Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Day 11 - Crewe to Ludlow

A lovely day today. We followed the CTC route virtually all day.

We left Crewe towards Nantwich and then turned into the lanes to make our way towards Audlem. Sue's knee is continuing to give her problems and she is having to take painkillers to be able to cycle. She bought a knee support in Audlem, which helped stop it jarring on the rough roads.

We made our way towards Market Drayton, which is the "Home of Gingerbread". Sue had a gingerbread man but wasn't impressed at all. We got lost on the way out of town and found that Market Drayton is also the home of Muller yoghurts. We eventually found the intended route south past the Golf course, despite a complete lack of signposts. We followed the Tern valley southwards and we could see the Wrekin ahead - the only hill for miles around.

The planned route went over the Wrekin, but we diverted west towards Cressage, where we took a minor road towards Much Wenlock. We had to climb a 1 in 6 hill, up Wenlock Edge before dropping into the town. We had a quick look round but there wasn't much to see. We continued up another steep climb along a road running parallel to Wenlock Edge, which we followed all the way to Ludlow. This road gave superb views of Brown Clee Hill on the other side of the valley. We eventually made it to Ludlow and a much deserved rest day.

76.30 miles today
In 7 hrs 8 mins
Ave 10.68 mph
Total to date 725 miles

Day 10 - Whalley to Crewe

We followed the CTC route for the first few miles from Whalley, which is very scenic. However, scenic means hilly and worried about Sue's knee, we abandoned the planned route and dropped down onto the A49 south of Preston. We followed this through Wigan and Warrington, though busy in parts and quite urban, we made good progress. We turned off into the country lanes south of Warrington and made our way towards Crewe. The weather had been cloudy but dry but it started drizzling a little for the last hour's run into Crewe where we stayed at the Travelodge.

70.18 miles today
in 6hrs 26 mins
Ave 10.9 mph
Total to date 649 miles

Day 9 - Shap to Whalley

We didn't have breakfast til 8.30 and then I managed to get the key to the garage stuck in the lock and it took 20 minutes to free it again, this delayed our start and we didn't get away until 9.45am.

We made our way over through Orton (where they were having a "Scarecrow" competition - one of the scarecrows was of Eddy Merckx, celebrating 40 yeards since his 1st Tour de France win).

We continued towards Tebay and then had a back-breaking climb out of the valley. After several nore tough climbs, we emerged into the Lune valley and made our way to Kirkby Lonsdale for lunch.

We continued to follow the river but had more tough climbs to contend with. Sue got a puncture at the Crook of Lune and it was now 4 pm and we still had over 30 miles to do. We abandoned our planned route and dropped onto the A6 to get some fast miles in, before turning off at Garstang and heading for Whalley, where we stayed at the Abbey. We didn't get to the B&B until 7.20 pm, by far our longest day.
The Abbey itself was very picturesque, but we didn't have the time or the energy for a proper look around. This was the view from our bedroom window.

We ate at the local Indian restaurant, who had an eat as much as you like Sunday Buffet, so we ate loads, then went back to the Abbey and straight to bed, completely shattered.

78.77 miles today
In 7 hrs 15 mins
Ave 10.66 mph
Total so far 579 miles.

Day 8 - Lockerbie to Shap

It was raining quite heavily as we left Lockerbie and rejoined the B7078 south through Ecclefechan and on towards Gretna Green and the border with England. It stopped raining as we got to Gretna.

Sue stopped to take a photo of the Old Blacksmiths Forge, but I didn't hear her shout and carried on for about a mile. We nearly lost each other and I had to retrace a long way back to find her again. We crossed into England and stopped for photo's by the "Welcome to England" sign, before turning off the main road and following minor roads to Carlisle. The roads were very busy as we neared the town, so we diverted onto a cycle route into the centre. After lunch, we left going south past the racecourse and had lovely views of the Lakeland hills to the right and the Pennines to the left. We arrived in Penrith, which was busy with Saturday traffic and began the long climb up to Shap on the A6.

