…continued from the first part of the holiday…
Scourie – Durness (29 miles)
Accommodation: Lazy Crofter bunkhouse
Ouch. Bones were aching after the hillfest of the day before and it didn’t help that the view from our breakfast room was of the massive hill on the other side of the bay we would be starting off the day with. But it turned out not to be too bad. After the first ridiculous steep climb it levelled out a little. I don’t mean flat but a more genteel gradient and we also benefitted from a good tail wind. It seemed to last like that for the first part of the morning and we got higher and higher until we were eventually in the cloud. Or it was just really foggy. It was eerie but just another aspect of the Scottish weather we had to experience.
After a while we came out of the clouds and started on what would be about a seven mile descent into Durness. The light was incredible as the cloud just formed a thick blob above our head and outside of this the sun lit up the hills and mountains in very strange ways.
We ended up getting to the hostel by about 1pm and after checking in to out tiny room – slightly smaller than the sleeper cabin – and eating some lunch we did a bit of exploring in Durness the most north westerly village on mainland Britain.
We came back to the hostel to cook a nice meal and chat to a couple who hadn’t been able to get a B&B and were generally moaning because there was nothing to do in the area and nowhere too eat. But they probably would have thought that had they been staying in London. Anyway if you fancy a trip to Durness there are three or four restaurants and lots of things to do. As we found out the next day on our day off.
Day off in Durness
Accommodation: Lazy Crofter bunkhouse
The boring couple (so boring we didn’t even name them) were in the room next to ours and we heard them flee Durness at about 5.30am. Good – we would probably have much more fun without them.
We enjoyed a non fried breakfast and then made our way to the Cape Wrath ferry. There were two sailings a day, one at 11am and one at 1.30pm. We had decided not to join the Cape Wrath Fellowship although it was very tempting but the hills of the previous few days had taken their toll and I just needed a break. Still I’m upset I won’t be in a club with this man.
The were about 25 people waiting at the pier which was quite an amount when you saw the size of the ferry. It took ten people at a time at Â£4.50 each return. We crossed the Durness sound to the waiting mini bus. The trouble is we had to wait for the second crossing and the midges were unbelievable. Even the ferry man could be heard muttering ‘blody medgies’ (that was Scottish). But once we got on the mini bus for a 40 minute ride the the lighthouse (Â£7.50 return) it was fine and we enjoyed the commentary from the driver and the views of red deer and MOD chequered huts.
The lighthouse was interesting. Puffins usually live on the surrounding rocks but they are feeding out at sea at this time of year so we didn’t see any.
The weather was getting more and more lovely and after buying food for the evening we went on a walk to the Smoo Cave, followed by a sit on the beach of Sango Sands. We passed lots of restaurants along the way to and from all the interesting things we were doing and seeing.
I’m glad we proved them wrong.
Durness – Altnaharra (42 miles)
Accommodation: Altnaharra B&B
This was to be one of our longest days and we set off at 9am to be hit with the worst head wind we have ever cycled in. Cycling down hill was even difficult and it wasn’t much fun. Especially because we had to keep the speed up a bit because we didn’t want the boring cyclist from the night before to catch us up.
We were cycling along the coast and unfortunately reached a large loch that hadn’t yet been blessed with a bridge meaning we had to cycle up one side and down the other, a round trip of abut 15 miles. Roughly nine of those were into this head wind and we no shelter at all. Worst of all was reaching the end and turning the corner to be hit by the crosswind that just blew me off my bike not just once but three times. I was getting angry and definitely having a sense of humour failure which I think Tom guessed when he turned back after my last fall to see if I was ok and I just shouted ‘IT’S STUPID’ in his face. He didn’t know what was stupid and neither did I really but we both got back on our bikes and kept quiet until the tail wind took hold.
It carried on like that throughout the day although I managed to manage my sense of humour a bit better. It was really lovely when at one point during a particularly miserable section of wind and rain a woman overtook us in her car and gave a very friendly wave. Then as we rounded the corner we saw she had parked by a sheltered barn, got her camping stove out and was making us a cup of tea. We stood there for ages drinking her tea and eating our lunch. Thanks Di.
We finally reached our B&B to be met by the very chatty Mandy and her very hyperactive chickens that she said actually have an asbo. I don’t know if she was joking. She said she was being 100% serious. It was an entertaining evening in many ways. I really don’t know what else I can say except it was an experience.
Altnaharra – Lairg: by bike (23 miles)
Lairg – Inverness: 1510 – 1649 (rail)
Inverness – Edinburgh: 1827 – 2209 (rail)
Edinburgh – London: 2340 – 0718 (Caledonian Sleeper)
On our last morning we woke up to an amazing sunrise and view of hills and deer from of bedroom window. Breakfast was again – an experience.
We had a beautiful ride along National Route 1 and saw lots of cyclists doing Land’s end to John o’Groats as that is part of the route. They were all going the other way but we had the tail wind. At one point I think I actually shouted to one of them ‘we have the tail wind’ which was mean really and I don’t know why I said it. I think I would have hit me if I was him but I was just glad it wasn’t the other way round after the day before.
We then killed some time in Lairg (I’m afraid it isn’t as interesting as Durness) and caught the train at 3.10pm for the start of our 16 hour train ride home. We enjoyed sunset while travelling through the Cairngorms and woke at 6.30am at Euston Station. We were home by 8am in a daze after 10 days of clean air and brain detox with barely any mobile signal. The only sign of modern life was an unusual desire to watch Come dine with me on channel 4 at 5.30pm with someone called Clive who I used to work with. Unfortunately we missed the final on friday because we were watching beautiful views from a train in the highlands.
Does anyone know who won?