Wednesday, 11 August 2010

25th July 2010 - Loch Naver to John o Groats

The last day of cycling.  Our night of wild camping had been pretty eh ... wild.  It had been quite windy and there was a fair bit of rain during the night.  The tent was letting in water again and there was a thick covering of midgies in one corner of the tent.  We didn't care about this though, it was still the last day of cycling, yippee. There was a break in the rain so we took the tent down pretty sharpish.  Breakfast was a car picnic.  There was one plus to it raining, there weren't too many midgies about.

Cycling along the River Naver was amazing. Apart from the odd house, there was absolutely nobody about, no cars, just lots of sheep.

It was 18 miles to Bettyhill from where we had camped for the night and for some reason I still hadn't found my legs when I arrived, I was still feeling quite lethargic. I met Carol, Katy and the girls for a spot of brunch. Like the previous day, Carol, Katy and the girls would meet me at various points along the way.  The road out of Bettyhill is very hilly and I was still feeling a little lethargic. About 10 miles from Bettyhill all the food Carol has been force feeding me must have kicked in because I felt great and zipped along the road.

The last stop of the day before John o Groats was Thurso where I had a coffee.  I drank my coffee and headed for John o Groats.

I arrived in John o Groats in no time at all, in fact Carol was worried that I would be there before them as they had stopped at a beach to walk the dogs.  It was the best feeling ever to have finally finished.  From about five miles out I had been in a kind of time trialling mode, if that is possible on a touring bike with trekking handlebars and 37mm tyres.  I spotted Carol, Katy and the girls straight away.  There were hugs and kisses all round and Rosie had picked me some flowers.  We tooks photographs at the sign and that was it, Land's End to John o Groats in twelve days cycling. 68 miles cycles today, 1006.6 miles in total.

We hung around for a while before heading back to Torguish House for the night.

Song for Today: Grandaddy - The Final Push to the Sum

24th July 2010 - Daviot, Inverness to Loch Naver

Way hey!  The penultimate day.  We stick around the Bed and Breakfast for a later start.  The garden is full of bizarre artifacts at Torguish House. Apparently, when they were renovating the main house, every time they needed a break, they went in to the garden and did something random (see picture below).

Sarah decided to have a go on the rope swing and got herself into a bit of bother climbing on.  We were all helpless as none of us could stop laughing long enough to help her.

I left about 11am and followed NCN7 into Inverness. Once over the Kessock Bridge , I am back to following the CTC Bed and Breakfast route.  The route takes me through Munlochy, Culbokie and on the A9 for a short while (scary biscuits) to Evanton.  Carol, Katy and the girls meet me in Evanton for a bite to eat.  From this point onwards they are never going to be far away as I am not expecting that many shops or cafes to be open along the road. From Evanton, the next stop is Bonar Bridge.  The cycling is very enjoyable and the roads are very quiet.  The scenery is absolutely stunning although I daren't stop too long as there are quite a few midges about. Next stop was Lairg, not far away. Another refreshment and back on the bike.

Carol, Katy and the girls stopped at the Crask Inn further up the road to wait for me.  The road is now down to a single track with passing places. Starting to get excited now as I know I am nearly there.

After the Crask Inn, the next place is Altnaharra. We haven't been able to get any accommodation for tonight so we are wild camping. We decided to try and find somewhere along Loch Naver, just passed Altnaharra. When we eventually find a spot, the midges are horrendous.  We quickly get the tent up. Luckily, we had remembered our midgie nets.

Loch Naver is stunning, you couldn't hear anything, apart from the sheep.  90 miles cycled today, tomorrow, 70 miles of cycling will get me to John o Groats.

Song for Today: The Coral - Pass It On

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

23rd July 2010 - Blair Atholl to Daviot, Inverness

We struggled to find accommodation in Inverness as the Highland Games are taking place this weekend. Carol managed to find a B&B just south of Inverness on the A9 so that is today's destination.  My mum, Sarah, Brian and Erin have decided to come up to Inverness to cheer me on and they are staying at the same B&B.

I start nice and early after a hearty breakfast surrounded by stuffed animals, waved off by Carol, Katy, Scott, Lisa and the girls.  They are going to spend the day at the Falls of Bruar.  Today's route is to follow NCN7 mostly up the side of the A9. A fair bit is cycle track, but it is fairly rough.  I wouldn't like to do it on a road bike with 23mm tyres that's for sure.  I much prefer the quiet B roads.  I stopped at the tea room in Dalwhinnie for a coffee I couldn't drink it was so bad, luckily the chocolate cake was much better. £6.85 for a coffee, a slice of chocolate cake and a smallish scone.  Wish I hadn't bothered.

