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Cycling



Land’s End to John O’Groats

Sections of the Journey

The Journey to England and Penanze

Day 0 Friday 11th July Riding around Penzance

Day 1 Saturday 12th July Lands End to Bodmin

Day 2 Sunday 13th July Bodmin to Whiddon Down

Day 3 Monday 14th July Whiddon Down to Bridgewater

Day 4 Tuesday 15th July Bridgewater to Monmouth

Day 5 Wednesday 16th July Monmouth to Wetnor

Day 6 Thursday 17th July Wetnor to Acton Bridge

Day 7 Friday 18th July Acton Bridge to Clitheroe

Day 8 Saturday 19th July Clitheroe to Kirkby Stephen

Day 9 Sunday 20th July Kirkby Stephen to Ecclefechan

Day 10 Monday 21st July Ecclefechan to Motherwell

Day 11 Tuesday 22nd July Motherwell to Inverary

Day 12 Wednesday 23rd July Inverary to Fort William

Day 13 Thursday 24th July Fort William to Eavnton

Day 14 Friday 25th July Evanton to Bettyhill

Day 15 Saturday 26th July Bettyhill to John O’Groats

Addendum: Margaret’s bag saga to date

Addendum: Mike wanted to know what everyone rides.

The Journey to England and Penanze

I left Sydney at 1700 on Wednesday for Bangkok. I had a two hour delay in Bangkok due to mechnical problems with the plane and having to remove a sick passenger and his luggage. Eventually arrived in Heathrow at 0930 Thursday GMT (1830 EST).

I didn’t manage to sleep, so ended up doing many sudokus, half doing many crosswords and watching seven movies: “21”, “Shutter”, “Flawless”, “Horton Hears a Who”, “Cloverfield”, “Drillbit Taylor”, and “Beneath Clouds”, in no particular order. “Flawless” and “Horton” were the more enjoyable.

At Heathrow, I could not find the oversized luggage at first, and so had to wait quite some time. The bike eventually turned up and I found my way to the train station and grabbed a train for Paddington, arriving there around 1100 GMT (2000 EST).

The first train to Penzance wasn’t until 1206 GMT and even though they knew where the train from Penzence was arriving, they could not inform us as to the platform it would leave from until 10 minutes prior to the train’s departure. This then resulted in a stampede, with me weighed down by three bags and a bike box. I struggled past the first three carriages, which were all reserved for first class, and made it onto the fourth in sufficient time.

After the train moved off, I was told I had to put the bike in the guard’s comparment at the far end of the train, that I should have known this (right, I’d only been in the country two and a half hours) and that they should have told me as we were going through the turnstiles (they obviously did not witness conditions there). So at Reading, I needed to make a mad dash with the bike box down the platform to the last carriage (there must have been at least another eight carriages), stow the bike, get out and back on the train at the second last carriage, just in time for the train to leave, then struggle my way back along the inside of the train to where I’d left the rest of my luggage.

View from the train was pleasant, showing much evidence of the deluge they had suffered over the previous two days. At one section of the trip the train travels along the coast so that all that can be seen, through that side of the train, is the English Channel, cold and uniniviting, with ominous clouds building up. Further along we came to Plymouth, which is very large a Naval town, with most of the houses built of indentical design (for a given age), in regular formation, marching over the hill tops. We then crossed the Tahmoor (?) River, using a bridge designed by that world famous british archetect, whom I’d never heard of, and into Cornwell.

From here the train made more stops, including such places as St Austell, St Ernst, Bodmin, (all charming looking places) before coming to Penzance, at 1708 GMT (0208 Friday EST). Of course the Tourist Information place was closed, however I did not have to struggle on to much further before I found a B&B with a vacancy. After registering and dumping my luggage, I immediately set about putting the bike back together. There was no evidence of damage, and no problems encountered in the assembly (Thanks Geoff). I then went for a walk about the town centre. Unlike towns in Australia, the town centre is ill-defined, with shops a little scattered, no apparent major shopping complexes, “Subway” was the only evidence of an international chain store, no myriad of clothing stores, several pubs, did not see a bike shop (left my chain spray behind). I’ll check out the bay tomorrow.

I returned to the B&B to freshen up for dinner, thereby hurting my knee when the non-stick bath mat (you know the plastic thing with little suckers on the bottom), having not yet attached itself to the bath, went from under me. Knee is still sore but, hopefully, it will not affect my riding.

The bath has a little shower above it with a dedicated heater, but I could not get the heater to heat, so had to settle for a bath, but due to the rate at which the water is delivered into the bath, I had to make do with bathing in around two inches of water, and carefully avoiding the water from the hot tap, as the hot and cold run from separate faucets. This also necessitated that my feet went in the deep end and my bum in the shallow. I don’t think anyone in England has redone their plumbing since its invention.

By 2000 GMT the B&B had closed for meals, so I found a pub, and after ordering from the menu three times and finding that they could not deliver, I settled for the cook’s suggestion, chicken curry, and a pint of Guiness. It was good.

Got back around 2100 GMT (0600 Friday EST) and figured that if you weren’t out of bed, too bad, and wrote and sent off an SMS. I turned in at around 2130 GMT, 48 hours since waking for the Wednesday morning flight from Sydney. At least jet-lag should not be a consideration.

Day 0 Friday 11th July Riding around Penzance

I had breakfast at 7:30am - Full English. That fried toast can not be good for anyone! I found an Internet café and got the email off to you all. I found a bike shop and bought some chain lubricant and a new bike lock; the lock I had bought with me required the key that I hadn’t, however, the new bike lock is lighter, but, hopefully, sufficiently strong to protect the bike outside a café. I started riding around 1000 GMT.

