Land’s End to John o’ Groats in 9 days, by cycle, unsupported.


Alan Langley, Peter Hazelwood, Ashley Martin.

Planning – We had several debates about the route we should take, and tactics for riding, but settled on:

We also had an unresolved issue regarding the last two days – whether to go to the recommended Crask Inn, taking a route through central Scotland then along the North coast which added c30 miles cycling, or the more usual East coast route, which is busier. 


Day 0 - Friday, 21/5/10, Land’s End to Redruth – 30.4 miles, 2 hours 10mins, 14.1mph average.

Weather: Sunny, 21 degrees C, wind c10mph from E.


A friend from work, John McDonagh, kindly drove us down to Land’s End in the afternoon. (He was then driving back to Swindon to pick up a friend and then drive over to the south coast of France – arriving at 5am !) It was good for us to be in control of the transport, as pre-match nerves jangled.

I didn’t enjoy the waiting around at the start, while heaps of photos were taken – prefer to get on with it.

I said a few words as we set off . .. “Each to his own pain” – how prophetic that would turn out to be.


It was a nice training ride in the sun, to the overnight stay – the Lanner Inn, Redruth. ‘Proper Job’ beer nice, but pub didn’t know whether it was old or modern. (6/10 – not in Good Beer Guide, but functional.)

We stayed in the cottage at the back and Alan had first choice of bed (rotated each night) – he was in the double-bed, Ashley in the bunk bed and I was in a sofabed in a lean-to out the back. The Tawny Owls kept me awake as they called from right outside the room. (Impressed Alan/Ashley by informing that the female goes ‘Kerwick’ and the male adds the ‘twoooo’ – pair present if ‘twit twoooo’ heard.)


Exotic Animals: Monkey, Parrot, Camel.

[Exotic Animals – these refer to any ‘exotic’* animals seen on pictures or statues by the roadside while cycling. A useful breaker of the monotony at times. (*definition of exotic as define by Pete H.!)]

Birds: Tawny Owls, Sedge Warbler, Peregrine Falcon (seen from the Lanner Inn ! - birding joke).


Day 1 - Saturday, 22/5/10, Redruth to Crediton - 95 miles, 8.15am to 7.15pm, 12.8mph moving average.

Weather: Some cloud in morning, then Sunny, 21 degrees C, wind c10mph from SE.

The choice of ride through Cornwall is: a) scenic, incredibly hilly and long, or b) The A30, busy, noisy dual-carriageway, as 'flat' and 'direct' as you get here. We edged towards b) but with a sprinkling of a). The A30 is just a heads-down grind, with lorries whizzing past your shoulder, and you avoiding the debris by the road-side. The diversions onto country roads, by contrast, were really nice and such a welcome change.

The method of navigation we are using is for Ashley and Alan to have GPS's, with each day's complete route on them and then me with cut-down paper maps showing a bit more of the area - useful for back-up if the GPS's stop giving directions. For this day, I had planned the off-A30 sections. I have to say that on past experience of training runs it is quite brave of the other two ! On this jaunt, panic started to set in when we hit a 'No through road' sign down a lane. The lane went up over the A30 and I had to admit that the route did appear to go on, or very close to a railway track ! Amazingly, the lads ploughed on regardless, and we were treated to a few miles of tarmac'd cycle-track along the old route of the railway, parallel to the A30 - result!
(The cycle-friendly routes done using - recommended, but only does 50km sections at a time.)
The cycling on the first day rather worried me, as we were very disjointed as a group, with big gaps opening up between us, and each doing their own pace. This not only makes it less enjoyable, but it uses much more energy - travelling in a group is c20% easier. This became apparent late in the day when a harmless navigational error - made by all together - ended in everyone getting tetchy, due mainly to lack of energy. (I say 'everyone', but obviously that doesn't include Alan, who is unflappable - so far!)

Brilliant pub stop at lunchtime - Eliot Arms, Tregadillet, near Launceston. 14th century inn, with dust dating back to then (unaltered). Great food and drink. (9/10).

Me keeping my modesty in the Eliot Arms.                                                    Ashley refreshes the parts other drinks don’t get to.



The story of Day 1 for Ashley and Alan was my bike bag, on top of which I had precariously balanced: a heavy D-padlock, binoculars, a waterproof cycling jacket and enough food for all of us for 2 days ! (See photo below.) All held together with the thin elastic chord mesh on top of the bag. After the first serious pothole in the road, the whole lot sank onto my wheel, and even after several rearrangement stops it continued to sag. Not a good omen for the next week. At the pub, I got rid of the top-load, thanks to Alan folding the coat into it’s own pocket (he’s a very practical lad to have around) and slinging it below the frame; Ashley took the heaviest part of the D-Lock on his bag; I dumped most of the food (except a big bag of peanuts which Ashley kept for a further 3 days before they fell off up a hill !); and tied the essential binoculars onto my handlebars. (It became an ongoing joke that I didn’t use the binoculars for the first 5 days !)

The photo above was taken by a female vicar, who we stopped to ask the age of her church ! We did this, as we were very impressed by the church at Land’s End which was founded in 520 AD (not 520 BC as was first thought !!).


