Tag Archives: headwind

Leg 58 – to Anglesey

Before I start a quick congratulations to Will and Louisa, my brother and sister-in-law, on the birth of their daughter Anna Constance on 02 August, which is easy to remember because it was Lucy and I’s wedding anniversary. Being an Uncle to a niece as well as nephew is pretty exciting!

Anna post a trip out to the park

Anna post a trip out to the park – she’d mostly been asleep until we got back


 

Nephew Seb tackling an ice cream

Nephew Seb tackling an ice cream, clever boy


28 June 2013

The not unusual sound of rain hitting my tent greeted me when I awoke, so I decided to have breakfast in bed and hoped it would stop. It did eventually so I clambered out, receiving my first shower of the morning as cold rain water ran off the canvas and down my neck. Now thoroughly awake I checked my bike and discovered another broken spoke I hadn’t noticed the day before. Luckily I had spares so I swapped in a new one. This was the first time I’d changed a spoke without assistance, and I followed Simon from Topmark’s advice; the bike shop I’d stopped at in Barrow-in-Furness.

I was able to remove the old spoke, leaving the nipple in the rim, and then thread in a new spoke and join it up, so I didn’t have to disassemble the entire wheel, bonus! I had to bend things around a bit but it worked fine, and after about 20 minutes of adjustments I was satisfied the wheel was straight and nothing was going to rub.

The rain and bike maintenance, followed by a shower and packing up, meant I didn’t leave the campsite until 10.30ish, bidding goodbye to the only other campers post a quick chat. The little girl wanted to know if I’d been woken up by the police sirens in the night, or the drumming, I hadn’t, having a tendency to sleep quite deeply once wrapped up in my tent. I hoped the weather improved for them.

Henllys - packed up and ready for another day

Henllys – packed up and ready for another day, grey skies again

I rode towards Abergele, joining the A547 along the coast. I wanted to avoid the busy and potentially dangerous A55 after yesterday’s experiences on dual carriageways. Just outside Abergele lies an impressive looking castle, which I subsequently learned is Gwrych Castle. It was built between 1812 and 1822, and is currently undergoing restoration with a view to converting it into a hotel – not sure how that work is going. Unfortunately I didn’t get any decent photos of it from the road, due the high curtain wall, so the one below is from google.

Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle

It fell into a bit of a derelict state after a succession of owners, then being vandalised, lived in by travellers, and suffering from collapsed floors, ceilings and the odd fire, so it obviously needs a lot of work. It could look like a fairy tale castle, with its follys and extensive grounds, so hopefully something good will happen. If I won the lottery, or earned loads of money somehow, I’d consider buying it if it wasn’t so far away from everywhere.

Continuing on my way I pedalled around to Colwyn Bay, having to negotiate at least one hill in the process.

Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay


 

Colwyn Bay - wild flowers

Colwyn Bay – wild flowers, or probably weeds but I thought they looked pretty

I rode along the promenade to Rhos-on-Sea, before rejoining the road to Llandudno.

Colwyn Bay - promenade

Colwyn Bay – promenade, sun even threatening to come out


Up until Llandudno there’d been few hills to contend with, and the rain had mostly held off aside from the odd patch of drizzle, so things were looking promising. Llandudno itself seemed a pleasant place, with a wide promenade you can cycle along to Great Orme’s Head, which looms over the town.

Llandudno and Great Orme's Head

Llandudno and Great Orme’s Head


 

The Mad Hatter

The Mad Hatter – always been a bit of an Alice in Wonderland fan


I stopped in Llandudno for a bite to eat, and took advantage of some wifi to check my route and schedule. I reckoned I had around 1,300 miles left to get around to London, as long as I didn’t throw in any more islands or detours, which was just about doable by 17 July. As usual I’d make up my route as I went along, and stop when I found somewhere nice, that’s about as far as my advanced planning goes really. I only needed to keep the coast on my right, and ensure I averaged around 75 miles a day.

Unfortunately the rain set in post post Llandudno, coming down pretty hard, and I was quickly drenched – not that my shoes had had chance to dry out anyway. My waterproof had definitely seen better days and was leaking in several places, serving only to trap a layer of warmish water close to my skin, which I guess was better than being cold.

I rode over the bridge to Conwy and Conwy Castle, and opted to take the old suspension bridge into town.

Conwy Suspension Bridge

Conwy Suspension Bridge

The bridge is run by the National Trust, having originally been built by Thomas Telford in the early 19th century as part of the large scale road improvements between Chester and Bangor.

Bridge and Conwy Castle

Bridge and Conwy Castle


 

River Conwy - view under the road bridge

River Conwy – view under the road bridge


 

On the suspension bridge

On the suspension bridge

I enjoy looking at old feats of engineering and majestic buildings such as Conwy Castle, and often wish we put as much effort into elegant construction these days as our forebears did in past centuries.

The bridge again

The bridge again – are you bored of bridge photos yet?

The castle was built in the late 13th century, by that old favourite Edward I, during his conquest of Wales; he certainly liked his wars. It saw fairly active service over the years, before being partially slighted after the English Civil war and subsequently falling into ruin. It’s been restored since, and stands proud above the River Conwy as a World Heritage Site.

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle


It has massive defensive walls, which explains how it withstood sieges successfully. Must have been daunting to assault those walls with the defenders hurling things at you.

Conwy Castle in silhouette

Conwy Castle tower


Conwy itself is a nice looking town, with its own wall, and with lots of holiday makers wandering about its attractive streets.

Conwy town

Conwy town with castle in background – sky looks threatening


 

Conwy town and wall

Conwy town and wall


 

Conwy - raining again

Conwy – raining again


Avoiding the A55 I was able to ride along a cycle path for the next stage, which was handy given the road was very busy, with a lot of spray being kicked up by the traffic. Even off the main road it was a hard ride down the coast, with a fierce headwind at times, and the continuing rain soaking me further.