I first rode along a coastal cycle way in the direction away from Land’s End towards an island called St Michael’s Mount, until I decided that the gravel was unacceptable. I took my first shot of St Michael’s Mount. There I met an ex-school-teacher who suggested to me places to visit on the way to Land’s End. These included Mousehole (which the locals pronouce “Mausall”), Porthcurno (no idea what you do with the “h”), and the Minark theatre, an amplitheatre built in the cliff face. That ride included a steep climb, then, somewhat later the inevitable descent, this time through rain-forest like vegetation, with trees totally obscuring the sky, and water and vegetable matter covering the road. It was very charming but trecherous.

Took more photos at Land’s End, in light rain, then headed back to Penzance via the main road. Back in Penzance, I had a pastie, as I had to. It was nice, the pastry was light and the vegetables included cabbage and cucumber or zucchini, as well as the regular vegatables that we have come to expect in them, with the taste varying throughout the pastie.

Mousehole Harbour
Mousehole Harbour
Panorama St Ives Cornwell
Panorama St Ives Cornwell

I then headed out to St Michael’s Mount via the road, and onto St. Ives, dealing with some horrific traffic conditions. How they expect a major town to function where their two way streets are only one-car wide is beyond me. More photos.

From there I headed back to Penzance and met with the tour people, unloading my luggage from the B&B to their van. I then headed off with one of the riders, Jon, back to Land’s End, via the scenic route. This time the water covered descent had been somewhat dried by the day’s traffic.

At the Land’s End Hotel, I had the chicken stroganoff, quite nice, and a couple of beers to the Younger fellows’ three, then incurred their disapproval by retreating to bed at 2200 GMT, whilst they were ordering their fourth. Of course I was tring the local beers, whose names escape me, though the second, a “Cream ...” was the nicer.

Time riding:6:30:09(including pushing the bike around cafes and other locations).
Average speed:17.7 km/hr
Maximum speed:60.4 km/hr
Average heart rate:120
Maximum heart rate:160
Total distance:115.38 km
Beer:Tribute and Cornish Cream

Note: please add 2% to all kilometers, since I haven’t adjusted the speedo since I put the new tyres on.

Day 1 Saturday 12th July Lands End to Bodmin

Earliest breakfast was 0800 GMT, so I went for a walk along the cliff tops to Senna and got back just in time for breakfast, “Full English” again. We were supposed to meet after breakfast at 0845 GMT for a briefing and then start riding at 0900, which I thought at the time was rather tight. With the slow breakfast serving, we actually go going at 1000 GMT.

A little after leaving I caught up with a couple of riders from Hampshire, Caroline (50) and Alan (72), and stuck with them, as I was happy with their speed.

The ride went through very hilly country, which, although any given hill was no more than around a kilometre long and the steepest gradient was 17%. However, if you weren’t going up, you were going down, so it became rather wearing. We had morning tea at Hayle (more photos).

We had lunch at Perrenport (or something like that), though, after the triple choc cookie at Hayle, all my stomach could cope with for lunch was a pot of tea.

Hayle
Hayle
Bodmin
Bodmin

Then it was on to Bodmin for the for the night. The last hill into town was one too many, however we got there. I had not taken notice of which motel I was scheduled to stay, but fortunately I arrived at the correct one. The three of us (that's myself, Alan, and Caroline) were the first group to arrive - so Geoff, cycling does not end at 65, Alan has no thought of giving up cycling at all. Alan uses a Shimano 11/32 rear cassette (Caroline uses a triple giving 26x28).

The young fellows have not been heard from as yet.

Time riding:5:07:37 (very little pushing the bike around)
Average speed:21.5 km/hr
Maximum speed:56.2 km/hr
Average heart rate:123 (including 1.5 hrs for morning tea and lunch)
Maximum heart rate:164
Total distance:110.31 km
Beer:Doombah

Day 2 Sunday 13th July Bodmin to Whiddon Down

As it turns out, the young fellows had been missed, when the sweep passed, as they were in the pub.

Breakfast again at 0800 GMT, “Full English”, but this time service was a little more prompt. You can really see where John Cleese got his inspiration for Fawlty Towers - the fellow behind the counter made anything you asked for or he did for you painful.

The briefing indicated that this ride would be much harder than yesterday’s (in spite of being shorter) with several steep climbs. I got going that morning at 1000 GMT, setting off with Alan and Caroline.

Minions
Minions

The ride seemed to continue in the same vein as the previous day ended, however, I was experiencing 164 heart rates more commonly than yesterday. I was concerned that the hills were only going to get tougher from then on, however that was not the case, and, in the end, I felt comfortable with the day’s ride. After many hills, we stopped for morning tea at Minions (photos).

Then when setting off from there we encountered another commanding panorama (more photos), before proceeding down to the Tahmor River and a charming stone bridge (one of the two of that design that we were to encounter this day) in a most charming setting (more photos).

We then proceeded towards Dartmoor (more hills). At the top of Dartmoor, the view was again most impressive.

River Tamar from bridge
River Tamar from bridge
Dartmoor
Dartmoor

Alan and Caroline had been vascillating over whether or not to stop for lunch here or proceed to the next town. I missed the final decision. Since I was in the lead downhill past the Dartmoor Inn and the climb back up (always follows), I left them having lunch. While waiting back at the top I took more photos before realising what had happened; I certainly wasn’t going back down, so proceeded on, navigating for myself for a change.

From Dartmoor, I turned left down a narrow road, commencing the final 20kms to Whiddon Down. This I found to be the highlight, in spite of being very nearly run over by a sheep; there’s no predicting what they’ll do, but you can bet they’ll do something.

This led onto to mostly undulating narrow roads, requiring you to brush up aginst the trees to pass on-coming cars. In places the trees arched across the road, in other places the road was covered with water. In one place it became quite steep, and, since it was near the end of the ride and since noone was looking, I ended up pushing the bike for 50m.