Alan found an England flag that had fallen off a car and attached it to his bike, and he also had a pink kids bike-horn (the sort you squeeze) attached – and he wasn’t afraid to use it, especially when children were passed. This, along with the 1970’s black (Ron Hill) trainer bottoms he brought out on the first evening led to him have the unfortunate nickname ‘Paedo’ for the rest of the ride.

The day ended in a 2 mile climb up from Crediton to Shobrooke - not good after 95 miles - but it was SO hideous we could only laugh at it . . .  that was until we got to the Red Lion pub there and then had a horrible thought that we might be staying in the pub back down the hill at Crediton - luckily not so - but Ashley's face was a picture !

Strange people in the pub – the landlord had his step-daughter and granddaughter behind the bar – same person. Alan tried to listen to the explanation, but got lost. Nice enough helpful people, though. He let us lock our bikes in the office room. There were about 40 people in the restaurant for a birthday do – when I had my shower, it leaked on to one of their heads, and the landlord had to come and get me out of the shower !


I got sunburnt on my shoulders. I put on loads of factor 30 suncream, but unfortunately missed the bits which were white, right next to my tri-suit vest. Not as sore as it looks. But it meant that I had to wear a long-sleeved top the next day in the heat. The only other place I got burnt (and indeed all three of us did by the end), was on the back of the right calf ! We were generally heading NE, so with the sun from the south, it was this part that was facing into the sun. The other exposed part was the neck, but we all protected that.


It was Ashley’s turn to choose rooms, and bizarrely he chose to sleep in the twin with me, and Alan had a double-bed (again!) in a room on his own.


The phone didn't have 3G connection in the wilds of Cornwall or Devon, so couldn't update the blog directly, as planned. (Later changed to email updates, as Ashley used, which worked better.)

Exotic Animals: Lion, Hippo (reported).

Birds: Tree Pipit singing, Flycatcher species, Sedge Warbler, Raven.
PS. Am I really the ONLY cyclist in the world who realises that binoculars are an essential bit of kit ??!!


Day 2 - Sunday, 23/5/10, Crediton to Bristol - 95 miles, 8.45am to 6pm, 13.9mph average.

Weather: Sunny, 21 degrees C, wind c10mph from SE.


Crediton is just 7 miles outside Exeter, to show how far this distance is. Strangely, the heat wasn't a major problem, apart from the 2 mile long, steep climb up Pen Hill from Wells over the Mendips. 750 ft of ascent, with most of it in the full baking sun. It was only the pint of Old Speckled Hen at lunchtime that got me over that - how Ashley did it on only a Fosters I don't know, and poor Alan attempted it on a Ginger Ale and Apple (!! He later told us that this is called an ‘Alan’ in his local pub). We collapsed in a shaded heap for 10 minutes at the top of that one. For the rest of the day, we just kept well topped-up with fluids, and the full English breaky and Carvery + pudding at lunch was enough.

Ashley got an England flag for his bike, to go along with Alan’s – joy ! (May not be such a great idea in Scotland, so I plan to get a Scottish one to confuse drivers aiming at them.)

Noticeable how the courtesy of drivers towards cyclists is directly proportional to the distance from Bristol. The only exchange of opinions through a car window so far has been just outside Bristol, with one of our Eastern European friends, who was frightened of using the right-hand lane to overtake on a straight road.

Recovering in the shade at the top of Pen Hill.

Alan had a bit of a problem from the first day – rubbing in the bottom area. I was pleased to have Vaselined-up, and Vaseline now became Alan’s best friend in the world – never saw them apart after today. By far the biggest scare for me so far was when we paused for a Vaseline stop, and I was still texting when we pulled away (. . .yes, I know), I went to put my phone back in its pouch on my bike bag about half mile later to see that I'd left the pouch unzipped, and my money had fallen out. I debated about whether to go back for it . . . anyway 1 minute later I found it by the side of the road - £90. It was like winning the lottery!

We were to meet Alan’s family and my mate Mark at the pub stop – but the route taken was different to the one I used to select the pub stop – oops ! So we missed everyone and instead went to the Piper Inn, Ashcott. After lunch, Alan’s wife (plus 2 kids) tracked us down en route ! First I knew about it was a car madly beeping at me coming the other way. It was nice for Alan to see them for a few minutes, and then they went to Ashley’s for the evening, where Alan stayed. I went home, which was nice also. Not only to see the family, but for a fresh set of clothes (which would be used for the rest of the trip).

Ashley flies the flag at the Piper Inn.


The GPS route was to take us through the centre of Bristol, but as we approached Whitchurch (South Bristol) I realised that we had all done a training route taking us along a good cycle-path through Bristol and onto the Bristol-Bath cycle-path. We all agreed that this would be better in the heat, if we could remember the way (as we’d had trouble finding the Bristol-Bath cycletrack last time – it is not well sign-posted – a feature of cycletracks throughout the country we found!). As it turned out we had no trouble this time. A nice end to the day.

We all worked really well as a team today - sharing the work at the front (into an annoying, but not killing head-wind), sticking together and shouting warnings of hazards (compare with Day 1).


