Lands End to John O Groats

United Kingdom Travel Blog

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Wobourn Deer Park

New Year This is it, four months to go. Tina and myself have our fantastic new Dawes bikes, they are excellent, we are delighted with our choice and hope they don’t let us down when it comes to the crunch. With Christmas and New Year out of the way we can now get on with some serious training. To date everything is on schedule, our accommodation all booked, wow that was a challenge let’s hope it pays off! A great deal of time is being spent planning the route we will take using the C.T.C (Cycling and Touring Club) routes to guide us. The three of us will take regular training sessions together so we can get used to cycling as a team, this will also help us to achieve similar cycling paces.

Wobourn
Here we go lets burn some rubber!!!!!!!

February 2001 It was a beautiful bright, Sunday morning. I decided to take an early morning bike ride out into Woburn; I could not believe the sight that greeted me, and the smell that assaulted my nostrils. Woburn Deer Park had been closed up like a military fortress NO ENTRY signs, "foot and mouth precautions" straw piled high and doused in disinfectant, it was a very sad moment; all of a sudden exactly what we had taken for granted every day of our lives, our freedom to travel, had been taken away. I felt lost; one of the places we love to cycle through was out of bounds. It was about to get worse! Within days Stockgrove Country Park had been closed down too, a great place for morning tea and loo stops.

out on a training ride!
Every bridleway and public footpath now sealed off. As I made my way into Bow Brickhill, where there are some of the most beautiful walks in the County, normally buzzing with horses and their owners, and walkers, all I saw was a Man and Woman stood with two magnificent Golden Retrievers by a blocked entrance reading the no entry notice, it was unreal the countryside was closed down, then turning to the dogs who were waiting and wondering why they were not running free through the woods like they always do, it was difficult to tell who was the most confused, they all just looked bewildered, no walks today as they all bundled back into the car. Things only got worse.

March 2001 The countryside has been deserted now on our training days. The silence is very strange, some days I can cycle for miles and not see a soul.

were off!!
The footpaths are very overgrown through lack of human contact. There are some animals still in the fields they are oblivious to it all.  We hope things improve soon and wonder what impact this will have on our trip, as a great deal of our route takes through rural areas. We can only wait and see. The training goes well, our new “clip on “ pedals proved to be as bit of a challenge! A huge thanks to Ian who gave of his valuable time to fit them, and his patience while we got used to them, especially when Tina almost went through his patio doors, phew! That made our hearts stop. It is very strange to be attached to your bike, and even stranger when you forget to un-clip when you stop, and end up in a heap on the ground. Tina and myself are supporting cut and bruised knees. We have a hard job explaining to some people that the falls were not alcohol induced, including my Brother, who thinks the clip on pedal injury’s are a good cover for lots of nights out, and one beer to many! “I only wish it were true”.
Exmore
Tina to-date has the worst injury a badly cut and bruised shin, but in true spirit we get up dust ourselves off and get back on our bike’s. Despite all this the peddles are excellent and are a great asset when cycling for very long distances. We now look so professional. The biggest problem with this falling off your bike lark, besides the bruising and cuts of course, is it takes just the slightest knock to throw out the gearing on the bikes, so yet another trip to Dave our bike Man in Hitchin Mister “fix it”.

April 2001 Well, we are on final count down now; we have our pannier carriers fitted. thanks to Dave. He is still getting us out of all sorts of trouble "tweaking" our cables adjusting our gears and giving us useful information on how to do quick fixes to get us out of trouble on the road.

where to now!
We will have our big service on Monday May 1st before we set off on Thursday. April has been very wet so far and the temperatures are still not great, it’s "thermals on", "thermals off." Bob tells us that the weathermen are forecasting the hottest May for years! well it would want to start sharpish with only 9 days to go! I got caught in a hail storm today, I never saw it coming as it must have been following me, waiting to catch me out, clear sky ahead but big bad black clouds behind. I never had a chance, I was soaked before I could get my waterproofs out of the bag, within seconds hail was bouncing off my head, and if that was not bad enough it was bouncing off the road and hitting me again, where are all the trees when you need them!! We have now completed two 60mile-training runs one with loaded panniers, that was a shock to the system.
Crossing the Severn bridge
It is amazing how much pressure the extra weight puts on your body, still with a bit of practice we won’t even know they are there! When I got home I threw everything out except the bare necessities! I have decided more pasta is needed to stock up on the complex carbohydrates for strength every little helps, or am I just clutching at straws now!

