Archive

Archive for the ‘lejog’ Category

Lejog day LAST WE MADE IT!!!

October 6, 2015 5 comments

image

Wow. Epic way to end. 52 miles through wild winds and lashing rain. Felt like we would never get there, and then suddenly we did.

Woke in Reay, and forecast for today was exceedingly sub par :

image

Yes, that’s 40mph headwinds!

Full merino and waterproofs today – we’ve carried the latter this whole way without needing them, but then I’ve not needed to use the cpr mask or survival blanket either and am quite happy about that…

Into Thurso, and left our panniers at the hostel we’re in tonight, minus a small one of Vince’s with food and bike tools.

Folks in the hostel kept saying about how they didn’t fancy going out in that weather, and why were we going – as if we’re going to come all the way here and then give up! Train is booked for home tomorrow afternoon so it really needed to be today. Had a fish supper for lunch, and set off.

Took me at least half an hour to stop grinning, even in the face of headwinds and stinging rain and uphill climbs, to be at this final stage! Was singing aloud to myself and must have been a strange sight for the oncoming motorists.

But then it just became a battle. I mostly stayed OK, and occasionally happy again, but it was hard hard going with the wind either full frontal or trying to throw me off the road.

We knew it was about 20 miles, but as that got closer, and we saw settlements up ahead, each time turning out to be not John O’Groats, and so so tired and knowing we still had the ride back to Thurso after we’d got there, I started to feel this was never going to end. Forever cycling against the weather, battling on. There weren’t even any signposts telling us jog was ahead,let alone how far it was. Could feel water in my shoes as well as everywhere else, and putting my waterproof winter gloves on was too tough now everything was wet to risk taking them off to check phone to see how far we still had to go.

And then finally, suddenly we were there. We’d planned on going to the lighthouse 2 miles further on, which is the actual point, but immediately and unanimously decided that wasn’t going to happen. So down to the signpost which Vince gave a massive hug to. Lots of whooping and “hello Forties” on the final stretch when we could see it ahead. Then photos (handily couple of other cyclists who’d finished lejog a bit earlier were passing and took our pics. They’d done it all on mountain bikes “across country”) and coffee and cake (kitchen in cafe was closed so we couldn’t even eat properly!). Neither of us even fancied the whisky miniatures we’d picked up in the distilleries along the way!

Mostly had the wind behind us for the dash back to Thurso, as it got darker and rain still lashing down.

It’s still not really sunk in. Today was too intense to properly process what we’ve achieved. I just feel tired physically, mentally and emotionally. On auto pilot. Had a shower and burnt pizza. Written blog. Can almost allow myself to stop pushing onwards. I guess once I relax I’ll start to realise what we’ve done and start my inane grinning again, but just now I’m gonna flop and have some beer and curl up with my kindle and sleep with no need to do much of anything tomorrow until our late afternoon train home.

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 28. Tongue to Reay

October 5, 2015 Leave a comment

30 miles

After yesterday’s blissful day of 69 easy miles, today we fought a strong headwind and only just managed 30!

Lots of up and down, and really felt it because of the winds which just got stronger as the day went on.

Up on the high moors the landscape was bleak and the wind was fierce. Would have been gorgeous on a less wild day but was still beautiful, just harder to appreciate. Then down the hill into the river valleys and bays where it was lush and green and pretty, tiny, villages and farms.

At one point the wind was behind us and I got to free wheel up hill! But mostly it was either head on or gusting across us and blowing the bikes all over, which was hard work and scary.

Kept trying to find somewhere we could stop and get a coffee and 2nd breakfast (only had a piece of pita and cheese as that was all we had left) but we passed a cafe and couple of pubs and they were all closed. The weather was definitely now too wild for camping, and we were very glad we’d done so much distance yesterday. However when we finally got phone signal and tried to book into the hostel in Thurso, they were full tonight, though had space tomorrow, which we booked in for. Internet was very erratic and it was v cold as soon as we took a break from cycling, so was hard finding other budget accommodation, and all the ones we found and phoned were also full tonight.

Had to push up some of the hills and when the wind was gusting particularly strongly across the road. But mostly pedaled.

Finally posted on facebook to see if anyone had time to look online for us for somewhere to stay. Then at last came to a pub that was open! Had hot chocolate and veggie burger and chips and got on the WiFi (and out of the wind) and a friend had friends in Reay that we could stay at! Stayed in the pub a bit longer so we could time arriving there to when they’d be home.

Wind was properly blowing by then. But only had 6 miles to go. Just kept pedalling against the wind and made it.

