Bettyhill to John O’Groats: 23rd July 52 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Today was a day of lasts; the last time we would have breakfast together, set off together, ride together, suffer together. The ride didn’t start easily – plenty of hills, but as the miles ticked away euphoria set in. So much so we were in danger of riding into each other!

In the cold light of day John O’Groats really is a God forsaken place, only 3 weeks of hope, guts, compassion, humour and down right bloody mindedness could make it anything else. All made complete by the welcome committee, champagne, success and relief – you had to be there!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And if you had, you would have had a piece of the giant British Isles cake at the celebration meal in the evening. Baked by Jo, everyone had a chunk of their county and I think Big Jim, true to form, had the rest!

Invershin to Bettyhill: 22nd July 50 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Had an early stop at Invershin Falls. Saw 1 salmon trying to leap up the white water of the water fall. Once we were out of this (delightful) valley we spent the rest of the day crawling into a gruelling headwind. Because of the conditions this leg challenged Dartmoor as the toughest of the tour. The weaker riders soon learnt the benefit of following a wheel, and the whole party was split into small groups tucked behind a stronger rider. Towards the end it rained as well!

Finally we made it to the Bettyhill Hotel. Situated on the North Scottish coast the bar was heaving with an eclectic bunch of locals and cyclists. There was a series on Channel 4 some years ago now called Northern Exposure about a town in the outreaches of Alaska – Bettyhill has the same feel. I’m sure I saw a moose playing pool, although it could’ve been the Kronenberg. Didn’t spot Maggie though – shame…

Inverness to Invershin: 21st July 50 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

We left Inverness maximum security YH pretty much on time and made a textbook exit through the town and over the windy Moray Firth. First stop was Muir of Ord where we had made the local paper (photoshoot at Oban), many pensioners came up to us offering donations – the Scots don’t live up to their reputation for thrift!

As we get closer to John O’Groats we meet more cyclists on the same pilgrimage. Today a couple lunched with us at a picnic stop and were thankful for a brew from the back of Nigel’s van.

The hospitality at the hotel in Invershin was outstanding. Food, beer, whiskey, pipes, drums, company – all were great. I went to bed failry early while I could still negotiate the stairs. Zzzzz…

During the last days of the ride I wasn’t posting many, if any, photos. Mostly down to the trouble of uploading them in areas with no little or no mobile phone signal, and perhaps I stopped taking them as a result.

I came across this one from this day – not sure who’s it is again so I can’t credit the owner – of me taking in the view over Dornoch Firth.

DornochFirth

Fort William to Inverness: 20th July 67 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Health Warning: Don’t eat a Chicken Jalfrezi and drink several (read as lost count) different real ales before a long day’s cycling. It took a few hours to get into it this morning. Despite that, it was a long day but a great day. The scenery riding alongside Loch Lochy, Loch Lihne, and Loch Ness was outstanding. Even Kiwi Nathan from Lord of the Rings country thought the view from above Loch Ness was breathtaking. 

Leaving the climbing Mecca of Fort William we passed Ben Nevis, shrouded in cloud. It was not possible to see the point where Richard fell from. He’s been back and climbed it since…

Ben Nevis

Oban to Fort William: 19th July 44 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Yesterday it was gloves, today it’s my maps of Northern and Southern Scotland – last seen in the YH lounge…

Jenny left us today. She’s carrying on to the Isle of Mull – our original route. As a group we made the unanimous decision to ride straight to Fort William rather than go via the Isle of Mull and 3 Ferries. This saves a few hundred pounds on the cost of the trip and hence increases the money made for the charity.

The most striking memory today was of the huge streams pouring down the sides of the mountians. From a distance they appear as a thin silver line, thickening as we ride towards them into a succession of waterfalls and a roar as they pass under the road and into the Lochs. 

Once in Fort William we managed to get an hour’s shopping done, including the maps I’d “lost” this morning. Also picked up a bottle of “Avon Skin So Soft” from the Rod and Gun shop – this is the preferred protection against midges used by the locals. Even remembered to get a birthday card for my 15 year old daughter – I’m beginning to get the hang of this parenting lark.

Tomorrow, Nessie spotting…

Lochranza to Oban: 18th July 62 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

With the ferry back to the mainland to catch at 0815 there was some very hasty packing to be done in the morning. It transpired that our washing from the night before had become mixed up with another group’s at the youth hostel and my £20 cycling mitts I’d bought the week before had transformed into a pair of baggy old Y-fronts – I know which I’d rather do without!

After the ferry to Claonaig the ride was split into two parts. A fast flat section in the morning following the waters edge along the A83 to Lochgilphead, and a slower (surprise surprise) hillier section in the afternoon to Oban through Trossachs National Park. We were treated to firs, heather, deer, peaty streams and craggy bits.

Spared a thought today for the riders in the Tour de France, everytime we came to a hill my quads began to burn after about 30 seconds. Thank God we’re not in the Alps!