 

May2001  That’s it! Here we are no more training, the final preparations are made bags packed (Will made just in case!).

lovely countryside
Loads of farewells, good luck cards, kind words of encouragement and a million hug’s, the best of all is the true and genuine feeling that everyone is with us 100%

May the 3rd we fit the bike carrier to the vehicle, which was kindly donated by John Dudley. We thanked our wisdom for deciding to do this the day before and not at 5am in the morning. It proved a bit of a challenge, but we were delighted with how comfortable 3 bikes fitted on the back of the company Astra estate. We were all set now and ready to go!  Our trip down to Land’s End was very good no delays on the roads, we were stocked up with enough sandwiches fruit, drink and cakes to survive a minor war, stopping only for tea and loo.

nearly there!
Thanks to Pat for taking time out to drive us, and for the laugh’s on the way.  The sun came out and was not to leave us for the next 11 days; we were starting on a high!   

White Sands Lodge Sennen May 4th A fantastic haven by the beautiful Sennen cove, a blue and white building that matched the scenery perfectly, on entering the smell of jasmine and geranium greeted us, wind chimes and crystals hanging from the windows, the feeling of tranquility was everywhere we were feeling de-stressed already. The accommodation was excellent not fancy or plush but very comfortable and we felt we were amongst friends. The resident tabby cat called Mya loved everyone and stretched out at any opportunity to be stroked and admire

May 5th Day 1 It was a Sennen to Tintagle 82 miles Breakfast was filling and nourishing, we were packed and ready to be on the road at 0920 after Bob lost the key to his bike lock, and we spent a few minutes on hands and knees searching, it was eventually found on his room floor, first slap of the trip awarded to Bob.

Bob nearly there
The sight of Penzance and St Michael’s Mount bathed in bright sunshine as we descended at a fantastic speed was a most breathtaking view. Just out of Penzance Bob lost his pannier, after a closer look we realized they were on back to front, we soon put this right and had good laugh about it. Tina had a fall into a hedge, (the peddles strike again) to the amusement of a local man walking his dog, I remarked to him, that I told her it was not a good idea to finish the bottle of scotch last night, he roared with laughter and made a comment in thick Cornish accent which I could not quiet understand. and wandered off giggling to himself. 

 I also had my share of beginners luck; my shorts sprung a hole at saddle level! my dignity was protected only by a nice big leaf; I had to endure much teasing and jokes.

the mighty Guinness
My “friends” are oh so cruel. I also had the misfortune of dropping my lunch in Truro, and the final straw a bird did it’s business on my bright yellow cycling shirt, how lucky was that hitting a moving target! I think I came of worst that day. The accent to Tintagle was slow and difficult on lot’s of minor roads. The view that greeted us as we arrived was just amazing the clear blue sky, the sun low on the horizon, the sheer cliff’s falling away into the sea below, we were all struck silent, if we had questioned at all that day what on earth we were doing, after 82miles in the saddle the picture postcard we found ourselves in, made every moment worthwhile. Our accommodation at Pendrin House was excellent very welcoming nice people.
more lovely English countryside
The owner and the other guests all gave us donations to be split amongst our charities. I wish this was Guinness!

May 6th Day 2 Tintagel to Exmoor 88 miles After a filling breakfast we bid our farewells and headed off for our next destination Exford in the heart of Exmoor. We climbed to Boscastle a beautiful village just outside Tintagle we found a cycle track that took us on our way to Bude this was up hill all the way. We followed the coastline and the views took our minds off the climb. The hills got steeper the climbs longer, it was hard to enjoy the down hills, as we just knew there would be yet another up hill beyond! Despite the hard work the sleepy lanes of Devon were a picture with the landscape dotted with the old mining chimney’s which added to the character, unlike many modern structures today that are so alien and out of place in our country landscape.

blue bell woods
Traffic was almost extinct, on one country lane we were greeted by two young boy’s and their beautiful Collie dogs, they were excited to talk to us and tell us the dogs names and enquire where we were going, the dogs proceeded to jump all over us, and leave us covered in paw prints, we looked like we had gone a couple of rounds with Lassie. It was so refreshing to find such friendliness. The day passed we entered Exmoor the terrain was relentless. Our good friend Celine was meeting us at our accommodation that evening, when she came to meet us on the road, it was a fantastic sight, an Angel to the rescue, she took our panniers, with our lightened load we covered the last 10 miles like the wind, this probably had something to do with the isolation and eerie landscape not to mention the big black cattle that came from nowhere out in front of me, I checked just to make sure Bob had seen them too, to my great relief he had, “which Moors have that Beast again”? I could not remember, it was a bit like the Wild West out there.
oops!!!
Our accommodation at Court Farm was amazing, a very old cottage that oozed charm our hosts made us so welcome we felt the troubles of the day disappear. We enjoyed an excellent meal in the village at Celene’s accommodation and chatted to some people who gave us sponsor money for our charities. After an amazing breakfast around a huge pine table in a homely kitchen we chatted with our hosts. Celine joined us and announced she would take our panniers to our next stop Saltford, just outside Bristol, what a Star!! and what a difference this would make to us. Court Farm Exford Lunch in Blackford

May 7th Day 3 Exford to Saltford 87 miles After saying our good byes and lots of photos and a few adjustments to our bikes off we went.