Tomorrow John O’Groats!!! Can’t believe we’re almost there. Going to be a tough day as due to rain and be windy, but its just 10 miles into Thurso, drop our panniers at the hostel and the 45 mile roundtrip to the tip and back to Thurso.

It’s been a long hard slog to get this far but we’ve almost made it. Feels pretty intense.

image

Am not looking impressed!

image

image

image

image

image

Sign in Reay

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 27. Tain to Tongue. Almost there!!!!

October 4, 2015 1 comment

69 miles!

Today was our favourite so far. Stunning scenery and miles seemed to fly by, under blue sky and slight tail wind.

Started very cold in tents in a forest. So brrrrr that even the midges who had taken up their usual flysheet ambush locations were too cold to move! So at least there was some silver lining to the approx 5°c … Put on double merino longjohns under my cycling tights and similar on top. Breakfast was a cheese roll and pro plus!

Tain was all still closed as Sunday morning, but we found a shop/cafe in Ardgay. By then was warm and we’d done 17 miles. We had been planning on dropping back to 40 mile days as soon much time before our train back from Thurso which is booked for Wednesday. However we checked the weather forecast again and it looks like about to get nasty, so we changed plans and decided to make for tongue today instead of camping at the Crask Inn, and so arriving in Thurso a day early to take advantage of possible last of the nice weather. That meant we suddenly had 51 miles left today, instead of about 25! Phoned the poor house in Tongue to check we could stay there, provisionally, took off layers down to short sleeve top and tights, and set off.

Ncn 1 continued to be v nice, and the brief part we were on the A9 convinced us we were making the right decision to take the inland route, even though it’s longer. Before Lairg it took us away from the main road, which we watched go high up the other side of the valley, whilst it took us on little quiet lane next to the river and falls :)

The large part of the day was the high moorland crossing. We gained the altitude easy enough and then, oh my, oh wow, oh how have I never been this far north before? Why hasn’t everybody??? Perfect single track road through miles and miles of heather and bracken and moorland and mountains off to the west and rivers and lochans and trees and blue skies. Tried taking some photos but the landscape was too big and deep and intense for my poor skill and phone camera to even begin to capture. And the 40 miles just flew by. I felt like we were wearing 1000 league boots, each pedal stroke seemed to take me so far.

Met couple of other cyclists coming the other way and had good chat.

Cycling today has just been incredible, almost didn’t want it to end. Even then hills didn’t seem hard, even though was down to bottomest gears in places, just kept pedalling and we got up and over them.

Stopped in Crask Inn and had cake and drinks, but I was really itching to keep going it was so pleasurable! Plus we still had miles to go and it was already mid afternoon.

We got our average moving speed up to 10mph for first day this trip!

Up and down couple hills and then up and then …. THE SEA!!!!! We’d actually made it to the north coast!!!

image

Gorgeous sunset as we descended down into Tongue and along to the poor house bunkhouse, where our very nice host lit the wood stove and we feel very cosy and accomplished and blessed :)

Thurso tomorrow and then John O’Groats the next day!!!!! So close!!!

image

Early morning exercise – spin drying the tent!

image

Who knew these still existed?

image

image

image

Can always tell the ones Vince took whilst still cycling ;)

image

Crask Inn

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

The sea!! The north coast!!!

image

First signpost we’ve seen. Suddenly feels so close!!!

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 26. Inverness to Tain

October 3, 2015 Leave a comment

38 miles

Unremarkable day. Overcast skies. After last couple weeks we’re maybe spoilt for landscape, because we found it quite dull. Stopped in Dingwall for cash and supplies and saw a Wimpy so had a burger there – probably the most exciting thing of the day! Vince tired so we stopped to camp early. 120 miles to John O’Groats so no hurry at this stage as long as we average 40 miles a day. Train back to Glasgow is booked for Wednesday.

image

Only photo I took today!

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 25. Kingussie to Inverness

October 2, 2015 Leave a comment

51 miles.

Again super tired so struggling to write this, so will be bullet points.

Ncn 7 until Craggie and then we cut across the back way through villages down into Inverness.

Red squirrel at breakfast time and hosts had seen pine martins outside their house. They also showed us their bee house with 4 hives in, the honey from which I enjoyed on my toast.

Aviemore for brunch of pasties and éclairs at bakery. Sweetie shop to restock pouch – jelly babies, aniseed balls, pineapple cubes and sour chews.

Such pretty countryside. Hills, trees, bracken, heather, elder, Rowan, birch, Scots pine. Rivers, stone bridges, wooden lodges.

Over a pass.

