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2017-08-27 15.58.27

Final thoughts – Tom

What a privilege to be able to cycle from Land’s End to John O’Groats; to be able to afford the time and the cost and to have the fantastic support that we have had along the way.  Wonderful that we have been able to raise even more than our target of £100,000 for the great causes; and we have been so lucky with the weather too.  It has all gone fantastically smoothly and we have all completed the 1,030 or so miles.  We have even been lucky to hardly meet any midges in Scotland at the height of the midge season.

Sometimes it seems hard to remember all the good things about the ride as there have been so many, some of which have been covered in the daily blogs.

A good place to start is with the group which after slight wariness at first meeting and wondering if I was going to be left behind by racers we quickly formed up into a mutual support group.  If someone was struggling then someone else would stay with them and encourage them along.  When people had problems with their bike there was Mark or one of the guides to fix it.  Of course, there were differences in our natural paces, and for the first two weeks on every ascent Jamie and Lucy would overtake me and on every descent I would pass them.  At the start of the trip Julie and Andrew Stokes were often found at the back, but by the end they often led the way.

It was great having the Garmins showing us the way with their purple lines, but it did mean that I barely looked at the maps which could be slightly dislocating at times, not being aware of what was in the next valley, but it does mean that you can concentrate on the cycling and the views and really not have to worry about the navigation at all.  Saying which, still managed to fail to follow the line occasionally, usually by not looking when a junction was up ahead and I was really in the groove enjoying the cycling.  The result of that plus a few deliberate detours (notably to see our cousin Rob and to take in Dunnet Head) is that I actually cycled 1,080 miles.

Having found the first three or four days quite tough day five was very tiring with the accumulated tiredness of the previous days so that it seemed hard and I thought we would never finish it, but then it got easier again; even if the days were quite tiring.  Our fitness was clearly growing and turn by turn of the pedals it seemed more feasible to achieve.  Until we did it I was worried about the longest day through the Scottish Borders to Peebles, though knowing that Saddle Skedaddle had got many other groups through buoyed me up – they wouldn’t set a challenge that they thought many people would fail.

Most of the route was absolutely fantastic with quiet roads and stunning views through largely unspoilt countryside.  Obviously, we sometimes had to go through duller bits or alongside main roads (for instance to cross the Severn and Forth).  There are huge amounts of wonderful countryside that I have never seen before, and I look forward to exploring bits of the country that have been opened up to me on this journey.

I don’t want to reprise the daily blog so instead I will make some general comments that the journey revealed (even if some of them are pretty obvious).  In the South most of the harvest was already in, with a small number of fields of wheat still awaiting the harvester, and as we moved north the proportion of harvested fields fell.  In the far north of Scotland I even saw a few fields of rape awaiting harvest, whilst in the South they were long gone.  The result is that the North is much greener than the South.  One of the notable things cycling in the UK compared to my journey down the Mosel last year is the lack of bird song.  Our hedgerows are much less vocal than they were even in my youth, but I have seen large numbers of buzzards throughout the length of the country and more swallows than I remember seeing almost everywhere, so long as there are some eves for them to nest in.  Are swallows a bird that has benefited from humans providing nesting sites?

It is wonderful that we could cross the country most of the way on such quiet roads that whenever a car passed you could smell it for some time – but what does this say about our cities where we barely notice the smell any more as it is there all the time?

The most demoralising time is when struggling up a steep hill and Norman overtakes saying something like “this is easy isn’t it?” or “it’s not very steep”. But it is wonderful to see him cycling along seemingly without a care in the world.  And it does impress people to say that an 89 year old is cycling LE JOG.

I am really glad that I did it, and it was much more manageable than I had feared as it was broken down into chunks.  Each day looks manageable and is broken down into three of four stages with elevenses, lunch and afternoon tea.  And given all the cycling we needed the energy. Huge breakfasts with porridge and cooked; energy bars cake and fruit mid-morning and afternoon and a decent sized lunch either an excellent picnic provided by Peter and Rob or a café stop.