Scotland Highlands
We would meet Celine in Blackford for lunch. The exit from Exmoor was climb, climb, and climb; followed by the most amazing down hill we got speeds of 45 m.p.h. I was to scared to take my hands off the brakes! Exmoor behind us the terrain was generally hilly, we headed for Cheddar Gorge, it was a lovely cycle through the Gorge. The last part of the day was hard to navigate lots of stopping and trying to find which way, after a while all the country lanes look the same, just when you think you have it cracked up pops a crossroad! which way now? what is it about crossroads, they are never where they are supposed to be, and I have decided I hate them!!!! We arrived late at our accommodation Prospect Villa Saltford a suburb of Bristol. We were exhausted and could not begin to think about finding a place to eat, the lady of the house did soup sandwiches and chips, what a relief that was, we were almost too tired to eat, I did say almost! 

May 8th Day 4 Saltford to Fawnhope 74 miles After another fine breakfast off we set on another beautiful warm morning.

jet ski much better idea!
We got onto the Bristol and Bath cycle way, fantastic! It runs along side the old railway line and took us around seven miles avoiding the busy streets, now well on our way to the Severn Bridge. What a view not a breath of wind and bathed in sunshine it was just a beautiful sight. We skirted Chepstow and the racetracks. This was where Tina was in trouble with her knee she had pushed on all morning but it had only got worse, at Brockwier she decided it was not possible to continue, the pain was just increasing with each hour. We were all very sad and emotions were running high, our hearts were breaking when we left her behind to be collected by her Sister. Tina was going to go to the Doctors and hoped she would be able to join us the next day. We kept going to make it to our next stop, with the hope all would be well.
The end
We had our lunch in Colford sitting in the sunshine watching the world go by and thinking of Tina. The countryside is so beautiful in this part of Gwent lovely green lush valleys and the Forest of Dean. We followed the river Wye that meandered through picturesque villages and under old bridges into Ross on Wye. We had made good time and were able to find a cycle shop to take a look at Bob’s gears which had been playing up for a couple of days, my bike had the once over as well, my derailelur (the knobby bit on the back wheel that selects the gears) had been knocked out of line probably from the panniers. Now the bikes were running like a dream. The tough terrain of the last few days had taken its toll. We arrived at Fownhope a sleepy little village 9 miles outside Ross on Wye in good time. Our Hosts at Pippins were lovely; we even had our washing done! the accommodation was very plush, and a lovely deep bath, heaven! We had a good dinner in the pub down the road, and again collected more funds for our charities.

May 9th Day 5 It was a Fownhope to Hodnet 74 miles After an excellent breakfast we set off once again on a lovely fresh morning, there had been some rain over night and the countryside had come to life. I am constantly amazed with the scenery and the beauty all around, everywhere seems more vibrant, is it because you have the time to stop and enjoy it? It is incredible how in tune you can become with your surroundings when you are out there every day. Our lunch stop was Ludlow we had a sandwich and a drink, and ate outside and relaxed for a while. the ride today was good, rolling countryside and gentle hills we made good progress and arrived at Heath Farm just outside Hodnet just as it started to rain. We had talked to Tina and found her knee injury would not permit her to continue the trip only rest would cure her. We were very disappointed and would miss her desperately, she was very brave and accepted her fate. At Heath Farm we were thrown back in time, we walked into an old fashioned kitchen with a huge table that dominated the room and a large Aga, which would later be used to dry our clothes. Ada Drysdale (what a cool name!) her husband Jim and her Sister greeted us, all in their late 60s early 70s I would say. We sat down to tea and biscuits, and chatted about the devastating effect the foot and mouth was having on the farm and their B&B business and how they hoped things would pick up very soon. We talked about the wildlife that surrounded the farm a Woodpecker could be heard, and a family of Curlews resided near by, and the resident Buzzard who was a little eccentric, had been known to sit at the bottom of the lane and keep the postman at bay!  We were given a lift to the local Pub to have dinner and a fine dinner it was too, and collected again later well that’s what I call service! We were treated to homemade sausages from the local butcher’s shop that finished off a perfect breakfast. We talked about the amazing storm that had shook the house overnight and the rain that had pounded the roof, now in the early morning there was not a trace of it, all cleared up as if it had never happened, once again we hit the road! 