I went to the pub with my mate Mike and told him the story so far. I said that before I started, I gave the chances of not making it due to body failure v bike failure as 75%:25%, but that this had now changed to 50:50 – due to my legs feeling strong (even if they ached), but the equipment (e.g. saddlebag), not.


Having this stop at home, meant that we could pack very light, with fair-weather gear for the first 2 days, given the weather. I now changed all my kit (cycling and evening), which would be used for the next seven days.


Exotics Animals: Wolf, Bison.

Birds: Nightingale (superb sound of one singing by Ashley - the place in Somerset), Grey Wagtail, Bullfinch, 2 x Sedge Warbler, Mute Swan.


Day 3 - Monday, 24/5/10, Bristol to Whitchurch - 125 miles, 7.30am to 9.20pm, 13.5mph average.

Weather: Sunny start then cloud, 20 degrees C, wind c10mph from N.


Every evening we had a ritualised debate about when to get up the next day. This was nearly always along the lines of: Alan wanting to get up before 7am, me wanting to get up at 9am, and Ashley trying to keep out of it ! (It drove him potty.) As today was going to be our biggest mileage day, I agreed to get round Ashley’s for 7am. Unfortunately, I left myself too much to do and got there at 7.30am. This included fixing our first puncture of the trip; a slow one, that I noticed on the morning of Day 2. Pumped up the tyres in the morning and it lasted all day. When I fixed it, I had a 1 cm long thorn in the tyre, that re-sealed itself at a certain pressure – rode on it for 95 miles !


When I finally got to Ashley’s, the guys weren’t happy, and so I forced myself to lead most of the morning – not the usual turn of events. Both Ashley and I are slow starters, so we relied on Alan to lead us mostly for first 2 hours until we had woken up. Then we lead Alan for the majority of the rest of the day.

I was pleased to find that the England flags had been removed for Wales – we were target enough for drivers as it was. We cycled virtually the full length of Wales today! Including right across Herefordshire, and 95% of Shropshire. The only county sign that hasn’t been present so far has been for Gloucestershire – wasn’t a sign coming in from the south, or leaving from the north.


What a cracking start to the day, as we cycled across the Severn Bridge, and then up the Wye Valley – superb scenery. After crossing the Severn, we stopped at a burger van by Chepstow racecourse, as we missed the fried breakfast we were already accustomed to at B&B’s. The burgers and sausage/bacon butties were delicious, and I congratulated the lady by saying “your baps are lovely”. She took the compliment well, and gave us free Mars bars.

Over the Severn Bridge . . .                                                                             And into Wales.



We finally found a ‘Gloucestershire’ county sign as we went back into it past Chepstow, which was by a side-turning off the A-road, and stopped to get a photo. A bloke in a 4x4, pulling a big trailer, saw us and got out of his car to take the photo for us. He stood in the middle of the road as a traffic-jam built up. (He had supported some others doing Lejog last year.)

Photo taken as traffic-jam builds.


Because this day was so long, we scheduled two good stops. The first was at Hereford, but we had made good time in the perfect conditions, so continued to a pub listed in the Good Beer Guide – The Wrekin Inn, at a small village called Wellington. Unfortunately it was not open on Mondays ! But some locals advised we go to a Garden Centre nearby, which served good enough food, and Ashley had a Cream Tea, which he’d been banging on about since the first day ! 56 miles complete.

Ashley gets his Cream Tea. (He really IS this ugly in real life !)


We then made fairly good progress up the A49 to the next stop, at the Three Fishes, Shrewsbury. A superb pub (9/10), in a really nice town. The landlord felt sorry for us and gave us waiter service to our table for drinks. They had a couple of real ales and FIVE real ciders (shame I couldn’t sample them); good food too. Also, the two churches in the town have recently each been populated by a pair of Peregrines.


The miles started to take their toll as we got over the 100 mile mark, and legs ached, ‘bits’ rubbed and energy levels got low. The last 20 miles took for ever. When we finally got to Whitchurch it was after 9pm and things took a bizarre turn when Ashley was out in front and went straight past the B&B. Alan had exactly the same route in his GPS and had booked the place, shouted for him to stop but on he kept going. We caught up with him about half mile later, and finally went to the B&B, Sedgeford House.

Upon arriving, the B&B owner, a small balding bloke with glasses and a vacant stare, came out and showed us where to put our bikes and lead us into the house – he never said a word, not “hello”, not “where you cycled from ?”, nothing. The house and rooms were all very nice, and immaculately laid out and clean. We all had the feeling that whatever we did in our rooms was being live-streamed straight onto the internet. Don’t be the next hit on Youtube, was the advice to each other.

It was my turn to choose rooms, and I got a lovely night’s sleep in a double-bed in a room on my own. Alan made full use of his bed and stayed in while Ashley and I went for a pint at the local hotel.


Having completed the longest of the days riding I now started to think, for the first time, that we really were going to finish. All the muscles in my legs ached from the accumulated work of the last three days, especially thighs, but my knees (with dodgy cartilage and ligaments) were holding up well. I have been taking cod liver oil and also some Glucosamine sulphate for the knees – don’t know if this helped ?


Exotics Animals: Alpaca, Elephant, Bear.