We stayed at Fellhouse B&B in Shap and at the Mango restuarant, where I had Jambalaya and Sue had West Indian Lamb curry.

Physically, I was Ok but Sue was starting to suffer with her left knee.

60.34 miles today
in 5 hrs 46 mins
Ave 10.45 mph
Total to date 500 miles

Day 7 - Motherwell to Lockerbie

We made our way through Hamilton on busy roads, but the traffic got lighter as we got further south.

We were following the B7078, which was the old main road before the motorway was built. The surface was rough in places, but on many stretches, one of the dual carraigeways had been turned into a dedicated cycleway, so it made for pleasant riding with hardly any traffic. The road was rolling with long gradual climbs and long downhill stretches and we made good progress, even though we had a headwind. The weather was cloudy but mostly dry, but we did catch one shower about 10 miles from the end of our ride.

We had lunch outside the village shop in Abington, which is, surprisingly, the highest village in Scotland.

We stayed at the Elms guesthouse in Lockerbie. The weather had cleared to a fine evening and we took a walk up to the Garden of Rememberance, which marks the Lockerbie Air Disaster, where 270 people died in 1988. We found that many of them were 20 year old American students returning home for Christmas.

After watching Steve race in the first round of the Tour series on ITV4, we walked into town to get something to eat.

63.87 miles today
In 5 hours 33 minutes
Ave 11.50 mph
Total so far 440 miles

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Day 6 - Inverbeg to Motherwell

A fairly easy day today, mostly on cycle paths, down Loch Lomond, then along the river to Dumbarton then into Glasgow. Weather OK in the morning, but rain showers again in the afternoon.

After updating the blog at Glasgow Library, we made our way back to the riverside and followed the riverside path eastwards, past the Celtic ground at Parkhead (site of a famous Forest victory in the 1984 UEFA Cup), to eventually emerge at Uddingston, where it was a short ride on the road to reach our overnight stop at the Inkeeper's Lodge at Strathclyde Park, just off the M74 motorway. We had asked for a ground floor room, but didn't get one, so had to lug the bikes up the stairs, as they were being kept in our room overnight.

We ate at the Toby Carvery next to the hotel, where I had an "eat as much as you like" Chicken Curry and Sue had Roast Beef, before retiring to bed.

51 miles today
In 5hrs 31 mins
Ave 9.27 mph
Total so far: 376 miles

Day 5 - Inchree to Loch Lomond

An epic day today. It was raining as we set off and we had a wet ride through North Ballaculish and over the bridge to Glencoe. It stopped raining at Glencoe village and we had a lovely ride with a tailwind up Glencoe, a 9 mile climb, but not steep. We stopped several times to take photos on the way up. It started raining again near the top and it was pretty grim over Rannoch Moor. We had now turned into the wind and it was very exposed over the top. We passed the summit (1142 feet) and were expecting a long descent down to Tyndrum, but the road was still up and down and we had a 3 mile climb to reach Tyndrum itself. We stopped at the Green Welly cafe, which was a bit pricey and had a shop full of tourist tat.

We hit the real downhill now, descending quickly to Crianlarich and then down to Ardlui on the shores of Loch Lomond. It was still raining on and off and we were riding into the wind, but the traffic wasn't too bad. I had been warned about the traffic on the A82 over Rannoch Moor, but we didn't find it to be a problem. Perhaps it's busier on a sunny day in mid-summer. We continued to Tarbert and to our B&B at Inverbeg, up a little side road to Glen Douglas. We had a nice, big room, with a wonderful view across the Loch.

Dinner at the Inverbeg Inn was a bit pricey and the portions weren't that big. Managed to sample 2 more real ales - Highlander and Killellen. Back to the B&B to watch "The Apprentice", then off to bed.

Another 65 miles today
Total now 325 miles.
B&B - The Corries

Day 4 - Drumnadrochit to Fort William

After a hearty breakfast, we set off along the north shore of Loch Ness, stopping for lunch at Fort Augustus. The weather was cloudy with sunny spells, but it remained dry all day.

