8th August Mission Accomplished.

8th August Mission accomplished

Last night as I had just posted the blog 3 more End to Enders entered the pub. Will from USA has come over to do LEJOG. He thinks the midgies are better than the mossies he has to put up with back home. He is self sufficient on his tour. Jackie and Jenny, two teachers who classify themselves as weekend cyclists are riding for charity for CLD trust mental health for children. We had all had a very tough day into the wind.

It rains heavily overnight but I smile in my lovely summer house. Only a few midgies and not too many bites over night. I’m up about 6.30 and pack my sleepinbag and get my breakfast. As I sit looking into the garden I am entertained by 2 Spotted flycatcher. I haven’t seen any for a long while but their little figure of 8 flight from a branch or a picnic bench in this case is unmistakable. They have lots of midgies to catch. Then I spot two wood warblers. What a start to the day.

I load Genevieve, waving off the midgies as I do so and head door the road. I see Alex and his Dad and also Will and wish them well on their journey. They hope to be at JOG for 6.

If you would like to experience the first 5 hours of today’s ride then try this. Fill your shoes with cold water so you can feel puddles under your feet. Have a cold fan blowing 20 to 25 mph at you. Turn on the garden hose, cold water obviously, the spray just above the showery setting at aim straight into your face. Vision was 100 m max. I blame Neil ( you know who you are) for saying yesterday was a holiday and he had prayed to the wind and rain gods. Boy had they listened.

Despite saying all that I was on some new roads to me and although it was incredibly tough I did enjoy the route. Stonechats and red deer were highlights as was the motorcyclist who saluted me as I was struggling up a hill. 3 hours got me to Betty Hills where I dropped all over this lovely little self service cafe. Debbie, mum of Alex the young 14 y/o, is waiting there. Two steak baked and a slice of chocolate cake later I’m back into the thick of it.

From Betty Hills onward the hills come thick and fast. A good work out going up and freezing cold in the descent s. I have to hide in a bus shelter and put another layer on.

From 1.30 the sun begins to break through and it’s only very light rain. My spirits lift and I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride.

At 50 miles I see Jackie and Jennie as I’m leaving a cafe stop. They only have 15 miles to go today and have struggled with the same conditions as myself. I wish them well and crack on.

After Thuro a sign says JOG 20 miles but I have the Dunnet Head peninsula to do as well and I am feeling a little tired. Do I really have to do the peninsula?

I’m so glad I did because it was the best riding of the day. Going past the cliffs lots of Fulmars flying by. Then lots of inland water which I think will be perfect for divers but I don’t see any. What I do see though is a great skua hounding gulls for their food. Some great aerobatic manoeuvres.

A final zig zag climb and I make Dunnet head and see a motorcycle group are already there. It is strangely quiet. Then I realise they are all deaf and are signing. I join their throng with my bike to get s picture in front of the sign post. Some very basic signing by me and mixed with mime I explain what I have been doing. They take my photo and lend me a Scottish flag. I learn that 2 of their group had walked LEJOG recently and raised 55k for their charity. They say they will race me to JOG. I set off retracing my route. The great skua is still there doing its thing. It’s 15 miles to JOG. After 8mules 20 motorcycles roar by all pulling, waving and giving the thumbs up.

I am on new roads to me going to JOG do with 5 miles to go I stop and check the map, have a drink when Alex and his Dad go by. I ride with them for a mile but know they need to finish their adventure together.

Barry from Cambridgeshire are you ready for this. I leave them behind and peddle on! I see Debbie waiting for them in a lay-by with a mile to go with his cadets racing top.

Then I have arrived. The deaf motorcyclists are there and cheer me in. They take my photo. They all try and lift my bike and are surprised how heavy it is. 5 minutes later Alex and his Dad arrive and he is met by lots of cadet supporters. Lots of photos and pats on the back.

While there, two lightweight bikes with tribars are lent against the signpost. I meet

Lee and Antony who are riding 1000 miles to LE in 4 days, they start at midnight. We have a good chat and I hope the wind is on their backs and the weather kinder than it has been to me. They are riding for Grace Kelly childhood cancer trust.

My tent is pitched at JOG campsite with lots of drowned little midgies still on it. I have a phone call with Jayne, can’t wait to get home now but train is on Sunday. I head to the pub and write this. There will be another blog tomorrow but I need to think about that a bit more yet.

And that’s a wrap.

1447.7 miles

60,457 feet of climbing

0 p*******s

7th August all day into the wind to Craske, but no midgies or rain

During the night it rains heavily. I wake up a couple of times but just smile and roll over. The car park is flooded when I go to get Genevieve.

Lots of sharp climbs out of Dingwall but it’s fine, a strong wind blowing and no midgies. I’m thankful for that even if it is head wind.

