Having started the ride on Saturday 18th April with a 20 mile ride from Thurso to John O’Groats the final number of miles covered up to & including Saturday 25th April was 262 miles which was slightly below my initial estimate of 280. The bike suffered 0 punctures, 2 front brake failures (cable popped out of cantilever arm) due to braking too hard downhill & 5 chain disengagements (due to hard gear changes uphill). I normally drank at least 2 litres of water per day & consumed numerous chocolate bars, flapjacks, Kendal Mint cake bars & pasties. That may sound a lot but on a hard climb day I was burning about 2,500 calories.
The weather throughout the journey was brilliant. I had expected wet, windy & possibly snowy conditions on the journey & bought an expensive pair of waterproof trousers, I also had a good quality rainproof jacket & gloves as well. I never wore any of them during the journey. Instead I wore shorts, base layer tops, tee shirts & a fleece top which were ideal for the warm & sunny conditions. There was no rain at all & only a couple of occasions when it became windy when I was cycling on higher roads.
I enjoyed the solitude & cycling on my own being able to stop where I wanted & when & to be able to travel at my own pace, however after a few days on my own it was good to cycle with someone else who with an interest in cycling touring, having a local ‘guide’ was also useful as I didn’t have to keep stopping to consult my maps, thanks Graeme! The routes I cycled followed National Cycle Network routes 1 & 7 which are mapped by the cycle charity Sustrans & are either traffic free or on quiet roads, I also used Ordnance Survey Landranger maps for the relevant areas.
Drivers of vehicle on the route seemed to be more friendly than at home, many of the roads I rode were single track with passing places & drivers would routinely pull over to let me pass with often a smile or wave, some even stopped to talk to me asking about my route & where I had travelled from, this even applies to drivers of white vans. I did pass the odd touring cyclists always heading in the opposite direction to me towards John O’Groats, it became a matter of routine to stop & talk with them & swap information on the roads ahead or behind us. I should however add that Eric the Dutchman is not included, he was basically a ‘nut job’ & I should have known better than to agree to cycle with him from Thurso to John O’Groats, it wasn’t until half way to John O’Groats that he started asking me for money as he only had his tent to sleep in. I’ll never know if he made it to Aberdeen or indeed his home in Holland, with a bit of luck he’s still floating across the North Sea on his airbed trying to engage in conversation with passing North Sea ferries.
I’m planning to continue my ride through Scotland again soon – hopefully in July this year. I’ll be setting off from where I finished this ride – Aviemore & then heading south through the Cairngorms & Grampian Mountains to Edinburgh so I’ll continue writing this blog during that journey.