I don’t think I’ll do it again.  I will either explore some corner of the country in more detail (the Cairngorms or North West Scotland appeal) or do another trek elsewhere.  I would certainly use Saddle Skedaddle again with their excellent planning and attention to detail and the support they provide throughout is brilliant.

Many thanks to Saddle Skedaddle, Peter and Rob, all the other cyclists and my Brother Andrew for suggesting it.  I had a wonderful time.

And many thanks to all our wonderful sponsors.

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Final thoughts – Anne

I have little to add to what has already been so eloquently said. My main thought is that I actually blooming well did it despite my worst fears. When I first heard of the possibility of  LEJOG  I thought I would not be fit enough to undertake such a challenge. Then I heard there was a support vehicle that would pick tired cyclists up if they got exhausted. I fully expected I might need to use it. I had never cycled so far, for so many days.

What made it possible was doing it in a group with excellent support. Each day was broken into sections, so I aimed to take it steady and just get to the next tea stop or lunch break. The leader Pete always believed we could do it. We always regrouped at breaks and gave each other support. If anyone’s bike broke down or they felt ill someone would stop and offer support or encouragement.

We were also very lucky with the weather. We only got wet a couple of times and most days had sun and tail winds.

The sponsorship and well wishes also helped. Friends and family joined us along the way, on evenings or even cycling along. One brought  bath salts and high energy snacks. She also arranged us all a sports massage on our rest day.

Another fear was navigating and using a Garmin. This proved very easy as all I had to do was follow the purple line and luckily this never went wrong.

My final demon to overcome was steep downhills. After a skiing accident 7 years ago which left me with a serious spiral fracture in my left leg I have become afraid of long steep descents in mountainous regions. I was very fearful of the Cairngorms. Luck was on myside again. The weather was clear and the headwinds actually slowed down my descents so that I felt in control.

A few myths were also bust. Scottish food can be excellent. We had some tasty beautifully presented meals often served in dining rooms with spectacular views and by owners of  B&Bs who took great pleasure in making their guest comfortable.

At the end of the ride a number of us decided that we would like to do the ride again and vowed to meet when we were in our 80’s (Like Norman) and complete the ride on our ‘E’ bikes. Our bodies might age but hopefully our spirit for adventure will not.

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Final thoughts – Sam

I am so pleased that all of us managed to complete the ride of more than 1000 miles from Land’s End from John O’Groats. Before we set off, I was worried about how Norman would cope and if he would do himself damage by trying too hard. Actually, he was amazing, being first up many of the hills. The support of Skedaddle made it easier or simply possible for all of us to complete the ride in good humour.

The support offered so many advantages, not least of which was freedom from worry, all the logistics, navigation, finding the best routes and cafes was done for us. All we had to do was turn the pedals. Additionally, the leader, Pete broke each days ride into bite size chunks that were not scary, so that even a long day of the UKs two highest road passes seemed manageable. It really helped with the mental parts of the challenge.

Another huge mental lift was the sponsor money that poured in, each time we heard a friend or relative had given us money, we had a little encouragement to push on. Thank you all so much. It really did make the ride seem easier. I am very proud to be associated with the wonderful charities that do such great things.

I had thought that I had done a lot of cycling in this country but of 1060 miles or so I had only done about 50 of them before! I really enjoyed finding about parts of the country I did not know before.

We were incredibly lucky to have mostly dry weather and tailwinds, this made the cycling a joy and not a chore. I am not sure we would have succeeded with wet headwinds day after day.

There were so many highlights it is impossible to pick one or even a top ten this close to the finish. It was truly inspiring to get to the top of a hill or around a shoulder of land and get a new view with different character as we travelled through the different regions of the country. I loved seeing the wild flowers changing as we travelled across different geology. We cycled over many iconic bridges, old and new, with great views as we did so, its not only the tops of hills that give views but we did learn that a downhill to a bridge means only one thing – an uphill after.

