More from the Yorkshire Correspondent
Clear blue skies from dawn visible from the pods this morning and a forecast of 21 degrees, light winds, later moderating. Well at least some of that was correct.
After a hearty Scottish fry-up, we were packed and off up the first steady climb. This was the end of the rolling hills and mountains of Sutherland, and the start of flat, moorland Caithness. The main road to Thurso was pretty busy at this time of the morning and we were glad to soon turn off onto Cycle Route 1 and a much quieter backroad. The headwind was beginning to become more apparent, but no let-up in the blue skies and sunshine. Dropping into Thurso, we arrived into the first town since Inverness, and the first set of traffic lights, which was a bit of a shock.
On to Dunnet Bay for a pit-stop at the Northern Sands hotel and just saw the second group on the road arriving with one of the support vehicle as we left for Dunnet Head the most Northerly point on UK mainland. We were blown up the hill to the lighthouse and took the views down to the 300ft sandstone cliffs and wheeling seabirds. Windy rolling back down and then increasingly into an icy wind as we approached John O’Groats, only relenting as we turned the last corner with 1/4mile to go. Obligatory photos at the finger sign, and I tried to recreate one I have at home when I last arrived here by bicycle some 25 years ago, and then in for lunch.
The place has changed enormously since that first visit, when a mouldy old hotel would barely allow you through the door to buy an over-priced postcard, to now with top-end rooms and pods to stay in and the excellent café, oh and a few tat shops. A huge sandwich and soup set us up for the return journey. Comrades arrived, asking ‘how many professors does it take to change a tyre?’ in response to a puncture in the ultimate group on the road. But soon we were away again. We were surprised by a right turn, as we haven’t turned right since 500m after leaving Inverness, and then there was another one, just like busses.
Following the Cycle Route 1 back took us almost immediately onto minor roads beyond Hula (could do with a business start-up selling small, round potato snacks or larger plastic rings). We passed a grand and brand new, sparkling granite war memorial and then dead straight roads across the Caithness highlands (all 250ft of them). A final climb, gave us a straight downhill run into Thurso, a diversion to check the surf at Thurso East (top spot in UK) and off to find our accommodation for the night. Just 68 fairly flat but windy miles on the clock today.