89 miles and 1,118 metres climbed
The inconsistency of how establishments control social distancing and reduce the risk of infection is never more contradictory than at the YHA. Glencoe had all the self catering facilities out of bounds but after having a shower and toilet allocated to us exclusively I still found a plonker showering in our bathroom. He didn’t absorb the rules when explained to him at Reception. I did after hammering on our washroom door and explaining it. The YHA also don’t sell food at the moment either, so why is it safe in a hotel, B&B or pub?
Granted there are different rules between England and Scotland for reasons that can only be explained by the Scottish government wanting to energetically demonstrate they are different.
Each YHA is manned by organised millennials who carry out all the rules to the letter. Peter was apoplectic about denied entry to the YHA when arriving before me. Entry was apparently denied until the actual person who booked the room checked in. Peter asked the receptionist to waive this but she said “no”. Peter then embarked on a well worn routine of challenging this mindless bureaucracy, as only he can, with various arguments. The millennial held firm against the 59 year old. When I arrived, to the team building comment from him of “oh I thought you’d be longer”, Peter ran through the long list of arguments he put to her including “If you’re worried, ask your boss.” “I am the boss.” (You have to love her don’t you!) I did think he’d met his match when his last compelling argument was that he’d been to this hostel 43 years ago!
Undaunted by this setback Peter then decided to tackle the local pub’s decision to not allow diners to eat in an empty dining room inside. Rejection and counter arguments came and went with another millennial on the bar like watching a rally at Wimbledon. Eventually Peter hit on a winning strategy of playing for sympathy. His vulnerability to midge bites was a risk to his physical and mental well being he said. (This was despite wearing more Skin So Soft by Avon, the ultimate midge repellant, to immobilise a small colony of the hateful insects in any case.) He won them over and we ate inside.
An early start saw us cover the 15 miles from Glencoe to Fort William for breakfast. The cafe owner was English (remember this, there’s a theme developing.) That done it was basically all about following the Caledonia Canal to Inverness.
This 19th Century triumph of waterway engineering linked the east and west coast of Scotland by water.
You can it’s vital statistics below.
It was mainly lochs connected by canals with many locks. The road occasionally came down to the canal, here we had a chat with one of the lock keepers (English) who gave us some details about the canal users: it’s mainly commercial but all ultimately for pleasure. Maximum speed on the canal was 6mph but on the lochs I imagine they go faster.
The Guide had us following a lovely rising and falling set of roads on the north bank until inexplicably it turned into a hard mud track with embedded stones. If that wasn’t miserable enough for my 28mm thick tyres then that highway of joy disappeared to be replaced by loose aggregate. I usually end up on this type of steep horror surface when I’m plotting my own route up a Continent not when I’ve bought a bloody guide!
Along the horrid track I came across the second wild eyed English male camper/walker of the day. They seem to be hiking by themselves, look dishevelled and often appear lost. You can envisage them being alone for days emerging out of the forest like Amazonian Indians. My second chap, a stocky Lancastrian, resplendent in heavy boots, bushwacker hat, shorts and large rucksack asked how far to Fort William? I lied that it was a mere stone’s throw. Why hurt him with the fact it’d take him a day to reach? Never use the truth unless it serves a useful purpose I thought.
However, as he was going in the opposite direction to me on this deserted track he did have an unforeseen pleasure coming his way. On this bike destroying surface I not only got a slow puncture but also managed to dislodge two bananas freshly bought in Fort William. He may have taken this discovery as Divine intervention?
This track slowed me along with puncture repair and to make progress I took the main road, the trusty A82 to Inverness. My progress was excellent and my frustration of motorists was complete as they all crawled behind me in first gear as I dealt with the hills. The road surface was remarkable. If this has all been done with European Union money then I may well have voted Remain. (Only joking.)
I was resuscitated with tea and a sandwich in Fort Augustus and applied myself to the remaining 40 miles to Inverness. It was great cycling but a long way. The famous and very large Loch Ness was on my right. No monsters were spotted.
In Inverness I wasted over 30 minutes on trying to find the hostel by going in the wrong direction. At some traffic lights I asked a Geordie taxi driver who was listening to the radio what the Denmark vs. Czech Republic score was? We both went on to agree that for England ‘it’s coming home’.
After ablutions we took a taxi to enjoy a splendid Indian meal in Cradlehall and then we returned to see England’s fourth goal. ‘Result’, as they say.