I arrived in Whiddon Down at 1515 GMT. Whiddon Down has practically no facilities - could not even buy a beer as their only pub had closed down.

I tried to check into the Travelodge, but was told that I was not booked in there. I told her that I was with Bike Adventures, but this did not help. She insisted that Bike Adventures had only booked Ian (one of the tour guides) into the motel. Oh, incidentally, Ian had thirteen rooms booked. On finding this out, I asked whether she would mind if I used one of Ian's rooms for the time being. On gaining this concession, I then asked if they could ring me when the Bike Adventures support vehicle arrived. She replied “No”. When I got into the room, I noticed that there wasn’t a phone; you’d have thought she would have said, “No, I’m sorry I can’t because we don’t have phones in the rooms.”

The support vehicle arrived just before 1700 GMT along with the next two riders to finish.

After freshening, I went for the supposed 3 mile walk to the nearest pub. After walking for an hour in the nominated direction, time enough to do at least 6 kms, I decided that this pub is probably a myth. As it turns out, the pub was down the old A road - Steve, who gave me the directions, was unaware that there was a new A road.

I returned and had dinner at 1930 GMT at the truck stop with eight of the other riders, who were staying at the Travelodge, who had all returned and freshened by this stage. The remaining four had opted to share a taxi to the nearest pub, arranging for it to call back for them 12 hours later.

Time riding:5:05:05
Average speed:17.2 km/hr
Maximum speed:66.9 km/hr
Average heart rate:127 (including 1 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:165
Total distance:87.64 km
Beer:none

Day 3 Monday 14th July Whiddon Down to Bridgewater

We had breakfast at Little Chef at 0715 GMT, “American Style breakfast” with “generous” serving of scrambled eggs. I took off for the ride at 0900 GMT.

There were many challenging roads, not so much in their hilliness but in their surface conditions. Some roads quite dark and damp due to being totally shrouded in trees. One road was quite potholed.

I navigated for myself all day today, stopping at each significant point to pull the route sheet from my back pocket and check the distance to the next crucial point. As a result, I found myself playing “tortoise and hare” with some of the other riders.

I made an incorrect turn in Ploughhill, where the instructions said “continue straight on to Cheriton Fitz” whilst the road sign was pointing right to Cheriton Fitz. Since the other roads had giveway signs and the majority of the traffic turned right, I suspected this to be a peculiar use of “continue straight on” and decided to take the advice of the sign instead. Unfortunately, that led me down a steep hill for a kilometre or so before I realised my error. You don’t mind the thought of taking off in the morning for a 100km ride, but the idea of having to go back up a hill that you have mistakenly descended is not so appealing.

This also put my distances out, so I needed to add 2.3 km to each of the figures.

There were not as many hills as the previous couple of days, but the hills that there were were steeper and longer, so the ride was more like the rides I’d been doing at home.

I had morning tea at 1145 GMT, devonshire tea, at the “Four and Twenty Cake Shop” in Tiverton. It was very good and I decided that that would do me for lunch as well.

At one point, going down a grade, then around the curve at the bottom, I came across dirt washed across the road. I lost control of the bike but had enough time to dump some speed before hitting the ground on my left. I received a grazed hip and forearm, while the bike had the left gear shift twisted. I straightened that back and was back on the road. Several of the subsequent roads also had a fair amount of dirt and gravel washed across them.

When I met up with Steve, the support vehicle driver, he did what he could to clean up my grazes.

It was a very enjoyable ride all considered, though I did not take many photos, as I felt the roads I was travelling were more the highlight rather than the scenery.

We had very nice accommodation at the Brookshaven Farm. This is a dairy farm. We had dinner at the Red Tile pub: Steak and Kidney with a generous side dish of small potatoes, carrots, brocolli, and cauliflower.

Time riding:5:43:26
Average speed:18.5 km/hr
Maximum speed:50.1 km/hr
Average heart rate:112 (including 2.5 hr off bike)
Maximum heart rate:“198” probably 169
Total distance:106.07 km
Beer:Butcombe Bitter and Butcombe Gold Bitter

Day 4 Tuesday 15th July Bridgewater to Monmouth

Rode on my own most of this day.

Early in the day we rode through the Cheddar Gorge, spectacular sheer rock cliff faces.

Then headed to the Severn Bridge, a very large suspension bridge, with very strong winds. I got lost four times this day, but my most prolonged effort was when trying to find this bridge. Not as easy as it might seem, as there are two suspension bridges in the vicinity, and, due to some predictive reading on my part, I found myself in Severn Beach instead.

Nick, Bernie, and David on Severn Bridge
Nick, Bernie, and David on Severn Bridge

The crossing of this bridge was rather hairy, leaning into the wind only to have it suddenly removed as you pass some structure. I took some photos from the middle.

After making my way across it, I tried to pick up the route, but since I crossed on the left, rather than the right, the instructions landed me in the middle of a cow paddock.

After the Severn Bridge, it was off to Tintern Abbey - more photos.

Then onto Monmouth, more photos. With an extra 10 miles covered due to my detours, I was quite exhausted by the time I arrived in Monmouth, having been counting down the last 30 kms.

I stayed at the Kings Head.

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey
Time riding:6:53:39
Average speed:19.2 km/hr
Maximum speed:49.0 km/hr
Average heart rate:not available
Maximum heart rate:not available
Total distance:132.98
Beer:Butcombe Welsh Ale, Evan Evans, and Abbots Ale

Day 5 Wednesday 16th July Monmouth to Wetnor

Leaving Monmouth
Leaving Monmouth

I rode with Peter, Dave, Nick and Bernie this day. Took a photo of Peter Dave and Nick at the Bridge at Monmouth.