Sadly the worst bits were all related to cars – overtaking on hills approaching a bend. So many ‘lucky’ moments that were avoidable. The next worst bit was the midges but we only had one bad day.

Overall, it was a wonderful holiday and I feel fitter and mentally relaxed, proud of our achievement and wanting to do another long cycle tour but I have no desire to repeat LEJOG, it could only be an anti-climax if the weather were worse and the views were obscured.

Thank you for your interest and your sponsorship.

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Norman – final thoughts

It was with some trepidation I undertook the challenge with my sons and daughter-in laws on 13 August. It was the first time I had ever been on a cycling holiday. I had been fearing young men who would cycle at 25 mph, but we were all middle aged and middle class (except me aged 89).  We were received and entertained at our hotel at St. Just in Penwith,  The following morning we took off and rode 6 miles to Lands End where the ritual photos at the sign post were taken.  Off then on our 1,000 mile bike ride.  We came soon to some cheeky hills which required a major effort and got to our hotel in Truro.  The next day was one of our two wet days, and in the afternoon we were soaked by a storm, which lasted till we got in.  The only other heavy rain was on our penultimate day, cycling through the moorland of Sutherland. We had been told that Cornwall was the worst part of the ride, and we soon left it for England.  The going seemed easy and I did not have to overexert myself, and could climb hills with my electric bike faster than most of my fellow cyclists.  On the level, and downhill they would usually overtake me..  What I found very difficult was regulating my speed to someone else’s, whether climbing or on the level.  This made conversation while cycling rather difficult.  Andrew had been afraid that I could not cope, and would have to ride in the van that escorted us, carried our baggage and lunch etc.  However, I seemed less tired than my children.  The minor roads that we used were fairly traffic free and I enjoyed the scenery and the views, particularly in the more mountainous regions, such as the Lake District and the Highlands.  The only heavily trafficked routes were through Bristol and Edinburgh, where we rode across the Royal Mile at the height of the Edinburgh Festival.

The end came rather unexpectedly.  The route that afternoon was level, with a good view of Orkney from the road, and we celebrated with collective and individual photographs.

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Norman – the final week

We left Peebles on Saturday morning, cycling on the main Edinburgh road, until we turned off on a quiet B Road, with a rather cheeky climb.  We then rode between the Pentland and Moorfoot Hills towards Edinburgh, where we stopped in an underpass under the Edinburgh ring road for our morning break.  On then into Edinburgh, across the Meadows and over George IV Bridge, and the Royal Mile, which was hotching with people as it was the Edinburgh Festival in full swing.  Across Prince’s Street and on to Chambers Square, where we could not find the snicket we had to go through as it was concealed by a bus.  Along by the West End and we were confused by the tram tracks.  Eventually we cycled along a dead railway and came to our lunch place between the Road bridges and the railway bridge across the Firth of Forth.  We rode over the old bridge on the cycle track, through Inverkeithing to Kinross.

Sunday we rode 40 miles and only 600 metres climbs on to Perth.  We rode through the Burgh and visited the Palace of Scone., which belongs to the Mansfield family (who built Kenwood)  It is too ostentatious in its decor with some very odd collections, such as French papier maché vases.   On up the gentle valley of the Tay to Blairgowrie, with the hills on either side getting higher and on to Bridge of Cally, a small highland settlement where we spent the night.

Monday, our sixteenth day of cycling was our toughest day and took us 59 miles and 5000 feet of climb of climb.  This was through the Cairngormss up a river valley, with a good tail wind, until we started to climb up the Pass of Glenshee (the highest in the Highlands).  The wind pushed us up the slope and I found it not too difficult to manage the climb, and we stopped for tea at the col, where the Devil’s Elbow used to be, before it was straightened.  A great descent down to Braemar and past Balmoral.  No Queen visible.  We had lunch and then rode down to Crathie and over a small pass down and up a hill with some extremely cheeky bits.  One was so steep Team Franklin pushed me up on my bike until the gradient lessened.  The next two steep bits I walked and used the throttle on my bike to help pull me up.  This was probably the worst moment for me, as I feared I would not complete the ride, and have to go in the van.  After reaching the summit, we descended to the little village of Tomintoul, where we stayed in a B and B and had a marvellous breakfast (unlike those who stayed in the local hotel).  Tomintoul has a few shops and a pleasant green in the middle of the village.