Looking back toward Great Orme's Head

Looking back toward Great Orme’s Head and Llandudno


The cycle path had a few exciting sections as it tracked the coast road, which itself passed through tunnels through the hills. I road up over cycle bridges, crossing the A55 on suspended walk/cycle ways that felt a little exposed in the wind. The track wound around, up and over the hills, rather than going through them like the road. This meant a few significant but fun climbs, despite the rain, and wind which when gusting nearly stopped me dead a couple of times. I had my head down as I was fighting into the wind, and nearly ran into a cyclist coming the other way at one point. Luckily he shouted a warning and I moved over; I think we were both pretty surprised to see someone else out in these conditions.

Cycle track following the busy A55

Cycle track following the busy A55


Continuing along the coast, thoroughly drenched again, I took shelter out of the wind and rain for a bit in a roofed seating area. It was a relief not to have the wind blasting me for a few minutes, and I had a few biscuits to top up energy levels.

A stop out of the wind

A stop out of the wind near Llanfairfechan

Riding on along a bit of promenade I approached a group of mallard ducks, sitting stoically in the rain by the side of the road. They looked quite content, until suddenly alarmed they took flight as a couple of terriers emerged from the bushes behind them, barking and dashing about in an animated fashion. The dogs obviously thought it was great fun, however the ducks were less than impressed as was evident from their disdainful quacking. They also flew directly into my path, and due to their low trajectory I was subject to a few wing buffets and close encounters with beaks. A high velocity duck quacking in your face can be quite alarming, however they were soon out of my way, and landed 50 yards away keeping an eye on the dogs who’d been hastily summoned by their owners.

The dog owners were somewhat apologetic, although they were laughing – it was quite funny. Given the abundance of signs on British roads I was surprised there wasn’t one warning of low flying ducks. On the subject of road signs, I do get rather irritated by how many there are. Do you really need signs warning that there aren’t any road markings. If you can’t see that there aren’t any road markings you probably shouldn’t be driving. Even more disturbing are the ones that tell you that cat’s eyes have been removed, I mean what kind of sicko goes around doing that. There are just so many signs you end up getting sign overload and start ignoring all of them, which defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Is there a bureaucrat somewhere trying to use up their sign budget or something, in case it gets slashed next year? Anyway, enough of slipping into grumpy old man mode, I’m still relatively young dammit.

The next section took me down a few country roads as I looped inland to avoid the main road, on my way to Bangor.

Wet country roads near Abergwyngregyn

Wet country roads near Abergwyngregyn


The route would have been lovely on a different day, with nicer weather, but it was just too wet and windy to enjoy today. I still however took satisfaction from the fact I was making good progress despite the conditions, and pressed on to Bangor.

I eventually made it to Bangor, which is a bit confusing road wise. I somehow completely missed the city centre, but decided not to loop back, and rode on to Anglesey which I’d opted to include despite my earlier thoughts on not doing any more islands. I reckoned I could just about include Anglesey, or Ynys Mon in Welsh, and still make it round in time for Latitude. I might just need to add on a few miles to some other legs.

I wanted to see the fabled island of the Druids, which was attacked by the Romans back in AD60 who wanted to break their hold over the Celtic tribes. General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and his amphibious Batavian contingent were apparently successfully in vanquishing them, putting many to the sword and destroying shrines and sacred groves. These Romans obviously had no intention of preserving sites of archaeological interest for future generations. Still, General Paulinus had to retreat before he could consolidate his victory due to Boudica and the Iceni revolting in the east (good old boys (and girls) as they say in Norfolk), just down the road from where I live, so I kind of hope some of the Druids survived to pass on their culture and history to future generations. It’s nice to think that maybe a little bit of magic and wonder of a different kind existed back then, however I suspect the Druids were pretty terrifying in their own right, and relied on superstition, rituals and fear to keep control. I could draw certain parallels with some modern religious institutions at this stage, but I won’t. 

The Menai Straits for the Menai Bridge

The Menai Straits from the Menai Bridge – Britannia Bridge in the distance


I rode over the Menai Bridge to the Isle, stopping to take in the view as the rain began to stop.

The Ridgeback on the Menai Bridge

The Ridgeback on the Menai Bridge


My dad was apparently stationed on or near Anglesey when he was in the RAF, and many antics were got up to, some of which involved the bridge. I believe at least one of my god fathers was also involved, but probably shouldn’t go into any more detail in case warrants are still outstanding.

Me on the Menai Bridge

Me on the Menai Bridge – helmet wonky as usual


I wasn’t going to do the whole coast of the island, but wanted to do a circuit to see what it was like, so rode up the A5025 towards Amlwch. There are lots of campsites on Anglesey so I wasn’t worried about finding a place to pitch up later, and if the worst came to the worst I was sure there’d be a quiet spot off the beaten track I could stop at for the night.

The rain stopped as I rode on, finally, and it turned into a lovely ride despite the initial heavy traffic on the road. Anglesey is by no means flat, but neither is it very hilly, the road just undulates a lot.

Travelling up the A5025 on Anglesey

Travelling up the A5025 on Anglesey – could this have once been a sacred grove?


I stopped in Benllech to pick up a few supplies at a small supermarket, stuffing down a doughnut to get some energy back, followed by a banana for good measure, and a chocolate bar to be sure. The road continued on to Amlwch, which is lacking in any vowels, but that isn’t unusual in Wales. I didn’t know how you pronounced it, but tried rolling the word around my mouth a few times. I don’t know how you pronounce a lot of place names in Welsh so I’d be useless if anyone asked for directions. It was nice to hear people speaking Welsh though, which has a musical quality to it.