Lots of scenic views from coastal to mountains. At Edderton viewpoint of the Tain I stop, not just because it’s the top of a climb but because it’s stunning. Ron from Ohio comes over and asks how my ride is going. We discuss riding here compared to America. He wouldn’t ride there. We discuss the Ride across America race and some of the accidents that have happened on that. I share about the Tour Divide ride, at least lots of that is off road. He wishes me well and I head off again.

This is my favourite part of the ride. So open and empty in places. It does mean the wind whips across and I’m guessing I’m struggling to do 9 miles an hour. You stop peddling and you stop moving.

After one particularly stiff climb I have to wait to let some cars go through and I stop next to Tommy. He is out for his lunchtime walk and works in the hydro Electric power stations. We were actually standing on water pipes from stations further up. Tommy explains some of the issues they are facing. With all the rain land slides have been an issue. He has also been to work at the power station at Lowestoft. Small world!

I eventually arrive at Craske. Only 53 miles but into that wind all day I decide to stop here for the night. I would have needed another 25 miles on to the next suitable place.

I walk into the oasis that is the Craske in and Douglas and Brandy the dog welcome me. I ask if I can camp and yes it is possible As we talk more I am offered the summer house- yes please!!!

Back into the pub I meet Jerome and Charlemagne from France. They are Seasonal workers and ski instructors in the winter and croupiers. They have huge packs and are walking and hitch hiking for 2 weeks in Scotland.

Debbie enters the pub and she is waiting for Alex and Ashley who are riding LEJOG. Alex is a 14 year old cadet from 451 squadron. Carol Vordermann has been tweeting his progress for him. I find him on twitter and send an encouraging message and I am ‘liked’ by Carol Vordermann!!

Unbeknown to me Debbie has been using me as a reference point. She goes 10-15 miles ahead of Alex and waits. She has seen me several times during the day and knows they will be 30 minutes or so behind me. Alex is suffering with a pulled muscle. Apparently I am always smiling when she has seen me. It obviously goes to show what I know already that cycling is good for my mental health. To follow Alex @451SqnATC on Twitter. It would be lovely to see them finish.

Meals have to be prebooked but they are going to see what they can do for me. I think it will be too far to finish tomorrow but will see how the day goes and what time I leave. 82 miles to JOG but I’ve got the extra to Dunnet Head on top.

6th August Midgie motivation and wet ride to Dingwall

Last night when I left the midgie hideaway I headed back to the tent. I practised my version of the Scottish wave, the midgies were still out in force. Getting in my tent lots had got in there as well. I had 15 minutes of ‘ let’s see how many midgies I can kill before bed’ I had some insect protect spray but really not a good idea to spray in the palatial 2m x 1m x0.75m. I sleep in long sleeves, midgie net as well as my sleeping bag.

At the risk of repeating myself, heavy rain during the night. I’m up at 6.30 and pack the inside of the tent. I head to the midgie retreat for breakfast and as I open the tent I am met with clouds of midgies.

Francine and Vanessa are already in there and share their coffee. They are debating whether their planned Munro walk/climb will be on. It’s interesting observing the peer pressure. I know two would call it off now but don’t want to let the others down. The relief when the guide messaged them and cancelled was palpable. Lots of smiles mixed with a little disappointment.

I’m having the same dilemma , to ride or not to ride? A text message chat with Jayne informs me it’s going to be wet for the next 4 days. No choice but to crack on.

7.30 the rain eases and I go and pack away a soaking tent and load up. It’s going to be a long day. How long do midgies live in a wet tent?

I say my farewells, Martin checks the weight of my bike. He likes the bag over the Garmin to keep it dry. I head off towards the bridge. This is more the Skye I know in the rain but it is still beautiful. I have forgot to put the Avon o so soft on. A quick stop at Coop for food for the day and a danish. Then the climbing can begin.

Lots of very steep climbs in the rain to start with. Midgies add motivation, as soon as I stop they are there. If I keep moving it’s not so bad. A quick comfort break and I am observed by 3 stone chats. The herons along the Loch edges look huddled down, like old men in their rain coats. The look prehistoric as they fly away. Toads are crawling across the roads.

The first cafe I see I stop for a cuppa and plaster myself with Avon O so soft. I check my neck and it looks as though I have the measles, obviously I’ve been too slow up some of those climbs.

Even though it is still raining, the low clouds hide the tops of the climbs and so you just keep going. The mountains and hills still have a charm even in this weather. The view from Stromeferry is incredible, and not just because I needed a rest after a massive climb.

An early lunch at Strathcarren as I know I won’t see many more places to stop today. I obviously had to try the whiskey cake. The rain has almost stopped and as I get ready to go the Garmin won’t turn on!!!aaah the second one this trip.

I’m obviously on the more well trodden/ridden route oh JOGLE as I see 7 different cyclists all fully loaded heading in the opposite direction. I’m also passed by 12 Morris minors on some sort of rally.