Birds: Dipper (amazing sight of one flying down a side street near the River Wye – presumably a tributary runs near-by), Lesser Whitethroat (heard).


Day 4 - Tuesday, 25/5/10, Whitchurch to Kendal – 114 miles, 8.40am to 8.15pm, 13.6mph average.

Weather: Sunny spells, 17 degrees C, wind c10mph from N.


The route north continued up the A49, through Warrington and Wigan to Preston. We all agreed that this was the most uninspiring area we rode through – Cheshire has very little going for it, that we could see. It is flat farmland, with no scenic views. We didn’t even see the flood of Bentley’s expected, owned by all the footballers that live there.

The old family residence.


Today was another big day in terms of miles covered, so we pushed on in the morning to Preston, covering an impressive 65 miles before lunch. (It amazes me that we have ridden from Bristol to Preston in just 1.5 days !) The mid-morning stop was in a café, and Alan remembered that he had a college friend who came from the area, so asked the café owner where Newton-le-Willows was ? “You’re in it !” was the reply.

We sat in the window-seat in the café, with the bikes in full view outside – but Alan insisted they were locked-up, as he did every time we stopped. He is a cautious chap, unlike me. I never once removed my saddle-bag from the bike at any of the daytime stops. The others removed theirs at every one.


The other area where the difference in risk-taking became apparent is in the art of ‘drafting’. This is where a bike closely following the one in front gains about a 20% energy saving, because the one in front is cutting through the air (especially in a headwind) and the one behind travels in the ‘hole’ created.

(See for excellent article on cycling energy.) The effectiveness of drafting decreases with distance from the bike in front, down to zero effect about 6 feet back. The most effect is directly behind the lead bike, however it is much riskier to be that close.

(Interestingly, the above article also says the lead bike gains a slight energy advantage by being drafted – basically it gets a slight ‘push’ effect. Also, note that it is warmer when drafting, than leading – very apparent in following days.)

I drafted about 6 inches from whoever was leading – high risk, high energy saving. What this meant for the lead bike is that I continually knocked their back wheel with my front one whenever they sat up, stopped peddling or braked. Very annoying, I have been  told! Alan drafted about 4 feet back – nice and safe. Ashley was generally somewhere between. There is also the need to have trust in the lead biker, and I trusted the others. The same can’t be said of me – I am a jittery biker, and doubly so on my light-weight bike. Turning my head to look behind shifts me a foot sideways.

The view for most of the trip !


The pub-stop in Preston was from the Good Beer Guide and was in the Ashton-on-Ribble area – very appropriate, as Alan and Ashley were both riding Ribble makes of bike, from here. Unfortunately, when we got to the pub it had closed down some time ago ! (Must get my 2008 book updated.) Luckily there was a good pub nearby that served food all day. We ate overlooking the surprisingly nice waterfront.

(Note my ‘stealth cyclist’ kit, as it was known !)


In the afternoon we picked up the A6, through Lancaster, to Kendal. The estimated mileage we had was for 40 miles in the afternoon, but as we approached Kendal on the bypass it was getting on for 50 miles, and the headwind all day and accumulated leg-fatigue was taking its toll. Our B&B was at the north end of Kendal, so we kept on the bypass following the signs for this. But as the road started to climb steeply, we reconsidered our options. A bridge over the dual-carriageway was heading the way we wanted, so we looked for a way up onto it. Alan was obviously the most desperate to get to the B&B as he was first to scramble with his bike up the embankment, through the brambles, and over the fences to the road above. Ashley and I followed, and we free-wheeled down into Kendal.

Once in Kendal we had a bit of trouble finding the B&B. Ashley stopped and asked some girls, who gave very detailed directions. I was listening, and set off in the direction they gave, only to find Ashley and Alan had gone a completely different way ! Ashley’s phone has internet connection, so we used GoogleMaps to give directions to the B&B’s, which generally worked well. I kept going, and we eventually met up again and got to the B&B, called ‘Magic Hills’ – not what you want when cycling! The bloke in the B&B was a really nice chap, who couldn’t do enough for us.

We ate at an Italian restaurant in Kendal – our bodies were craving pasta, and Ashley cheekily asked for extra large helpings. His Spag. Bol. was SO large, that he later had problems sleeping, and nearly threw it up ! We had a really nice evening here, with a bottle of red wine and a couple of pints of beer in the pub over the road. That was the most we drank on any evening – couldn’t risk any more with the next day’s exersions in mind.


Exotics Animals: Jaguar (mistakenly called as a ‘Panther’ by me, despite being on a Jaguar car showroom!), Tiger, African Grey Parrot.

Birds: Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron, Shelduck, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coot, Great Crested Grebe (Preston).

Animals: Dead Slow Worm.


Day 5 - Wednesday, 26/5/10, Kendal to Sanquahar – 108 miles, 8.30am to 9.20pm, 13.2mph average.

Weather: Light showers, 15 degrees C, wind c15mph from NW.


The breakfast was notable because Alan poured orange juice into his coffee, instead of milk – both were in white jugs. It was also here that Ashley caught me at just the right moment with a joke about farting which had me spitting out my breakfast all over the table.


