1st September 2021
Day Sixteen – Crask Inn to John o’Groats (82 Miles) and mission completed!
The final instalment of Alison’s stories of being the back-up and support for the intrepid cyclists, as she reports here with the last day’s MAMILgram (that’s Middle-Aged-Men-In-Lycra):
Day 16 – the last leg of a very long bike ride
And so we come to our final day. Both cyclists by now admitting to getting weary, although they seemed to plough this into a shared determination to get there quicker. Proceeding from The Crask Inn, their route headed north. The landscape stretched away into the distance and there was hardly any traffic. The sun was shining and it looked stunning.
The road was single-track but with frequent passing places.
This was the most remote part of the trip, with more stretches of water than there are names for (unnamed lakes are apparently called ‘lochans’).
They were heading for Bettyhill, where Derek wanted to pause and take a picture in honour of his mother (full name pre-marriage Elizabeth Hill, but always called Betty). This also marked the point at which they reached the coast and turned east – the remainder of the route running along the north coast of Scotland. Here we encountered more traffic, with hotels and catering for the tourists. We had lunch overlooking Malvich – just one of many perfect beaches.
From here I headed on to the Castle of Mey. With spectacular views across the water to Orkney, this is a picture-perfect castle of toytown proportions; the rooms inside tempting you to sit down and curl up with a book. The walled garden was particularly lovely. Previously a royal residence, anyone who watched the relevant episode of ‘The Crown’ (Series 1; 8: ‘Pride and Joy’) would be fascinated.
Before getting there however, I had a small drama of my own. Moving onto the verge to let past two vehicles travelling much more quickly, I discovered that verges in Scotland generally have ditches next to them. I got completely stuck. Passing motorists were very kind, and having driven me to a nearby farm in search of a tractor (sadly there was no one home), they took charge, directing the traffic that had paused to offer further help, assembling a team of people to push and finally flagging down a likely pick-up truck which was indeed equipped with a tow rope. They pulled me out and I was immensely grateful. But before I could say thank you properly, they had disappeared. Maybe I can do this through the thank you spot on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Saturday Live’.
Find out more about Neil and Derek’s cycling challenge from Land’s End to John o’Groats on our dedicated web page HERE.
In good time, Linda, Andrew and I were in position at John o’Groats. Seeing our cyclists round the final corner was a moving moment. We cheered and shouted, and the tourists around us joined in. Everyone clapped. We took photographs under the signpost for Land’s End.
We then headed for our hotel a few miles down the coast in Lybster.
Reflecting on just over two weeks, this has been such an absorbing experience. The physical effort of the cyclists has been so impressive. Derek commented that he had joined our summer holiday – but what they collectively delivered, through commitment to each other and a rapidly burgeoning friendship, has been so much more than that.
Their requirements of the support vehicle were simple: remain alert to calls for help; find the pre-arranged meeting points; keep the show on the road through petrol and provisions. In the process I’ve had a tour of the UK’s geography and weather. Writing a blog has helped me think about what stands out; to fix these experiences in my mind.
The overall requirement for everyone has been to be observant and live in the moment; to be utterly absorbed in each day, one at a time. And that’s good for the soul. It’s been engrossing, fascinating and utterly worthwhile. So, what next?
Thank you to everyone who has supported Neil, Derek and the support team (me, and latterly Linda) before and during this wonderful adventure. Your words of encouragement were very welcome and comforting, and we are all extremely grateful for your donations and kind comments.
To support Neil and Derek and donate to their causes please visit their fundraising page: