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Month: May 2019

Stage 26: Lairg to Tongue (38m)

Stage 26: Lairg to Tongue (38m)

This was an incredible stage through the remote wilderness called Sutherland to the Kyle of Tongue, an inlet on the North Coast.

The A-road (A836) that’s single-track with passing places

Boy did we get a break with the weather today. The dreadful downpours shown on the satellite images never materialised and we got away with just a couple of hours of drizzle. The pub, in the middle of nowhere, was a welcome sight at lunchtime.

The Crask Inn – Britain’s most remote pub

The landscape was remarkable because it was just a vast expanse of blanket bog, moorland and mountains. It’s known as the Flow Country and is one of Scotland’s most important natural resources. Mosses grow successfully up here because of the cool, wet conditions and have been growing for the last 11000 years since the last Ice Age. This has built up a blanket of peat thick enough to cover a double-decker bus! This layer stores nearly three times as much carbon as the whole of the UK woodland put together so is a vital defence against climate change.

Kyle of Tongue

The waitress at breakfast this morning told us there’d been fresh snow on the hills last night and that it wasn’t unusual for that to carry on until mid-June. Nearby, in Altnaharra, the weather station recorded the coldest temperature in Britain ever -27.2 degrees C on 30/12/95.

Sorry for the very nerdy blog but I got super excited by this stage today!

Stage 25: Inverness to Lairg (53m)

Stage 25: Inverness to Lairg (53m)

A wet and freezing cold ride today crossing over the Black Isle (the lump above the Moray Firth nr Inverness), around the Cromarty Firth and over Struie Hill to Lairg.

Kessock Bridge

Cromarty Firth

Sheltering from the rain, I actually got Andy into Dingwall Museum but even then he couldn’t take it seriously…


Couldn’t wait to get into our hotel for a hot bath as it was only about 8 degrees and we had all our layers on. Only one hotel so I guess we know where we’re eating for dinner.

Welcome view of Lairg

I hear the weather’s lovely down South but the forecast up here tomorrow is for rain all day and our guide book says it’s a very remote stage through a wilderness… hope there’s a cafe!

Stage 24: Aviemore to Inverness (41m)

Stage 24: Aviemore to Inverness (41m)

A wonderful start to our day on the Speyside Way meandering through silver birch woodland and heather moorland with stunning views of the Cairngorm Mountains.

Cairngorm Mountains

Coincidentally, this year’s Springwatch is being filmed in the National Park here. Carrbridge was full of BBC trucks but no sign of the lesser-spotted Chris Packham.

18th Century packhorse bridge at Carrbridge

Came across an ancient bronze-age burial site this afternoon – the 4000 year-old Clava Cairns.

To quote my husband “pile of old rocks”

We had our usual battle finding our Airbnb in a city which added about 5 miles onto our day. All in all though it was a fab day.

Stage 23: Pitlochry to Aviemore (60m)

Stage 23: Pitlochry to Aviemore (60m)

We made it to the Highlands today! Distance to date=993m so distance left=207m

Drumochter Pass – 462m highest point on the National Cycle Network in Scotland

This is our route through The Highlands for our final few stages.

The old A9

We were on this road for 20 miles up and over Drumochter Pass. It’s now traffic-free and used only by cyclists and walkers. We didn’t see another soul on it.

Snow-capped mountain in May

After the pass, we were in The Cairngorms National Park proper. Running out of superlatives for Scotland as this was a stunningly beautiful half of the ride. The landscape suddenly changed scale and we were surrounded by enormous mountains, silver birch forests and heather clad foothills.

Ruthven Barracks

Built in 1719 after the Jacobite rising and later destroyed by the Jacobites on their retreat from the battle of Culloden.

Tonight we are beginning our tasting of the single malt whiskies. We wanted to try Blair Atholl and Speyside as those were the local distilleries we passed today. However, our hotel didn’t have these; we decided to sample Oban and Tallisker to start with. Mmmm slid down very nicely.

Stage 22: Killin to Pitlochry (38m)

Stage 22: Killin to Pitlochry (38m)

First things first, Andy’s team CAFC won promotion to the Championship League with a nail-biting final goal at 90+4 minutes to win 2-1. He made his train back to Edinburgh, pulling in at 23:35 (a little worse for wear). The taxi picked us up this morning and got us back to Killin for 11:35.

Conversation was (see above) today – all about the match

We got away with only 30 minutes of rain today when the BBC Weather app predicted 95% chance of rain for 5 hours. Had a very enjoyable ride alongside Loch Tay for half the time and the River Tay for the rest. Glorious views and very few cars.

Loch Tay

River Tay

Forgot to say that the taxi driver took a wrong turn leaving Edinburgh this morning, going over the Forth Road Bridge, so we got to see the iconic symbol of Scotland and UNESCO world heritage site, The Forth Bridge. It’s a cantilever railway bridge opened in 1890. It’s lasted much better than the Forth Road Bridge which opened in 1964 and is undergoing a 5-year repair program – only taxis and buses can use it now as it’s falling apart.

