A trying day…
22 May 2013
I woke up slightly later than anticipated at 08.30, the latest I’ve ever slept in so far in my tent. I’m not sure why but might have been because it was overcast so still quite dim inside my exceedingly cosy tent. I had breakfast looking out for red squirrels, but couldn’t see any. They must have decided it was a good day to stay in bed too, so no photos of my elusive quarry yet.
I was packed up and ready to go by 09.45, post refilling water bottles and a final loo stop. I drink quite a lot of water in the mornings but consequently I always need the loo about an hour later, which can get annoying when you have multiple layers and a cycling bib on. It’s not warm enough to sweat much at the moment, which I suppose is a good thing, but maybe I could cut down on water consumption as a result.
From the relatively sheltered campsite I waved goodbye to the owners and pedalled off into a headwind, joy of joys, it looked like it was going to be another one of those days. I rode down to Ardersier and then up to Fort George, stopping briefly to shelter from a heavy shower that moved through from the North – found a convenient shrubbery (it was quite a verdant shrubbery incidentally).
Fort George is a working barracks and I could hear the sound of live firing from quite a distance away, single shots interspersed with automatic bursts, so sounded like they were practicing on the ranges – the red flags were up to confirm this. I rode up to the massive edifice that is Fort George in a fierce squall, quickly cycling into the entrance tunnel to gain some shelter. It’s an impressive fort, built in the 18th century post the quashing of the last Jacobite uprising, don’t think it was ever needed in anger but it does dominate the area and would have provided a significant deterrent to any trouble makers. I had a look around the bit you don’t have to pay for, but decided not to pay the £8.50 to look around any further; would have been interesting but taken a few hours, and I wanted to make some decent progress today. Few photos below, the layout reminded me of playing Total War on my computer; I’ve defended and attacked many of a similar design and they proved pretty formidable bastions on both accounts.
As you can see from the photos I was experiencing a variety of weather. It was sunny one minute, then throwing it down the next, with hail mixed in. All a bit melodramatic. I’ve given the Scottish weather a personality I’m competing against. It’s doing everything it can to try and stop me, throwing in dirty tricks like changing the wind direction, and I’m constantly trying to thwart it and pedal on. Bit odd but the competition makes it more bearable. We’ll see what its next plan of attack though; I’m thinking of it as a mixed up teenager at present, changing it’s mind and generally being awkward!
From Fort George I pedalled down the Moray Firth, looking for dolphins that are supposed to frequent these waters in large numbers. It was high tide and they probably would have been more likely to make an appearance when the tide was running, hunting for salmon which apparently irritates the local fishermen no end; bet the dolphins were here first though. Didn’t see any but nice view.
The next bit of the leg was a little bit trying, teenage angst must have been setting in as the weather decided to unleash several squalls of chilling rain, followed by bright sunshine that quickly overheated me on the long climb up to Culloden Moor. I didn’t want to bother taking any layers off though as I knew the weather would change its mind again in a minute. I made it to Culloden Battlefield and stopped at the visitor centre for lunch, soup and a burger. A bit pricey, and not the best food I’ve ever eaten but was nice to get inside. I didn’t look around the centre as it costs £10, and again I didn’t want to spend three hours doing so. Several coach loads of tourists also turned up thronging the place with Germans, Japanese and Americans, all intent on using the toilet then the restaurant. Wanting to avoid the crowds I beat a hasty retreat – accidentally dropped my iPad when repacking my bike, it’s slightly dented and the volume sticks, but still seems to work.
From Culloden I cycled to Inverness, descending from the moor in more turbulent weather, which was starting to get a little draining. I’d been turning the air blue for the last hour or so, dredging up a few special insults for my teenage weather nemesis I need to get a name for; can’t decide if they’re male or female though. Name suggestions on a postcard (or comment) please.
As fortune would have it I discovered the Velocity Cafe and Bicycle Workshop on the way into Inverness, completely by accident, so I stopped for a cup of tea and a chat. Great cafe and staff, obviously cycling themed. The girls gave me a few tips on my route to Loch Ness, where I intended to wild camp that evening, directing me to Dores. This avoided the A82 on the north side, which is apparently a little hazardous for cyclists, being very busy.
I spent a while in the cafe before heading in to Inverness revitalised to hunt for a few bits and pieces, including a new cable for my Power Monkey, to connect it to the solar panel – the cable has fractured somehow. I spent a while trying a few different shops, so got to see quite a bit of Inverness, including one of the retail parks a few miles out of town where there’s a Maplins. No joy on the cable front but bought a few supplies and I like Inverness, has a nice feel to it. I’ll have to order the cable online and get it somewhere on route, but that’s going to take a bit of organising; I’ll add it to the list with the Garmin on it.
Post Inverness I took the B862 down to Dores, temporarily leaving the coast to go monster hunting. The rain, hail and wind dropped off in the lee of the hills as I approached Loch Ness, I was definitely in the Highlands now, passing through some lovely countryside, and up and down a few hills.
I reached Dores and cycled on for a bit, taking in some of the loch and beautiful scenery, as well as scoping out a site to camp for the evening. Satisfied I’d found a suitable location I returned to Dores and the Inn, recommended by the Velocity Cafe, for dinner and a couple of pints, plus a cheeky dram. Dinner consisted of oven roasted salmon on ham risotto, and was truly excellent. I chatted with a few of the other patrons, both locals and visitors. Thanks for the tips on the route and things to see Ryan!
I also met a couple on holiday from Houghton-le-Spring, somewhere I’d camped a couple of weeks ago, small world. They were interested in my ride, having lost one of their sons to leukaemia a few years ago. Was good to have a chat with people who’d had similar experiences, and was interested to hear about his charity ride of a few years ago, via several forces bases to Germany I think. All the more impressive seeing as he has one prosthetic leg from the knee down – a result of a childhood accident involving a bus. Sounds like that was a great ride with some good company in the form of squaddies, dangerous drinking pals.
Post the pub I retreated to the site I’d spotted earlier. It was a little damp underfoot but found a firm spot and set up, bedding own for the evening in a very peaceful location overlooking the loch, with the rain pattering down through the trees.
On up the coast tomorrow but I’ll finish with a few photos from Loch Ness.
Only about 43 miles today, but hard won, in spite of my weather nemesis. No monsters to report on the loch.