Tomatin distillery – friendly, helpful, really nice and chilled. Let us taste two single malts and lots of good chat. Very different from dalwhinnie’s diaggeos corporate experience.

image

Path through birch woodland .

image

Bees!

image

River!

image

Regrowth! Mature trees and young ones. Seen so much renewal this trip. Still hundreds of non native forestry, but really good to see land recovering.

image

Steam engine.

image

Carr bridge

image

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 24. Pitlochry to Kingussie over Drumochter Summit

October 1, 2015 2 comments

48 miles.

NCN 7 practically door to door. Another bright sunny day, though really cold to start with.

Stopped for 2nd breakfast / early lunch in Blair Atholl as this was last place before the big climb of the day as we knew there wouldn’t be another opportunity to get anything for 20+ miles.

The 7 route is excellent. Really well sign posted. Mixture of ex road – the old A9 – quiet/ish roads, and purpose built tracks made by sustrans. Long long climb up, and we took a couple of breaks, but was nothing on Shap, and was long but not too steep. Scenery was stunning as ever. River next to us. Tons of new growth of native trees looking like they were self seeding now they were protected from deer in massive areas.

3rd breakfast / 2nd lunch was cheese rolls sitting on a stone bridge watching river rushing down underneath us.

Great feeling getting to the top and singing “the only was is down” and getting weird looks from motorists as I fist pumped and hooted.

Descent was quite gentle. Stopped at dalwhinnie distillery as 7 goes right past it and seemed rude not to ;)

Vince saw his first red squirrel.

Chain came off front cog just before our final destination but easy back on. Another warm showers host tonight.

image

Yikes!

image

Decoration on the route.

image

Ski bench! Also made as sustrans

image

River with regenerating trees.

image

Trees!

image

Typical stretch of the route.

image

Ex road now cycle route with trees.

image

Taking photos of each other at the summit.

image

Our final county! And like our first, will be a few days to cross.

image

We did it!

image

Dalwhinnie distillery

image

Go on, you’ve earned it :)

image

Random cycle route obstacles, just in case we were getting too relaxed.

Categories: lejog

Lejog day 23. Before Callander to pitlochry

September 30, 2015 Leave a comment

69 miles. V tired as I write this.

Lovely spot to wake up. 9 miles to Callander for breakfast, through stunning forest and along lochs.

Stopped at first cafe in Callander which turned out to be very nice community enterprise thingy with good coffee and a veggie breakfast and big garden out back with picnic tables onto which we opened our tents to dry the dew off. Great view of mountains.

Continued following route 7 most of the day. Very pretty and well sign posted. Ex railway track a lot of time and super pretty scenery, lots of native woodland and rivers and mountains. However loose gravelly surface most of time so decided to do the big climb up from lochearnhead on the main road. We took it slow and steady and made it to the top without trouble :) So much progress since I began! Then we rejoined 7 for the descent to killin, which again was ridiculously beautiful forest. The sun was shining and was almost too hot. Gorgeous day. Falls of Dochart so so so pretty, and I remembered being there once before and visiting spooky island which had weird malignant feel (I have very over active imagination!) and had been burial ground for clan chiefs.

All this was slow going though, and the 7 took us along the road south of the Tay, which looked on the map to just stay next to the water, but actually went up and down and up again. More slow going, so very tired and very late and still not even halfway to pitlochry where we were to be staying with friends.

We put more clothes on –  started today wearing merino longjohns, fleeced cycle tights, long shorts, merino long sleeve top, fleece, a jacket and a wooly hat under my helmet. After breakfast was down to shorts and short sleeve top. This evening re robed. Put lights and high vis on and carried on. Was tired but legs were in robot mode. Got to darkness where could only see few metres in front so were going more slowly. Could see where lane was, and look out for potholes, but not much else, so was cycling by feel – if it felt harder I changed gears down, and then back up or used brakes when going was flat/downhill but couldn’t see at all how far this would go on for or in what way it would change.

Finally into pitlochry. Another memorable day. 2nd longest in distance, but tougher than the furthest due to at 2500 foot of climb since Callander and a fair bit before that too. Rough surfaces. But also memorable for beautiful scenery, always changing and reminding me how much beauty there is so close to my adopted home in Glasgow. So much to explore next spring and summer! And lovely warm sunny day to have done it in.

image

Morning mist and dew slowly lifting as sun rose.

image

image

image

Breakfast cafe.

image

Back down the glen towards lochearnhead after we’d climbed up.

image

Lochan at the pass.

image

Probably most photod sign in Perthshire, but I couldn’t resist :)

Categories: lejog