We set off in the morning with some trepidation as the first 9 miles out of Kendal are up hill to the Shap pass. However, as it happened, this was not a particularly gruelling climb at all as it is just a gentle slope over a long distance. When we got to the top I was insistent that we still had the main climb to come, but was proved wrong. The total climb was from about 100ft at Kendal to 1600ft at Shap, with the main climb being 1.5 mile long. The fact that it was early in the day made it easier – might be different to hit it after 100 miles !


Soon after Shap we had a nice surprise when Will Townsend (bloke from work for those that don’t know) was waiting for us by the roadside, as he was holidaying nearby. Even better, he had sport drinks, jelly babies, bananas and flap-jack – he certainly knows the way to cyclists’ hearts ! Bloody nice bloke.


In Penrith (I think) we had another ‘moment’ with the GPS route, which resulted in a carry of our bikes over a railway footbridge!


The scenery picked up considerably today, as we skirted the Lake District on the A6 to Carlisle. We are now working together like a professional outfit – great to be part of. Taking it in turns to lead for 1-2 miles, tucking in behind to take full advantage of drafting, and giving warning shouts, e.g. “Hole” – used roughly every quarter mile, “Lorry behind” or “Badger” – my favourite shout, from Alan, for a dead badger in our track.  It always amused me when the last person in the line shouted out a warning – presumably for the lorry behind. On the busy A-roads, which we have been on constantly for 2 days, we are cycling on the 1-2ft of tarmac outside of the left-hand white-line on the road. With lorries whizzing past, this strip is actually fairly clean. When it is too rough to cycle on, we are on the main carriageway, with total dependency on vehicles pulling out to avoid us at 60+mph. If we weren’t so tired, we might be scared.


The lunchtime stop was at the King’s Head in Carlisle. About an hour before this, we had the first rain of the trip. A cold shower had us zipping up and putting plastic bags over our saddle-bags. The temperature changed from 15 to 5 degrees, and because we travelled so light, no warm clothing. I had two layers of thin tops under my water-proof and wind-proof cycle-jacket (incidentally, both Ashley and I had Endura jackets, and we cannot praise them enough – the only parts that remained dry, thankfully, were our upper bodies). Ashley just had a single layer underneath, and immediately started to suffer with cold. After just an hour of cold, he already knew he’d have to buy a second top in Carlisle. This was always our strategy – to buy as we went, rather than carry stuff not required.

Another piece of kit I was very thankful of was over-shoes. These fit over your shoes, and give a wind-resistant layer. They were meant to be waterproof, but can’t stop water running down your leg into the shoes. Ashley had used them throughout our training, but hadn’t brought his with him (a mistake, I think, but he wouldn’t admit it). On the other hand, I was wearing mine for the first time. They meant that the wet shoes stayed warm, as no wind-chill. Alan decided to buy some in Carlisle.

The first lorry to whizz past us on a busy A-road in the rain was memorable – a wave of water hits from the side and visibility is eliminated.


In the pub, we did our first take-over of several tables and all warm radiators in the place – something we would repeat at every stop. We also had a conversation about what day it was; we all knew it was Day 5, but couldn’t say if it was Tuesday or Wednesday. A kind lady on the next table advised us it was Wednesday.


After lunch we went shopping. Ashley must have tried on every top in the town, as Alan and I shivered outside in the cold for what seemed like hours. Alan put a catalogue in his saddlebag, so he could shop at leisure from home. We then had to cycle back the way we’d come for about half a mile to get Alan’s overshoes. We were advised of the nearest bike shop by an old bloke who was interested in our bikes. He’d done a lot of grass-track riding many moons ago, when they had to weld the spokes to the wheels for extra strength. At the bike shop Alan borrowed a track-pump to pump up his tyres to the correct pressure. I daren’t touch mine. I couldn’t say it at the time, for fear of a curse, but I had gone the longest distance ever without a puncture and didn’t want to change anything ! I went on to do 900 miles on the rear tube, with the same air in as I started with.


We finally got going and headed towards Gretna. Here we got lost. The GPS route appeared to have us going down a Motorway, and the paper map didn’t appear to have an alternative. However, after asking several people (including an old bloke who gave us his life history), we found out that the road we wanted had been turned into a Motorway, but there was another route. Annoyingly, this route never once had a sign saying ‘Gretna’, despite it going there, and it must be used by hundreds of cyclists. (I have emailed Cumbria council, who will be ignoring it as I write.)

Then we crossed the border into Scotland – only to be hit immediately by a long, cold, shower. (That’s Bristol to Scotland in under 3 days !) The last 25 miles were directly into a NW wind, and not nice. However, earlier in the day, we had had 20 miles of the wind behind us – that was the first time we hadn’t had a headwind all trip !

Compare the weather here to the first couple of days !


In Dumfries we had a bit of a picnic by a lovely riverside, as the sun shone.


Eleven miles from today’s destination, at Sanquahar (said ‘Sanker’), we stopped at the Buccleuch & Queensbury Hotel, Thornhill, Dumfries. This was a bone-of-contention for me, as I had booked accommodation here, but in order to even out today’s and tomorrow’s rides, Ashley moved the B&B 11 miles down the road. As we walked into the place, it became apparent that the other B&B would have to be bloody good to beat this. It was a fishing hotel, with fantastic photos, and fishing memorabilia on the walls, and lovely Deuchars beer (it’s in the Good Beer Guide).


