With thanks to my late aunt, Jean Abdee, whose legacy has helped make this possible.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Day 17: Tain to Tongue

Stats: 74.0 miles, odo 1152.0, max speed 34.4, av speed 10.0. Time 7:24:33, actual time 10.5 hours.
Left at seven and just managed to get the tent packed away before the first lot of rain. Hopefully the next two nights will be in hostels and then I'll be done, so it's good to have a dry tent.
It was a very cold morning and didn't improve much through the day. Kept the leg warmers on, as if I get to a hostel they can be dried. Also waterproofs and gloves, though they got so soaked they weren't very warm!
Had a morning of sunshine and showers. The showers were intense, freezing and accompanied by gusts of wind, and then it all stopped, the sun came out and I'd start to dry out and warm up before the next batch of rain. I've never seen so many rainbows in one day.
Towards the end of the Dornoch Firth the bike route went to a railway viaduct bridge and I was faced with two flights of metal stairs. I couldn't quite believe it and had to re check, but it is right. Off came all the luggage, I trotted up and down with panniers, tent bag and bike, walked over the bridge and had a further flight down at the end. Saw two cyclists after me carrying their bikes on their shoulders - good if you have a lightweight bike and no gear...
Visited the Falls of Shin which were in spate ( all this rain has to be good for something) then went to the visitor's centre for coffee and cake. This turned out to be very well timed as I managed to miss a particularly heavy downpour.
Lairg was a pleasant place and the last town before the long road north. Although classed as bike route 1, there is no separate bike lane though it is a quiet road. It's single track with passing places and I have to admit to getting annoyed with drivers who didn't give any indication of thanks when I pulled in to let them pass. A raised hand - what does it take?
It was extremely blustery, often wet and very cold so I was glad to see that Altnaharra had a hotel, and stopped there for a cooked lunch and coffee ( thus neatly avoiding another heavy downpour). The staff were polite but they were there for the high spending fishermen who had flown up for their sport, so I was not made particularly welcome.

Maybe it's because this is coming to an end or maybe I've had enough, but the feeling of discouraged alienation was hard to shake. The mountains have a bleak and austere beauty, but I prefer the wildness of Cumbria and don't feel any great urge to want to return here. It's almost a shame I can't get Cape Wrath in this trip and get it over with!

Despite the often harsh weather, progress was surprisingly good, given that when the wind was really gusting I had to get off and walk. I'll be doing that a fair bit now, not just because of the wind but my brake blocks are so worn down!
Got to Tongue with enough time to get a transit stamp at the Post Office and some ' Dark Island' Orkney beer to go with dinner ( very nice) before finding the Youth Hostel, which is on the Durness road near the causeway. Given that it's rained since I got here and the wind is still high, I'm very glad that I and the bike are under cover.
Should be a very easy and slow day tomorrow, heading for Thurso. At a stretch, I could finish tomorrow, but I need to wait for my welcoming committee to arrive.
Picture is of the Falls of Shin.


  1. What a pity the rain is putting a literal and metaphorical damper on these final days Ruth. At least those rainbows must have been some welcome colour. You must be exhausted and a little lonely but in hindsight I hope you find more positives in the end of your journey than you are presently perceiving.

    I am sure you will have two very proud fans - one canine and one not - waiting for your arrival at JoG very soon.

    Lots of people are willing you on :) xx

  2. Don't forget that rain is very good for the complexion to give that rosy English schoolgirl look, and it is the best rinse that your clothes could have. Even better than Comfort. Bet you are looking forward to some home comforts though.Keep pushing those pedals round and be in denial about the pain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Love Peter and Gloria

  3. nearly there Ruth, well done, soooo well done. Don't think of baths yet (especially don't think at all about the warm, aromatic, muscle soaking, soporific kind ... sorry) nor racking the bike, nor your own bed; just love the wild and wonderful north coast for this final stretch, with it's envigorating rain and its bracing gales!! We're all willing you on here as we follow you from our desks ;-) - Chris

  4. Ruth
    given what you have achieved i am not surprised that there have been days when your morale has dropped but boy all of us that have yet to do it i am sure feel envious of your success in achieving what you have so far and will continue to do until you reach JOG.
    Just enjoy the final bit and raise a glass of something to your aunty at the end. ted