Day 14 – Helmsdale to John O’Groats

We’ve finished!!!!

We set off from Helmsdale (and the nicest B&B of the trip) rather late as we only had about 50-odd miles to do today and figured we could take it easy. Talk about underestimating it! The weather was really warm but a rather strong NE wind hampered our progress for much of the day and caused us to feel frustrated a few times, but we powered though and stopped at Wick for our last pit stop outside the country’s most northerly Tesco.

The last 16 miles seemed a bit surreal and we realised we’d really thought about the finish before – too scared to jinx it. There was one last long climb to conquer, before it was down hill all the way into John O’Groats where we finally broke into smiles and celebrations.

After ironically getting a bit lost looking for the sign post, we went past the basecamp of 600 cyclists who were starting a 9 day race in the opposite direction the next day and had to queue to get our picture taken behind some of the racers – most of whom were surprised to see cyclists not part of the group but were very nice and congratulated us both.

A few phonecalls later and we headed up to the B&B owned by a lovely couple with accents so broad that we had trouble understanding at times! I got the gist, but Tim will struggle on his own during breakfast :-)

We booked cabs for the next morning and headed the half mile down the road for our celebratory meal, beers, wee drams and of course our Rodney et Julia cigar at last! We took the bikes without panniers and loved the lack of weight, these racers have it easy tomorrow!

A few of the other groups were in the bar for a quiet drink and assumed we were the same, so were a tad baffled at our apparent preparation technique of drinking copiously and chuffing our way through a massive cigar – we soon put them right and explained we had done it already and without requiring a nanny to carry all our kit!

We stumbled down to the harbour at midnight to take some pics of the sunset, then raced back up to the B&B on our new superlight bikes and slept like drunk but very happy and proud babies.

Till next year, John O’Groats to Lands End? Erm, no :-)

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Day 13 – Dingwall to Helmsdale

Weather: Sunny with showers, wind SW

58 miles

After a blinding night a The Mallard and coming an overall 3rd in the quiz, we woke up realising that we maybe shouldn’t have finished the evening with a whiskey…but when in Rome…

We eventually got going around 10:30 after stocking up with a pasta salad, etc from Tesco. We decided to alter the route a little and take the easier but longer option by following the A9 coastal road. We got our first view of some North Sea oil rigs in the Cromarty Firth then got our first proper view if the North Sea a bit further round the corner near Dornoch where we stopped for lunch. We were again treated to seeing 5 Tornados flying down the valley and out to sea.

The weather up to lunch had been a bit patchy and we found ourselves diving for shelter from torrential rain every now again but this afternoon the sun broke through and we got to spend the rest of the day in tshirts.

We continued on through the town of Golspie and stopped for an ice cream and cup of tea in Brora where we met some guys from Plymouth on their way up to John o’Groats to start their ride south tomorrow.

The last 11 miles of the day to Helmsdale were extremely enjoyable as the realisation that we are ever so nearly there is really starting to set in…we can almost taste the Rodney & Julie cigars!

Went to Le Mirage fish and chip restaurant for dinner and had the best haddock and chips we’ve had for the whole trip and followed it up with a few nice whiskies in local inn. We meet a couple guys from Southampton who’d just set off on a tour south via the islands, and had a great time swapping stories so far!

Looking forward to tomorrow now…

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Ale of the evening

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A very drinkable 3.8% ale, mmmmmm

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On the leaderboard!

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Our first sight of the finish!

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Day 12 – Spean Bridge to Dingwall

We set off after yet another hearty breakfast including our first haggis, this time with me sporting my swanky new waterproof socks. We got just one mike outside Spean Bridge before we found the Commandos Memorial and stopped for a photo and finally a clear (ish) view of Ben Nevis.

We made reasonably quick progress along to Loch Lochy where we marvelled at the lochiness of it. We also started experiencing some odd sounds coming from our bikes – clicking for me, creaking for Tim. After 800+ miles it’s hardly surprising tho.

After reaching Loch Ness we stopped for lunch and chortled into our packed lunches at the American walkers who found entertainment by touching the electric fences. Hmm…

Shortly afterwards, the heavens opened and we ran for cover under a bus shelter for about 30 minutes – have not seen rain like it! Eventually it lessened but we had to make progress so headed on out.

The weather changed all through the rest of the ride with either sun or pouring rain again all the way along Loch Ness to Inverness. No sign of Nessie but plenty of bad drivers through Inverness!

Fortunately the last 15 miles were through gentle cycle-paths into our B&B in Dingwall where we headed out and treated ourselves to a curry and are now sitting down to a pub quiz – after round 1 (film and tv) we are in the lead with 10/10! Expect a degrading performance from here…

Highlight was again Tornadoes – 3 of them!!

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15 minutes later in a bus shelter…

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Lunch by Loch Ness

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With what looks like fantastic weather coming up behind us, great!

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Day 11 – Ardlui to Spean Bridge

After a great nights sleep we woke to an overcast, cold, windy day with rain predicted all day! With the daunting prospect of a 20 mile climb up to Glencoe both of us struggled to summon the will to leave the warm confines for the hotel.

After forcing ourselves out we started the climb and soon found ourselves up the top and in the middle of nowhere surrounded by stunning scenery. It wasn’t as bad as we were expecting, it was just a long gradual climb.

Then (as Ross said in an earlier post) ‘what goes up, must come down’ and boy was it a ‘down’, all 10 miles of it down into the village of Glencoe and to top it off a Tornado came down low flew up the Glen low over us.

Once we reached the bottom the rain started and for the entire 20 mile cycle along the shore of Loch Leven to Fort William it chucked it down, soaking us through to the bone. We stopped in Fort Bill for a few supplies, some water proof socks for Ross and a cheapo pair of flip flops for me. The final 10 miles of the day on the A82 up to Spean Bridge were the scariest of the entire trip so far, with lorries and cars seemingly not seeing us and driving extremely close! Hopefully we won’t experience that again!

The Inverour Guest House was a welcome site and we soon settled in and dried out before heading off to the Commando Bar for dinner,a few beers and a game of pool.

All in all another great days cycling with the most dramatic scenery we’ve seen so far.

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Another ale for the evening

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Worth it just for the name

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Ale of the evening

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A delicious dark ale with a complex malty flavour, Ross was also perplexed by the fact it didn’t taste chocolatier

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