Category Archives: Scotland

The Three Peaks Challenge – cycling from Ben Nevis to Scafell Pike

After a good night’s sleep in Glen Nevis we were rested and ready for our first days cycling. As Kathryn is quite inexperienced at cycling longer distances, we planned the first day at a modest 80km with 800m of elevation.

Ready for the off at Glen Nevis

Ready for the off at Glen Nevis

We left Fort William on the A82. There was quite a lot of traffic but everyone was patient and considerate and gave us plenty of room.
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The beginning of the Three Peaks Challenge – Ben Nevis

The timing of our Three Peaks Challenge wasn’t perfect as the Commonwealth Games were underway in Glasgow ensuring that Scotland was as busy as it gets. We drove up to Fort William from the South West of England overnight to avoid any congestion. For us this worked out very well. Kathryn slept on the back seat and Ian and I shared the driving. Ian stopped the van and justifiably woke us up at 05:00 to view the magnificent morning sun over Loch Lomond.

Dawn at Loch Lomond

Dawn at Loch Lomond

We arrived at Fort William too early for breakfast so we drove up to Glen Nevis and put the tents up first and then at 07:30 returned to the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William for an excellent all you can eat buffet breakfast.
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Day 18: Thurso to John O’ Groats – 58°38′43.3464″N 003°04′08.5597″W – Journeys End

The last day of our cycle ride from Lands End to John O’ Groats was a short hop of 18 miles from our overnight stop at Thurso.

We woke to blue skies and sunshine and were cycling up the hill heading east out of Thurso at 07:30.

The view across to the Orkneys was clear but Dunnet Head the most northerly point on Britain’s mainland dominated the view.

As we approached the village of Dunnet we stopped to admire the beauty of Dunnet Bay, a wide sweep of sand with small surf rolling in.

Dunnet Bay

Dunnet Bay

The wind was lifting the tops off the waves making a salty mist against the bright blue sky.
Our eyes were drawn to the headland and we decided to make the 10 mile detour. As we headed out of the village of Brough the land changed once again to wild moorland with heather and small lochans. It looked more attractive on this bright, sunny morning.

Wild moorland with heather and small lochans

Wild moorland with heather and small lochans

The lighthouse at Dunnet Head stands majestically on the cliff top. We cycled up to the viewpoint,

Viewpoint at Dunnet Head

Viewpoint at Dunnet Head

and had extensive views back along the North Coast to Cape Wrath, north out to the Orkneys and east to our ultimate destination John O’ Groats.

Dunnet Head lighthouse

Dunnet Head lighthouse

We enjoyed the descent on the quiet, smooth road back to Brough and Steve spotted a dozen or so seals hauled out on a slipway, basking in the sun.

We stayed on minor lanes and passed through small isolated communities. Although cuckoo had deserted us, we saw a nesting swan, geese, black-throated diver, curlew, tufted ducks and kittiwake.

We passed by the Castle of Mey with 7 miles to go and even passed two cafes to save ourselves for John O’ Groats.

John O’ Groats is centred around a small harbour.

John O' Groats harbour

John O’ Groats harbour

The views seaward are fantastic with the Orkneys to the North and the Pentland Firth racing around in between.

We had the obligatory photographs and I had my Audax card stamped.

John O' Groats

John O’ Groats

John O' Groats

John O’ Groats

Audax card stamped with the all important JOG stamp

Audax card stamped with the all important JOG stamp

It was very quiet with few tourists on this chilly Monday morning. John O’ Groats is having a bit of a facelift and is looking quite smart. We enjoyed the best scrambled eggs of the trip in the smart new cafe there.

Perfect scrambled eggs

Perfect scrambled eggs

It seemed unreasonable to miss out the most north easterly point on the British mainland so we cycled out to Duncansby Head and looked at the lighthouse there

Duncansby Head

Duncansby Head

Duncansby Head

Duncansby Head

and admired the Duncansby sea stacks.

Sea stacks at Duncansby Head

Sea stacks at Duncansby Head

Bill took a photo of us with the flag. He was geocaching and had found what he was looking for.