The B&B in Sanquahar did take some of the pressure off Ashley – the lady who ran it was awfully kind to us as we rolled up wet, cold, tired (and smelling of beer) an hour after we said, and devoured the lovely steak pie she had made for us (whilst still in our smelly cycling gear).  Then we went straight to bed (after a shower) – knackered.


Exotics Animals: Giraffe, Rhino, Wild Boar, Tortoise.

Birds: Moorhen, Grey Wagtail, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sand Martin, 3xOystercatcher, Curlew, Coal Tit (heard).


Day 6 - Thursday, 27/5/10, Sanquahar to Inveraray - 110 miles, 8am to 7.35pm, 12.8mph average.

Weather: Heavy showers, 12 degrees C, wind c10mph from NW.


The weather forecast was for “sharp showers” – Alan asked what was meant by this; well he soon learnt!

This was due to be our biggest ascent day, according to our estimated routes, so we were keen to get going early (I say ‘we’, but I obviously mean the other two !). The breakfast was notable this morning for the first teapot that poured without spillage. (Alan had milk in his coffee, rather than orange.)


It was nice to cycle through some great Scottish countryside today (amazingly close to Glasgow), even if the weather was against us. The route split into three: 1. 56miles to Largs, 2. 17 miles to Gouroc, where we caught a short ferry, 3. 39 miles to Inveraray.


Along the A76, through Kilmarnock, is a bit of a blur, as it rained most of the way and was cold. It was here that the defining moment for the rest of the ride happened for Ashley. We were rotating the lead as usual along the busy road, and Ashley and Alan had done a stint at a good speed, but as I hit the front at the same speed, the other two started to fall back. I was a bit hacked off with this, as it wasn’t the first time they’d let me ride off the front – and it shouldn’t be possible with drafting. As we approached a dodgy roundabout, I heard a shout from behind and saw Ashley get off his bike and hop around, almost being sick. He said he might have cramp, and laid down stretching his leg. I wasn’t sure what to make of it, and couldn’t work out if he was properly injured or not. Anyway, after a rest we all got on again and continued at an easy pace.

[It turned out that he had pulled the quad muscle on his right thigh, and felt sick at the thought of having to pull out of the ride.]


We arrived at the pub stop, Charlie Smith’s in Largs, once again needing food and warmth. Alan had the best shout of the day – Hot Chocolate, which did the trick.

When I went to order food for us, I was trying to attract the bar-lady’s attention, and Alan started waving frantically behind me. When she arrived I thought Alan wanted to ask her something, so said “This man has a question for you”, and Alan said “Can this man order food?”, which seemed to cause some hilarity – don’t get it, myself.


We left Largs with more cold rain pouring down our backs, and were pleased to reach the ferry port. As we arrived a ferry was just coming into port, and I shouted, “come on that’s our ferry”, which turned out to be right. The ferry took us 2 miles across a bay, from McInroy’s Point (Gouroc) to Hunter’s Quay (Dunoon), so that we could avoid going through Glasgow, to the east. It was debated whether this was ‘cheating’ or not. In the end we were mighty pleased to sit in the glorious warmth of the ferry cabin for 20 minutes, and dry off our stuff on the hot radiators.

When we waited in the queue for the ferry we asked a bloke sitting in his car where the ferry was going, to check it was the right one. He confirmed it was right, and I said to him “is it right that it never rains on the other side ?” “That’s right, and it’s also a much better place on the far side.“ “Where do you come from ?” “Over the far side.” He was a great character, and started reciting the full version of the Burns poem. We clapped him when he stopped, as we had to board. Later he went past us, and was still reciting it, and we all moaned at him. “Know your audience”, I shouted.


We only had one change of clothes for evening wear, and Alan had decided that his one t-shirt was to be an England football shirt ! Always popular in Scotland. As we had stripped down to dry our clothes on the ferry, when the man came to sell us tickets, Alan was sitting in his England top. The bloke stared at the shirt, then at Alan, then at the shirt. Alan said “it was cheap”. The man said nothing, took our money and went. From then on, Alan wore his shirt inside-out ! (Where’s the national pride ?!)

On the ferry, I used the binoculars I’d been carrying all trip in anger – showing everyone the Gannets plunge-diving not far from the boat. Also saw Guillemot and Arctic Tern.


From the ferry to Inveraray, it seemed to take forever. This was mainly due to the fact that we could see our destination 23 miles before we got there – we had to cycle all the way up the opposite side of Loch Fyne, and all the way back again. At least it was very flat around the lochs; in fact the whole day had been unhilly and our estimates appeared to be wrong.

The other reason it seemed to take forever was Alan’s version of the song, “It’s a long way to Inveraray, it’s a long way to go, ...” ! Only joking, we all sang along heartily.

The white houses of Inveraray are just visible on the distant Loch shore.