Jayne rings me and we talk for 15 minutes or so and I’m climbing the whole time. I’m amazed I can still hold a conversation.

43 miles in I spy Ledgowan Hunting Lodge. I walk in and immediately make a mess with dripping coats and bags on their leather settees. As Jayne will say, it’s a gift I have. Really good lemon drizzle cake though and up close and personal with a deer in the grounds. 30 miles to Dingwall and I have checked there is a campsite there.I crack on as a group of German motorcyclists smile and laugh at my load.

Long straight roads with steady climbs are the order of the afternoon. I have to keep pulling over to let cars and lorries past. I had forgotten how hilly the last 6 miles into Dingwall are. I stop to ring the campsite. They had a months worth of rain yesterday afternoon and they are Waterlogued. That was all the incentive I needed. As I cycle through Dingwall I see a B and B and ring the number. I’m given another number to ring. Someone has just cancelled so I can have the last room. Honey, walks into the street to direct me to place.

Wet kit everywhere and then a warm shower. I’m not moving anywhere tonight.

1303 miles covered and 140ish to go I think. 2 days should see me through although I might stop at Craske tomorrow, a right of passage for lots of cyclists It is a pub in the middle of nowhere. I will see how I feel when I get there. Tomorrow’s ride was my favourite on my first LEJOG. I’m guessing it’s going to be in the wet so it will be interesting to see how it compares. Now for CLEAN SHEETS:)

5th August more rain and then over the sea to Skye

Heavy rain overnight meant packing a wet tent away again. At least it was fine while I had packed. I had talked nicely to Jonny last night and wrangled buying breakfast in the hotel. Full cooked breakfast got me off to a good start. By 8.20 I’m on the road. 5 dry miles and then the heavens open again. Stunning scenery I think, well what I could see though rain speckled glasses. Nothing beats slogging up a hill, rain dripping from the brim of your hat onto your Garmin. You can just se through the rain drops you are doing 5 or 6 mph. Just enough to stop it going to sleep.

I was hoping to stop for coffee and cake at Glen Uig but I arrive 10.15 ish and the cafe is closed until 2pm. I hide in the bus shelter for 10 minutes and have a flap jack. I have no intention of running out of energy today.

About 10.30 it becomes light rain and the sky starts to brighten and the light on the mountains start to change. 11.30 and it’s dry, hurray but I keep my jacket on with the hope it might dry out.

I stop at the marine centre in Arisaig for cake and tea. Cracking view out to sea and the sun comes out. I change my planned route as I find an 8 mile coastal cycle track to Mallaig. Incredibly scenic but very lumpy. Will I make the 2pm ferry? Wheatears ( female ones who have decided to wear shades of brown today) were a highlight on the golf course. Skylarks singing also accompanied my cycling. Two or 3 very long drags into Mallaig and I have to get off and push some of the last one. I make the ferry with half an hour to spare.

On the ferry I meet Laura and Steve and their two girls. It is their first Motorhome experience and we discuss pros and cons. The biggest being having a bed long enough to lay in. Steve is 6 feet 4. Guillemots and gulls accompanied us across. Couldn’t spot porpoise or dolphins although I was looking hard.

I can see Skye, could I possibly cycle through it in the dry. I cycle 18 miles in the dry through Skye and can see the tops of all the hills and mountains. A first for me as it has always rained when I’ve been here before.

I search for campsites and one 2 miles away on my route but when I ring it says it’s totally full until 15th August. I carry on towards it as it’s on my route. When I reach it big signs outside saying full. I stop anyway. Mall comes out and says’A ride up cyclist, we always find room for you’ relief.

I get a tour of the site including the midgie escape room.

As I put my tent up the wind drops and out come the midgies. I’ve covered myself in Avon O so soft but they still come. I quickly get the tent up and hope it will dry out somewhat before tonight. Then I run with my food, gas burner to the Midgie Escape room, relief.

I’ve just finished cooking my tea when in come Beronica and Martin. They are Munro baggers!!! I had heard of this but here is the lesson for today.

The mountains in Scotland that have a height of 3,000 feet (914.4m) or more are referred to as Munros. Named after Hugh Munro, the first person to compile a list of them in 1891, there were were originally 283 Munros.

Veronica has completed 261 /282 munroes Andrea and Francine 80 ish each while

Martin has completed all the munroes. They are members of the Glasgow Hill walking and mountaineering club. With my fear of heights my heart races as they explain their exploits of today. I ask what’s next and apparently there are

Corbetts 2500-3000feet to do as well. They all just love being in the open air.

An early night for me and I know I’m going to run the midgie gauntlet and again in the morning as I pack the tent away. Long trousers and long sleeves are the order of the day along with the midgie net I had packed and carried with me.