Upon leaving Monmouth, I found that I had a flat in the front tyre and so returned to Monmouth for a new tyre and two tubes (my new tubes were in my luggage, and both patched tubes were not well patched). Nick, David, and Peter accompanied me, as I had trouble comprehending their instruction that the bike shop was on the bridge. There I also got a bag for the rack on the bike.

Nick and David on bridge leaving Monmouth
Nick and David on bridge leaving Monmouth
Crown Inn and horses at Dilwyn
Crown Inn and horses at Dilwyn

The roads were good, it was a nice ride; nothing spectacular, but very pleasing. Good to have an easy day.

We got lost only the once.

Stayed at the Inn on the Green. The lady who ran the place was sure to let you know whenever she went an extra inch for you.

Time riding:5:38:41
Average speed:20.4 km/hr
Maximum speed:58.2 km/hr
Average heart rate:110 (including nearly 3 hr off bike)
Maximum heart rate:157
Total distance:115.59 km
Beer:Three Tuns Soltice and Three Tuns XXX

Day 6 Thursday 17th July Wetnor to Acton Bridge

I started off on my own and did not take long to miss my first turn. I realised my error on a downhill slope, so attempted to run the bike to the top, realising that I could not run, due to increasing stiffness in my left hip since my spill. In this realisation, I hurt it further, which did not prevent me from riding, but caused considerable pain if I was not careful how I moved my leg.

Getting back on route, I was eventually caught by Caroline, Alan, and Peter (Caroline and Peter are the best navigators), and so tagged along with them for the day, picking up Dave and Nick at morning tea, and dropping Peter.

I was trying to see how to switch the bike computer to miles, and so managed to lose the statistics for the ride.

We saw a spectacular rocky outcrop at the brow of a steep hill, upon which were the remains of a castle. It would have been quite unassailable in its day.

In spite of Caroline’s directions we managed to find ourselves in the middle of a farm.

Another day of good roads (apart from when we were lost) and easy riding.

I stayed with the bulk of the people at the Holly Tree Inn.

Acton Bridge
Acton Bridge
Time riding:not available
Average speed:20.6 km/hr
Maximum speed:48.8 km/hr
Average heart rate:105
Maximum heart rate:“240”
Total distance:117.00 km
Beer:Black Sheep Bitter, Guiness, Tetley’s

Day 7 Friday 18th July Acton Bridge to Clitheroe

Had breakfast at 8:00am - Full English minus the fried toast. Then set off at around 0845 GMT.

I rode on my own most of the day, though I travelled with Mike, both Davids, Nick, Bernie, and Rob as we battled to find our way through Hindley. The directions were quite complicated.

Clitheroe
Clitheroe

We received quite a lot of rain today, but, at least, the roads today were in good condition. Great scenery and bridges, especially the one between Rivington and Belmont.

My hip is improving, I suspect that I had caused the left hip flexor to spasam.

I was grateful to see Steve, the van driver, pass me as I was heading towards Clitheroe. Having seen that I was nearly there, he went direct to my accommodation, so I had luggage when I got there, soaking, at 1500 GMT.

Time riding:4:55:02
Average speed:20.1 km/hr
Maximum speed:56.6 km/hr
Average heart rate:119 (including 1 hour off the bike)
Maximum heart rate:###
Total distance:101.82 km
Beer:Wainwrights, something with “Blonde” in the title and another I don’t remember.

Day 8 Saturday 19th July Clitheroe to Kirkby Stephen

Today is very wet. After the coffee break, I put on the Gortex jacket. Next rainy day, I’ll stick to riding in my regular stuff, as, although the jacket was nice when you start out, it doesn’t take long to become too hot and steamy in it, and, as a result, you are wetter than if you hadn’t been wearing it.

My hip is improving further, so that now it causes me no real problem at all.

Today is a day of spectacular scenery, which I could appreciate inspite of the weather. Moors, waterfalls, bridges, sheep, and the quaint little township of Dent (photos there).

It is also a day that included three long climbs and descents.

The first descent (to High Benthan) was exhilarating, the second (to Dent) hairy, and the third (towards the Moorcock Inn) down-right dangerous, with a combination of steep sections and potholes and gravel and ...

Because of the weather conditions, I started off by myself so that I could set a pace at which I could stay warm. At High Bentham I had morning tea with Dave and Nick, and then I tried the jacket out and continued on with them. Nick rode quickly to keep warm, whilst Dave and I were stopping frequently for photo opportunities, and taking turns to open the gates.

When we arrived at Dent, I took several photos and then we grabbed some take away (I grabbed a sausage roll), then we discovered Nick, with the “A Team”, which Caroline and Alan had become known as (due to their prompt starts, Caroline’s good navigation, their infrequent stops, and respect for Alan’s age), in the café next door. I should mention at this point, that my own navigational skills had not gone unnoticed either ;) Taking off for the third and steepest hill, we stopped at the top to eat the take away - that sausage roll was great, the pastry was light and a little sweet, not to mention that it was one and a half times the length of a regular sausage roll. At this time, Nick rejoined us.

Road beyond farmhouse on way to Dent
Road beyond farmhouse on way to Dent
Dent 1, with David on bike
Dent 1, with David on bike

Steve, the van driver, caught up with us as were were finishing the descent, so we arranged to meet at the Moorcock for a drink, before proceeding on to the accommodation. There was a break of sunshine as we were finishing at the pub, so we quickly settled up and took off, only to find that the rain just as quickly returned, with a strong head wind as well to make our ride back to the accommodation somewhat more difficult than expected.

We had dinner at the Black Bull, which was renowned for home made pies. I ordered the only pie on the menu, and, as a result, everyone’s meals were delayed due to the time needed to produce the pie. It was nice though.