It was my choice of bed tonight, and what a cracker it was – beautiful room in The Old Rectory, with just a small road separating my bedroom from Loch Fyne, and across to mountains on the far side. My favourite B&B up to now. But Ashley wasn’t impressed as when he asked if there was anything to dry our kit on, the lady simply said, “No – the heating isn’t on”. (She was pre-occupied with a wedding the next night.) And Alan wasn’t impressed as the earliest breakfast was 8:30am (another plus point in my book !). Sadly, we had to leave early in order to take it slow and let Ashley’s leg recover, so we had take-away lunches instead of breakfast. (Note – a can of Coke is the worst drink to attempt on the move – difficult to open, difficult to drink, and fizzy.)

What a view !


The evening was spent in the George Hotel – really good old pub, with nice beer, nice food and live music. We sat in a snug cubby-hole. Ashley got some ice and packed it round his thigh.


Exotics Animals: Aardvark.

Birds: Greylag Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Siskin, Eider (inc. ducklings), Canada Goose, Wood Warbler (5 singing), Gannet (plunge-diving, seen from ferry), Arctic Tern, Guillemot, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Hooded Crow.


Day 7 - Friday, 28/5/10, Inveraray to Fort Augustus – 106 miles, 7.45am to 7.45pm, 12.5mph average.

Weather: Heavy Showers, 10 degrees C, wind c10mph from N.


This was the hardest day for me of the whole trip, as we limped along at a slow pace to protect Ashley’s leg, which meant that I wasn’t burning enough calories to keep my core temperature up, and cold heavy rain showers (including hail) made things worse. I spent the whole day being cold, which I’m not good at.

I’m going to be honest, and say that I did not know whether Ashley was injured or not. It occurred to me that Alan and I would be very tired after today, having shared the lead between just us all day, and that if he wasn’t injured, he would be as fresh as a daisy for the rest of the trip. That’s what cold does to my mind.


The saving grace was the stunning scenery and good wildlife. Wood Warblers were heard all morning from the oak woods along the lochs, giving their call which sounds like a coin spinning on a table – speeding up as it goes on. We then heard, and saw, a Cuckoo (the first of an amazing 6 we saw in total). Three seals were hauled out onto a rocky island. The best spot though was a Lesser Redpoll on the ground only a few feet away at the impressive Commando Memorial (A82 between Fort William and Fort Augustus). And the best sound was a Grasshopper Warbler – who’s song is just like a grasshopper.

I also thought I saw an eagle today. I had told the others that there were three new shouts that would result in emergency stops: ‘Otter’, ‘Osprey’ and ‘Eagle’. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but there was the ‘Peter cries eagle’ incident, when I was sure I’d seen one and screeched us all to a stop, only to become aware that it was yet another Buzzard. Doh ! All wildlife credibility lost after that point.

Not a bad view here, either                                                                            . . . or here.


The lunch stop was in a bizarre ‘Sutherland Hotel’, which we found when it started to pour down. It was an old Hunting Hotel, run by a load of Indians. The menu choice was either ‘Fish Pie’ or ‘Steak Pie’. Ashley and I had the Fish, which was very nice. Alan had the Steak, which was literally a plate of steak and steak pie sauce, with a piece of pie the size of a matchbox, and that was it. No potatoes, and no veg.. He was perturbed ! They did serve Guiness though, so pudding was sorted. Alan said that the leather-clad youth serving had cleverly put a bike into the top of the Guiness when he poured it, so Ashley and I congratulated him on that. Only for Alan to say later that he’d done it himself with his finger!

When we came out of the hotel, it started raining, and we took cover under a tree, as we could see the edge of the rain cloud was not far away. We took the time out to clear up a few things between us. I took the time to say that we needed to work closer together on the road to protect Ashley. He was going at the pace that he could, which involved 1st gear for every hill now. That disrupted the rhythm that we had built up before, and meant Alan and I would go ahead and then wait. This meant that Ashley was effectively in the lead the whole time (by himself) which wasn’t protecting his leg. There was also one moment when I was genuinely worried about how split up we were. It was when Ashley had gone off early from a place we had stopped at, so we could catch him up. I went off a couple of minutes later, leaving Alan still sorting stuff out before getting going. But there was then a particularly heavy rain burst, and the road conditions and light deteriorated. It would be much safer if we were together. I was stuck in the middle, and had to decide whether to catch Ashley up and help him, or drop for Alan. I made the right choice for once, and dropped back to work with Alan to catch Ashley, thinking that if Ashley had a problem, we would catch him up. We all worked better to protect Ashley after this.


On the A828 to Fort William, we noticed a cycle-track that kept appearing. But the signs on it were to places we didn’t have on our scale maps. After continuing on the road for 5 miles, Alan (of all people) decided we should risk going on it. It gave another 5 miles of superb, flat, quiet cycling. Shame it wasn’t sign-posted ‘Fort William’ as that’s where it headed. This frustration happened at other cycle-tracks also.

They either weren’t sign-posted, or there was no slip-way onto them from the main road.

A short-cut up to a road-bridge we had to cross.