Tuesday, Day 17  We set out over a couple of passes (one very cheeky, but I managed) to Grantown-on-Spey, but we did not stop at any distilleries.  We stopped at Ducie Bridge to admire the bridge and the ravine the river had cut.  On to Cawdor Castle, where Tom stopped to look and said it was very boring and he did not go in.  Outside I was surprised to see a notice “Links Fahren” which I would have expected at Dover or Hull.  One can imagine busloads of earnest Germans studying Macbeth.  We caught glimpses of the land north of the Moray Firth from there.  Down to the big railway viaduct that carries the main line from Inverness (single track)  Very spectacular and with a considerable gradient to get the trains up over the pass.  We stopped for tea to look at Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age 2000 years BC group of burial cairns with no roof but carefully graded stones, one with cup marks,  On to Inverness a surprisingly large city where we stayed in a hotel on the river,

Wednesday, we set out from Inverness through industrial suburbs to cross the bridge over the Moray Firth, in wonderful weather where, like at Queensferry there is a special track cantilevered out from the suspension bridge.   Good views south, inland, and then when we had left the bridge we dropped down a very steep bank to the road along the shore.  Good views along the Beauly Firthand on to Muir of Ord and along a mainish road to Dingwall. where we left the main road to climb along a quiet road with views across the Cromarty Firth to the very green Black Isle.  We then turned inland and across the grain of the country to Bonar Bridge on the Kyle of Sunderland and just in that county, where we stopped for lunch.  The first bridge was built in 1812 as a result of a ferry sinking with 100 casualties.  After lunch, we rode along the Kyle and turned off our route to look at the falls of Shin.  There is a viewing point above the falls where we could watch salmon trying (and usually failing) to leap up the falls.  On then to Lairg having inspected and crossed a rickety pedestrian suspension bridge which is a short cut to Lairg station.  And then to Lairg where we spent the night.  The railway to the north detours inland to Lairg because there was no bridge below it across the Kyle of Sunderland and Dornoch Firth.  It is also the most northerly inland town in Britain.

Thursday, we set out along Loch Shin and turned North and across the “flow country” a desolate high level moorland full of pools streams and bogs and surrounded by mountains.  We stopped at an isolated pub for our morning break, the Crask Inn, where we had a warm welcome.  The pub was left to the church, which looks after it, and it is the only centre for miles around.  Down the strath for about 7 miles to a hamlet called Altnaharra where we road along Loch Naver.  At this point it began to rain, and I put on over-trousers, but this did not prevent us from getting soaked for the second time on the ride.  (The first was on our second day near Launceston.)  We stopped for lunch at a cemetery and the rain ceased.  We also stopped to inspect butterwort and sundew, both insect eating plants.  The plants had chosen a good spot with plenty of midges, which soon repelled us.  On the road were a lot of information points about the Highland Clearances, and the brutal Patrick Sellar who was the factor for the Duke of Sutherland.  We continued our descent along the Naver River to Bettyhill (called after the Duchess).  Up a sharp hill to our hotel where we spent the night.  There was an extraordinary end-of-term feeling that night as we were only one stage from John O’Groats.