Time riding:5:07:07
Average speed:17.1 km/hr
Maximum speed:54.7 km/hr
Average heart rate:118 (including 2.8 hrs for morning tea and lunch).
Maximum heart rate:###
Total distance:87.98 km
Beer:Speckeled Hen and Black Sheep

Day 9 Sunday 20th July Kirkby Stephen to Ecclefechan

I had another full english breakfast, minus the fried toast.

Today is dry, though there was a considerable head wind. I had difficulty getting up, so was a little late leaving, practically last. This day was described as “lumpy”, several small hills, enough to get me down to bottom gear, but not for long.

Great scenery, especially in the earlier part of the ride.

When I eventually got going, I was riding on my own and had travelled quite some distance before passing anyone, making me a little nervous about my navigation, but eventually, after about 15 kms, I started passing the slower riders (the girls, Chris and Jan, one of the Davids, Jon, Mike, Rob, Peter), before catching up to the “young fellows” (I think they might be around 40) who were riding ahead of Dave, Nick and Bernie. After passing them, Dave, Nick and Bernie caught up with me.

We took photos at Appleby and then again just out of Longwarthy, then Nick, Bernie and I had morning tea at “Brief Encounter” in Longwarthy, arriving just as the “A Team” were leaving. I can recommend their “Cherry and Almond Triffin”.

We then travelled on, with Nick setting a pace that was hard to keep up with, and we eventually caught Dave. I was good to keep a strong pace, given the chilling effect of the head wind. We stopped for lunch/afternoon tea at a coffee shop in Longwarthy; the nicest scones - cherry and something - and a bottomless tea pot. Sitting there, waving to the “A Team” and Mike and Rob as they rode past.

River Irthing from bridge at Appleby
River Irthing from bridge at Appleby
Cycle bridge on way to Long Town 3, Mine and David’s bikes
Cycle bridge on way to Long Town 3, Mine and David’s bikes

Continuing on, we stopped to take some photos on a bridge on the cycle path somewhere near Longtown. As we crossed the River Sark into Scotland, Steve, the van driver, was there snapping us. We stopped again somewhere near Eaglefield to turn over the route sheets, so I took a few more photos. By this time, Bernie was feeling tired, so we took turns riding in front as the others drafted behind.

Time riding:5:04:38
Average speed:22.4 km/hr
Maximum speed:57.5 km/hr
Average heart rate:109 (including 2.5 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:###
Total distance:114.00 km
Beer:resorted to Guiness.

Day 10 Monday 21st July Ecclefechan to Motherwell

I had another full english, er I mean scottish, breakfast, minus the haggis this time.

Today is a very pleasant day. Much welcomed. There were very pleasant views (again in the earlier part of the ride), however, as things turned out, it was a day that more about riding than viewing.

Again I got away late, second last. When I eventually got going, I was riding on my own and as I was catching up with the slower riders, they took a detour to check out some thing associated with someone called Carisle. ’m sure that I should know all about him, but I don’t think it is the same Carisle who appeared in the James Bond Movie “The World is not Enough”.

I eventually caught up with David, Nick, Peter, and the “A Team”. Bernie was still feeling tired from the previous day’s effort, so had taken off earlier, as this day was a long one. Overtaking them, they decided to draft behind me for the 11 kms to the next turn.

I then travelled with Nick and David, leaving Peter with the “A Team”. We stopped for morning tea at Moffat (photos).

Moffat
Moffat

After Moffat there was a 5 mile climb (easy slope - I was able to maintain a cadence of 90). Here we were again travelling with Peter and the “A Team”.

Panorama from hill above Moffat
Panorama from hill above Moffat

Caroline and David took turns leading us up the climb, allowing everyone else to draft behind them. On the way down, the drafting continued, with Caroline, David and Nick taking the first turns, then I took mine. I looked in my mirror to check that all were with me, and could see noone, so slowed a little only to hear Caroline, who was too close for me to see, call “Keep Going, Greg”. So I went, and went, and went, and when I felt I could no longer maintain maximum speed, I signalled for Caroline to overtake, but she stayed behind me. So I went as fast as I still could, passing the “young fellows” on the way down. Eventually we got to the bottom, and there was still 20kms to the next instruction, and still noone else was taking the lead. So after maintaining the speed for a further 10kms, I called for Caroline to take over, to which she replied that she needed to wait for Alan at the pub we were approaching. I think I had been used :)

Continuing on, with David and Nick, David suggested that we should try drafting and sharing the lead, which started fine, with David taking first lead, and Nick the second, leaving me to struggle to keep up and David out of the race. Eventually we reached Broughton, and had our second break. Peter and the “A Team” passed us at this stage.

We continued on to Biggar (taking photos on the way), where I was in front, and missed a turn at the war memorial (Captain Wrong-way Peachfuzz strikes again), and, since Nick followed, I assumed that I was on the right track. By the time we realised that David was no longer following, we’d gone a mile or so off course, so the rest of the day, Nick and I were trying to catch up with David, or, more correctly, Nick was trying to catch up with David, and I was trying to keep up with Nick.

We caught David at Hamilton just before the end of the ride. We eventually arrived at the accomodation, second to Bernie, who, although starting early, took an accidental detour to Lockerbie.

All in all, it was a gret ride, enjoyed by all. We believe that Caroline enjoyed riding with the boys for a bit, letting her stretch her legs for a change.

Time riding:5:49:18
Average speed:23.6 km/hr
Maximum speed:52.1 km/hr
Average heart rate:118 (including 2.3 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:180
Total distance:137.88 km
Beer:Two Guinesses already.

Day 11 Tuesday 22nd July Motherwell to Inverary

Today we started in a group of 13 for safety through the streest of Glasgow. Soon this group was split into 6 and 7 for logistical reasons, With Rob, Mike, Simon, Bernie, Nick, Dave, and myself making the seven. The better part of the morning was spent getting clear of Glasgow and its environs.