Stage 21: Callander to Killin (21m)

Stage 21: Callander to Killin (21m)

Another beautiful stage past lochs and through glens. It was a wee bit damp today but we left early to avoid the worst of it. Apparently, the impressive waterfalls in this area were formed when rivers crossed the Highland Boundary Fault, the enormous rift that marks where the mountainous terrain of The Highlands begins.

First puncture in 895 miles

There was more high drama today. On a steep fast gravelly section, a young girl came off in front of us. Super para immediately went into 999 mode and told her not to move and asked her questions to see how ‘with it’ she was. Her head and face appeared to have taken the brunt of her fall – she had a front tooth missing and deep scrapes to her mouth and cheek. I comforted her until her friends arrived, whilst Andy worked out our location for an ambulance. After that, I had to sit down as I was about to pass out – the sight of blood always does that! Some crew mate I turned out to be…

Glen Ogle viaduct

Falls of Dochart in Killin

NEWSFLASH: Andy and I have made an urgent dash cross-country to Edinburgh so that he can catch a train to London and watch his beloved CAFC in the play-off final vs. Sunderland at Wembley on Sunday. Whoever wins will be promoted to the Championship division. I am staying in Edinburgh to explore as I’ve never been here before. He will return at 23:30 tomorrow so that we can get a taxi back to Killin on Monday morning to continue our adventure.

Stage 20: Balloch to Callander (34m)

Stage 20: Balloch to Callander (34m)

Wow! A breathtakingly beautiful day of cycling through Queen Elizabeth Forest Park and the Trossachs National Park. We both agree that this was our best day cycling anywhere ever. The sun shone all day and the wind was behind us.

Enchanted forest

The secluded Loch Drunkie

Loch Venachar & The Trossachs

Our luck is definitely in today as we’ve checked into the lovely Callander Meadows B&B where the husband and wife team run the restaurant. Susannah kindly let us use the washing machine to give our gear a much needed wash.

Stage 19: Glasgow to Balloch (21m)

Stage 19: Glasgow to Balloch (21m)

Bikes all fixed up for a mere £260 – where was our lovely mechanic Pete when we needed him?

Mix up at the shop?

We spent a relaxing morning in Glasgow checking out the museums. I liked the Kelvingrove which had some Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture and paintings by great Scottish artists. Andy liked the transport museum.

He drove this very model in 1986

This afternoon, we had a gentle cruise in to the shores of Loch Lomond: we cycled alongside the Clyde, used the old Glasgow, Dumbarton & Helensburgh Railway path and also the Forth & Clyde Canal path.

Tranquility again after the city

Really looking forward to tomorrow’s ride which is meant to be the most scenic of the entire route, through the Trossachs National Park.

Stage 18: Abington to Glasgow (48m)

Stage 18: Abington to Glasgow (48m)

Today we continued to cycle across the Southern Uplands, the least inhabited region of Scotland. Although the weather was bright and sunny, it was a cool 13 degrees with a stiff headwind.

Few houses, just hills and wind farms

Both our bikes have had to go into Billy Blisland’s cycle repair shop, Glasgow, this evening. Mine had two broken spokes on the front wheel. We also had to buy new panniers as the zip went on our old ones.

Scared the wheel might collapse

Andy’s gears have been slipping for a few days now – every time he changes down it dumps 4 or 5 gears. In Carlisle, the mechanic said that the ratchet had gone in his Campagnola 10-speed Veloce gear shifter (ooh get how geeky I sound). However, no-one we rang had this specialist part. In the end we ordered it in from Chain Reaction and got it delivered next-day to our hotel in Glasgow. In this way, we hope the bike shop can fit it and we’ll all be fixed up by lunchtime Thursday. Lucky it’s only a short ride tomorrow. Thinking of going to an art gallery or museum while his bike’s being done… Andy will love that.

Avon Water at Larkhall

Prize of local speciality, 4 Tunnocks wafers, for anyone who can explain the point of the slalom on the left-hand side of pic.

Stage 17: Gretna Green to Abington (51m)

Stage 17: Gretna Green to Abington (51m)

A nice start to the day today as we ate our first Scottish breakfast which included haggis and tattie scones.

Why aren’t we losing weight?

Unfortunately, the ride didn’t live up to our expectations as we were literally sandwiched between the M74, A74 and a railway line. However, it was a speedy ride and we steadily gained height which stands us in good stead for tomorrow.

Lorry sandwich aargh!

In a B&b tonight as there was no room at the inn in Abington. It’s all a bit ‘League of Gentlemen’ so you may never see us again…

B&B dogs have to play dead to earn their nightly chew