May 10 Day 6 Hodnet to Westhoughon 69 miles An excellent ride into Cheshire, stunning countryside we started on minor country lanes. We were constantly confused by Villages on the map that we could not find, finally we talked to a Farmer, who stopped his tractor to help us, it was amazing really, you could not see his features for dirt, his clothes could have stood up on their own, he looked like he had been out in the fields forever, it was only his shiny gold ring and designer sunglasses gave away the fact there was a young man beneath it all, anyway he was very helpful and informed us that most of the places on our map were only one house sometimes even two houses so no wonder we were getting confused. He set us on our way and we had a good laugh about the places with big important sounding names that were nothing at all. We stopped for lunch at Middlewich again al fresco in the warm afternoon. We continued along lovely quiet roads through pretty villages towards Bolton, we checked our route to find we were heading for a place on the map called Toll, to our delight we found this to be a toll bridge, now it was crystal clear why we were getting strange looks from the people we asked. This sent us into hysterics. It was an old iron bridge, very pretty, and over the Manchester ship canal. The toll fare was 12p (we didn't have to pay) but were intrigued as to how this fee was arrived at! I have since been told that this is the toll set in the ancient charters which used to be12 old penny’s, and has never been changed! The afternoon got hotter; we arrived at our accommodation at the Daisy Hill hotel Westhoughton around 8 miles outside Bolton. We spent a good hour washing our bikes and cleaning the chains, all the hot dry weather had made the chains clog up with dirt and dust. The accommodation was excellent the rooms were mini-apartments, T.V., fridge stocked up with continental breakfast fresh juice, croissants, eggs, cereal, cold meats, and a microwave, and joy of joy it was attached to a pub. We had a Chinese take away and our customary two pints of Guinness that we are sure kept our strength up. The routine was working very well now; I think we had it cracked.

May 11th Day 7 Westhoughton to Sedbergh 74.8 miles Yet another beautiful morning we were packed up and ready to roll at 8.30. We negotiated our way round the outskirts of Bolton, the traffic was not bad at all and we made excellent progress on the A666 towards Blackburn. We found our way through the City with ease to our amazement it was fun! it was exciting flying through the streets, and negotiating the traffic. Once out of the city we were in the Lancashire Dales, at the risk of sounding boring the scenery was spectacular, the Dale’s on our right and the Fell’s on our left, we were surrounded by dry stone wall’s and sheep! Bob does an excellent sheep impression so realistic, this was very funny at first, but let me tell you, by the time we got to the back end of Scotland and out of sheep country, I could have strangled him if he made one more sheep impression! We had our lunch at a Falconry Center near Ingleborough National Nature Reserve, we were treated to a display by a golden eagle while we ate, and surely this was Heaven! We were given a tip by some nice people who gave us directions of a great place to swim called the Devil’s Elbow at Kirkby Lonsdale on the river Lune. We went for it, the day had been a scorcher and the prospect of a dip was irresistible. The river was crystal clear, the bridge was buzzing with people, some strolling, some relaxing by the cool water eating ice cream. We decided to take turns for a dip Bob went first jumped right in. I looked on with envy while watching the bikes. A very nice couple that chatted to us offered to look after the bike’s while I went in as well. I could not have cared less if they ran off with them, that cold water was just too inviting. Boy was it worth it, it was fantastic! we just didn't want to get out. We had started something now, within minutes there was some schoolboys jumping in and splashing around. We provided some entertainment for the people that afternoon. The couple that looked after our bikes also gave us money for our charities, some people are just fantastic. Off we went in search of our accommodation at Sedburgh about twelve miles up the road. Here we were slap in the Lake District on a beautiful afternoon. One mile from our B&B Bob gets a puncture, the first one of the journey. We manage to pump up the tyre and hope it gets us to our accommodation. We were able to do some running repairs in the big yard after being treated to an ice-cold beer by Helen who was looking after the B&B for the owners who were away. We had a delicious dinner in the pub just a few doors down. Bob’s knee has been giving him pain for the past few days, there is no swelling, and we hope with the aid of painkillers it will improve, we are now resorting to bandaging it each day. Helen treated us to a good breakfast and excellent conversation telling us tales of her family how her husband who was a game warden had been effected by the foot and mouth outbreak, her teenage sons and of her recent liking for Salsa dancing. Our good byes said off we set again!  