Very weak signal so no photos uploaded today.

4th August 3rd Cardinal point achieved and then bonked!

You are aware one of my cycling mates asked for more sex in the blog, this title might suggest that. However to my non cycling friends to bonk on a bike is to run out of energy big time. This happened today but more later.

Last night I sat in the campers open shelter and made a warm drink and was joined by Gavin and Sarah. These are hardcore walkers who wild camp for weeks at a time. We swap stories but when they say the time that it was pitch black, setting up an emergency camp and they find 34 ticks on Gavin and 16 on Sarah it makes me think I’m a more sedate adventurer. Sarah suffered with Limes disease after this. They are getting up the same time as me with a 14 mile off the beaten track coastal walk to do.

Neil sends me a weather update. Heavy rain in the morning clearing after 10. The first part is right. I awake to pack away to get the 9.30 ferry but it is tipping it down. I clear and pack the inside of the tent and load up Genevieve in the campers shelter. It buckets down even more. I have breakfast and wait, I’ll get the 11 o’clock ferry. 10.30 and it is still heaving it down, maybe the 1 o’clock then.

At 10.45 it does start to slacken off and I quickly take my chance and pack away a sodden tent. Gavin and Sarah are still there so I’m not the only one waiting it out. I say my goodbyes to them and Angus the owner and head back down the hill into Tobermory.

I have an hour to wait so nip into a cafe. Local smoked salmon, scrambled egg and toast ordered. I meet Murdoch and Andy who are cycling the islands. They are debating whether to go to Ardnermurchan as the weather is still not good. Andy is riding a Genesis bike and is a keen golfer so lots to talk about.

At this point I share my table with Joe and Will, originally from Bury St Edmund. Joe has a mate who rode a tandem with a skeleton on the back from Lands End to John O Groats. Trying to beat the world record distance for tandem ride with skeleton. One for Steve Eggleton to consider beating ( He’s just bought a tandem).

I catch the Ferry and as I am about to board I see Murdoch and Andy have decided to make the trip as well. It’s getting warmer and it’s dry but the sky is ominous.

After landing I say goodbye as I’m turning left to Ardnermurchan lighthouse. In my mind it was only a mile and a half from the ferry. 2 miles in I see the sign for the lighthouse6 miles, gulp! It is very up and down and road conditions are poor so you can’t make the most of the downhill to help with the uphill. Gradients are all 8 or 9 percent up, hard work. It is incredibly wild and desolate and I feel totally on my own. I love it, with hundreds of meadow pippets and a stonechat to keep me company and sheep. Very different from the Eastern most point.

I get to the lighthouse and feel a little cheated as there are lots of cars in the car park and the cafe is busy. I hear this conversation with a child and Dad.

‘ I don’t want to go and see the building!

It’s only bricks.

It’s only bricks with a light on.

It’s nothing special. ‘

I’ve ridden the best part of 1200 miles to be there, it is special to me.

I head to the lighthouse And Ian, with his son and Alistair McCloud his Dad take my photo. They quiz me about my journey and realise the significance of the photo to me. They disappear and I’m left on my own around the lighthouse. This is more like it!!!

I start to retrace my route which is unusual on this trip. One of the reasons I enjoy these adventures is riding from place to place. At home all rides have to be a loop.

2 miles later I have stopped, not just because of the steepness of the hill but because 20+ red deer have appeared on the horizon. Rob rides up on a Genesis. A good day for Genesis bikes. He is touring but credit card style so only a very small seat pack on his bike. He knows the area and tells me it is 20 very tough miles to Salen but an incredibly beautiful ride. He is spot on on both accounts.

Mountainous views, sea views,forest the route has it all. It also has hills and more hills. It starts to rain again. Thinking back now I don’t think I drank enough on this part of the ride. 2 miles from Salen and I have bonked!!! Legs feel weak and my vision is a little all over the place. A quick drink, one more climb and I make it to a hotel/ bar in Salen. It has stunning views across the sea and surrounding hills. I order chicken and haggis, it is beautifully presented and incredibly tasty but I could have eaten three of them. The beer goes down well though. Some guys at the bar are talking Merlin engines and about Guy Martin. I share my experience of the Royal Enfield earlier in this trip. The sticky toffee pudding is sensational.

The manager comes in and we start talking. Jonnie asks Where am I heading tonight? I say and he gives me a weather update, heavy rain and storms very soon. I talk nicely with him and because of the meal I’ve had and I will stay having some beers I can stay on site. What a result and Genevieve has a garage for the night. I get set up and the heavens open big time once again. I’m sitting warm and dry in the bar, beer in hand, some WiFi so I can write this. A good decision to stop. Thanks for all the support and advice on FB, I can hopefully make up a little extra tomorrow. I’m still well ahead of where I thought I might be so it’s not an issue.

