Thurso to John o’Groats

On our last day we found it difficult to get out of the hotel for our usual early start. A mixture of sadness at our final morning on the bikes and some tired legs from battling the wind yesterday afternoon. Eventually we rallied ourselves and made for the door.

With the a gale blowing from the west, we headed east out of town at some pace.

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Luckily, for most of the way the wind propelled us through the exposed landscape of Caithness until all too quickly our journey came to an end at  John o’Groats.

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The bus back to Thurso was a couple of hours away so it gave us plenty of time to write some postcards, have a bite to eat and of course to celebrate Cate’s birthday.

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Our last day.

Thanks so much for the support everyone. There is still time to sponsor us for the last 20 miles to John O’Groats.

We would love to break the £2000 mark by the end of the ride.

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Crask to Thurso

We had a lovely night at the Crask Inn thanks to the hospitality of Mike and Kai. Great locally sourced highland cooking at its best.

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The weather was forecast for rain and some strong southerly winds and that’s just what we got. Thankfully the first 30 miles was an undulating trip down the Strathnaver trail which took in more spectacular landscape and some places of historic importance like Rosal, a settlement decimated during the infamous Highland clearance.

While we were taking in our beautiful surroundings it had not escaped our notice that the tripometer was edging nearer a major milestone…

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That was cause for a celebration, a mug of coffee and chance to dry out at the Bettyhill hotel. From here, things started to get harder with the route now sticking to the dramatic coastline with its hilly road taking in some amazing bays and high headlands.

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The sun was out however, and despite having to pedal down the south facing hills we were making reasonable time.

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Coming into Thurso past Scrabster harbour we had a great view of Orkney just as a rainbow arched over it’s towering southern cliffs. A fitting end to our penultimate day.

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Inverness to The Crask Inn

As I mentioned before, we really liked Inverness. Not however to the extent of living here for the rest of our natural lives which was the prospect we faced as we tried in vain to navigate out of the city this morning. Someone in the temporary signage department really needs to get a grip if they don’t want a whole series of cyclists careering off the Kessock bridge due to an ill placed diversion sign.

Eventually clear of the city and on the open road again, we stopped off for a coffee in Dingwall before beginning our climb up to Cadha Mor. With the sun shining and a breeze from the east we gradually gained height through the lowland farms in this pretty part of the highlands. Finally, cresting the rise to bring us within sight of our lunch stop we were met with one of the most spectacular views in Sutherland.

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After a fairly rapid descent to the valley floor, we came to Bonar Bridge. This was the place where back in October we first hatched the End to End plan.

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Best soup and bread of the trip award goes to the Caley cafe in Bonar, and most dramatic castle setting to Carbisdale that we past later on the road to Lairg. Here we paused at the shop for supplies before heading out into the remote moorland in search of the Crask Inn.

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We found it after about an hour with a great tail wind, through what has to be one of the most stunning areas of countryside we had past on our journey so far.

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Inverness

Inverness is a great place. I’m not biased just because we had the day off – it’s just nice.

Great brekkie at the hotel was followed with a quick call round all the bike shops until “Bikes of Inverness” kindly sorted me out with a new spoke.

In the meantime Cate had researched some movie times at the local multiplex so team Chamsdorf was fully sorted for an afternoon of R and R.

“Oz the Great and Powerful”,popcorn, pick ‘n’ mix and a bus back to town nearly tipped us over the edge in terms of excitment.

The day was topped off with the best meal of the trip at Aspendos, a Turkish restaurant in town.

Good night Inverness!

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Glencoe to Inverness

With over 80 miles ahead of us today we needed to get a good start. Breakfast went well, but within 15 minutes of riding I had picked up the first puncture of the trip. A minor setback and we were.soon on our way again speeding towards Fort William.

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That all came to a halt however with a rather loud bang when my rear tyre blew out just 2 miles up the road. There must have been something wrong with the way I had repacked the tube that meant the tyre had not sealed to the rim properly. Anyway, another delay was unfortunate but we dealt with it and not long after, we were stocking up with snacks in Fort William.

At this stage of the day, despite our mishaps we were averaging 12 miles an hour which was our fastest pace of the trip so far. With this in mind we left for the Great Glen way via Neptune’s staircase, the fantastic series of locks that marks the southern entrance to the Caledonian Canal. We made good time along the minor road that runs parallel to the waterway and sped through the tremendous off road forest section north of Clunes.

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Rejoining the A82 at Laggan, we had set our sights on Fort Augustus for lunch at the 50 mile mark.

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Things were going well and we were about 3 miles away from our stop when I got the feeling my bike was not right. Glancing down at my rear wheel revealed a major buckle that was causing it to wobble dramatically. Cate soon spotted the problem, a broken spoke. So it was yet another roadside repair, although I was equipped with a nifty emergency spoke that I bought on a whim, more as a “boy’s toy” than something I thought I would ever have to use.

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Rolling into Fort Augustus was a good feeling. It was 3pm and we still had 40 miles to go, beginning with the 5 mile 400m climb onto General Wade’s military road, but for now it was lunch time.

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We began our ride after lunch marvelling at the scenery of the southern shores of Loch Ness. It really is a beautiful place. As we began the climb out of Fort Augustus, noted as being the hardest in the whole end to end, we reminded ourselves of how lucky we were to be able to be  here seeing the UK in such a way. It was a stiff climb that took us over an hour, but reaching the summit was a great feeling and gave us the most exhilarating views of the day.

It was a long, fast and cold downhill from here finally coming into the last 25 miles of undulating moorland and later dropping again to the lower old wooded pastures that signified our arrival to Inverness.  By now it was 8pm and our biggest day had more than lived up to the title.

12 hours, 81 miles, 1 puncture, a tyre blowout, a broken spoke and two knackered but happy Chamsdorfs thankful for the break we had planned for the following day.

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Balloch to Glencoe

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The southern shores of Loch Lomond were shrouded in mist as we left the lovely village of Balloch at about 8:30 this morning. As we followed the cycle path north up the western side of this huge body of water the sun tried in vain to break through. Eventually we had to surrender to the first rain of the trip, so with waterproofs on we climbed up to Crianlarich on the busy A82.

Tyndrum and the Green Welly has been a fond stopover for us for years now, so with a sense of familiarity we rolled into the car park ready for lunch and full of anticipation for what was still to come.

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Fuelled up and with the rain out of sight we began our afternoon ride with some lovely views coming down into Glen Orchy. We whizzed passed Loch Tulla and soon found ourselves running out of superlatives to describe the scenery of Rannoch moor. But the most amazing scenes were still to come, in the shape of Glen Etive and Glencoe.

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Passing the “Welcome to the Highlands” sign was a treat and when we crested the rise to see Glencoe mountain resort on the ridge above us, our jaws dropped at the sights of this stunning Scottish upland area. Riding past Glen Etive was memorable and our final 8 mile descent through Glencoe just blew us away, this really is a special part of the world and one of our favourites.

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