After lunch, we did a short stretch along the Caledonian Canal, but rejoined the A82 at the Bridge of Oich, as the towpath was a bit rough in places. We could see the snowcapped peaks of Anaoch Mor and Ben Nevis in the distance. We carried on along the A82, which wasn't too busy. We stopped at the Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge to take some photo's and had tea at a nearby cafe. We then dropped down on a minor road into the river valley at Gairlochy, then followed a minor road towards Fort William. This was far from flat, but afforded great views on Ben Nevis, on the other side of the valley.

We did the last few miles into the wind along the busy A82, south of Fort William, to our B&B at Inchree. Despite assurances when we booked, that there'd be somewhere to eat, the owner told us that the local Bistro was closed on Tuesdays. However, he suggested catching the ferry to the other side of the loch, where there was a pub doing food. He gave us a lift to the ferry terminal, which was about half a mile from the B&B. We caught the 6.15pm ferry (free to foot passengers) to Ardgour. The pub is right by the slipway and we had Fish Pie(Sue) and Steak and Ale Pie(Trev), washed down with several pints of Calders 70 shillings ale. We caught the 8.30 ferry back and walked the short distance back to the B&B before retiring to bed.

63 miles today in 5hrs 36 mins - ave 11.18 mph.
Total so far 260 miles.

Day 3 - Bonar Bridge to Drumnadrochit

After a decent breakfast, we set off under cloudy skies along the southern shore of Dornoch Firth. We were still on Sustrans Route 1 and the road was fairly quiet and pleasant. We had planned to go over Struie Hill, but gave it a miss as it was covered in low cloud. We joined the A9 at Dornoch Bridge, but only for a mile, turning off into Tain. We were tempted by the Glenmorangie Distillery Visitors Centre but pressed on. We followed minor roads past Loch Eye (the noo!) where it started to rain. I crossed the A9 at Kildary and looked around but Sue was nowhere to be seen. She eventually appeared, she was suffering from "the bonk" (a technical term meaning lacking in energy), so we stopped at a garage for food and drink.

We continued over minor roads to Invergordon, stopping at a cafe for lunch, where the owner gave us some free chocolate and water for later. He had also done the End-to-End but on foot, taking 42 days.

It was now raining again and carried on for most of the day. We continued through Dingwall, Muir of Ord and Beauly to start the last climb up the A833. This went on forever, we must have climbed for 9 miles, before a steep descent into Drumnadrochit and our overnight stop at the Aslaich B&B. Eveing meal was taken at the Benleva Hotel, where we had 3 courses. My sweet was interesting, it was called "Cramachan" - a mixture of wild berries, cream and oatmeal. Full of calories but delicious. Meal was washed down with several pints of Piper's Gold.

71 miles today in 6 hrs 11 mins - ave 11.5 mph.
Total so far 197 miles.

Day 2 - Bettyhill to Bonar Bridge via Altnaharra and Lairg

A lovely day today. Started at 9.30am in bright sunshine from the Bettyhill Hotel. We met another end to ender, about the start the last leg of his journey going north.

We rode through Strathnaver on a single track road with hardly any traffic. The weather was dry with sunny spells and the wind was still an easterley, but much lighter than yesterday. It was a cross-wind for most of the day.

We kept getting passed by a French couple and a German guy, who were doing the Strathnaver trail, which is about the clearances in the early 19th century. There are lots of abandoned villages along the valley. We spoke to all 3 and found out the Frenchman's wife was actually from Lands End!

At Altnaharra, we met a couple of cyclists going the other way, who were doing LE-JOG and on day 16 of their trip. They'd only had one day of rain on the whole trip. I bet we won't be so lucky.
We started a long climb at Altnaharra and were suffering a bit into the wind as we reached the top. Luckily, we came across the Crask Inn, where we had sandwiches washed down with tea.
Suitably refreshed, we carried on southwards into the increasing strong wind, which had now veered round to the south-east. We were still on single track roads with passing places. Most motorists stop and wait for you, but some just carry on regardless, not even bothering to slow down and bullying their way past you. On such car flicked up a stone which caught me square in the face.