May 12th Day 8 Sedburgh to Langholm 74 miles The departure from Sedburg was just amazing the mountains were bathed with sunlight and the countryside was still, as we wound our way through country lanes, the Lake District National Park on our left and the Fells on our right. We climbed most of the morning and had a stop at Shap a very pretty village famous for its Abbey and a landmark for coast-to-coast walkers, a little gem. Bob noticed a problem with his back wheel, he had a couple of broken spokes, these would have to be repaired as soon as possible, we were almost in Carlisle, it was early afternoon. We had to find a bike shop, luck again on our side we found one immediately. They were very busy, but would do the repairs we needed while we had lunch. We found a Burger King near by that would do, it was far too hot for walking around. We were disappointed it did not have air conditioning, we enjoyed our lunch and headed back to the shop, repairs done off we went. The town center was much prettier than the outskirts, packed with Saturday shoppers and lovely little market and the very impressive Castle. We stocked up on carbohydrate drinks and replenishing salts, as the heat of the last few days was taking its toll on our energy levels. We left Carlisle having glimpsed Hadrian's wall. Now we were on a mission heading for the border! A few more miles under our belts there it was, Welcome to Scotland! breaks on and a quick photo shoot, “wow” we are in Scotland we confirmed to each other as if we could not quiet believe it ourselves. We followed the river Esk to Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, we seemed to climb for along time leaving civilization behind us, we were a tad nervous we had taken a wrong turn, we were now both out of water! the prospect of climbing down the steep embankment to the river to get a drink did not appeal at all. All of a sudden there was the sign, off down the lane we raced, we had found our accommodation, the beautiful Burnfoot House right on the river. This was a real jewel sweeping staircase, huge rooms, I was exhausted walking from one end of my room to the other! I almost needed a ladder to get out of the bath. We were treated to a lift into the village for an excellent dinner. We would have loved the luxury of a little time to explore this beautiful spot. Alas yet another place added to our growing list of I want to come back here! Steven the owner kindly ran off his computer an alternative route to take us the “back way” out, this saved us having to cycle all the way back into the Village, once again local knowledge saves the day!” We bid them farewell, loaded up the bikes and made our way out through narrow lanes, and the sun was still shining on us!

May 13th Day 9 Langholm to Edinburgh 72 miles We cycled through the mountains along the valley on deserted roads. Sunday morning not many people around, passing sleepy towns enjoying great conversation. It was on the way to Galashiels I had a blow out on my back tyre, I thought I had been shot it scared the living daylights out of me. Bob said my face was a picture. I had picked up a piece of metal that got lodged in the side of my tyre. The inner tube was replaced, and off we set. Lunch was in Galashiels sitting in the sun and talking to some local people who were off to the seaside to enjoy the fantastic weather. Disaster struck as we left the town my back tyre was flat again! The only option now was a new tyre,  luck once again was on our side, there was a Halfords very near by off Bob went to get me a new tyre, he got the last one on the shelf how lucky was that! That job done, off we set again, a little behind schedule but still on track to reach Edinburgh late afternoon. The afternoon got hotter, as we burned up the miles. I noticed a wobble in Bobs back wheel to our horror when we investigated he had broken spokes again! We were at least ten miles from Edinburgh and the only option was to press on. The last few miles were difficult and slow, lots of traffic heading into the city on Sunday evening. The weather had changed from 28 degrees to around 18 degrees, as a strange mist crept in from the Firth of Forth, it looked amazing, almost as if Edinburgh was in the clouds. We had difficulty finding our B&B, up and down cobble streets; thank heavens for suspension seat posts! We spotted a bike shop that opened at 8am fantastic we would have the bike repaired in the morning. At last after many directions we were there! Our B&B at Cluaran House was a beautiful old Victorian house that had been fully restored, very comfortable. We were able to store our bikes in the hall by the stairs. We were exhausted after all the days’ troubles, but after a bath and an excellent Italian meal we were restored. 

May 14th Day 10 Edinburgh to Dunkeld 74 miles We were given good instructions from the owner on how to get to the Forth Bridge avoiding the City center. After an excellent Scottish breakfast we set off. The bike shop was just a few streets away, and we were looked after by a girl who seemed to know everything about bikes, she made changing a wheel look so easy. She gave both our bikes a good look over, and we repaired the punctured inner tube while she worked on the wheel, so we had it, as a spare should we need it. We were all ready to go in under an hour. We made our way out of Edinburgh towards the Forth Road Bridge, the traffic was heavy and fast the Bridge is spectacular as it the rail bridge across the Firth of Forth, a couple of photos and off we set into the countryside away from the traffic “yippee”. This was cycling at it’s best. We were now heading deep into Scotland heading for Dunkeld on minor roads. We had our lunch stop in Perth a very pretty town with loads of character, as we sat in the square eating and enjoying the hustle and bustle of people doing their thing, a man stopped to chat he was off to have the wheel of his BMX repaired, it had been badly buckled by his Son. He was keen to here about our adventure and told us he had his legs waxed for charity a few days before! It was clear now why he was walking funny.  We had to make a decision now on which route we would take after Dunkeld, Bobs knee was still very painful, and he was getting less and less pain free hours from the painkillers. The planned route would take us through a very remote area, where we would need to carry much of what we needed food and water for the whole day. With the trouble with the bikes and Bobs knee we decided not to tempt fate, we had been lucky so far. We decided to go the other side of the Cairngorm Mountains. We found a Tourist Board and booked a B&B Aviemore. We left Perth and continued along the cycle paths of the “old “ A9 beautiful country, dark bracken, contrasted with the forest greens and fast flowing rivers exquisite Scottish castles, and ever changing sky. We passed the Wolf sanctuary; there is a project to re-introduce the wolf back into Scotland. We would have loved to have seen one! We arrived at Dunkeld and stood on the bridge that overlooked the river Tummel, the scene that was before us was so beautiful words fail me, I was looking at an oil painting, the colours were right off an Artists pallet, we were both stunned, if hunger and the need for a nice hot bath had not been so great we would still be there! Another one for that list. Our Accommodation at the Merryburn Hotel was excellent. Dinner was enjoyed in the bar, the evening finished off with a nice chat with the locals.

