31st August 2021
Follow Alison’s stories of what it’s like to be the back-up and support here, as she reports back with a daily MAMILgram (that’s Middle-Aged-Men-In-Lycra):
Day Fifteen – the penultimate day, from Inverness to The Crask Inn (66 miles)
A significant moment occurred today when, at a café rest-stop, our two cyclists met someone travelling the other way – so JOGLE as opposed to LEJOG. They compared notes, the other cyclist having done it both ways. Impressively, he was also carrying all his equipment on the bike, including a tent and lightweight sleeping bag.
There are advantages both ways. Travelling from Cornwall to Scotland, the prevailing wind is generally behind you, although the temperature generally gets cooler as you progress, and you hit the midges on the West Coast (don’t underestimate this) just as you are feeling at your most tired.
Today was a long day, as both were feeling the impact of yesterday. Progressing from Inverness, via the Kessock Bridge, a metal structure, they picked up the cycle path and passed the grounds of GB’s two northernmost football clubs: Ross County (Dingwall) and Caledonian Thistle (Inverness). The fixture when Derek’s home team of Kilmarnock play Ross County apparently comprises the furthest distance travelled for any match.
After Dingwall the road changed to single track with passing places and we started to see John o’ Groats signed. The landscape opened up considerably with huge vistas. We were heading for our overnight stop at The Crask Inn, north of Lairg. This is apparently famous – and a true haven.
A welcoming atmosphere, comfy beds – and the dining room doubles as an approved location for the Scottish Episcopalian Church (evening prayer at 5pm). All residents enjoy a single three-course meal (with vegetarian options). It was immensely nurturing, and afterwards we slept like babies.
The big surprise of the day was the pint awaiting Derek at the Crask Inn – being held by his son Andrew. He had flown up to Inverness, to be with us for the final two days. It had been Linda’s idea, she had managed the planning and plotting – and here he was to cheer them on. As Andrew is a social media expert with a very fine camera, you can expect better pictures tomorrow.
And so tomorrow is the final day. There’s a sense of relief – they are both tired – but tonight in the Crask Inn, Neil looked distinctly perky as he listened to suggestions for new challenges. The ‘obvious’ companion to LEJOG is apparently to walk the ‘Coast to coast’…
Day Fourteen – Glencoe to Inverness (83 miles)
Everything got bigger today: the distance covered (83 miles, the furthest in a single day so far), the scale of the countryside, height of the surrounding mountains and depth of the water. Even the roadkill was increased in size, with larger mammals (a deer and a badger) sadly seen by the side of the road.
Loch Ness is a deep slash that runs the length of a valley, narrow and going down a very long way – the deepest lough in the UK. I’d never seen it before and it was magnificent.
Setting out from Glencoe, there is a cycle path to Onich before having to move onto the road up the side of Loch Linnie to Fort William. From then on the cycle route is beside a series of loughs within the Great Glen, first Loch Lochie followed by a high level route (requiring a rapid climb of 37m to reach it) then Loch Ness up to Inverness. In the car I passed a really impressive memorial to commandos killed in action, with a nearby memorial garden where ashes can be scattered and personal tributes laid. There were many to soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan. Immensely poignant right now.
Meanwhile, back on the cycle track, ‘puncture-gate’ happened. Neil’s rear wheel caught a stone awkwardly and this resulted in a ‘pinch puncture’ – on two sides of the tyre at the same time, and hence compression to the rim. For a while they managed by stopping to pump up the tyre every 500 yards, but pretty soon Neil needed to dismount and push until help could be found.
Find out more about Neil and Derek’s cycling challenge from Land’s End to John o’Groats on our dedicated web page HERE.
To support Neil and Derek and donate to their causes please visit their fundraising page:
The cycling community feels generous. As they rode/pushed along, Neil and Derek had encouragements from many, and a passing cyclist even gave him a free inner tube. But it proved impossible to mend without the supplies in the car, so the support vehicle was once more summoned. This time access was more difficult, as the car had to make its way up some very rough and steep bike tracks. But once we reached them (thankfully with Linda beside me by this time) running repairs were made, we had a great view for our picnic lunch, and new spares were purchased in Fort Augustus.
We reached Inverness about 5pm and enjoyed the spectacular flowers. The area has a large number of troops and there are many schools already using Reading Force. We are at home here.