Here’s hoping for better weather in the morning. I’m off to look where I might stop tomorrow now. Sleep well, I know I will I’m shattered but what a stunning view.

3rd August what’s the story in Ballamory

Difficulty loading photos last night and it kept republishing blog each time it failed. Weak signal again so I’ll only risk one photo again tonight.

Last night was a rowdy night in the pub, it was so busy and I eventually found out why. It was the Rector’s leaving do, just love that.

Awake early, this time it’s Herring gulls doing the alarm call. A very heavy dew and the tent is soaked. I packed all the inside of the tent away. Had some breakfast and waited for the tent to dry a little.

While I was waiting I had a chat with Jaime. He was packing away on his motorbike and was heading for Skye and then some more Scottish islands. He said ‘ Don’t you get frustrated stopping to take photographs?’ I had to think, definitely no. My frustration is the camera can’t catch what I’m seeing or the emotion you are feeling at the time. The only time I might not stop is on a steep climb when I’m in the rhythm or it would be difficult to start again. His wife is a keen cyclist and he photos my bike and gear, amazed at what I’m carrying. But as we know you can have four seasons in one day here. I finally leave 8.30 later than I wanted.

I knew the ride to Oban was hilly with two or three 5 mile climbs. Lovely scenery to take your mind off things. The first 20 miles are ok, but the cafe stop with fantastic views to the sea does not open until 11. It’s 10.20 so my water bottle and cakes appear from Sally’s Tupperware box and I sit and use their benches. I’ll get a drink at the next village.

The next village appears with adverts for their cafe on the roadside. I pull up and the cafe above the shop is closed until the 5th. A bit of milk and a sausage roll disappear and it’s on again to Oban.

This 20 miles was tough. I’m not feeling it as much today and struggle on some of the steeper sections , double figure %, on the longer climbs. The last one beats me and I have to push for a 100 yards or so. Into Oban and make the ferry with plenty of time to spare.

On the ferry I meet a lovely family who were bird watching, seal watching. I spotted a seal and was immediately awarded 20 points. Not sure what prizes these points made. Razorbills and guillemots were thought to be too common. I saw a small black bird skimming the water, then 2 more. I’m not totally sure what they were but my guess would be a type of petrel. I’ve got back up trying to work out what they might be.

I leave the ferry and ask in the information centre where I might sea certain wildlife on my route to Tobermory. I get to the first site st the golf course and Phil, Andrew and Thomas ( the family from the ferry) tell me there is a white tailed sea eagle sitting in a tree. They lend me their binoculars and their it is. Within 1 mile of the ferry. I thank them and they move off and I start to pedal again. 300 yards later I see a large shape over the water above a fish farm and then I see the family again beckoning me again. They had seen it on the shore and it took off. It’s majestic as it circles, a 9 foot wingspan and that big white fan tail. Perfect. Thomas in the mean time has caught a grasshopper. Lovely to see a family enjoying nature.

The next challenge was to try and see an otter. A slow ride along the coast checking but to no avail. A sign says 76 otters killed on a certain section of the road. I do see seals and golden eye, lots of herons and geese.

The last two climbs into Tobermory are on single track road and I have to keep stopping in passing places to let cars go by. It is surprisingly busy.

The campsite in Tobermory is ….

Up another hill and a mile outside of the town. Angus sorts me out and we talk about the wildlife. He tells me of some visitors last week telling him he had more grass on his site than the whole area they lived in. They saw a toad for the first time and were fascinated, taking lots of photographs.

I set up camp and walk into town for a meal. What is the story in Ballamory? The Inn I had used previously on the harbour has had a fire and is boarded up. I find another pub.

Local smoked trout, venison casserole and sticky toffee pudding soon disappear (£17 total, what a bargain). I spy the whiskey section. They have my favourite of Glengoyne and I’m about to reach the 3rd cardinal point in the morning so it’s an early celebration:) a long uphill walk back to the campsite. The ferry doesn’t leave until 9.30 tomorrow as it’s Sunday so I can have a lay in.

70 miles today. 75 miles yesterday.

2nd August Beautiful through Arran and over the 1000 mile mark for the trip.

This mornings alarm clock were Oystercatchers, redshanks and curlews. Lovely to hear. I awake to a totally dry tent and I make the most of it and pack away quickly. While I am doing this

Martin who is with his family and are from Holland ask if I would like a coffee. Proper coffee. I stand and chat with Martin he is a keen cyclist. He and 3 friends had 8 days touring Scotland last year. It rained all 8 days. I was talking about riding on Arran and he is very tempted to take his bike there for the day. About 60 miles around the Island I think. The chat and coffee meant I was half an hour later leaving than I had planned but who cares, this is the beauty of touring solo.