Amlwch - twinned with Sankwia in The Gambia

Amlwch – twinned with Sankwia in The Gambia, which I thought was a little odd


With the evening stretching on, but the sun making an appearance for the first time in a while, I pedalled along the coast from Amlwch to Cemaes Bay before turning south down towards Holyhead. 

Anglesey has it fair share of wind farms

Anglesey has it fair share of wind farms


I passed a signpost to Church Bay where my dad used to go on holiday as a child, which potentially would have been a good place to stop for the night, but I decided to get a few more miles done.

Anglesey countryside

Anglesey countryside – looking towards the centre of the island


I didn’t go all the way to Holyhead, it basically being a sprawling ferry port where boats go to and from Ireland. Instead I turned back towards the Menai Bridge on the A5. I’d found a promising looking campsite via the web earlier, but was having trouble locating it on my map, and I didn’t have enough reception to use my phone. This meant I ended up riding slightly later than anticipated, via a more convoluted route.

A random standing stone

A random standing stone

 

Looking south west towards Holyhead

Looking south west towards Holyhead

 

Looking towards Church Bay

Looking towards Church Bay


I pedalled through more very Welsh sounding villages, although I guess they may well have Irish origins, the Irish having invaded in the early 5th century before being defeated in 470 by some Scots who popped down for a rumble. 

Sun going down over some cows

Sun going down over some cows

 

It was quite an impressive sunset

It was quite an impressive sunset


After passing through Bryngwran, Gwalchmai and Llanrhyddlad I arrived at the Tally Ho campsite just off the B4422, not far from Bodorgan. It’s a nice small Camping and Caravaning site, with friendly owners and a quiet camping field. You can order breakfast from them for the morning too, but I’d just bought a load of supplies which I needed to eat, regrettably. A bacon roll or two would have been most welcome. The campsite was £10 a night so averagely priced, with a decent but small toilet and shower block.

I’d arrived about 21.30, so was quite hungry, and set up my tent quickly before settling down to a meal of bread, cheese and BBQ’d chicken I’d bought earlier, accompanied by crisps, tomatoes and fruit. I saved some of the bread and a pork pie or two for the morning, before a dessert of chocolate buttons and a can of cider for good measure.

Sun gone on Anglesey

Sun gone on Anglesey


It was pretty late by the time I was all fed and watered, so after a quick call to my parents I retreated into my tent to write my journal, although I kept falling asleep so had trouble finishing it. The bleating of many sheep helped keep me vaguely awake, a kind of fiendish evening chorus on their part. Aside from the livestock it was a fairly quiet site, with several groups camped up in either tents or caravans. The lack of wind and rain meant sleep came fairly quickly once I’d stopped trying to write, although I was a somewhat preoccupied with how I could dry my shoes which where in danger of giving me a case of trench foot.

Having done 84 miles today I was in a good place to finish Anglesey tomorrow, before continuing along the coast to Caernarfon, and then further west to the Lleyn Peninsula. I was aiming to be up early in the morning for another longish leg, to keep my average mileage at a respectable score. The sky was clear so it looked like the weather would be better tomorrow; some heat would be nice to dry off a few things.

Bonuit tout le monde 🙂

Leg 53 – to St Bees via Gretna

Back into England!

23 June 2013

For the second morning in a row I lay in my tent listening to the sound of rain, and not really wanting to get up. The persistent drumming turned into a more gentle pitter-patter, so I made a dash to the toilet block for a shower and a shave; I’d make it back into England today so thought I’d better smarten up. The rain stopped and the sun appeared whilst I was washing, drying off my tent a bit, so I had a bite to eat and packed up whilst further evaporation took place.

Morning in Annan

Morning in Annan

A slightly eccentric American couple in their late sixties were camped up next to me, having also retreated to their tent early yesterday evening due to the weather. They were in the process of a UK tour on their tandem touring bike, and I had a chat over breakfast. They were veteran tourers having travelled all over the globe on their bike, including to Australia and New Zealand, as well as all over Europe and down to Greece. It was interesting to hear about their experiences and relate some of mine. I think I learn something useful every time I meet people like this on the road. They’d had trouble with wheels in the past, which is common on tandems due to the weight, but had had no issues since they got hand built wheels – no spoke breaks in about 5 years. This was their first tour including a mobile phone, having foregone all technology in the past, and were finding it quite handy but a pain to charge – I recommended my solar charger, but only if you had plenty of sunshine.

Lobster and I ready to hit the road

Lobster and I ready to hit the road, England beckoned


I hadn’t been able to pay for the campsite last night, and tried to phone the warden several times to ask where I could leave them some cash, but got no response. In the end I ended up stashing a fiver in a video case in the gents, and leaving them a message to let them know where it was, hoping it was sufficient. I couldn’t afford to delay any longer, as it looked like the weather might worsen and I had quite a lot of miles to get done; the American couple had already sped off on their tandem.

All packed up, and with the weather still dry, I set off east on the B721, avoiding the main road. Thanks to a tailwind and flat  road I made good time to Gretna Green, my final stop in Scotland before crossing the border.

Gretna Green

Gretna Green


I had a quick look around the Blacksmith’s Centre, where people get married after eloping across the border from England to get married under Scottish law, although I’m not sure if much of that goes on anymore.

Blacksmith's Centre - Gretna Green

Blacksmith’s Centre – Gretna Green


I didn’t pay to look at the Anvil upon which people get married, it was all a bit overly touristy, which whilst I’d expected was still a bit disappointing. There was of course a bag-piper present, who started up every time another coach disgorged its visitors, although I don’t think most of them realised he was a busker. I had a quick chat with the Blacksmith’s Centre attendant, mostly about my tour. I think he was quite relieved not to have to deal with more photo crazy Japanese tourists, of which there were a multitude. Whilst chatting I realised I’d been on the road 54 days, and in Scotland for 45 of those.