May15th Day 11 Dunkeld to Aviemore 71 miles We had a good breakfast and the Owner had run off a route to Aviemore using mostly cycle paths on his computer the night before, this was a great help. Bobs knee was extremely painful this morning. We decided he should see a doctor to check what was going on. We were told the doctor’s surgery was just down the road and he opened at nine; if he got there early he would bee seen straight away. This was true! Armed with strong anti-inflammatory pills given to him by the Doctor, and advised to get a support strap he should be ok. The problem was knee joint trouble, and he would not do damage by continuing to cycle, if only we could control the pain. Off we went, on route to Aviemore this was an excellent cycle through the Forrest of Athol through Glen Garry in the heart of the Grampian Mountains. The “old” A9 cycle path proved to be a fantastic find it was well maintained and a good surface and ran along some of the most picturesque parts of Scotland. We could see the snow still on the highest peaks of the Cairngorms.  We had lots of sheep for company, each time we stopped they came running thinking we had something for them! until Bob did his sheep impressions and they soon ran off, and I was tempted to follow them! This route followed the rail line for most of our day; we were treated to a glimpse of the Royal Scotsman as it ambled passed. On our last twenty-five miles to Aviemore we cycled passed Loch’s with the Monadhliath Mountains to our left and the Grampian mountains to our right through glens and valleys and finally we followed the river Spey to Aviemore. What a lovely town! We stopped at the tourist office just to get final directions to the B&B and have a look round. We had a go on the heart monitor at the entrance for a laugh, Bob was average on the “how fit are you” scale, not impressed! I put in my money waited for the results, very impressive, lots of flashing lights and numbers, then up it came on the screen “need to exercise more”! I was fit to tear it off its stand, I had just cycled almost nine hundred miles, and a machine is telling me I need more exercise! Bob found this hysterical, I was depressed. Our B&B was lovely, homely and very comfortable. We had our washing done for us. We had a lovely dinner in an Italian restaurant and went across the road for a beer. Aviemore is a quaint ski resort full of life and very attractive, will have to try it out for skiing in the winter. We were treated to an excellent Scottish breakfast, the lady of the house even made me porridge and honey, we were set up for the day! We chatted to an elderly American couple who used to live in Scotland years ago. He worked in research, which kept them in Scotland for many years. They come back as often as possible they told us, and clearly loved the very bones of the place. 

May 16th Day 12 Aviemore to Evanton 52 miles Good byes said, bikes given the once over, off we set on our first wet day. There was no wind just very fine “soft” rain. The first part of our day was through Forest into a little Village called Carrbridge where we found the beautiful old 12th century bridge over the river Dulnain, after a couple of photos off we went. The ride through to Inverness was very pretty the clouds resting on the mountains the colours were vivid and alive. The rain gave us another glimpse into the beautiful scenes of Scotland far from making everywhere dowdy it came alive! Now I know where all those beautiful tartan colours come from they are everywhere. We made our way to Inverness through peaceful country lanes, and the Culloden battlefield, the site of the last battle on the British mainland. There was a spectacular visitor center and the chance to visit the battlefield. It was an incredibly peaceful place which seemed strange. Bob’s knee was excruciatingly painful now; the last climb into Culloden did it! We continued the last five miles into Inverness and decided to find a Hospital. Just on the outskirts there it was! Once again luck on our side. We were both feeling low now, not knowing if Bob could go any further. I would have been devastated if that had happened, and I knew Bob would have been heart broken, we had come so far. Had our luck just ran out? He was seen immediately in the accident and emergency department at first I decided to wait outside gathering my thoughts, I knew I would carry on what ever happened, but it would not be the same. After a while I went and waited inside saying a little prayer to anyone who would listen. When I saw Bob come through the doors I held my breath and wondered what the verdict would be. The Doctor had prescribed some good strong painkillers, which he said would work with the anti-inflammatory pills, once these kicked in he would feel the benefit. He was going to carry on, what a very brave decision. I was so relieved I could have cried. We decided to have lunch and rest, and let the painkillers kick in, we were both drained. An hour later, fed, refreshed, and less pain for Bob, off we went in good spirits heading for the Moray Firth and the Black Isle. The view over Inverness from across the bridge was stunning. Once away from the busy roads we cycled towards the Cromarty Firth the rain was showery now, we crossed the Comarty bridge to Evanton, this was a low bridge very different from the bridges we had crossed so far. We could see the oilrigs sitting in the Firth in for repair, quiet a sight. We got to our B&B no one home! We could not believe it, the rain had started again so we decided to go and find some where else to stay. There was a B&B Sorfale House on the main street, we took a chance they might have room for two wet, tired and hungry cyclists, we were in luck, yet again! Myrtel ushered us in gave us drying space for our wet clothes and shoes, starved of conversation she chatted about everything! She told us she had a full house that night, strangely we never saw or heard another person! also Myrtel had a liking for dolls and cuddly toys which lined the stairs, and scared the life out of me, as they seemed to be watching your every move when the light caught them, reminding me of some horror film. We had hysterical fits of laughter wondering how to fight off a cuddly gorilla in an attack! We had an excellent dinner in the small Hotel next door, and got some sound advice from a local man on the roads that lay ahead. We were treated to an excellent breakfast and set off on our second damp morning.