We had had the best of the weather and the south easterly wind was strengthening. We had the first heavy hail showers that accompanied our arduous 20 mile ride south against the wind to Wick to catch a train south to Inverness.

The GPX file for today’s ride is here.

Day 17: Durness to Thurso – U-Boats and Uranium

Today we were on a mission. We wanted to get across the North Coast of Scotland from Durness to Thurso. This was a distance of 72 very hilly miles through remote wild country.

We had a very comfortable night at Durness SYHA cared for by Mary Ann the Hostel manager. The buildings may look a bit primitive but it is a very comfortable Hostel in a fabulous place. One I will definitely return to.

Outside Durness SYHA this morning

Outside Durness SYHA this morning

Pete joined us and we started riding at 08:00. The first 3 miles were along the coast passing the Smoo Caves and great coastal scenery.

Moorland and coast

Moorland and coast

We descended to a small cove where some people were wild camping and just as we started the climb to follow the road around Loch Eriboll, Pete had a puncture.

Pete's puncture

Pete’s puncture

We quickly changed the tube and were on our way again. Loch Eriboll is a long sea loch and is the deepest sea loch in Scotland. The road follows it a few miles inland. It is a lengthy and deep sea loch which has been used as a safe anchorage for centuries. There was a mass surrender of Nazi U boats between 10th and 25th May 1945. 33 U boat commanders surrendered in a space of 10 days on the 12 miles long loch.

U-1231 - one of the German U-Boats that surrendered

U-1231 – one of the German U-Boats that surrendered

The Western side is very barren moorland with some scattered houses forming the community at Laid. There is some local fishing activity. The road undulated and our interest was held by the Loch and scanning the moor for sightings of deer and curlew. No sign of any sheep, or indeed our cuckoo – had he slept in? Continue reading

Day 16: Inchnadamph to Durness – Another beard and the beauty of Cape Wrath

70 miles with 6,000 feet of ascent. An exceptional day in our Lejog adventure as we rode through amazing scenery from Inchnadamph to Durness and then were lucky enough to catch the ferry at Durness to cycle out to Cape Wrath. How special is that??

A damp start to the day

A damp start to the day

It was raining hard as we left Inchnadamph Hostel at 07:45. There was a herd of deer grazing nearby and they were unconcerned as we cycled amongst them. After a short stretch along the Loch we began our first long climb with a lovely, albeit gloomy view back ‘doon the way’.

We undulated through deserted, boggy moorland, accompanied by the sound of rushing water and our cuckoo until the long descent to the sea loch at Kylescu where we met Pete who was riding to Durness with us today.

Pete joined us for the final couple of days

Pete joined us for the final couple of days

The bridge at Kylescu replaces a ferry over the Loch but we didn’t linger here to photograph it as we were now on a mission to get to Durness to catch a ferry (kindly arranged by ‘mission control’) at 12:30. This meant a morning ride of 43 very hilly and, today, wet miles . We stopped at Scourie for sandwiches and the preferred extra – plain chocolate Bounty- and continued along this empty, undulating, mainly single track A838. We had tantalising glimpses of Loch Laxford and Loch Inchard and we could smell the sea. Continue reading

Day 15: Dundonnell to Inchnadamph – Wobbly bridges and bigger hills

We have had another sunny, scenic day in the North West Highlands. 55 miles with 4,000 feet of ascent, including the biggest hill so far on our Lejog adventure.

The GPS never lies! Big hill ahead!

The GPS never lies! Big hill ahead!

Leaving Sail Mhor Croft Hostel behind at 08:00, we had a couple of fairly flat miles, weaving our way through a herd of goats before the long ascent towards Braemore Junction. Our cuckoo was with us, so all was well. The river that runs beside the road fell down the hill through spectacular, deep gorges and the sight and sound of the tumbling water distracted us from the protracted climb. This was our longest, highest hill so far and we climbed for the best part of an hour. An Teallach at 1062m dominated the scene we were leaving, with the snow topped Fannichs ahead. Continue reading