Horseshoes - Gretna Green

Horseshoes – Gretna Green


I grabbed a sandwich in the food hall, and visited the souvenir shop wincing slightly at the tackiness and stereotypical gifts on sale. They did have lots of swords and bits of armour on the wall, but I’m not sure what Lord of the Rings props have to do with Gretna Green. The Witch King’s sword as well as Aragorn’s blade were on offer alongside more traditional claymores and dirks, and the Black Prince’s sword, all a bit confusing. The shop did smell nice, with whisky fumes pervading the atmosphere and obviously having the desired effect with lots of tourists walking away with bottles of dubious looking liquor.

Next up I rode rode down through Gretna village, and approached the border, anticipation building. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, a fanfare perhaps, but I was grinning when I finally crossed back into England. I’d loved Scotland, but had been there a long time, so it was a bit of a landmark to close off that part of the tour. I was also looking forward to seeing what Cumbria had to offer.

Welcome to England

Welcome to England

I had to ride alongside the M6 for a bit, which wasn’t entirely pleasant, crossing over the River Esk before turning West towards the Solway Firth. I passed a few other tourers going the other way who waved cheerily.

Barrier between me and the M6

Barrier between me and the M6

My good mood took a bit of a hit shortly after entering England, when I trundled over a level crossing. Bump… rattle… ping… squeak. Arse, two spokes had broken causing my wheel to immediately buckle and my rear brakes to rub. I pulled over, unloaded, and did a temporary fix by tightening the spokes either side of the broken ones. This straightened out the wheel sufficiently enough to allow my journey to continue, which was handy considering I didn’t have any spare spokes, and it would have been at least 10 mile walk into Carlisle to find spares. Once everything was loaded back on to the Ridgeback I pedalled on, doing my best to avoid any further bumps. I’d need to find a bike shop in the next couple of days to enable a permanent fix, lest more spokes break.

After wriggling around country roads for a bit, skirting around Carlisle, I joined the minor road through Burgh by Sands, out towards Bowness-on-Solway, the road following the last bit of Hadrian’s Wall. I passed several other cyclists and walkers going the other way, starting their coast to coast trips, including one man dressed in the full armour and garb of a Roman soldier, with all the kit. He was already looking pretty tired, but had a gaggle of supporters with him, most of them of the young, female and attractive variety, so I reckoned he’d be alright. The other end of the wall is around 84 miles away, in Wallsend just outside Newcastle, where I’d been several weeks before; I hadn’t really taken the most direct of routes to get here.

The next bit of the ride, alongside the Solway Firth, was pretty tough, into a harsh headwind that rivalled that which I’d encountered on Orkney. The coastline up the Firth is very exposed, with very few hills or trees, so I got blasted.

Riding up the Solway Firth

Riding up the Solway Firth


I passed lots of signs telling me that if the water reached this point, it would be a maximum of ‘x’ feet deep, where x was between 1 and 3 feet, so the road must flood sometimes. I could well believe this with the waters of the Solway Firth just off to my right.

Fishermen on the Firth

Fishermen on the Firth


I stopped in Bowness-on-Solway, a little bit frayed around the edges, and found a pub serving Sunday lunch. Roast Beef considerably improved matters, my first roast in weeks, followed by gooseberry pie and custard, all washed down with a pint of ale. It all cost a tenner which I thought was a bargain. The Kings Arms proved a welcome stop, and would be a good place to start or finish the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. I think it does B&B too.

Re-energised I cycled on, sticking to the minor road following the coast, which unfortunately meant more cows and sheep on the road. It seemed this issue was not contained to just Scotland, and I had to negotiate my way through a couple of flocks and past a few frisky looking cows. There are also a couple of heavy gates you have to get through, instead of cattle grids, but at least they didn’t increase the risk of more spokes breaking.

Looking toward Solway Firth and Scotland beyond

Looking toward Solway Firth and Scotland beyond


I swung around Moricambe Bay, a particularly wild part of the Cumbrian coast with large sand/mud flats and lots of bird life, before pedalling to Skinburness. It was a somewhat convoluted route due to having to dip inland to cross rivers, but the sun was out and the wind wasn’t constantly in my face so it was enjoyable. I did have to laugh slightly when I passed a group of charity riders going the other way, in their Asda tops, all slightly overweight and struggling slightly, with the fairy wings they were wearing being whipped about by the wind. Good effort though.

Skinburness

Skinburness


From Skinburness it was a short stretch down to Silloth, where I encountered a strange road surface which got me worrying about my spokes again.

Silloth - strange road surface

Silloth – strange road surface


Thankfully no further spoke breaks resulted, and I continued on to Allonby. There were a few kite surfers out in Allonby Bay, having a good time in the wind; wind good for them but bad for cyclists.

Allonby Bay - Kite Surfers

Allonby Bay – Kite Surfers


 

Back in England - no wild camping!

Back in England – no wild camping!


The next bit of the ride was fairly uneventful, it not being a particularly interesting bit of coastline, with quite a bit of industry in places. I passed through Maryport and Workington, piling on the miles, before arriving in Whitehaven. By this time the hills  had started up again making things more entertaining.

Whitehaven

Whitehaven


I stopped a break in Whitehaven and had a look around. There were a lot of people out and about, and the town had a bit of a party atmosphere, it being the end of a 3 day Maritime Festival. There were an awful lot of slightly merry people on the streets, and at least one rock band playing in one of the packed pubs I passed. A foot long Sub replenished my energy reserves for the final stretch over to St Bees, where I planned on camping for the night.