May17th Day 13 Evanton to Altnaharra 52 miles We were to told to look out for the birds of pray on this part of the journey, on our way to Bonar Bridge on a remote stretch we saw our first Golden Eagle, what a sight! This was a most beautiful area, old forests and woods, the smell of wood and fresh earth was everywhere. We were now so high up in the mountains we found ourselves in the clouds. We started L.V.P’s aviation terms for “low visibility procedures” or in other words “can’t see your hand in front of your face”. On went our lights and high visibility gear. Now we were WET. We decided to stop at Bonar Bridge to have lunch and dry out as it had started to rain heavily. Bob did not have waterproof socks, so resorted to wrapping his feet in cling film, and plastic bags! What a laugh. This was only our second lunch the whole trip eaten indoors! We had soup, tea and toasted sandwiches, dried out, refreshed and full up, ready for the last leg of the journey to Altnaharra off we set. Joy of joy the rain had stopped we were now heading into very remote country, after passing through Lairg that was it good-bye civilization. We found ourselves on open road with only forest, mountains, river and streams for company, we did not see another person except the odd car until we reached Altnaharra, not forgetting the collie dog that came bounding out of a small farm to greet us, we were so delighted we thought it was worth stopping and taking his photo! even if he did smell like he had been rolling in cow dung.  Eventually after around twenty-five miles of steady climbing, there it was the lovely Loch Naver and Althnaharra, which consisted of around four houses and the exclusive Altnaharra Hotel, full up with the elite salmon fishing fraternity. We were made very welcome by Rene who had dinner waiting for us, venison stew, delicious, Bob was not sure! but hunger taking over he finished every last morsel.  Cattle are rare up here, and with about a one hundred and sixty mile round trip to do your shopping the dinner menu would be basic! The view from the B&B was so fantastic you just found yourself sitting looking out the window at every opportunity wild deer strolling by, tiny lambs and of course the Loch. We had our evening drink in the Hotel after dinner, it was very posh, and I had an eighteen-year-old Glenmorangie single malt whisky what a treat! Glenmorangie means “glen of tranquility” how apt! for the beautiful place we found ourselves in.

May 18th Day 14  Altnaharra to John O’Groat’s 75 miles Our last day had arrived, Rene chatted with us while we tucked into a fine Scottish breakfast, she told us stories of harsh winters and how they coped in this remote place. I could see how easy it was to spend your life in this lovely peaceful part of the world, where every day the picture that greeted you from your front door would change with the weather, and never fail to take your breath away. We left on the road along Loch Neaver, the sun was shining we were excited, next stop John O’Groats. We followed the Loch for around fifteen miles it was a beautiful ride passed small working farms. You could smell the burnt gorse from the fires there had been on the mountains over the previous days. The helicopter that had been ferrying water to the fire tenders had been based at the Altnaharra hotel. The fires had been caused by the hot dry spell, were now well and truly out, and all that was left was the smell and the scaring. We made our way to Bettyhill the top of Scotland, a sleepy seaside town with beautiful views and unspoilt beaches. We had decided to have a nice leisurely lunch on this our last day, I think we were sad for it to end, and were trying to hang on to the last miles. We found a nice pub and chatted to some people who were visiting their Daughter and her family who had retired from the rat race to croft in the Highlands, they also gave us money for our charities. Off we set again, we were making very good time, and the wind at our backs was helping make light work of the steep climbs. We passed the Dounreay Nuclear Power station, it is a huge place. Next Dunnet Head and the lovely Dunnet Bay it was getting closer. We were joined by another cyclist who was on his way from Thurso down the road to John O’Groats to start his cycle the next day, we chatted and found he was staying at the same B&B as us, so we agreed to meet and have a beer later. On we peddled, grinning at each other counting down the miles, eight to go! seven to go! every now and then Bob would shout yippee and wobble all over the road. There it was, we were here, the sign John O’Groats the end of the road, time for a quick photo call, and we were off, racing for the official finish at the John O’Groat’s Hotel. I wondered if there would be a finish line, lo and behold there was! We cycled over the finish line together, at 1700 hrs. just as we had started fourteen days and 1018.8 miles before, as a team. I cannot describe the feeling, we were jumping for joy, we just did not know what to do with ourselves, laugh, cry, scream, we could not believe we had done it! That was it we knew what to do! We ordered two pints of Guinness and toasted our success!! I think the look on our faces says it all!……………………………… THE JOHN O’ GROATS HOTEL THE OFFICIAL FINISH AND REGISTRATION POINT

