I've now processed the photos that I took along the way. This time they are pictures from my camera, rather than from my mobile phone, so they are a lot bigger!
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Susan & Frank Trzebiatowski, Burnt Inn House, Brig O'Turk, Callander, FK17 8HT, 01877 376212
Valerie Bichener, Thornloe, Albert Road, Oban, PA34 5JD, 01631 562879
Heather Heald, Bruachnhor, Fionnphort, Isle of Mull, PA66 6BL, 01681 700276
Heather McLauchlan, Castle Croft, Beaudoun, Tobermory, Isle of Mull, PA75 6QA, 01688 302388
Mrs Isa Mary McDonald, Ardnish, 15 Blaven View, Mallaig, PH41 4QR, 01687 462111
Rachael Thornton, Green Gables House, Harrapool, Broadford, Isle of Skye, IV49 9AQ, 01471 820211
Mr & Mrs T Pritchard, Java Croft, 13 Earlish, Uig, Isle of Skye, IV51 9XL, 01470 542361
Judith Fish, The Applecross Inn, Applecross, Wester Ross, IV54 8LR, 01520 744262
David & Lilah Ford, Hillhaven, Kinlochewe, Achnasheen, Ross-Shire, IV22 2PA, 01445 760204
Mrs A. Ross, 4 Camusnagaul, Dundonnell, By Garve, Ross-Shire, IV23 2QT, 01854 633237
Alan & Fiona Donaldson, Old School Restaurant & Rooms, Inshegra, By Kinlochbervie, IV 4RH, 01971 521383 & 07789 743234
Jenny & Stuart Anderson, Rhian Guest House, Tongue, Sutherland, IV27 4XJ, 01847 611257 & 0771 9668149
Alistair Grant, John O'Groats Guest House, The Broo, Caithness, John O'Groats, KW1 4YR, 01955 611251
I promised to list the details of where I stayed on each overnight stop. Without hesitation, I'd stay in any one of these again. Everyone I stayed with was welcoming and very friendly. Here is the first part of the list.
Liz Trenary,Treeve Moor House, Sennen, Penzance, TR19 7AE, 01736 871284
Mrs V Symons, Treyarnon House,19 South Park Road, Tywardreat, Par, PL24 2PU, 01726 815326
Mrs T Williams, Cookshayes Country Guesthouse, Court Street, Moretonhampstead, TQ13 8LG, 01647 440374
Mrs Susan Parker, The Admirals Rest, 5 Taunton Road, Bridgewater, TA6 3LW, 01278 458580
In Bristol I stayed with my mum, so I dont have a B&B to list.
Mrs Joy Merrell, Barn End, 23 Cheltenham Road, Bishop's Cleeve, Cheltenham GL52 8LU, 01242 672404
Ros Havard & Paul Mortimer, Broseley House, 1 The Square, Broseley, Shropshire TF12 5EW, 01952 882043
Mary McDonough, 99 Hob Hey Lane, Culcheth, Warrington, WA3 4NS, 01925 763448
Mrs Pat Bradley, Wyck House, 4 Main Street, Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria LA6 2AE, 015242 71953
Mrs Carlyle, Bank Top House, Lazonby, Penrith, CA10 1AQ, 01768 898268
John & Kath Leadbeater, Hart Manor, Eskdalemuir, Langholme, Dumfriesshire, DG13 0QQ, 013873 73217
Carolyn & Les Davidson, Aaron Glen Guesthouse, 7 Nivensknowe Road, Loanhead, Midlothian, EH20 9AU, 0131 4401293
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
During the last couple of days of the ride, I had started to think about how I was going to describe it. What would I say when people asked me how it had been? How could I sum it up?
In any activity lasting a month, there are bound to be highs and lows. Making it over Bealach na Ba on the way to Applecross was a definite high, especially as the weather cooperated for once. In fact, the whole section in north west Scotland and on Skye and Mull was superb. I'll definitely be visiting that area again in the future. On the other hand, the rides to Oban and to Mallaig were really tough, mainly because of the weather. The final day to John O'Groats was also very disappointing, with fog preventing views of Orkney.
On the plus side, the only mechanical failure I had on the bike was minor and I avoided punctures completely. Having said that, I did know that my rear wheel was out of true by the end. I've just found out how bent one of the spokes is. I was lucky not to have had a breakage. Actually, the only real threat to the entire schedule was the Skye ferry breaking down. I was really lucky not to have to go far that particular day.