Friday our last day , we descended from our hotel down a steep hill and up one opposite.  There were a couple more hills still in Sunderland.  We had a morning break at Melvish, and then went into Caithness.  It is astonishing how different the two counties are.  Caithness is populated with isolated farms, growing cereal, and grass, with cattle and sheep in plenty, while Sutherland is empty, probably thanks to the clearances.  We reached Thurso for lunch.  It was school coming-out-time and the road was crowded with school and college students, and buses to take them home.  On again a fairly level road but Tom and Sam diverted to Dunnett Head the most northrtly part of the Mainland.  There were good views of Orkney, in bright sunshine; first Hoy then Flotta and South Ronaldsay, which Tom and I had visited in June.  Finally we arrived at John O’Groats and gathered the whole party for a ceremonial descent to the signpost, where we were duly photographed, and consumed whisky and jagermeister.  Tom, Sam and I then rode to Duncansby Head, the most Northeasterly point on Britain, but were driven off by clouds of midges.  After a convivial dinner, we were taken by coach to Inverness  to catch trains back home.

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Day 19 – Bettyhill to John O’Groats

We all made it!

Another beautiful day of cycling.  Today was along the coast as we cycled half the width of Scotland from Bettyhill to John O’Groats. The first part of the journey was hilly, constantly up and down over a drunken rolling coast with amazing views of mountains, moorland, cliffs and sea.

 

and in case there was any doubt about where we were, here are some highland cattle to prove it

from there we dropped down to Reay for radioactive elevenses.  Reay being best known for the Doun.

From there Sam and I sped across the next bit which has fences made of stone, but not as normally bits of stone but single slabs, like paving stones, on their ends to Thurso for  quick lunch so that we could add a diversion of seven miles to Dunnet Head. More gentle rolling countryside more reminiscent of Devon or Dorset (complete with montbretia) than the Highlands to the turn off in Dunnet where we found ourselves cycling up hill and into the wind.

Dunnet Head (the most northerly point on the mainland) is very beautiful with 360 views including the Orkneys, so here are a few of them, including our first views of John O’Groats

and from there the final few miles to the straggling village that calls itself John O’Groats, with a stop for Schnapps just before we got there and cava and whisky at the end.

So here we all are

Peter the Guide, Julia, Pete and Karin, Tom, Norman, Jamie and Lucy, Anne and Sam, Mark and Julia and Andy (plus Rob the other guide who took the photo).

All I will say now is that we had a fantastic time, but over the weekend each of Franklin group will post a reflective piece so do hang on in and read some more.

 

 

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Day 18 – Andrew – End to Ended

I felt surprisingly emotional when I reached John O’Groats around lunchtime today.  I hadn’t expected that, especially as it’s a sort of nothing place, though with less tat than Land’s End but little to distinguish it from the rest of the coastline. Perhaps I was just tired. There is a pleasing parallel between the two: from the first you have clear views of the Scilly Isles, from the last, the Orkneys loom large and magnificent. In fact there’s a tiny ferry from John O’Groats to the Orkneys, so it isn’t even the end of anything really.  I like that.

And what of the whole ride?

I am haunted by the knowledge that so much of England and Scotland is staggeringly beautiful.  Perhaps particularly Scotland.  It is emptier, on a larger scale and more magnificent.  But much of England is stunning too.  The Forest of Bowland was a particular revelation and I want to go back there as soon as possible to explore and walk it.  I have been given a tip for a great hotel.

Highlights.  The very top of Scotland is extraordinary.  I had never been before.  Sutherland and Caithness are empty.  A complete wilderness – though a carefully managed one.  They were much more heavily occupied before the Highland clearances – particularly brutal on the Countess of Sutherland’s estates, but now you can cycle for miles without seeing a house.  That is a very exciting experience.  The Cairngorms were another notable highlight.

The two highest passes in Great Britain are both in the Cairngorms.  Both are remarkable because when you arrive at the top you see ski lifts rising up from below and soaring above you.  They are great places to visit in summer.  I am not sure they would be my first choice for skiing in winter.  The wind is relentless. It must chill to the bone in February.  The Scots love saying that ‘there’s nae such thing as inclement weather, only inappropriate clothing’.  Even in August that is a rank lie. Still, the descents are thrilling and one can reach dangerously exciting speeds.