After Clydebank (the limit of safety concerns), Mike dropped back. Here I tried to get something from the Chemist for the infected graze on my forearm, only to be told that I should go to the doctor as it was infected. I had no time for that.

Eventually we got to Loch Lomond (photos)

Loch Lomond 1, with my bike
Loch Lomond 1, with my bike
Panorama from first hill above Loch Lomond
Panorama from first hill above Loch Lomond

We then headed inland over hills (photos at both peaks) and along the Loch Long to Arrochar.

Simon opted to go via the Loch Coast road, and Rob dropped off during the hills. From there it was up a long climb (and after 100kms any climb is long) to a place called “Rest and be Thankful”. Great views but a little too misty to be taking photos.

From there it was down hill to Loch Fyne and on into Inverary. I took photos as we approached Invervary and further photos within the town.

We arrived just seconds after the completion of the Highland Games (Simon had arrived half an hour earlier and saw the caber tossing). There was a note on the door of the accommodation to the effect that the landlord would not be back until 1700 GMT due to the games (it was 28 seconds to that time now).

Eventually he showed up and, in the thickest of scottish accents that you would ever care to hear, told us where our rooms were, that his wife was away having her baby, where to put our bikes, that he had scored a number of girls the last couple of nights, and when breakfast would be in the morning, provided he didn’t score again tonight.

I met with Alan and Caroline in the pub that evening, mentioning to Caroline that I was rather tired riding today, after having let her have her way with me yesterday. She protested that “All I said was ‘Keep going, Greg’” - that didn’t seem to help her case any. As the pub was crowded and loud, I opted a early night.

Inverary
Inverary
Time riding:6:22:42
Average speed:20.4 km/hr
Maximum speed:57.7 km/hr
Average heart rate:not available
Maximum heart rate:not available
Total distance:130.26 km
Beer:Two Guinesses.

Day 12 Wednesday 23rd July Inverary to Fort William

Well, we got up for breakfast at 0800 GMT only to find the landlord drunk on the lounge with his two boxers (we believe the boxers were sober). So we had to head down to The George for breakfast.

Bernie, Nick, Dave and myself were riding together today. Bernie, who had other accommodation had given up on us, and so was off on his own, leaving the three of us to start off after him. I soon left Dave and Nick on the eight mile climb from Inverary, then eventually Nick overtook me and was off after Bernie, who, in the meanwhile had accidentally detoured via Oban, so, us four riders were spread pretty much from one end of the field to the other - that’s what riding together is all about when I’m in the fold.

Loch Awe
Loch Awe

Today’s ride was up hills, between hills, between hills and lochs, alongside hills, and alongside lochs. In Scotland the hills might be higher than they are in Cornwall, however, the Scots seem content to build roads around hils rather than feeling compelled to build the road over each and every hill, as the Cornish do.

I don’t know how many lochs we encountered or whether we were encountering various spots of a fewer number of lochs.

Looking down on Onich
Looking down on Onich
Panorama from Myrtle Bank Guest House
Panorama from Myrtle Bank Guest House

It was a fairly easy ride today, arriving at our accommodation in Fort William at around 1500 GMT. The accommodation has a beautiful front garden, with chairs overlooking Lock Linnhe and the hills beyond. Behind us somewhere is Ben Nevis.

Upon arriving at the accommodation we heard that Ian, one of the tour leaders had been injured when passing a wheel barrow. Just as he was passing, the man lifted the wheel barrow, and the broom handle rolled around and was caught up in his spokes, and then got wedged between his forks. Fortunately, he was travelling at a sedate speed at the time, and came off sideways, injuring his hip and shoulder. There does not seem to be ligament damage.

Time riding:4:31:08
Average speed:25.3 km/hr
Maximum speed:58.7 km/hr
Average heart rate:106 (including 1.5 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:175
Total distance:114.62 km
Beer:One Guiness so far.

Day 13 Thursday 24th July Fort William to Eavnton

It is quite warm today.

Starting off, we were cycling along good roads, with the sight of Ben Nevis to the right.

Most of the early part of today involved riding on the “Forest Trail”. This is a graded gravel road used by logging trucks. The gravel in places would have been around one inch in diameter. Potholes were everywhere. The road undulated, though, fortunately, the bias was upward, as guiding the bike down was more worrying than having the wheels slip on the climb. Gradually I got used to the feel of the wheels slipping to the side as a piece of gravel finds itself a new resting place. There were two occasions on which I opted to walk the bike down a slope. The others that I was travelling with at the time opted to continue riding, resulting in one puncture.

On the odd occasions that I could take my eyes off the trail, the view, through the trees of Neptunes Steps (a series of locks towards Loch Ness), was quite enjoyable.

There was only one of us, Rob, who had a mountain bike. He broke his chain on this track.

Forest Trail road surface
Forest Trail road surface
State of Canal path towards Fort Augustus
State of Canal path towards Fort Augustus

Once we finished the “Forest Trail”, we had some tar, until we were directed along the canal cycle path, which was again a gravel road, commencing with a large culvert made from large chiseled stones, with about an inch of cement binding them, however, in places (the places I found myself in) that cement had been washed away. This was another unsuitable road for the bikes that most of us had been using.

It was just as we started along the canal path, that we saw the Loch Ness Monster! Chris managed to photograph it! It also had four men on its pack peddalling.

Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness Monster
Caledonian Canal
Caledonian Canal

We then reached Fort Augustus at the end of the canal path, and had morning tea - we felt we deserved it at this time. I think it was here that Peter noticed the graze on my forearm and asked if it was as painful as it looked. I replied that it wasn’t, but that I wished that it looked better than it felt. Peter considered my answer for a few seconds before concluding that it made sense.