The electronic technology held up pretty well too. I always knew where I was and had enough soft copy maps on my PDA to be able to reroute where necessary. I always had enough battery power for an entire day's ride and was always able to recharge over night.
My only real health worry was my left knee, but once I'd taken to using a support when off the bike, it just got better and better. Saddle sores were a constant annoyance, despite liberal use of Johnson's baby lotion. Last time I'd used that was on my children, while changing their nappies! By the way, cattle grids and bad road surfaces can be really painful!
Overall, I'd say that this was more of a challenge than I expected, but that most of that was due to the weather. I had not anticipated such strong winds, nor had I expected the run of bad luck in wind direction.
Am I glad I did it? Absolutely! Would I go on a cycling tour again? Yes, definitely, though I'd I'd probably not attempt such a long trip next time and I'd build a bit more slack into the schedule.
Along with memories of the ride itself, I have fond memories of the people I've met along the way. From the folks I've stayed with to the cyclists and walkers I've encountered and the people who've spontaneously donated to the charities I've been supporting, everyone has been fantastic. By the way, I've heard from Luc since I got home. He made it to the Hebrides. His ride finishes this week.
I'm not quite finished adding material here. I will post the list of places I stayed. I'll also be working on uploading at least some of the pictures I took with my camera, as opposed to my mobile phone. I'll post a link to them here too.
By the way, cycling is, as we all know, fantastic exercise. Over the time of the trip I managed to lose somewhere between 8 and 9 kilograms, weight that I definitely needed to lose. And that was despite a full cooked breakfast every day. The trouble is, none of my clothes fit any more!
Saturday, June 10, 2006
If I'd had to choose the conditions I least wanted for today's ride, it would have been a strong south easterly wind and thick fog over the eastern side of Scotland. So that's exactly what they were.
Today's picture shows me at the end of the ride at John O`Groats.
Actually the weather in Tongue was sunny and quite warm when I left. There were superb views over the Kyle of Tongue from the A836. However as the route swung to the east the strength of the head wind became apparent. The first part of the route through Bettyhill, Strathy and Melvich at least the scenary was good. There are some significant climbs, but they were only taxing because of the wind. From Reay onwards, the route became virtually flat, with no shelter from the wind anywhere. I followed the main road all the way across to Thurso and on to John O'Groats. I was intending to visit Dunnet head on my way, but as I reached Castletown, fog was descending. There was no let up in the wind though.
I eventually arrived in John O'Groats in thick fog with a very strong wind blowing.
Because of the wind, I didn't get to John O'Groats until 6.30, well after the photographer had packed up and left for the day. As a result, I'll need to get togged up one more time for the official finishing photo. Other than that, however, the ride is finished.
I've covered about 1500 miles in four weeks. That's about 100 less than I'd planned. Most of these were side trips that I ended up not doing because of the weather. All that is left is to drive back to Winchester.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Today's picture is a view across Loch Eriboll.
At the start of today's ride, the weather was very unpromising. There was a fresh and cold wind from the south west. Well wrapped up I set off from Inshegra. Once on the A838 heading for Durness, I had a tail wind for the first time in what seemed weeks. Progress was very brisk, especially once the climb to Gualin House was complete. Down the far side I was touching 30 mph for long periods and often had to slow only to allow oncoming traffic to pass. Although the A838 is a major road, it is still single track with passing places.
Of course, such good fortune tends not to last. After Durness, the next section involved the 21 mile loop around Loch Erriboll. The first half of this was straight into the wind that had helped me reach Durness. The weather was overcast and grey and the light poor. At this stage my only interest was in reaching the head of the loch and being able to turn down wind once more. Progress was once again swift after this, though there were more taxing climbs on this section. At one point, when I stopped for a breather and to investigate a strange noise from my bike, I became aware of a lot of sea bird activity and noise. Several sea birds were mobbing a bird of prey and trying to drive it away. I had a chance to get quite a good look at it. I believe it was a Sea Eagle. It certainly looked big enough and was the right colour.
After Loch Eriboll, the route crossed to Loch Hope. The climb out from the village of Hope is very steep initially and continues up to over 200 metres Once over the crest, the journey down to the Kyle of Tongue and to Tongue village itself was fast and easy.
It is still difficult to believe that tomorrow is my last day and that I'm only about 75 miles from John O'Groats and the end of the trip.
Today's picture shows the bridge at Kylesku.
First thin this morning, the cloud was low over the hills at Lochinver. I was fully expecting to spend at least part of the day in fog. As it turned out, the cloud lifted and by the end of the day the sun was out once more.