Ride out of Whitehaven

Ride out of Whitehaven – Cumbrian countryside 

It was a short ride over to St Bees, albeit with a couple of big hills. It’s a nice little village right on the coast, with a caravan park that has a camping field, and a hotel next to it. The bay is lovely, with a nice beach that had waves crashing in against it, driven by the still fierce westerly wind.

Road down to St Bees

Road down to St Bees


St Bees

St Bees

After booking in I quickly pitched my tent, and had a chat with a group of lads just camped down from me who were about to start their coast to coast cycle ride – think they’d just finished their A-levels. They were a bit bemused by the amount of kit on my bike, but I explained it was actually more stable with panniers on the front as well as the back. 

Feeling thirsty I headed to the hotel to get out of the wind for a bit, and recuperate after a hard day. I’d covered just over 85 miles, but it felt like further due to the weather. I enjoyed a couple of pints listening to other customers complain about the speed of the service, and the hotel staff complaining about being understaffed. It had a bit of a Fawlty Towers feel to the place, but the beer was perfectly acceptable. Thankfully I’d already eaten so I didn’t need to risk anything from the kitchen, and I spent a couple of hours writing up my journal and trying to catch up a bit on my blog.

With the wind continuing to grow in strength I retreated back to my tent, which was thankfully sheltered by a hedge. I did stop to re-peg someone else’s tent on the the way, which was in danger of blowing away – the owners weren’t present. I fell asleep with the wind howling about, whilst trying to write up more of my blog. Unfortunately I left my head torch on and the batteries ran out as a result. Whoops. First day back in England done.

Clouds and moon in St Bees

Clouds and moon in St Bees

Leg 32 – to Scourie

The journey South begins.

01 June 2013

I had one of the best nights sleep of the tour so far at Cape Wrath, whether that be down to the peaceful location or really spongy grass I had as a mattress I’m not sure, probably a combination of both. I’d got up once to photograph the lighthouse in operation; no shipwrecks to report so looks like it was working. There were still deer around, grazing on the lush grass around the lighthouse.

Cape Wrath lighthouse

Cape Wrath lighthouse by night

 

Steep cliffs!

Steep cliffs next Lighthouse

I was up early as I wanted to make sure I made the 09.30 ferry, although I suspected it might be a bit later today because of  the tides. Not wanting to risk it I was packed up and on the road/bumpy track by 7.30, allowing enough time to deal with any punctures picked up en-route. This was after settling up with John and buying one of the Ozone Cafe/Cape Wrath t-shirts – my first sourvenir of the tour. Big thanks to John and the Ozone Cafe for the excellent hospitality and very tasty salmon dinner, and look forward to a return visit some day. Also bid adieu to the enthusiastic Spirnger Spaniel patrol.

 

Leaving Cape Wrath

Leaving Cape Wrath

I rode back down the track to the ferry contemplating what it must be like living a the Cape permanently. Reckon it must be a hard life but rewarding. There’s no mains electricity or water, no mobile reception, although there is a landline. Despite the lack thereof I can see the attractiveness of being cut off from all the crap the rest of us encounter via the media etc, living slightly more on the edge, but in a beautiful spot.

Passing the track down to the bothy I hoped Iain and Angus had had a good night too, and had a safe kayak today – http://www.coldwetwater.blogspot.co.uk Good luck around the rest of the Scottish coast.

Back through moorland to the ferry

Back through moorland to the ferry 


 

Bridge over rocky stream

Bridge over rocky stream 


 

Wild landscape around the Cape

Wild landscape around the Cape 


 

One of the better road sections down to a farmstead

One of the better road sections down to a farmstead


 

Panoramic view of sandy kyle

Panoramic view of sandy kyle


I made it in good time back to the slipway to wait for the ferry, without any punctures, but with three completely loose spokes I had to tighten. The combination of a bumpy road, heavy bike, and a back wheel not really built for a touring bike had obviously take its toll, and was something I was going to have to keep an eye on. I was very glad I’d packed a spoke tightener, but will have to be careful not to over-tighten.

Whilst waiting I had a second breakfast of flapjack and contemplated putting a brew on, but then saw the ferryman arrive on the other side of the kyle and start loading today’s visitors into his boat. The ferry duly arrived bringing a full minibus load, and several cyclists on three separate trips, so John was in for a busy day at the Ozone Cafe. I bid good morning to everyone, extolling the virtues of the Cape, before they trundled off and I lifted my panniers and bike on-board the boat, the only passenger heading back this morning. 

I chatted to John the ferryman on the trip across, who said the tide was only just high enough to allow easy access to the pier for my bike on the other side. I was glad I wasn’t going to have to wade ashore! John ferries visitors back and forth most days, with his dog on the prow. The weather can change very quickly around Durness, and if it looks like it could turn John either won’t run the ferry, or gives people fair warning that they might get stuck on the Cape. It’s happened a few times – people cross at their own risk and sometimes get stuck there for the night. John confirmed that there are Golden Eagles in the area, but I hadn’t seen any unfortunately. 

Bidding the Cape a final goodbye, I reattached my panniers and cycled off down the A838, travelling south for the first time on the mainland in ages, which felt a bit strange. Of course I had a headwind, but it was fairly mild, and I was soon distracted by a long hill climb. It felt like quite a long stretch to Rhiconich, past the odd loch, and between mountains. 

Road to Rhiconich - fairly bleak landscape

Road to Rhiconich – fairly bleak landscape


 

Road to Rhiconich - mountains abounding

Road to Rhiconich – mountains abounding


There were some handy public toilets in Rhiconich, which came as a welcome relief – they’re right next to a rather remote and lonely looking police station. Post toilet break I turned right, wanting to head up towards Sandwood Bay a bit, although I didn’t think I’d make it all the way up there – it’s a dead end and I wasn’t sure about the state of the roads/tracks anyway.