From there it was off through forests, around lochs, through farms, and through villages, until we came to a steep climb on the way to Beauly. The climb was signposted as 15% and was consistently 15% for most of it, and went for 1.6 miles. 15% is steeper than either the Gorge or Berowra Waters, though not as steep as Bellbird Hill.

After scaling this climb we had a marvellous descent, along good and fairly straight roads that went for over 10 miles.

Caledonian Canal, Fort Augustus
Caledonian Canal, Fort Augustus
Time riding:5:44:38
Average speed:22.3 km/hr
Maximum speed:60.9 km/hr
Average heart rate:104 (including 3 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:###
Total distance:128.56 km
Beer:Three Courage Director’s Bitter

Day 14 Friday 25th July Evanton to Bettyhill

Domoch Firth
Domoch Firth

Today is another sunny warm day, and started off though open fields, and, with a good tail wind up hills, allowing us to travel at up to 40 k/h up hill. Just as the uphill climb finished, we rode down to the viewpoint over Dormoch Loch. Quite a spectacular view, including the loch, the hills beyond it, and a township off to the left.

The descent from the viewpoint was the fastest I have managed on the trip so far.

From here we rode through towns, along lochs, until we headed out into pine tree plantations. This extended for 10 miles until we reached The Crask Inn, in the middle of nowhere. The scenery here was unspectacular, however, the ride was undulating and fast with a reasonable tail wind more often than not. Continuing on from there, the scenery improved, with trees growing nearer the road, and not so much the pine tree stumps.

Steve, Nick, bit of David, John, Mike and Rob at Fall of Shins Tea House
Steve, Nick, bit of David, John, Mike and Rob at Fall of Shins Tea House
Wind whipped Loch Never
Wind whipped Loch Never

After Altnaharra, we turned into the wind and made hard yards towards and alongside Loch Never. Great views of the loch with choppy waters and, of course, the hills beyond it.

Eventually, we turned away from the wind and the speed improved and the scenery just kept getting better.

Chris at farm gate with Loch Never
Chris at farm gate with Loch Never
View from Bettyhill Pub with Greg & Rob
View from Bettyhill Pub with Greg & Rob

We eventually reached our accommodation at the Bettyhill Hotel, overlooking a beautiful beach and inlet, between massive hills. During this stage of the ride, we encountered sheep on the road, and I found myself herding four of them for about half a kilometre, getting a little anxious about which way the last was going to jump.

There had been talk as to whether Bernie would be the first to finish tomorrow - the last day of the ride. When Jon spoke of this to me, I told him that when Bernie had already done so: that when he had arrived at Bettyhill and finding nothing to do, had decided to ride on to John O’Groats and back. It took Simon some effort to persuade Jon how impossible this was.

Time riding:4:53:12
Average speed:24.3 km/hr
Maximum speed:64.0 km/hr
Average heart rate:102 (including 2 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:152
Total distance:119.24 km
Beer:Two Guinesses.

Day 15 Saturday 26th July Bettyhill to John O’Groats

Fine day but windy, mostly head-windy. In addition, my bum was rather sore this morning, so I spent as much time as I could up on the pedals then as much as I could on the seat.

Today’s ride is along the northern coast of Scotland, heading east, then north east. It is uphill over the headlands, then down past beach side townships, visiting Strathy, Melvich, Reay, Thorso (a major town), Castletown, until we reached Dunnet.

I was one of the later riders to leave, taking breakfast, as usual, more seriously than most of the others.

Riding between the beaches, there were sections of gorse and grass, and other sections where there was grazing cattle, and other places where there was industry, perhaps grain processing.

Although there was usually a headwind, there were a number of places where we enjoyed a nice fast downhill ride, and occasionally a push in the back on the uphill. Half way down one of the better downhills I zipped past a couple of our number taking photos - some people just don’t know what hills are for!

We were told that there were recommended tea shops in Reay and at Dunnet Head. I was intending to stop at Dunnet Head for morning tea. When stopped at the traffic lights at Reay, I saw Bernie along the pedestrian mall. He and Nick were just about to leave, so I just grabbed a donut, intending to join them for the ride to Dunnet Head. Bernie was jettisoning his bag (for Steve to carry in the van) to lighten his load.

Leaving Reay, Nick pulled away, with Bernie in tow, for all his might, so I dropped back and made my own pace out to Dunnet Head. There were spectacular views out to my right on this part of the ride, including a cliff sided islet, which caught my attention to the extent that I almost missed the left hand curve, having to brake hard through the curve.

Bettyhill Hotel
Bettyhill Hotel
Cliffs on way to Dunnet Head
Cliffs on way to Dunnet Head

I rode into Dunnet Head (the most northerly point in mainland Scotland), as Bernie and Nick were departing, with Bernie recommending the coffee shop there. Ten minutes later I established that there was no coffee shop, and eat my shortbread biscuits from the Bettyhill Hotel. The view was best from the summit. There is also a lighthouse, which I ride around. In getting to the summit, I had to negotiate another gravel road.

From there it was back to Brough (just shy of Dunnet) where I passed a tea shop (this turned out to be the tea shop that had been described to us as being at Dunnet Head), then onto Mey and John O’Groats. Nick and Bernie had had a race for line honours, which Bernie had won, and when I arrived in leisurly fashion, informed me they’d been back an hour - an hour ago I’d passed them heading out to Dunnet Head.

Steve, the van driver, had been waiting for us and cracked open the first of half a dozen champagne bottles for us and offered us some fruit cake, made by the Bike Adventures’ owner’s mother.

Condemned Hotel at John O’Groats
Condemned Hotel at John O’Groats
All of us at John O’Groats
All of us at John O’Groats

We then had photos taken, and waited to greet the other riders as they arrived. Once cooled down from the ride, the temperature quickly became uncomfortable.

Back row: The other Simon, Rob, Alan, David Scholar, Me, Jon, Peter, Richard, Bernie (just), Mike, Nick, and Dave Salmon.