The road became 2 carraigeways just before Lairg, where we diverted onto a minor road to the Falls of Shin. We stopped at the visitors centre for a drink and saw a life-sized waxworks model of Mohammed Al Fayed wearing a kilt! Tacky or what? Apparently, he owns the visitors centre and there are lots of Harrods goods for sale, but we didn't buy any. We carried on to our B&B, Kyle House at Bonar Bridge. We had an evening meal at the Dunroamin Hotel, washed down with several pints of Skye Red Cuillin ale - recommended.

57 miles today in 5hrs 15 mins
Ave 10.94 mph
Total 126 miles so far.
B&B - Kyle House, Bonar Bridge

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Day 1 - Wick to Bettyhill via John O Groats - Sat 16 May 2009

The forecast rain arrived and we set off from Wick with a strong cross wind and driving rain. Took us an hour and a half to do the 17 miles to John O' Groats. We saw a couple of End to Enders going the other way, south to Wick and beyond. We arrived at JOG cold and wet. I was so cold I couldn't write properly on the post cards I'd bought. We had photos taken then warmed up whilst drinking coffee at a cafe.

Then we set off westward along the North coast, with the wind, thankfully, now right behind us. It was still raining but we gradually warmed up on the road to Thurso. Saw plenty of Lejoggers nearing the end of their quest.

We lunched in a bus shelter at Thurso and carried on past the Dounreay Nuclear Power Station. The road had been pretty flat and the scenery uninspiring up to now, but at the Bridge of Forss, we started to hit the hills. The weather cleared up after lunch and the sun even made a momentary appearance at one point. We stopped for a warm drink at Melvich. The landlord said he gets quite a few End-to-End cyclists in. The fastest were 3 guys who'd ridden up from Lands End in 3 days, riding for 20 hours a day. The slowest were a group of 70 year old ladies who'd taken 6 weeks. After Melvich, the route became ever more hilly but the views across the mountains and out to sea were great. We rolled into Bettyhill just after 5pm, having covered 70 miles.
I'm glad we had a tailwind today, I don't think we'd have made it into a headwind in that weather. Bettyhill is very picturesque with great views of across a sandy bay.
We head inland tomorrow and finally start heading south. Hoping for better weather, we've got 55 miles to do and it's pretty flat, by all accounts.

70 miles today in 6 hours actual riding time.
Ave 11.5 mph.
Plenty of sheep on the roads, but no cows!
B&B is the Bettyhill Hotel.

Day 0 - Travel to Wick

A epic 14 hour journey on the train. Caught the train from Newark to Edinburgh, this went OK. Bikes in guards van, though it was a bit of a scramble to get them loaded at Newark. Then had a 2 hour wait at Edinburgh for the Inverness train. They only announced the platform about 5 minutes before the train left, so there was a mad scramble to get on, but we got on OK. Then a 40 minute wait at Inverness for the Wick train. We had reserved space for the bikes. There were 3 bikes on the train and, in theory, 4 bike spaces, but 2 of the spaces were taken up by pushchairs, but we still managed to squeeze the bikes on.

Beware, even if you have reserved bike space, it doesn't guarantee you'll get it, if it's taken up by someone else first.

A slow journey north from Inverness as the train line meanders inland then back to the coast, then inland then to Thurso and finally to Wick. The countryside inland is really desolate with miles of peat bog and hardly any buildings. We saw many herds of wild deer. We'll be cycling back through this area on Sunday and Monday. The train got in at 10.15 and the B&B was just round the corner from the station. We watched the weather forecast before going to bed, forecast heavy rain for north Scotland with an easterly wind.

B&B was Bramhill Guest House - cheap and convenient for the station.