Thursday, June 22, 2006

Photographs from the Trip

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!

The pictures are available at my Flickr site in a set called LE-JOG 2006.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Where I Stayed: Part 2

Here is the second part of the list of places I stayed during the ride.

Brig O'Turk

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

John O'Groats

Alistair Grant, John O'Groats Guest House, The Broo, Caithness, John O'Groats, KW1 4YR, 01955 611251

Where I Stayed: Part 1

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.

Land's End

Liz Trenary,Treeve Moor House, Sennen, Penzance, TR19 7AE, 01736 871284

Par Sands

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.

Bishop's Cleeve

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

Kirkby Lonsdale

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

Now that it's Over...

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

Day 30 June 9th John O'Groats

Day 30 June 9th John O'Groats
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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

Day 29 June 8th Tongue

Day 29 June 8th Tongue
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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.

Day 28 June 7th Inshegra

Day 28 June 7th Inshegra
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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.

Day 27 June 6th Lochinver

Day 27 June 6th Lochinver
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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

Day 26 June 5th Camusnagaul

Day 26 June 5th Camusnagaul
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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.

West Highland Hawking

West Highland Hawking
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
I've promised to give details of everywhere I've stayed once the trip is complete. However, there was something so extrordinary about last night's stop in Kinlochewe that I thought I'd add an entry about it.

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

Day 25 June 4th Kinlochewe

Day 25 June 4th Kinlochewe Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track Today's picture is a view of the hills of Applecross Forest from Applecross bay. After yesterday's epic climb over to Applecross, I was hoping that today's ride would be a little less challenging. Although it did not achieve yesterday's dizzy heights, there were actually lots of climbs and descents, particularly on the section from Applecross to Sheildaig. The first part of this section runs north giving lots of views over the islands of Skye, Rasay and Iona. I took quite a lot of photos today, which slowed progress. Once past the northerly tip at Fearnsay, the hills around Loch Torridon come into view. More photography ensued along the entire section from Fearnmore to Torridon at the head of the loch. I had intended to make a side trip along the north side of the loch during today's ride. In the event as time was moving on and the views to the south were not as interesting as those to the north, I abandoned that idea and headed straigh for Kinlochewe. In the event, the section along Glen Torridon and around the base of Beinn Eigh has only very slight gradients. With a slight following wind it was very easy. I had time to get provisions for tomorrow and to do a little routing maintenance before checking in to the B&B. The folks here run a bird of prey centre as well and have birds on site.

Day 24 June 3rd Applecross

Day 24 June 3rd Applecross Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track I had a little trouble with the GPS this morning so the first 5 miles of the track from Broadford are missing. Today's picture is a view back down part of the major climb for the day up to Bealach na Ba. Apologies for this being delayed and out of sequence. There was no mobile signal in Applecross. Also, for some reason, Blogger did not like my original post. Wow. Any disappointment that the weather affected yesterday evening's ride to Elgol was forgotten today with the section of the ride from Lochcarron to Applecross. Today's picture is a view back down the road from near the top of the climb. To be honest, I was a bit worried about today's ride. It was the way peoples eyebrows raised when I told them I was cycling to Applecross. That and the maniacal laughter. The day started with really dreary weather, light rain and low cloud. I fully expected to be cycling in fog later in the day when the route climbed. I crossed the Skye bridge, finally saying goodbye to the islands. The section up the south edge of Loch Carron was actually quite challenging. There are a number of steep climbs leaving the Kyle of Localsh and the route continues to climb past Stromferry. Althought the route eventually follows the railway, it still manages to climb away steeply from time to time. At Strathcarron, the route crosses to the opposite side of the loch and heads south west to Lochcarron. For this whole section, it was raining and the cloud was very low on the peaks opposite. From Locharron, the route climbs steeply crossing over to Loch Kishorn. The road to Applecross is marked with a large sign pointing out its challenges, its peak altitude of 2053 feet, its steep gradients and sharp bends. I headed up with some apprehension. Actually I needn't have worried. Although the road climbs continually the gradients, while steep, are ok. I did need to walk up for a little way, but only the section just before the series of hairpin bends near the top. The bends themselves actually have reasonable gradients for cycling, though a number of motorists and motorcyclists were very circumspect on their way down. While I was getting my breath back at one of the hairpins, an open top Audi came down with the driver profering a donation for the charities I'm supporting. I continue to be overwhelmed by people's spontaneous generosity A number of the people I've stayed with have sponsored me. I'll post a full list once the ride is complete. It took a couple of hours to get to the summit. As I was going up, the weather gradually improved, the cloud lifted and the rain stopped. The view point at the summit offers staggering views over Skye and the other islands. From the top, the route descends steadily to Applecross, and I hardly had to turn a pedal until I reached the village. The sun was out as I arrived. Biggest disappointment of the day was that I disturbed two deer at the side of the road before I realised they were there and lost the opportunity to photograph them.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Day 23 June 2nd Broadford

Day 23 June 2nd Broadford Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track Today's picture is a view across Loch Slapin. Once I'd heard the forecast for today, and the promise of westerly winds, a revised route seemed possible. Rather than the plan to visit Fiskavaig on the way to Broadford, it seemed possible to reach Elgol. I left Glendale intent on reaching Broadford by mid afternoon. For a change, the wind was favourable, even helping the steep climb out of Glendale. The route back to Dunvegan was relatively easy. Once on the A863 I made good time to Drynoch. The westerly wind made the ride through Glen Drynoch very fast and easy and helped with the section along the side of Loch Sligachan. Since this was a section I had previously ridden in the opposite direction, I took the opportunity to use the coast road around Luib na Moil. It is very picturesque and offered views over Rasay and Loch Ainort. I got back to Broadford in time for a spot of early tea and a beer, before checking in at the B&B. I left unnecessary luggage there before setting off to ride to Elgol. This was a 30 mile round trip and took three and a half hours. There are lots of steep climbs and on the way out, most of the route was into wind. Low cloud covering the peaks tended to spoil some of the views but the ride did give a number of photo opportunities, especially around Loch Slapin.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Day 22 1st June Glendale

Day 22 1st June Glendale
Originally uploaded by rhesus42.
Today's Track

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.