Day 12: Thurso to John O’Groats – approx. 30 miles

Day 12 - Thurso to John OGroats

Final run into John O’Groats today with a short day which takes in the most northerly point in the UK.  I was hoping to visit the most easterly point of the UK (Lowestoft) in training (nope didn’t happen) and visiting the Lizard (southerly) could be an option at the start (could have been but we didn’t!).  No way the most westerly point (Corrachadh Mòr, no I have never heard of it either) is an option but could be on the bucket list for another day…

John-O-Groats-Famous-Sign-770x578

We are only at JoG for a few minutes (apparently there is not much to see!) before we are being whisked back to Inverness…hoping the Gala dinner will be memorable!

Discover Adventure website here

Day 11: Evanton to Thurso – approx. 106 miles

Day 11 - Brora to Thurso

Longest ride of the tour today – a beast of a day! The revised accommodation stops have created an epic ride today with some significant height to be gained and lost. We start by passing along the Dornoch Firth sadly avoiding the Glenmorangie distillery – sadly I suspect there wouldn’t be time for a distillery tour even if we managed to go past it. The original route took us past the distillery, up the coast past Dunrobin Castle and up to Brora. We now head up inland to Loch Shin, past the Crask Inn (the only thing of note in miles!), Altnaharra and Loch Naver, Bettyhill, Dounrey and Thurso. It’s a long ride…

We head North properly today with longer mileage and some hefty climbing.  There is no video on YouTube which does not show it raining! Going to be mixed feelings as its the penultimate day.

Discover Adventure website here

Day 10: Loch Lochy to Evanton – approx. 58 miles

Day 10 - Loch Lochy to Brora

A shorter day today – bit merciful as we have one of the big climbs up the ‘Drum’ to complete however this creates a longer run tomorrow. Im looking forward to the long ride along the banks of Loch Ness today and seeing the locks of the Caledonian Canal.  Its officially the furthest North I’ve been in Scotland and Castle Urquart is apparently well worth seeing against the Loch.

Hopefully the banks of Ness should be a comfortable start before we hit one of the notable climbs of the whole tour.  We’ll heading up the Drum (Drumnadrochit, no I don’t know how it’s pronounced either) after the first tea stop.  Most reports state its as hard as the big climb on day 2 up to Dartmoor however the views are apparently worth it!

Discover Adventure website here

Day 9: Inveraray to Loch Lochy – approx. 95 miles

Day 9 - Inveraray to Loch Lochy

Today is all about the Campbells as we start riding through traditionally Campbell country from Inveraray (home of Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell).  The day starts with a memorable category 3 climb up and over to Loch Awe and Claddich.  Last year we had a wonderful day cycling around the Mull of Kintyre in glorious sunshine which ended after 80 miles with a long descent into Inveraray, spoilt only by the weather turning very wet.  We have to climb that first thing (not looking forward to it) and I’m hoping the weather will be kinder…

I’m also hoping to do a minor detour to see Glencoe – not the most politic place to be as a Campbell so I may need an appropriate pseudonym…

campbells-sign

 

We also pass Ben Cruachan, ‘Cruachan!’ is the Campbells war cry so I expect to be inspired as we push onto Ben Nevis past Glencoe.  My Uncle’s farm in New Zealand is named Cruachan – I have very fond memories of my visit there so always feel good when I see the Mountain.

The sights don’t stop as we also pass Spean Bridge with its famous Command memorial.

 

Discover Adventure website here

Day 8: Kilmarnock to Inveraray – approx. 80 miles

Day 8 - Kilmarnock to Inveraray

Today is mostly coastal riding and a jolly boat ride across the strait to Dunoon (no its not cheating!).  Last time I was here we had what I thought was quite a wet ride until we rode out of Inveraray two days later – now that was rain.

It all looks mercifully flat apart from the double climb at the end of the day. We cycled out of Inveraray last year in the opposite direction and up to the ‘Rest and be Thankful’ waypoint.  This was a horror of a climb in shockingly wet conditions.  Our route fortunately only joins it halfway up before descending into Inverary.  Inveraray is a lovely little town, very picturesque, with a castle (home of the Campbells-Yay!), Victorian jail and some nice pubs.  Seem to remember the curry house had shocking reviews on tripadvisor so will remember to give that a miss…

Inveraray is on the shore of Loch Fyne so should be a hot bed of smoked fish…like all these things its at a premium so I won’t expect any for tea.  We are in Scotland so hopefully there will be Glasgow salad (chips) and Irn Bru to sustain us.

