Saturday, 18 July 2009
The weather was good as usual in the morning and held strong until just before Thurso the largest town on the North coast that boasts a railway station and is a usual end stop for LEJOG'ers although the thought of adding on another 20miles to get back to it could be quite terrifying I should think?
Of course that was never going to be a race that I would win and so I became engulfed in the absolutely worst weather of my whole trip.
Two and a half hours of torrential rain soon gets inside your clothes, and totally damps your spirit and bodies willingness to keep going!
Although that of course is just what you have to do.
Those miles were never so long, and the imagined beautiful scenery of my planning when in Totton, totally washed out!
Every move was cold and clammy, and every mile proceeded in slow motion....
By the time I got there I had lost all the excitement that I had been holding on to for so long. And the sight of the North Sea and the idea of flinging myself into it held no appeal at all!
I found my digs and unfortunately they did not raise my spirits in the least. To be honest that was the closest I came to walking out and looking for somewhere else.
Old and tired is the nicest description for this place.
A totally grubby and useless shower did nothing to mellow my mood, the idea of going out to get my dinner was the only light at the end of my little depressed tunnel!
Possibly the whole of Bettyhill, which isn't very big is just as old and tired, because the hotel was little better that my B&B, but I did spot what looked like some half decent food on the plates so I stayed.
Vegetable soup and bread, Chicken fillet and chips with bacon and melted cheese and finally spotted dick and custard washed down with Scotlands own soft drink rival to Coke,
I got talking with a bloke on holiday in the area and had a good laugh... at last!
Several hundred years old the Inn was built just after the infamous land clearances of the Scots by the English to make room for the very profitable wool industry and of course the sheep that went with it. Designed and built as one of several to service the new passing trade of the stock men on their way to and from market I suppose?
As we were eating our 'Stovies' I got talking to Mike and Helen a couple that were planning to climb the Monro in the morning before moving on to their next Monro in the afternoon. A Monro is a mountain of which there are 275, surveyed by Sir Hugh Monro who died in 1909.
I had been very hopeful of this day for many months and so could not believe my luck when waking up at 6.30am it was beautiful bright sunshine with not a cloud in the sky.
We packed our things and I went across for breakfast. Proper runny Scots porridge, followed by a farmers fried breakfast and toast. Mike made me some sandwiches and packed a slice of his wife's cake.
We went by car down to the start point and set off across the inevitable bog, climbing always toward the first much lower summit that would take us onto the ridge that led to the foot of the conical ascent.
All the time unbelieving that the clouds were not just about to form up and shroud us from the views.
Hard work, but oh so worth the effort, the view from the top was as if we could see the whole of the Highlands, and maybe we could? We could see the North sea, the Atlantic and some of the Orkney islands.
Six hours round trip including our lunch stop at the top. What a treat!
Just what the Doctor ordered, a change of use of muscle sets. My contracted hamstrings and achilles got to stretch in a different direction and boy did they let me know it wasn't really what they thought was good for them!
Six hours later and we were back down and ready to set off on the next leg of our respective journeys.
I had 32 miles to ride in glorious weather down hill along the side of a small loch and river into Bettyhill for my first sight of the North sea!
The day started out early as I had to get to Dingwall a town about 18 miles along my my journey, but by nine o'clock'ish, as George had booked me in for some front brake therapy. Having an oil filled disc brake system I had thought, naively, that once the brake pads had been replaced before the trip that there would be no more to worry about! Well that didn't acount for a slightly loose nipple that let oil out and air in. So they very efficiently bled the brake and topped up the oil and adjusted my gears at the same time. I dilligently went to find a cafe and filled myself up with as many calories as I could manage!
As usual the day started beautifully with a slight freshness to the air, clear sky and sunshine. Unfortunately none of this helped me up the incredibly long 15% hill just outside of Drumnadroichit and into Glen Convinth. Where the clouds were below me weaving between the hills. I truly thought this was the hill that would beat me and make me have to admit to walking some of the way. The jacket came off, then the helmet, zips were unzipped and light headed out of breath stops made. But I did make it in the end although not in one go. (More training needed on this hill me thinks!)
Any way ducking around as ever with my stories I met three other lads that I had last seen at the Kendal YHA. they passed me as I was talking a photo, they had many too many miles left to achieve though to be able to stop quite as often as me. They were on their way to Tongue on the North coast, a distance of about 100 miles! Much too yuk for me! But we were able to share a very, very wet down pour into Bonar Bridge, a place I know nothing of to my shame, except that they have a very nice cafe sited right on the junction where the bridge crosses the river. And that it served me very well to eat more food and dry off a little. Three lovely old chaps came in just as I was leaving, they knew Southampton as they had embarked from there to Europe during the second world war. They were a little worried for me when they discovered that I was going up in to the hills across the bleak wilderness of Strath Tirry. I explained that that was the very reason for my journey today and that I was fully prepared, not least that I only had to go half way as I was stopping at Crask Inn the only building for several miles in any direction.
Another great little treat, Crask is owned by a farming couple and is more of a family home that welcomes passers by than a business, although I am very sure that they are quite wise and shrewed!