The Highs & Lows I would have to describe the feelings we experienced while we planned this trip from start to finish, as many and varied. The incredible excitement when we made the decision to do it! The planning, the training, and the hours we spent plotting routes, and booking accommodation. The miles of information we read to give us an insight into what was ahead. I still believe the very best tips came from people who had done it themselves. The thousand and one favours we were granted by Family and Friends helping us to get to the start without having a nervous breakdown, and everyone who sponsored us. There were very few times when we questioned what we were doing. The main concern was our fitness and keeping healthy. We conceded to train hard and leave the rest to fate. We felt there was little point in wasting energy on stuff that might never happen. When we found ourselves at Land’s End with our “oh so” carefully chosen possessions jammed into our panniers, and only our trusty bikes to carry us to our destination, we all felt very alone with not a clue what was ahead of us. We itched to get on the road and get on with it. In our hearts we knew it would be okay. From the start we were aware it would only be injury that would stop us from getting there. It could have been any one of us. When Tina had to leave because of her knee injury on the third day, we were devastated, and felt it was just so unfair after all we had been through on the grueling first couple of days. Yet again we can question fate, but have to accept the cards that are dealt to us. Tina was not with us physically for the next eleven days, but was very much in our hearts and thoughts.

The People On The Way The people we met on our journey had a profound effect on us. The kindness, the care, and genuine admiration we were shown, went a long way to keeping our spirits high. It constantly amazes me how strangers touching your life for such a short time, exchanging small pieces of ourselves, and getting glimpses in to each other’s lives, leaves you enriched and a slightly better person. The solitude, the peace, and tranquility, was unlike any I have experienced before, this has to be pretty close to Heaven.  The chance to see first hand the devastation and misery caused to the people of Exmoor and Cumbria in particular, as the result of the foot and mouth. Most of the B&B’s we stayed in were empty except for us, and the stunning countryside deserted. The strength and determination these People showed clearly demonstrated that they would not be beaten. It is a lesson to us all. The amazing luck that seemed to follow us! Tina being close enough to her Sisters home when her knee gave up. Bob’s battle with his knee joint. Kind Doctors who gave of their time and plenty of pills, so we could carry on. I will be eternally grateful for the incredible weather, even if we had strong winds to endure most of the time. and on the few occasions when our bikes gave us problems, being just around the corner from civilization, and a bike shop. The "Posse" from Signature Aviation who met us in Inverness, and drank beer and champagne with us, to mark the end of our journey. The ten minutes we spent by Loch Ness at dusk, in the perfect calm and amazing serenity, secretly hoping Nessie would not make an appearance and spoil this perfect moment. The amazing knowledge Bob has on birds (the feathered kind) from his study of Ornithology. Seeing dozens of different birds, and able to name each one, the prize being the beautiful and majestic Golden Eagle in the wild. The constant chat and laughter that kept us going when we were tired and hungry in some very difficult terrain. We swear that our customary two pints of Guinness each evening, while checking our route for the next day kept our strength up, we were known to go in search of this brew in the depths of the country. As you can see the High’s were many, the Low’s very few. The lovely people we met at John O’Groats some of which were just starting, and some which had finished like us, especially John and his team who had completed the journey by jet ski in 8 days, for the British Heart Foundation, what an achievement.

OUR CHARITIES The Pasque Hospice The Children’s Society The Association of Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus

 
spursbackpacker says:
you know i am so so so amazed at what you have done, i mean wow,,, its amazing.. sadly i think i wouldnt get pass bude let alone all the way up to scotland.. i think though i would have to have more than just two pints... make it five and i might just manage it..
Posted on: Nov 19, 2007
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Wobourn Deer Park
Wobourn Deer Park
Wobourn
Wobourn
out on a training ride!
out on a training ride!
were off!!
were off!!
Exmore
Exmore
where to now!
where to now!
Crossing the Severn bridge
Crossing the Severn bridge
lovely countryside
lovely countryside
nearly there!
nearly there!
Bob nearly there
Bob nearly there
the mighty Guinness
the mighty Guinness
more lovely English countryside
more lovely English countryside
blue bell woods
blue bell woods
oops!!!
oops!!!
Scotland Highlands
Scotland Highlands
jet ski much better idea!
jet ski much better idea!
The end
The end
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