Discover Adventure website here

Day 7: Carlisle to Kilmarnock – approx. 94 miles

Day 7 - Carlisle to Kilmarnock

This will be another 90+ mile day with 992 meters of climbing so we will see how the legs hold up. We had a great day yesterday and we all felt good once we had arrived at the hotel so hopefully everyone is in the swing of things now.

We start by riding through Gretna Green, famous for being a place where you can get married on the spot.  The marriage laws changed in England in the middle of the 18th Century and as such required parental consent to get married before you were 21.  Scottish law was different and the first town over the Scottish border was Gretna Green which became a hot spot of elopement.

Apparently, thousands of couples got married after running over the border (with the father in law in hot pursuit it made sense to get wed at the first opportunity).

I’m looking forward to seeing Gretna Green no doubt there will be the ringing of the anvil as we go through (they got married in the blacksmiths shop – nope no idea why you would want to either, apparently the romance of the sound of metals being forged was symbolic of the blacksmith joining couples together in the heat of the moment, binding them for eternity or some such tosh).

For the record any young swain who wants to marry my daughter had better have me there!

Later on we shall see the oldest post office (presumably in the world) in Sanquar…hopefully still in business unlike the one on Heath Road in Ipswich!

Discover Adventure website here

Day 6, evening update…

A jolly evening at the hotel culminated in the high point of my evening – the dinner!

DA arrange for us to eat in the restaurant and Premier inn do a good varied menu. I can however recommend not ordering the vegetarian noodles with grilled chicken.. it was horrid! Fortunately Debbie had not eaten her chips or burger so I did not starve!

My old friend Will Notcutt turned up to cheer us on, he had a business meeting north of Carlisle tomorrow so it was great to see him…

He’s going to take mine and Maurice’s dirty laundry home with him – service above and beyond the call of duty if you ask me but thankfully he didn’t! I’m so glad to lose some of the unwanted weight!

Then it was the main event, the illuminated glasses of awesomeness went to the Discover Adventure crew for two reasons. First was the fabulous chilli cooked at lunch for us (everyone agreed it really hit the spot) and secondly Jack (the water stop specialist) turned 24! Happy birthday Jack!

The crews efforts and support are most appreciated!

Finally it was the award of the Outil D’Or…Kate was well in the lead with her conversation with DA’s Ed at lunch…

Ed: ‘Chilli?’

Kate: ‘Yes it was at the top but it’s warmer in here!’

However James had other ideas…

He recalled a minor incident where I jumped on my bike, slipped in the pedals and cunningly broke my fall on the cross bar…I may have been singing soprano for a short while but it was not really that important to give me the Outil D’Or!

I was a hundred percent happy to receive this I can tell you!

Anyway time for bed, a flatter day tomorrow but still 95 miles. Into Scotland, the adventure continues!

Day 6: Preston to Carlisle – approx. 90 miles

Day 6 - Preston to Carlisle

I’m worrying a bit about today’s ride.  It’s a long run with the longest and steepest climb of the whole LeJoG route.  The climb up Shap Fell starts at Kendall and rises nearly a thousand feet over 17 miles.  Its so long walking up it is not really an option! I’m sure it will be alright…

Shap is after Kendall so I think a stop for some mint cake will be in order, thankfully the hills of the Lake district will be to our west most of the day while we push onto Carlisle and Scotland.  Its crazy to think that half the whole ride is up through Scotland…the weather on TV used to minimise the size of Scotland – look at how small Scotland is presented to England, and we wonder what Alex Salmond is so bolshy! Apparently this has now changed as the BBC have recognised how misrepresentative it is…

Heading into the borders should be pretty, hopefully a taste of what awaits in Scotland.

Discover Adventure website here

Day 5: Shrewsbury to Preston – approx. 92 miles

Day 5 - Shrewsbury to Preston

This should be be a good day – we will be riding into Cheshire, the area I grew up in.  Very tired legs this morning though! We will ride through Tarporley and Warrington so  hope to see friends and family on route.  A couple of guys have threatened to ride with us so we shall see if they are man enough for it…

I’m hoping Mum and a few friends will find time to meet us on route for a cup of tea and a slice of cake.  Support from familiar faces is great, though given we are riding through Warrington and therefore James H’s manor I’m sure we will see some one we know.

There’s a rumor that the hotel tonight is pretty spiffy with a pool and spa, I’ve packed the speedos so will definitely have a dip once we are done.

Discover Adventure website here