Cycling every day is tiring but one gets into a rhythm.  Caroline gave me a tee-shirt which says Sleep. Cycle. Eat. Repeat.  It really is a bit like that.  It becomes hypnotic.  On arriving at John O’Groats I felt slightly tempted to turn around and cycle all the way back.  It is an escape from real life.  And, of course cycling through the countryside rather than the cities is an escape from modernity too.  One has the impression (is it an illusion?) that nothing changes much in the countryside.  Certainly much more slowly.  The countryside – throughout England and Scotland really does seem to be in quite good shape.  It was exciting to see the harvests being taken in successively over the weeks we travelled north.  The combine harvesters working late into the night in Scotland as they had been in Cornwall, Devon and throughout the Midlands.  And the crops aren’t that different either.  Hedges and trees are in good shape too although it is a shame that the great specimen trees of the 19th century are not being replaced.  One sees many magnificent oak, ash, sycamore, beeches, copper beaches, cedars and other trees all along the way.  But not so many younger trees – 10, 20, 30 years old.

Sadly the provincial towns are in much less good shape.  In fact I don’t think we saw a single town – the length of the country – which is in better shape now than it would have been 50 or 100 years ago.  There is not a single town without numerous charity shops and indeed empty shopfronts.  And there are whole towns with almost no economic activity on the High Street at all.  Part of that is down to big, out of town developments – Tescos, the Morrisons and the rest of it.  They do not enhance the landscape. Part of it due to Amazon and other online retailers.  But the consequences are bleak and malaise spills over from the shops to public buildings like town halls, libraries and institutes that look shabby and underfunded.  Where has civic pride gone?

I had to push on ahead early for the last three days in order to be back for the Profile Wayzgoose (a Wayzgoose is a 19th century tradition borne of printing: a works outing for everybody and their family).  I was sorry to leave my family behind as they had been doing so brilliantly.  And particularly my dad.  It was amazing helping him – cajoling, encouraging – and indeed pushing him up the two highest passes in England.  Not many 89 year olds – even on an electric bike can have gone over the Lecht – the highest pass in Britain and brutally tough for anyone of any age.  Using an electric bike doesn’t require great physical exertion but you are out in the wind, sun and rain all day long from 9.00am until you arrive without a break.  And all the time you have to keep pedalling. And he had never been on a cycling holiday before. Over the three weeks he set, at the age of 89, his personal records of 64, 68 and 78 miles in a day. It is a pretty awesome achievement.

The worst parts of the experience were not the sore knees and bum, it wasn’t even cycling in the rain or into a headwind. The worst was thoughtless and dangerous drivers overtaking at speed on blind corners and too close. Another horror was the staggering amount of roadkill: a couple of birds of prey, foxes, hares, badgers, quite a few deer and endless game birds and rabbits.  The constant litter didn’t lift the spirits either. Mostly drink and fast food packaging but plenty of other crap too.  Still, the highs far outweigh the lows and – on our route anyway – the beautiful trounced the ugly every day, every hour even, (except around greater Manchester and Liverpool).

And we have hit, and exceeded our £100,000 target for the four ‘Social Action’ charities.  We can’t say the exact sum because money is still coming in and we have got complicated calculations with Gift Aid.  But it is really wonderful to have raised so much.  Given that all the charities we are supporting are small, this will make a real difference to the effective work they can do – some of it in some of the deprived places we have passed through. I’m more pleased about this even than finishing the ride.

Would I recommend cycling LEJOG to anyone?: Yes definitely.  It is one of those things that looks daunting until you think about it.  It is broken up over many days, each day is manageable and each day gets a bit easier than the one before.  Of course you need good weather – and we were very lucky – but with that proviso, if you can pedal in a straight line, use your brakes and enjoy the British countryside, I recommend it wholeheartedly. But I would only suggest tandeming to my enemies.

Thank you again.  That’s it from me.  Roger, wilco and out.