Front row: Chris, Simon, Caroline, Chris, Jan, Leslie, and Sarah.

The night was spent in the Seaview Hotel, and we spent the evening playing pool against the local boys. These fellows really knew how to handle a pool stick. One of our number said to one of them that coming from John O’Groats must be nice, in reply he was asked where he had come from. When he answered “Yorkshire”, the young fellow replied, “That must be a shit of a place!”.

Time riding:4:38:27
Average speed:20.1 km/hr
Maximum speed:62.5 km/hr
Average heart rate:139 (including 1 hr for morning tea etc)
Maximum heart rate:139
Total distance:93.62 km
Beer:Some Lager - they ran out of draught beer :(
Total distance covered in the UK:13320 - 11502 = 1818 * 1.02=1,854 kms
Total distance covered on ride:13320 - 11617 = 1703 * 1.02=1,737 kms (1,084 miles)
Extra distance travelled on ride:1084-1056=28 miles (includes detours, getting lost, ...)

Addendum: Margaret’s bag saga

24/7/08Arrived at Heathrow on 1710 from Helsinki. My bag didn’t. I reported this to British Airways and was told by the male attendant that it would arrive at 2100 that night and would be delivered to me at my temporary address in London. Feeling that the time frame might be too tight, I also gave my address in Inverness as well as a mobile phone number.
25/7/08My bag had not arrived by the time I needed to leave to catch the train to Inverness, so I phoned BA and requested it to be sent to Inverness. Even though I had given the address to the attendant the night before, no record of my Inverness address had been entered into my file. On arrival in Inverness at 9pm, I phoned the office again only to find that it closed at 8pm.
26/7/08Phoned BA at 7.15am (spoke to Sarah). I was told that it would arrive at Heathrow at 1710 today. She also advised that I could purchase necessary clothing for the interim and claim up to 35 pounds. I was also advised to contact customer relations on Monday. Why do these things go awry over the weekend? Phoned BA again at 7.30pm (spoke to Jane) but she was unable to confirm if the bag had arrived. She suggested I phone next morning.
27/7/08 6.30amphoned again (spoke to Shona), was told that there was no confirmation of the bag’s arrival that point in time. I was asked to phone back around midday.
27/7/08 9amPhoned again (spoke to Judith) and was told that the bag may not have arrived. She advised that I could claim for additional accommodation while waiting for the bag as I had originally intended moving on from Inverness this morning.
27/7/08 1pmI phoned again, spoke to Judith, who said that the bag would be landing at Inverness airport at 2010 this evening. I opted to collect it myself, as I need it urgently.
27/7/08 2000 to 2130I was at Inverness airport waiting for the flight from London only to find that my bag had not arrived. As well as fuel for the trip and wasted time, I incurred a parking fee of 2.50 pounds.
28/7/08 morningI phoned BA (spoke to Craig) reported that my bag did not arrive last night. Was told that it ws supposed to be on the 2010 British Midlands flight from Manchester ( I did not have that much information last night). He said that there were no guarantees tht the bag would have been on that flight until it arrived!!! I was also told that there is no way of phoning Manchester to find out if my bag is actually there. He promised to monitor my file until he leaves at 1415 today. I will be phoning customer relations at 0900 today to register my disgust at the poor organisation of the baggage retrieval process.

Addendum: Mike wanted to know what everyone rides.

My ability to ride a bike at the best of times has been called into question, so the thought of me conducting interviews whilst riding proved to be the source of some consternation.

Anyway, asking everyone this question, often resulted in answers such as “a red one” or “one with two wheels” which is even less enlightening. Eventually, I got these responses, with varying detail, depending upon the technical knowledge of the respondent.

Ian Van Nicholas tourer with Ultegra. 51/40/26 at the front and 10 speed 12/17 at the rear.
Sarah Titanium Airborne tourer with Ultegra. 51/40/26 at the front and 10 speed 12/17 at the rear.
Richard Van Nicholas tourer with Ultegra. 48/36/26 at the front and 13/28 at the rear.
Lesley Roberts tourer with Compag. 48/38/28 at the front and 12/28 at the rear.
Chris Argus Racing Cycles with Ultegra. 52/42/32 at the front with 12/27 at the rear.
Jan Mercian Tourer with XTR. Triple at front and low gears at the rear.
David Salmon Hybrid Dawes Discovery with 105. 48/38/28 at front and 9 speed 11/32 at rear.
Jon Dawes Sigma (?) Galaxy with Dior. 3x8.
Rob Mountain Bike Cannondale F800. 3x8.
Peter Roberts Trans Continental. 3x9 102-17 inches.
Mike Fausto Coppi All Steel. 105, SRAM chain, Mavic wheels with 105 hubs, Brooks saddle. 52/42/30 at the front and 11/32 9 speed at the rear.
Simon Myers Specialized Allez. 52/40/30 at the front and 11/28 at the rear.
The other Simon Condor with Campag Veloce. 50/34 at the front and 13/26 at the rear.
Chris Specialized Allez Elite with Tiagara. 50/34 at the front and 11/28 at the rear.
Bernie Trek 1.2. Triple.
Nick Cannondale Synapse. Double, but low geared, probably 50/30 at the front.
David Scholar Specialized Roubaix with Ultegra/105. Triple at the front.
Caroline Roberts Audax, Steel, with Compag. 48/40/28 at the front and 11/28 at the rear.
Alan Principa Audax, Aluminum with carbon forks, with Ultegra. 46/34 at the front and 11/32 at the rear. Mavic All-pro rims with Ultegra hubs.
Steve Although Steve only rides his bike of an evening, he has done the ride with that bike with panniers. Diamond Back Mountain Bike. 3x8 Olivio. 42/32/22 at the front and 13/25 at the rear.