the isle. See you at Mass!

Craig Larson - OblSB, Swan River, Manitoba