I rode up the road alongside Loch Inchard to Kinlochbervie, passing through villages with names I had trouble pronouncing such as Achriesgill and Inshegra, although Badcall was easier. Most of the information notices, signs and town names are in Gaelic as well as English. I haven’t heard any Gaelic spoken yet but I’m sure some locals mix in a bit with some of their sentences to confuse me sometimes. 

Narrow entrance to Kinlochbervie harbour

Narrow entrance to Kinlochbervie harbour


 

Kinlochbervie harbour

Kinlochbervie harbour

Kinlochbervie is a small town built up around the harbour which has an active fishing community by the looks of it. I’d passed what looked like a few salmon farms on the way up the loch, at least I think that’s what they were. Could be wrong as they might have just been channel markers in this instance. A largish fishing boat was just returning to port with its catch, which was duly unloaded and packed in ice. I was passed a bit later by fairly fishy lorries transporting the catch off elsewhere, no doubt to restaurants and factories.

I had lunch at the hotel in Kinlochbervie, wanting to get out of the weather for a bit which was turning showery and windier. Great cheeseburger and chips, followed by a chocolate brownie sundae just to keep the carbs topped up. Taking advantage of the free wifi I also had a quick FaceTime call with my Dad which was nice. Mum was out somewhere but I’d no doubt catch up with her later.

Shoreline in Kinlochbervie

Shoreline in Kinlochbervie

 

Fishing farms or channel markers?

Fishing farms or channel markers? Or nets? Thinking channel markers.

 

Clouds closing in still

Clouds closing in still

Post an email catchup the weather had improved somewhat, so I hit the road again continuing up towards Sandwood Bay. I made it as far as Oldshoremore, before turning around and heading back down the loch to rejoin the main road south. There were a couple of quite significant hill climbs, so I was glad I’d consumed the chocolate brownie sundae, although I was getting irritated by the headwind as I pedalled towards Scourie, my destination for the evening.

I passed through some nice countryside, occasionally shouting at the still persistent headwind which was making hill climbs twice as hard. Shouting didn’t stop the headwind but it made me feel better, and there was no-one else around to alarm, just the odd startled sheep and deer. There might have been the occasional haggis too but they were staying well hidden.

Road to Scourie

Road to Scourie

I passed through Laxford Bridge, and then turned left on another detour around a minor road circuit that would take me past Handa Island. I’m not sure what possessed me to add on the extra miles, when my legs were already tired. I had a feeling it was going to be fairy flat, I was wrong.

Tarbet detour 1

Tarbet detour 1


 

Tarbet detour 2

Tarbet detour 2


 

Tarbet detour - loch which I thought I recognised from a film

Tarbet detour – loch which I thought I recognised from a film with Vikings in, chasing Arthur and his Slavic Knights – King Arthur with Clive Owen, but there are lots of lochs like this about in this neck of the woods


To begin with there was a sign warning about ‘the bull’, but I didn’t encounter any aggressive bovines. I spent quite a bit of time wondering what I’d do if I did encounter a bull and it decided to chase me. I did have red panniers after all, and previously bullocks had got quite excited when I cycled past them in fields. I decided the best course of action if I couldn’t out-pedal it would be to abandon the bike to its rage and climb up a tree or boulder. I cycled down the narrow undulating road through Foindle, and Fanagmore, then around to Tarbet. There were some pretty steep climbs and descents which got me huffing and puffing a bit. 

I stopped in Tarbet and had a look at Handa Island, which is one of Northern Europe’s biggest seabird colonies, home to Gannets, Razorbills, Skuas, Fulmers and all sorts of other birds. Porpoises, Orcas and seals are also seen in the area, along with other whales and basking sharks from time to time. The ferry to Handa Island wasn’t running today, and I didn’t see a lot aside from a large bird of prey quite high up, which might have been a golden eagle, or maybe just a buzzard. It definitely wasn’t a pigeon.

Handa Island

Handa Island


There’s a seafood restaurant in Tarbet, the Shoreside Inn, that looks like it’s worth a visit, but I decided to press on to Scourie. The whole circuit is worth a ride if you’re up for a challenge, even though it’s effectively a dead end. The road is narrow, undulating, with steep sections you can whizz down and get most of the way up the following hill. I was lucky as I didn’t meet any traffic, but I imagine it can get busier when the ferry is running and it’s the holiday season. There’s a massive 15% hill out of Tarbet which got me going again, even if my chain did slip a couple of times and one of brake blocks slid out when I stopped; the grub screw holding the pad in had fallen out, but luckily I found the pad and slid it back in, okay as long as I don’t slide backwards with the brakes on. I’ll have to temp fix the brake pad until I can find a new screw, which could be a while considering the lack of bike shops around here.

I made it back to the main road, again not encountering feisty bovines, and turned right to Scourie straight back into the headwind which was really starting to p*ss me off now. It was a slow last couple of miles to the campsite, bringing today’s total to 52; it felt like more. Having arrived I had a pint at the on site bar to recuperate before pitching my tent in a nice spot right next to the sea. The campsite is situated in a great spot, laid out in tiers with lots of room, great facilities, and the on-site bar and cafeteria which are a nice addition – lots of locals in the bar too so must be alright!

Scourie campsite

Scourie campsite


After a hard day I really just wanted to eat some food and collapse, but I noticed two more loose spokes on the back wheel, the Mavic. One of the nipples had also disappeared inside the rim, so I spent the next 30 minutes taking the tyre off, finding the nipple, reattaching it to the spoke, then putting the whole thing back together again and back on the bike and pumping up the tyre. I could see this was something I was going to have to regularly check.

Feeling very grimy post the ride and bike fix I grabbed a shower before heading in search of food, and free wifi with any luck. I ended up at the as Scourie Fisher Hotel which had the food, but not the wifi which was only available to residents unfortunately; seems a bit silly seeing as I would have stayed there longer if it had been open to touring cyclists. Still the haggis was nice, as was the fried chicken, and good ale.