A good cycle path to Troon and I’m soon drooling over the Royal Troon golf course. It looks in superb condition. Not sure I could have fitted the clubs on my bike though. I pick up cycle track 7, it was not what I planned but it was following the coast and keeping me of the roads.

Where I thought I would rejoin my planned route was a flyover and I couldn’t pick it up. This lead to an extra couple of miles and the run into Ardrossan for the ferry I hit 10 red lights in a row. I was not meant to catch the 9.45 Ferry. As I cycle into the ferry port the ferry is still there and push bikes are just loading but they’ve closed the barrier and I have to wait.

I go to the terminal to buy my ticket. £3 for a single with a bike, I love the fact they keep the prices down for bikes. I meet Jackie, Bob and Harley the dog. I have a little fuzz therapy. They arrived as the bikes were just starting to load, had tickets but as they were pedestrians they were not allowed on either. They tell me the midgies yesterday were bad, so I cover myself in Avon O So Soft. I smell lovely and hopefully it will work.

I grab a coffee and then birdwatch in the harbour for an hour. Common and sandwich terns, guillemots, merganzer are added to my list.

I then meet PJ with a fully loaded fat bike. It looks huge and he is off for a long weekend on Arran. It was surprisingly lighter than mine. He looks like a proper adventurer, see the photo.

PJ tells me when we reach Arran I have an hour between ferries at Lochranza. It is 14 miles but I will have to climb the booglie climb. No hope!! So I have 2 and half hours to do the 14 miles.

I buy my tea at the Coop just in case and start peddling the coast line. Warm, dry and in sunshine. It is stunning and I will have to come back and spend more time here. Not one bird of prey spotted. I was entertained by gannets diving like missiles into the sea. Huge white birds with yellow heads. How they don’t break their necks I’ll never know. I could watch them all day. On the Booglie climb I’m managing the 8 and 9% but it kicks up to 13 or 14 and I have to push for 50 m or so. It was then I spotted two pairs of stonechats so the push was worthwhile. Back on the bike and the decent into Lochranza over heating the brakes all the way.

I have plenty of time do nip into the distillery. Well it would be rude not to. I have a couple of tasters and order a couple of bottles to be sent home.

Jim who served me teaches me the Gaelic for cheers and the reply. Slainte ( needs an accent and pronounced slange) reply slange va. I carry on and stop at the golf course as I had spotted red deer here previously. They were there again. Magnificent creatures.

I head to the ferry and check times. Brenda tells me it is 2.30 so I have time to nip back for a quick beer. On my return she tells me an otter had just used the slipway. I’d rather have seen that. Her husband Davy is an occasional cyclist who goes on tour once a year with his mates. He texts his mates with my route. Go on Davy, you know you want to!

The sea is milk pond flat and I don’t even have to tie Genevieve up. Kate and Jim are looking at my bike and tell me of the Isla sportive they are going to ride it is called ‘the Ride of the falling rain’. It has 8 distillery’s in 90 miles so sounds the kind of sportive I could be interested in.

I cover another 25 miles back on the mainland. Mainly with the sea in view on one side or another. Very hilly but I’m just enjoying it. I stop at Lochgilphead and ask where the nearest campsite is. 2 miles straight on, result!!

Molly the dog greets me first and then Ian takes over and sorts me a pitch. I quickly set up, everything has a routine now and it’s quite efficient. Quick shower, eat my tea and then off in search of a pub with WiFi to do this. Well that’s my excuse. Hooded crow added to the list on the way.

38 very hilly miles into Oban tomorrow and then on to Mull so I want to make an early start.

1st August A dry (ish) day and to the coast

A slightly disturbed nights sleep with the people in the adjoining room coming in noisily at 1.30 and making noise to 3.30. I was up and about at 6.30 I wonder if they had heard me! I’d packed all my panniers last night, so a quick wash, dressed and down for breakfast with all my bags. The hotel staff wheeled Genevieve into the breakfast room for me so I could get away in good time. A French father and son questioned my route, distance I was going to cover today and how heavy when the bike was loaded. A combination of their English and my poor French got the messages over. So with an aurevoir I set off through Dumfries.

Over the bridge in Dumfries and I’m heading out on one of the main roads when Douglas an old boy waves me down. Where are you going? I explain. He then tells me the best way out avoiding the main roads. He then tells me about his two bikes and his cycling. Chapeau sir, I hope I’m still doing what you are doing when I reach your age.

I follow his advice and a couple of miles on I look down and my phone is missing. As I was not yet on my planned route it had not been talking to me. The cycle path had been rough and bouncy so it must have shaken loose. Don’t panic, retrace your route. I head back a mile or so and then I see a lady with her three boys who had been crossing the road as I went by. I asked if she has seen it. Linda has just picked it up, taken a photo of it and was about to put it on fb. She had also found my emergency contact details that I have saved on my home screen. What a relief!!! I thank her profusely and I plug in, turn an audio book on, Sean Conway book, his first cycling adventure so I know it is there. I’m off again.