Another fantastic view from the Youth Hostel – a complete panorama of Oban Bay – accompanied by a 30mph wind when hanging on to the railing at the sea wall. This had whipped up fairly soon after our arrival and made the photoshoot with the local paper a fairly grim affair.

Rob’s companion, Walnut, had a close call today. He travels in Rob’s rackpack and comes out for photoshoots at national landmarks en route. He’s been the subject of a couple of kidnap attempts and the safety harness created to prevent these came to his aid today…

Walnut Overboard

Lochranza to Nowhere: 17th July 0 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Woke early, first into breakfast, no-one (including the whole Hostel) was up. Walked a mile down the road with the camera, came back, made a cup of tea, and still there was no-one else up. Went back to bed…

Isle of Arran 1

Today is the other restday. I used it to think, sleep and visit the distillery. Jenny rode round the island. (Little) Jim, ever the canny accountant, bought a rover bus ticket and managed to do 100 miles bussing round the island for £4. Rob, Nathan and Big Jim were hussled at golf by Andy. Nigel, Rhona (she’s back) and Colin the Gripper went shopping for food with Kiera and Cathy. Generally everyone did their own thing.

While we were all taking it easy in the morning Nigel, the team mechanic, was cleaning, checking, and tuning the bikes. Nigel has left his cycle shop in Sidcup to come and support this venture for the whole 3 weeks. Apart from fixing the bikes, Nigel and his GPS receiver see us through city centres and his van always has water, energy drink (and bars) and bananas on board. Now that we’re the other side of the border I can release the picture of Nigel rectifying a local authority error when we were unable to proceed along a published cycle path because of a bolted gate. Go, go, gadget Nigel!

Nigel the Locksmith

This evening Rob, Nathan and I were presented with a bottle of whisky by Nigel who had bet that we couldn’t beat the main group to Ludlow after staying behind to watch the All Blacks vs Lions game last week. 

It seems such a long time ago now. Only 6 days to John O’Groats.

Tomorrow, ferry back to the mainland…

Kendoon YH to Lochranza: 16th July 70 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

Raceday. We had an appointment with the ferry to Arran this afternoon at 1530 so an early start was required. There was a later ferry but that would have meant getting to the Lochranza YH at about 9pm. We were a little (slight understatement) late getting away but made good progress once we had. All this despite a stiff northwesterly headwind pretty much all the way. Since we arrived in Scotland the temperature has been signicantly lower than we’ve become accustomed to and each day has been accompanied by an energy sapping headwind.

Today we said goodbye to Pete, Nigel’s brother-in-law, who had been filling the driver/support role for about a week (previously covered by Rhona). Pete will be missed, particularly by those that like to get out in the evening!

The lunch stop was at Dundonald Castle where the locally(?) produced biscuits can be recommended. From here we took a direct(ish) route to the ferry at Ardrossan and arrived with an hour to spare. The little cafeteria there has one of the 21st century’s great inventions – a bean to coffee maker. Shares in freeze dried coffee must have plummeted…

An hour’s ride on the ferry and another 14 miles saw us in the idyllic Lochranza for the second and last rest day…

Isle of Arran Climb

 

Isle of Arran 3

Carlisle to Kendoon YH: 15th July 69 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

You might remember a Vicar of Dibley Christmas Special a few years ago where Dawn French persuaded prima ballerina Darcey Bussell to take part in a fundraising village concert. Darcey did a routine from Swan Lake (or something) and Dawn shadowed her movements in a giant “mirror”… This morning I was riding up to the exit of the YH carpark as we set off onto the A7 when Nigel the team mechanic came running round the corner. I went left – he went left. I went right – he went right. After a few more steps of the routine I rode straight into him and ended up dropping the bike on the floor whilst stepping off the pedal into Nigel’s arms to absolutely no applause or showers of flowers. Thanks mate :o)

We entered Scotland today through Gretna Green and stopped for the obligatory “Welcome to Scotland” shot below. From left to right we have Lawrence of London (aka Jim Bush), Jay, Kiera, Carol, and Nathan who’s wondering where he left his passport. On the right you can just make out the rest of the gang in the distance nursing their hangovers…

Welcome to Scotland 2

We had elevenses in Annan at the Cafe Royal where size obviously matters – see below. Jenny (to the right of the flake), an OT from Southport, joined us today and will be riding with us until Monday. 

Cornetto in Annan

Later we stopped at the most amazing cafe, the Green Tea House in an odd little village called Moniaive. The BFG must eat there because the portions are phenomenally large. After tea and CAKES we rode the last 10 miles through God’s Country to the Youth Hostel (wo)manned by Sam, the friendliest of lasses, and refuelled with Nathan’s pasta.

Tomorrow its an early start to get to the Ferry for the Isle of Arran (a BFG stone’s throw from Macca’s Mull of Kintyre)…

Psychologically, crossing the border into Scotland felt like we were almost there, but it was only day 11 and we still had 10 days to do – just over halfway timewise! Before that sank in, I got to have a bit of fun on Dave’s Stealthcycle in a park in Dumfries – I look a bit puny in it to be honest!

Kev on Stealthcycle