67 miles and 1,038 metres climbed
The Inverness YHA was in an earlier life a student accommodation block and so had greater space. The staff here seemed more enlightened and had a flexible attitude to the guests. It was a much better experience. We ate our porridge and hit the road north. Then a remarkable thing happened…
We met Jay a fellow Lejogger from Cheltenham. He’d started off camping, then had his wife support him and now was by himself for the last couple of days. Unpicking his route, equipment and logistics brought up more questions than answers but he was, like other younger people, learning and on a great adventure. We suggested a coffee as we got to Dingwall. On a Sunday it was a ghost town bar the large Tesco that seemed to be the local hive of activity.
Jay was a tall strapping lad on a road bike. With flimsy wheels his weight and his luggage were quite a burden. It seems he’d struggled from the start of his ride with spokes breaking. At Tesco it happened again, not a convenient problem on a Sunday in a small town with everything shut. However Jay was game to sort it himself. Peter volunteered to help but was turned down; in reality he was lucky to have Peter available to help. This was until the very end when Peter’s offer of help was accepted and the wheel sorted (we hoped.) From here he was up and running and heading east to Helmsdale on the coast whilst we were going due north to Crask.
After meeting one Lejogger then came Chris from Bradford, riding 100 miles a day for the Woodland Trust charity. He looked all in and complained of several ailments: at least he was now close to the finish.
Leaving Dingwall we climbed and climbed and the view of the Cromarty Firth was impressive.
Soon we were wending our way through Ardgay, Bonar Bridge, Lairg and heading high up into the heart of Sutherland. The weather was still in the late teens and unlike the rest of the UK not a drop of rain. We were now on single track roads bobbing in and out of passing points as locals and tourists in their cars trundled through.
Eventually we reached our hotel, literally in the middle of nowhere at Crask.
What an oasis, exceptional hospitality from Douglas, the host, and a comfortable billet. Despite the location the wi-fi or 4G was superb and we relaxed prior to dinner. Amongst the small band of residents were two Belgians on bikes camping in the adjacent field and a woman in the early stages of riding and leading two horses from John O’Groats to Lands End. We asked Elsa about the logistics and timescales; it seemed daunting yet the adventure of a lifetime. I’m up for a challenge but this was out of my league. She was hoping to complete it in a couple of months. Take a look –
So tomorrow is the last day and amongst many emotions I shall miss greatly my personal assistant. I paid in advance for all the accommodation and whilst Peter gave me a ‘sub’ he was still, in effect, in arrears. The arrangement was that he’d pay for all food, drinks and incidentals and we’d reconcile later. Straight forward of course but this also meant that Peter would settle all the restaurant bills, buy groceries, go to the bar and get the beer and, of course, source and procure ice cream. Shortly I will have to do these things myself again. How will I cope. Also if Peter had a pound coin for every time he’s had to say “don’t forget your face mask” he’d be a very rich man.
So ninety miles or so to go and then the challenge of getting south starts. I’m looking forward to that selfie at the sign at John O’Groats.