20 miles in I make it to Moniaive. 5 minutes early for the cafe so I head to the shop to stock up on lunch things just in case. Back to the cafe and I have been beaten in by Alan and Josh, both out on their mountain bikes. They have stopped for cakes after 10 miles, my sort of riding. Alan is a high school teacher and Josh a retired teacher. We talk cake first, then where we have come from, finally where we are going. Alan is particularly interested and I can see the cogs turning as to if he could do something similar in the future, especially when I mention the LEJOG Sustrans off road route. I think he was going to see how much trains were later. I ask about campsites and the only one in the area is Prestwick, good to know early in the day. He lived in Ayr and later in the day I passed their parked car. 7 miles before Ayr I’m sure they passed me. I waved just in case.

An 8 mile climb follows the cafe stop. I just spin at my own rate and eventually I get to the top. Lots of wildlife to look at as I ride up. A sparrow hawk with its flap flap glide follows me down the road for a bit. Lots of goldfinch and I get buzzed by a wren. Buzzards are peowing over head. I eventually reach a lake on my left and can see a fish farm and a bird of prey overhead. Is it an Osprey, I know they are in the area. A forked tail is puzzling and when I get close enough it is a scruffy buzzard that’s lost it’s centre tail feathers. Osprey still to spot, maybe tomorrow.

I make it to Dalmellimgton for lunch and sit next to Jim, who retired last year aged 81. He is suffering a little with his health but it is lovely to see everyone in the cafe or who comes in, come over and chat with him. He loves Yorkshire. He tells me how he used to cycle to the Isle of White every year for a holiday with his friends. Serious mileage. He is considering an electric bike and if he can I know he’d enjoy being out again. I wish you a speedy recovery Jim. I check campsites, Ferry times, campsites on Arran and decide Prestwick is my best option for tonight.

Some stunning scenery again although I’m on a slightly busier road than I like, especially on the long uphill drags. However no walking for me today.

I ride through Ayr and pick up cycle route 7 along the coast to Prestwick. I can see Arran in the distance. Sit down for this bit, the sun is out and the wind has dropped!!! I enjoy the cycle along to find the campsite which is behind Prestwick airport and backs on to Royal Troon Golf course. It is an immaculate site and when I ride up the lady on reception doesn’t think they have room for me. So much empty grass space. I explain I will be leaving early and the boss walks in and I’m sorted for the night. He asks me about my journey and where I’m from. When I say Norwich he asks me about Captain America’s. Jayne and her family love this place. Turns out he nearly bought it several years back.

Early night and early to rise and I’ll see how far I can get tomorrow. I have ferry times ready and I know about the long uphill on Arran before getting to the Ferry. A pub meal to fuel up and the eating of synchronised cake as it’s my cycle clubs cake ride tonight.

31st July Rest day in Dumfries

I woke 7.30 in a proper bed but no sound of rain. I checked my phone and this tweet from Susie Dent was the first thing I read

A lovely reminder (because the cap fits) that hurkle-durkling, from 18th-century Scottish slang, means lying in bed, or lounging about, long after it’s time to get moving.

That would sum up my day quite nicely. A hot shower and down for breakfast which someone else made. So this is how the other half live.

I hear back to my room and just laze about and read a few pages of my book. I’ve managed 19 pages on the whole trip!

10.30 and I leave the B and B and head into Dumfries. THE SUN IS SHINING!!! Where were the storms that were promised. So a dry mile and a half into the town centre, a treasure hunt to find the tourist information shop. Turns out it was next to a closed cafe I had dripped all over the floor on my previous job. I’m given a map of things I might find interesting.

As I head to the first of these I see the Frothy Bike Shop. I can’t help but go in, it has a wide door, ramp access and a place to park your bike inside. A lovely cafe and a bike shop. I have a chat with Harris about cycling in the area. He had just returned from France and finding it less inspiring now. We discuss my route and he is slightly envious but wishes me well.

First port of call was the Bridge museum , a building that is built into the structure of the Devorgilla bridge and one of the oldest buildings in the town. The bridge built in 1431. It had been two dwellings, 3 rooms each with no services and used until quite recently. The ladies in the museum make me welcome and share lots of information. The rooms set up as Victorian times with one room as s dentists. Amazing how so many dentist tools still look the same today. I leave a donation, I’ve been well trained by Jayne. Lots of visitors to her heritage centre but hardly any donate.

Next to the highlight of my day. I walk up the hill to the old converted windmill( see if you can spot the white building on the right in the River Nith picture) This building now houses a museum and a Camers Obscura. What a fascinating piece of technology. A highly interesting presentation on how it works and 360 views of the town with the history thrown in. If you ever get the chance I highly recommend seeing it. They only use it on dry days so it was a good job it was not raining.

