The Travelblog

Day One: John o’Groats to Crask Inn

Stats for day:

  • 84 miles, nearly 8 hours!
  • Total ascent 4,500 feet (estimated – the Garmin decided to stop adding up after 3,000 feet – don’t blame it)
  • Calories consumed 7,742!
  • Saddle sore status: 2* - Bruce Forsyth (reduced to a mincing walk) – not good, I’d hoped for 0 or 1 with 10 days still to go
  • Flies ingested: only 2, probably because of the strong wind
  • Cattle grids: 437
  • Motorist altercations: just the one, a left-turning white van driver in Thurso

(* scale is 1 to 10 scale, about 8 being John Wayne, but I fear the scale may need to be extended)

Tough, tough, tough start to the ride.  Tougher than Lee Marvin on a tough day. 
We had a 25+ mph headwind all the way today, gusting to about 40mph.  It was a SSW’ly, and it was relentless.  Every time we turned a corner it was able to find us and block us (bit like watching England trying to score a try).  Half the time we couldn’t really tell if we were going uphill or downhill.  Coming down one reasonably steep hill, the sort where you can easily reach 40mph, we had to pedal pretty hard to get over 15mph.  As a result we averaged just under 11mph for the day, a good 4-5mph less than we’d expect for this sort of ride.  Cue “told you so” from all the cognoscenti who raise eyebrows when we tell them which direction we’ve chosen.

But we made it in the end, and we can take a lot of confidence from that.  A better day is forecast tomorrow, at least in terms of wind.  Bit of light rain, but we’ll take that.  92 miles, culminating at Fort Augustus at the southern end of Loch Ness.

We’re staying at the Crask Inn tonight, and it really is the middle of nowhere.  While we were having dinner a woman towing a caravan (she was using a car to do this) arrived, in a panic because the car was running on diesel fumes.  When the hotel owner told her that the nearest filling station is 45 miles away, all seemed lost.  In the end they managed to track down some red diesel and put that in.

We aren’t really staying in the hotel itself; we are in “the cottage”, about 100 yards down the road – the only other building within about an 8 mile radius.  It costs £11 per night, but I’d recommend it; the heating works, there is hot water and two showers.  Sadly there was no hot water when we arrived, so had the sort of shower that I might have enjoyed were I called Olaf or Tor.  We are sharing the cottage with German guy who turned up needing somewhere to stay.  Steffi went all enthusiastic when she heard he was German, but this waned somewhat when his deep oddness was revealed and he started to go on ad nauseam about his hobby – radio hamming.  Or is it hammery?  Daily factoid: apparently the King of Spain (Juan Carlos, not Ashley Giles) is a mad keen radio ham.

Today’s ride started later than we’d planned.  By the time we’d had breakfast, rearranged all the bags four times, hunted in vain for one of the room keys, cleared up the broken glass from the beaker that I dropped in the bathroom, finished recharging the Garmin (my fault again, that one), checked out of the hotel, had another despairing look for the key, repacked the car, registered for the ride at the John o’Groats café and had the traditional picture taken by the famous signpost, it was gone 10 o’clock.

The scenery today was just stunning, especially along the northern cost.  There are some spectacular cliffs, hills looming to the south and west, and wide expanses of sand – especially at Bettyhill and Dounreay, interestingly enough.  That beach was empty – can’t imagine why… There are quite a lot of villages along the coast, mostly with the suffix “ster”.  Once we turned south and headed up the Strath Naver valley (yes I know that’s tautology) it got a lot more remote and wide open to the wind, which rushed up the valley like a river squeezed through a narrow waterfall.  Before we reached Altnaharra we battled along the northern shore of Loch Naver.  The wind was whipping up some big waves and white horses on the loch.  Then the day was rounded off with a 650 foot climb up The Crask – just to make sure we really remembered the first day of the ride.

A final word about Steffi and Cara who have been stellar in the way they’ve run the support vehicle for us today.  Steffi always found the perfect places to stop for us to rest and refuel, and the food hit the spot.  Potato salad, lemon drizzle cake.  Yum.  Talking about food, try baked avocado and stilton.  A bit Blumenthal, but it works.

Time to go to bed.  But not before a liberal application of the Sudocrem.  Don’t want to go “John Wayne” while we’re still in Scotland.  Over and out, as Herr Schinken would say.

To view pictures of Day One click here


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Thanks to Premier Inn who help us to keep our expenses down!!!