Pressing on, I follow the road up to Aviemore. There seems to be two sets of signs for the NCN7.  One for off road and the other on road.  I must have read the sign wrongly because the next batch of miles, virtually all the way to Carrbridge, were off-road :-)  Very bumpy.  I met Carol,Katy and the girls in Carrbridge for a refuel.  Next stop is Torguish House. After 82 miles, I arrive at the bed and breakfast with a great day's cycling under my belt.

The B&B is certainly the most bizarre we have stayed in.  The owners are very friendly and very helpful.  My mum, Sarah, Brian and Erin arrive a little while later.  Sarah and Brian are in the honeymoon suite, very nice.  Mum treats us to dinner in the Culloden Moor Inn after a recommendation by the owners of the B&B. They serve possibly the biggest portions I have ever seen, one meal could feed a small army for a week. We all struggle to finish and I don't think anyone has a sweet.

Song for Today: Belle and Sebastian - Another Sunny Day

22nd July 2010 - Crombie to Blair Atholl

I love cycling along these roads. I quite often cycle up to Crieff for a scrambled egg, cake and coffee at the Visitors Centre in Crieff. In stark contrast to last week, it's sunny, not too sunny, just really nice weather for cycling.  We have booked a room in the Blair Atholl Hotel for the night and we have planned to meet our friends, Scott, Lisa and their daughter Robyn Gosz.  The cycling is good and the scenery is absolutely beautiful.  After Crieff, it's the Sma' Glen, Aberfeldy, Pitlochry and then on to Blair Atholl.  There is hardly a car on the road.

I arrived in Blair Atholl in good time having cycled 82 miles.  A quick bath and then we are back down for dinner.  Dinner was fairly disappointing. It was very expensive compared to what we had been getting down in England last week and of average quality.  Never mind, we had a great laugh and Scott and Lisa kept us entertained all evening.  The girls (Poppy, Rosie and Robyn) had a great time.  Time for bed and hoping tomorrow is as good a day as today.

Song for Today: Beautiful Day - U2

Monday, 9 August 2010

21st July 2010 - Crombie, Rest Day

A rest day at home.  The washing machine broke down and started bellowing black smoke.  I'm not really suprised considering we put a 10 days of camping clothes in it (they smelled real bad, especially Carol's scabby old fleece).

Song for Today:  Coldplay - Fix You (or not as the case may be)

20th July 2010 - Longtown to Crombie

Surprise surprise, it's not raining, in fact it is almost sunny. We check out of the hotel and I head off on the A7 up to Edinburgh and then home. Today, I am taking the A7 through Hawick, Selkirk, Galashiels and on to Edinburgh. The road is surprisingly quiet and this is the first day I have really enjoyed the cycling.  I have a saddlebag full of food, including an entire date and walnut loaf (my favourite), thanks to my lovely wife and things are good. This is what I had hoped my LEJOG would be.

The miles pass by pretty quickly. I spot a deli in Selkirk so decide to stop for some coffee and a slice of apple pie. Back on the bike, the next town is Galashiels.  After Galashiels, the next milestone is Edinburgh.  The road is still quiet and my only trouble is my right calf is very tight. I need to stop and stretch a couple of times. Carol has arranged with Drew Bell, a friend and fellow Dunfermline Cycling Club member, to give me a tow back from Edinburgh with a few other club members.  Once I know how long I am going to be, I give Drew a call.  

In Edinburgh, I picked up the B701 round to Wester Hailes (it's great when you know where your going), then on to the canal path to Ratho, up the hill to Ratho Station and then on to Kirkliston.

I met Drew and Jim Jackson in Kirkliston.  Two minutes later, Jim Reid and Gavin Cooper arrive.  We also meet up with some of the other DCC guys.  It was great to catch up with everyone and it was a big morale boost to cycle back with everyone over the Forth Road Bridge. In no time at all we are back in Crombie.

That's the first stretch over, nearly 700 miles, of those, 106 miles were cycled today.  My third century ride in a week and I feel amazingly fine.

19th July 2010 - Longtown, Rest Day

No cycling today.  We are staying another night at the Graham Hotel in Longtown so I can have a rest.  Weather not great again so no sunbathing today.

My mum, sister Sarah and niece Erin are driving back up the road from my grandparents in Stafford so we are going to meet them in Brampton for some lunch.  We headed into Brampton early to walk the dogs in the woods above the village. We had a nice lunch in the Nags Head.  Excellent food and good local beer.

After lunch we waved goodbye to my mum, Sarah and Erin and they headed home, not before Missy (Sarah's King Charles Cavalier Spaniel) tried to eat a boulder cemented into the pavement.  For some reason she took exception to this one particular stone. She had tried to attack it on the way in as well.  We headed for Hadrian's Wall and some sightseeing.

Song for Today: Crowded House - Distant Sun