The first part of today's ride involved the coastal loop from Lochinver to Unapool along the B869. The route is spectacular, with many steep climbs and drops and the road clinging to the side of steep gorges. Although not achieving the heights of the route to Applecross, the route felt just as taxing and the 25 miles took the best part of 5 hours. As the weather improved there were lots of photo opportunities, including a view over the white sands of the Bay of Stoer. After joining the A894 at Unapool progress was faster though there were still some significant gradients all the way to Rhiconich. Inshegra is a couple of miles up the road to Kinlochbervie. I arrived at the B&B before Angela, who was driving from Callendar. She got caught in roadworks near Kinlochewe.
Today's picture shows a waterfall on the Dundonnell river.
Today started dry, bright and warm. The route started along the A832. It soon started a long climb alongside the Dundonnell river. At the top there were some stunning views across the Dundonnell and Braemore Forests.
The route drops down to join the A835 at the Corrieshalloch gorge. From there, the ride to Ullapool was pretty fast, despite the northerly headwind that had started to blow.
From Ullapool the route climbed through Ardmair and Strathcanaird. The weather was beginning to change, with cloud moving in and the wind freshening. I had intended to take the coastal route from Drumruie via the Aird of Coigach to Lochinver. In the event with the weather closing in, I decided to take the inland main road route instead. Frankly, it was unremarkable, joining the A837 at Ledmore. The route has a number of climbs, none of which is particularly challenging. The only problem was the headwind, which for this section was a fresh westerly.
The one notable feature on this section was Ardvreck castle, a ruin that can still be accessed from the main road.
I finally arrived in Lochinver just in time to avoid the worst of the rain that was beginning to fall. The north of Scotland is still suffering some of the worst weather of the whole of the UK.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Today's picture is a view across Little Gruinard on the edge of Gruinard bay.
I set off quite late for today's ride. That was as a result of a photographic session with the birds of prey in Kinlochewe.
The first section along the A832 from Kinlochewe to Slattadale was pretty fast. The gradients were easy as the route follows the edge of Loch Maree around the north side of Beinn Eighe. From Slattadale to Gairloch there are some more challenging gradients but still nothing to taxing. The weather continued to improve and there were lots of opportunities for photos. The only drawback was having to share some of the lookout points with a group of very excitable Spanish on a coach tour.
From Gairloch the route climbed steadily over a pass before descending into Poolewe.
However, it was the last section of the day from Poolewe around the southern side of Gruinard bay that proved the most taxing. There were lots of steep climbs and a final long climb up to Badcaul. There were also lots of spectacular views. The sun made a rare appearance during the afternoon so some photos even show blue skies. In the evening, there was a fantastic sunset over Loch Maree. Maybe summer has finally arrived up here too.
It's not every day that you arrive at a B&B to be confronted with pictures of eagles and a warning to keep your speed down. The reason is that Lilah and David Ford have an impressive collection of birds of prey at their home. They operate West Highland Hawking. Their collection includes owls as well as hawks and an eagle. David was kind enough to let me take some photos of the birds this morning before leaving for Camusnagaul. It was an extrordinary experience to find the birds on their perches in the garden when I arrived last night. The photo for this post is of one of David's owls that has a tendency to react when people get too close. Close is exactly what you have to get with a mobile phone camera because of the wide angle lens.
David and Lilah run courses and related activities that allow people to fly their birds.
West Highland Hawking can be contacted at hillhaven at kinlochewe dot info. I've written the address like this to try and help avoid spam. Replace the at with the appropriate sign and dot with a full stop.
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Friday, June 02, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Today's picture shows Loch Mor near Waterstein on Skye.
Today started overcast but dry and the trip down from Uig to Dunvegan was relatively easy. A brisk westerly breeze made progress a little slow. The scenary on Skye is generally less impressive than on Mull, but the ride was nontheless very pleasant. From Dunvegan to Glendale the terrain gets more challenging with steeper climbs and descents. The drop into Glendale is particularly impressive. Before checking in to the B&B I cycled on to Waterstein and the Neist penisnula. There is a lighthouse at the end, but it is about half a mile from the end of the road and involves negotiating steep steps, so there was no chance to take the bike down. I didn't want to leave it unattended so contented myself with taking photos of the scenary. On the way back to Glendale I took a detour through Milovaig. The final approach to the B&B was up a very steep path. It was so steep that it was hard to get traction while pushing the bike up.