Feeling tired and irritable I decided to have an early night, post writing up my journal. I had a check of my maps before turning in; there was still a lot of Scotland left, and that was without including the Hebs, Skye and Mull, which I wanted to visit if time allowed.

Dusk at Scourie campsite

Dusk at Scourie campsite

Leg 17 – to Fraserburgh via Peterhead

Oh how the Scottish weather can change…

17 May 2013

Post a good night’s sleep I didn’t wake up until 8 o-clock, a new record; I must have been more tired than I thought and decided to take it easy today having not had a proper rest day for a while, still ended up doing 38 miles though.

I packed up and hit the road under grey skies, yesterday’s sunshine having vanished overnight, and with the cold north wind still persisting.

A grey day

A grey day, but could go either way still

Headed up the coast through Boddam with it’s lighthouse. I’ve noticed that a lot of the houses in this neck of the woods are painted grey, or have faded to grey, and are pebble dashed. Not the best look when it’s a grey day with intermittent rain. Reckon they should go for more colourful appearances; would help with raising spirits anyway.

Boddam lighthouse

Boddam lighthouse

I rode on up to Perterhead, where I stopped for a couple of hot chocolates to get out of the cold wind for a bit, and a burger and chips for lunch. Riding along the cycle path I bumped into a couple of elderly lasses out for a stroll, nearly literally despite frantic bell ringing, who informed me when consulted that ‘Och no, this isn’t the usual weather for the time of year’ and ‘with this north wind they’ll be snow, you mark my words’. I half expected then to say ‘we’re all doomed’. As it was it started raining shortly afterwards, a cold rain that was to persist for the rest of the day, so limited photos with the and the wind.

Peterhead looks like a busy fishing port, with lots of unloading, maintenance, Fisherman’s missions etc. Good to see there’s still a fishing industry and hope they’re not suffering from fishing quotas etc, although have to say I’m a big supporter of limiting fishing, stocks need to recover and sustainable methods employed.

Peterhead

Peterhead

Moved on to St. Fergus, and detoured down to Scotstown beach to ensure I maintained contact wait the coast.

Random bridge and more gorse

Random bridge and more gorse

 

Scotstown Beach

Scotstown Beach

It was a tough ride up from Peterhead, into a headwind and trying to avoid the traffic on the A90 by taking country roads that wound about a lot, and which my map wasn’t accurate enough for. Post St. Fergus I headed out towards Rattray Head and past the RSPB reserve at the Loch of Strathbeg (I think), with the weather really closing in at this point.

Realising the weather was going to get worse when some hills I’d been seeing for a while in the distance just disappeared, I made haste for St. Combs with low cloud bringing yet more rain. St. Combs is an old fishing village, of which there are a lot in Aberdeenshire, however it wasn’t great sight seeing weather so I retreated to the Tufted Duck hotel for a hot drink. The barman obliged with decaf coffee accompanied by fudge; he must have taken pity on my bedraggled state, although I think the clientele thought I was either mad or eccentric to be out cycling in this weather, and in shorts. Have to say that shorts are the best idea in most weathers, they don’t get caught in chains, take less time to dry, legs don’t get that cold anyway and skin is mostly waterproof.

The Tufted Duck

The Tufted Duck, not the most attractive of hotels but very welcome at this point


St. Combs coast

St. Combs coast


St. Combs coast

St. Combs coast


Re-energised I headed on through the drizzle and wind following a narrow coastal road, not on the map, past yet another golf course which had several groups of punters out despite the weather; mind you who am I to talk, out cycling in it. I reached Inverallochy, made my way through via the Shore Road to Cairnbuig and its harbour and Maggie’s Hoose. Noticed an old shipwreck blown up on the coastline.

Cairnbuig shipwreck

Cairnbuig shipwreck

Cairnbuig coast

Cairnbuig coast


Post a final stretch around Fraserburgh Bay I found the campsite I was aiming for, a cooperatively owned site with a friendly warden named Barbara who showed me around and found a sheltered spot for my tent. The campsite is right next to Young’s  Fish Factory so is a little whiffy, but accommodating and with warm showers! No wifi but they hope to get that next year.

Showered and changed I headed into Fraserburgh, and found a good curry house, the B.Raj Tandoori. Actually it might have been the only curry house but it had won awards. I proceeded to consume their Friday night special involving a lot of chicken; pappadums plus spicy onion mix, mango chutney, 3 different types of chicken kebab plus beef kebab, half a tandoori chicken with rice and curry sauce, followed by ice cream. I didn’t think it too much, was mega hungry as usual. Lovely hosts too, with a fierce front of house lady (assuming wife of owner) who ran a tight ship, ensuring the waiters were doing what she wanted.

Post curry I headed to the Galleon, a pub I’d spotted on the way in, for a pint. Chatted to a few folks who were interested in my tour, before heading back to my tent. I’d only covered about 38 miles today but felt shattered. It was nice to get in my sleeping bag and listen to the waves crash against the nearby shore, and the rain lash down on my tent, which was still performing well and not leaking!

Hopefully the weather tomorrow will improve.

Fraserburgh campsite

Fraserburgh campsite


 

 

Leg 10 – into Scotland and on to Edinburgh

10 May 2013

Warning, this post might go a little odd, it was a long day and hard ride. 71 miles, across some serious hills to begin with, and into a nasty headwind all the way.

I awoke to a grey day but at least the rain had stopped, and I’d had a cosy night’s sleep under the Monkey Puzzle tree post lots of food the evening before. Packing up a wet tent is never good, but is something I’ll have to get used to I expect, gave it a good shake but impossible to get it dry without some sunshine.