Andrew

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Day 18 – Lairg to Bettyhill

We are now on the North coast of Scotland and it is so beautiful, though had our first meeting with midges today and our second cycling in the rain which is pretty amazing over three weeks.

We set off in drizzle this morning for the very first time, but all were cheerful and the midges seemed to be enjoying it too.  Our first 13 miles were a very gentle ascent that we barely noticed along Loch Shin and up the Vagastie valley through the flow lands. The flow lands are some of the remotest places I have been.  All you can see is moorland for miles in any direction and the road in front of you

and then, in the middle of nowhere, seven miles from  the nearest building is the Crask Inn, where we stopped for excellent coffee and tea and at table service for the food (he chucked mars bars, snickers or double deckers to us at our tables).

From there a short ascent followed by a long 15 mile descent to the coast.

On the way we got soaked in a heavy shower, visited a site from the Highland clearances (a pogrom by any other name), where there are the remains of one crofting cottage and some graves.  Life must have been mighty tough even before the clearances, but next time you visit a country house think where the money to build it came from.

from there to lunch and down to the coast by which time the sun had come out and a short climb up to the hotel.

We have now cycled over 1,000 miles! One day to go.

Except Andrew who has already arrived – and congratulations to him!!

 

 

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Day 17 – Inverness to Lairg

Another fantastic day with only one stiff climb and plenty of long gentle climbs and wonderful long descents.

Out of Inverness through the industrial estate, and over the bridge to the Black Isle

Then along the North edge of Beauly Firth with the most fantastic views that we have enjoyed so far

it even has a library which Norman enjoyed

On to Dingwall for elevenses and then a long climb up the side of Cromarty Firth with more fantastic views accentuated or spoilt by the remains of old oil rigs stored in the Firth.

and a long climb with fantastic views over Dornoch Firth, enough to make Norman sing whilst cycling

from there a descent to Bonar Bridge for a late lunch in a cafe with one of the best cafe views in the world

After lunch we had a gentle climb Achinduich waterfall where we watched salmon jumping up the waterfall’s really strong current

finally we enjoyed the path to Lairg station

though I can’t say that I would like to use it on a dark February night to catch the 16:00

 

 

 

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Day 16 – Tomintoul to Inverness

We stayed in a wonderful B&B in Tomintoul that did the most amazing breakfast.  Most of us had porridge followed by scrambled egg with smoked salmon for breakfast.

Probably the most notable thing about Tomintoul is the whisky shop with over 500 whiskies.  The pub where we had dinner had impressive collection including about a dozen Tomintoul varieties (we tried the peatiest of theirs, which was good).

Anyhow, today was short and relatively flat, though with a killer hill near the start, but with a fierce headwind most of the day.  So we set off round the Northern edge of the Cairngorms to Bridge of Brown and our last really bad climb of the Cairngorms at 13%, and Rob pushed Norman some of the way up that from his bike.

We then had a long flattish road round the side of Hills of Cromdale with fantastic views across the Cairngorms.

From there we dropped down to the pretty little town of Grantown-on-Spey, where I bought a new front tyre as mine had developed an annoying kink.  Annoying because it touched the mudguard each time round so my cycling was accompanied by tchk-tchk-tchk and a wobble at high speeds.  We also called in on a coffee shop, where some of us indulged

Grantown used to be on the railway and someone seems to rebuilding the station and 100m of track on the way in with a couple of old carriages on, but on the way out we came across this combined railway bridge and lodge

and so into the wind for a tiring time up “Dutch mountains” to lunch at Dulsie Bridge.  A huge high bridge over a massive gorge that has been flooded up to within a metre of the keystone.

There Andrew left us to cycle ahead, and reach John O’groats a day early as he needs to be in London.

I called in at Cawdor Castle, and so to the viaduct and burial cairns at Clava

 

And so into Inverness.  In the final mile or so I fell off my bike and managed to land on both knees, so we will see in the morning how they are and how much of a struggle it is.

Meanwhile, Andrew has reached Dingwall.