I retrace my steps over the bridge and can add several species of hills to my list, sand martins skimming the surface of the water, great crested grebes to my trip list.

I head back to the B and B and give Genevieve a little TLC ready for tomorrow. At 3 ish the Thunder and Lightening start and now I feel fully justified for my rest day. Panniers are packed, kit is finally dry and it’s back to it in the morning. I’m hoping to make Troon at least tomorrow but know there are some sizeable lumps in the way and wind looks as though it’s going to be in my face again. Oh well it will be good to be riding:)

31st July Rain again and into Scotland

Last night as I was in my tent, tawny owls and oyster catchers were calling and they soon lulled me to sleep. After the long day yesterday I did not get up until 8am.

Tony who had shown me to my pitch last night was almost packed. He is travelling around and gigging with his guitar and is making his way down to Barcelona. His bike with guitar on the back is even heavier than mine. We swap notes about our routes and I wish him safe travels. He does 50-60 miles a day and that is good when you see his bike in the picture. What a life style.

Harry is also on the move. He is travelling by motorbike and came up from Peterborough yesterday. He laughs at how long it has taken Tony and myself. He was off to see Hadrians wall. The last time I saw it, in the rain, a Roman centurion came marching along. Amazing what you see at times.

I leisurely pack away and lay things out to dry they are still soaked from the previous day. Danny who owns the place comes over and I pay for the night. He has been developing the site and bunkhouse over the last 6 years. He is very much in to conservation of birds, butterflies and insects. It’s a real balancing act for him as one visitors want a neat and tidy site, whereas the wildlife needs the uncut pastures. There is a stream that runs at the back that he is now developing. I walk over with my early morning cuppa to see a dipper fly past. I love watching dippers with their dinnersuit white bibs and fat little bodies. Didn’t get to see him dive and swim today.

I’m just finishing breakfast when it starts to rain again. I quickly pack my tent away and I’m ready to go by 9.30.

A leisurely cycle back the way I came last night. At least this time it’s mainly downhill. I stop in Alston for sandwiches and lunch. Just in case. I also needed spare batteries for my head torch. Then it’s on to Brampton.

The ride in the rain is still beauty. Some of the cloud formations are stunning. Clouds very low hiding the hill tops. I don’t feel in a rush today and I manage all the climbs including some at 12 or 13%. Sometimes the climbs over the last couple of days have been 3 or 4 miles. I just find my rhythm and sit and spin. If it gets really tough I count pedal strokes to 10 and repeat and pick short term targets. The amount of false summits is frustrating but I’m getting used to that and just keep spinning.

As I arrive in Brampton I see Ste and James. They are cycling coast to coast but credit card touring. Their kit is minimal and so light weight. James from Liverpool has given up his job and is just riding his bike. He had no idea what day it is, fantastic! My calls to Jayne in the morning always have a what day is it in them. They warn me of a storm coming in. I check on the internet and where I’m heading has thunder and lightning predicted for 5 and all day tomorrow. I decide tomorrow is going to be a rest day. I also need to get a wriggle on to beat the storms by 5. I just have time to take a picture of the Shoulder of Mutton pub and post it on my cycle club page. That is the pub we stop at on a Tuesday night.

The terrain is a lot flatter and the wind has changed direction and is slightly helping and I make good time around Carlisle and I soon find my self a Gretna Green. No one asks me to be a witness for them. I am just taking a photo when four more cyclists turn up. A road sign opposite says Lands End 478 miles. It’s taken me almost 900!

Natalie, Jess, Julie, Trevor stop to take their photos and take one of me at the sign. They are riding LEJOG but a more direct route. Julie works for Peak tours and this is the fourth time for LEJOG since May and she has another one next week. Serious mileage and they are soon heading off and on their way to Moffatt.

I pedal on to Annan where I previously stopped on my LEJOG 2 years ago. It was wet then as well for the following day. I’ve decided tomorrow is a rest day and ring Jayne ( I know it’s cheating Shon!) to see if she can find me a B and B so I can make it to Dumfries before the storm. She comes up trumps and I have a room for the night. 200m before the B and B it starts to rain. Perfect timing. Genevieve has a place indoors for the night and she will get more TLC tomorrow.

I wash my kit in the sink and can’t quite believe the colour the water goes. Not one you’d find on a Dulux colour chart. I’m looking forward to a night in a proper bed again ( Double cheating today Shon). I go and find some tea but feel absolutely shattered. I think my body knows I’ve stopped for a while. I’m looking ditto getting out to the Islands again soon and I’ve worked out I have 530 miles to go. ( the sign at Gretna had JOG at 360). Let’s hope the weather clears up soon as I’m either soaked or cooked on this trip.

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