I breakfasted and set off before 9am, wanting to make good time up into Scotland and to Edinburgh. Little didn’t know at this  point what the day had in store for me. I cycled down into Berwick-upon-Tweed, and across the bridge into the town proper, before finding a McDonald’s on the outskirts for a quick second breakfast and to upload a couple of blog posts via their wifi.

Berwick-upon-Tweed

Berwick-upon-Tweed

To get into Scotland I had to hit the A1, crossing the border after a few miles, with hills getting hillier, and a headwind building from the East. Sunnier though.

Scottish border

Across the border into bonny Scotland

I finally turned off the A1 at Burnmouth, which was somewhat of a relief given the traffic, and headed down to Eyemouth along the A1107, following route 76. The headwind was getting stronger making hill ascents trickier, but the countryside was lovely and the sun was out, so all good. I had a break in Coldingham post a long climb – quick rest and a banana from my fruit basket, on the St. Abbs road in a nice warm sheltered spot. I didn’t go all the way to St. Abbs as would have involved long hill back up into Coldingham, and I was already feeling a bit tired.

I followed the coast road back towards the A1, past a wind farm having a particularly productive day. Some pretty long hills up, followed by some lovely long descents despite the wind which meant I had to keep pedalling to prevent stopping, even downhill.

Wind farm

Yet more wind farms


 

Scottish Borders countryside

Scottish Borders countryside

I had to cycle down the A1 again for a bit, whereupon I passed a sign which as well as advertising various tourist attractions, mentioned Goblins abounded in East Lothian, but that you might not see one; I’d had a feeling I was being watched for some time.

Goblins

Goblins


I turned off the A1 to Dunbar where I lunch from a local bakery – nice chicken tikka masala slice and cake. Met up with a large group of cyclists on their way to Newcastle from Edinburgh, they were enjoying a nice tailwind, I had the opposite to contend with. They were riding for a children’s charity and taking three days, looked fun but think I prefer cycling on my own or in a smaller group.

In Dunbar I also passed a Peruvian busker, sending familiar notes drifting through the town from his pipes. I’m sure I’d seen him in Norwich at some point. Quite strange to hear in Scotland where I was more expecting bagpipes. He had a funny hat on, maybe he was a goblin.

From Dunbar I headed off once more into the fierce headwind, which was proving very draining. I had to turn off route 76 to keep following the coast, and headed up to North Berwick past Tyninghame and Whitekirk. I passed Tantallon Castle and the impressive Bass Rock island.

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock Island

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock Island


I turned into North Berwick where I had a break. I’d had a tiring day so far with my bike feeling heavy. I had suspicions someone or something had slipped stones into my panniers but couldn’t find any. North Berwick is a lovely spot and would be worth a return visit.

North Berwick 1

North Berwick 1


 

North Berwick 2

North Berwick 2


 

Goblin Mound

Possible Goblin Mound or Citadel


On the subject of the large hill/mound to the north of the town, it was a little bizarre coming out of nowhere, and very imposing. Don’t know if it was man made, I suspect not, probably volcanic origins, or more likely Goblin in nature.

The clouds started to draw in now and it was getting colder, so I tried to pick up the pace, heading down the coast through Dirleton which had an impressive castle, then past Aberlady Bay.  As well as getting colder my lower back started to ache on the right hand side which I tried to ignore; suspect poison darts from the Goblins who’d realised I’d rumbled them.

I rode past Gosford Bay where there were several goblins kite-surfers out taking advantage of the wind that had been plaguing me. They were going really well but hard to capture in a photo.

Kite Surfer

Kite Surfer


I think I was starting to hallucinate at this point so I ate some sweets to try and get some energy and sanity back, before continuing along the coast past Cockenzie and Port Seton, then on to Musselburgh where the charity ride from earlier had started. It started raining at this point but I didn’t bother with a waterproof, it would have been too much effort to get out.

Rode on determinedly towards Edinburgh city centre, hoping to make last orders at the Virgin Money lounge above which our Edinburgh office is based. I road around quite a lot of Edinburgh looking for the office, due to going wrong then getting trapped by roadworks. Everything is a lot more difficult when you’re tired. Finally found St Andrews Square, which should have been easier seeing as I passed really close to it about 30 minutes previously, however unfortunately it was well after 17.30 by that point. Thanks for the donations though Edinburgh colleagues!

Worth mentioning that Edinburgh drivers are a little mad, and quite aggressive, plus there are lots of buses to contend with. I think Princes Street had the highest density of buses I’ve ever seen in one place, even more than London or Marseille, and they’re all driven by goblins as far as I can tell. You also have to watch out for the tram lines they’re installing at the moment, no trams until next year however the lines are easy to get your wheel stuck in; several cyclists have apparently fallen afoul!

Negotiating more of Edinburgh I made my way to Hugh and Meredith’s flat, friends who I’d been threatening to visit for years but never quite made it. Arrived in time for dinner, a very welcome Mexican cooked up by Meredith, followed by strawberry tart and ice-cream. Great to catch up and also learnt lots about Lego Star Wars from their son Noah. He could seriously go on Mastermind with specialist subject Star Wars, not sure 6 year old general knowledge would quite work out though I’m sure he’d give them a run for their money. Also got some laundry done so good for at least another couple of weeks now 😉

Full of food, and with thoughts of goblins receding I retreated to a comfy bed, although thinking about it Hugh does have a Goblin tendencies, especially when he gets his bottle of Everclear out – if you’re ever offered this drink run away!

Tough day, hardest yet with wind and hills, but good to end up with friends. Tomorrow equals finding a bike shop to get new brake blocks, tyres, and a once over (for the bike not me, although I could probably do with it), then going down the Union Canal to Falkirk, and on to Stirling. I might also try and find a chemist for sore nose remedy, and anti goblin hallucination drugs!