We made an afternoon stop at Fort William, where we went to a café. Ashley and I ordered cream teas and Alan made the biggest mistake of the trip by ordering something else. I think the staff here also had pity for us, because when the scones arrived, there was an inch of cream and another inch of jam. Alan nearly cried with jealousy as we made everyone in the place turn round at our loud “MMmmm” sounds (‘When Harry Met Sally’, re-enacted !). One bloke brought over a spare packet of jam for Alan to put on his meagre caramel slice, which he duly did !


The mountains around here all had snow still on the tops, and we were told that skiing on Ben Nevis is expected until the end of June this year. It snowed on the mountain tops while we were there.


When we were swanning through the Devon countryside bathed in sun, I said to the other two that we shouldn’t complain about the heat and that we will find out what we are made of when it rains for a couple of days. Well I think we found out today. We are made of pretty strong stuff. It is on days like this that you need someone to keep your spirits up, and Ashley is the person to do just that. If only his singing voice was as good as his keenness to sing. We had renditions of every tune you can think of involving weather today !

We also covered every comedy sketch known to man, from ‘Black Adder’, to ‘The Young Ones’, and Charlie Chaplin.

And also used road-signs to make a joke. For example, by saying “Right turn, Clive” at the sign to the village in Shropshire. Or, “What do you get when you cross a parrot and a Pachyderm ?” at ‘Polyphant’, in Cornwall. (Those two are mine –YES ! Very funny.)


Another thing that kept the spirits up was to point to ANY cyclist and say “They are doing Lejog”. This could be an old lady with her shopping basket on the front, a kid pulling a wheelie on his BMX or a toddler in their tricycle (“start them young on Lejog, here”). This started, as it became apparent that there are a lot of people doing Lejog (or JogLe).

The wounded soldier, at the ‘Commando Memorial’ (in rain).

I think it was this day when, for me, one of the funniest things happened. Even though, it wasn’t funny at the time, hasn’t been talked about since and was totally inappropriate. We were near the end of a long, cold and tiring day and I was at the back following Ashley and Alan, along a really wide but completely empty A-road. I suddenly got the urge to attack, and go for a break-for-home as they do in the Tour de France, so I hung back a bit and then sprinted right over to the far side of the road – creaming past the other two hugging the right-hand kerb on the wrong side of the road. Makes me laugh every time I think of it. No idea what the others thought of it, as we were distracted by a decision about directions when I got back to them.

Apart from this, we never had any sort of speed competition the whole journey – too concentrated on getting to the end to risk it.

I felt as strong as an Ox today, as the slow pace helped give my aching muscles a rest. I felt sure I was going to make it to the end.


By now Alan has developed an unnatural obsession with Vaseline. He ‘applies’ it every time we stop, anywhere; at café’s, by the roadside, and even at traffic lights. This lead me to ask him how far he was putting it up ? He lost his wedding ring one day, but it was when he lost his watch that eyebrows were raised. All his trousers, including evening ones are stained with a Vas-mark at the back.

I have to ring full praise to Vaseline at this point – I applied it at start and midday, and it did the job for me.

What it did best was applied a patina to the gusset of my trousers, impenetrable to smells and dirt – allowing wash-free cycling all week !

Ashley maintains that he didn’t use Vaseline, but he did once on the second day. Good effort from old iron-bum though. (But I saw the skid-marks on his cycle-shorts on the last day – that ain’t pretty !)

Also, after 7 days of using his pink bike-horn, Alan finally got a reaction from someone he ‘oinked’ at today !

Alan doing his mandatory promo-photos for his sponsor. And proving that he really will apply the stuff at any place.


As we travelled the last 15 miles into Fort Augustus, Ashley was about 100 yards behind Alan and I. (We were waiting for him, but then saw he was on his phone, again, and so left him!) Suddenly there was a screeching of car tyres and we looked round to see a car skidding to a halt and a bloke jump out, putting on his jumper, and shouting. Then Ashley shouting “what you doing that for, mate ?” We started to go back, when Ashley waved his arms in the air to stop us. The bloke then got back in the passenger side and the car whizzed past us. I had the forethought to get the reg. number. It turned out that the bloke in the passenger seat had opened his door, in what seemed to be an attempt to knock Ashley off. He then pulled on the handbrake to stop the car, being driven by a woman. He appeared to be drunk or high on something. Ashley waved at us to get out of their way as they went past. He reported it to the police, but when we went to the police station at Fort Augustus it was shut. 

For me, this highlights the big difference between long-distance walking and cycling. You can’t afford to switch-off for a moment when cycling, else some bugger will try and kill you. It really is very draining, being switched-on all day, for day after day.

But, generally, we didn’t have much agro from drivers, considering the time on the road. I had a bloke towing a rib-boat, come past me too close, and I actually felt the bow-wave from the boat before I saw it go past my shoulder. We also had the usual idiots in caravans who forget the length of what they are towing once a year. Had to brake to give space to one that cut us up as it pulled in.

Scotland certainly know how to do their rivers.

The Three Bridges B&B was run by a nice Brummie chap. He was good enough to run us in his car down to the pub – the Loch Inn. Another very good pub, where we stuffed food in our faces and had a couple of beers. Ashley got a lift back with the bloke, who we bought a pint, to save his leg. Alan and I stayed for a second and had a pleasant walk back.


Exotics Animals: Panther, Beaver.

Birds: Lesser Redpoll (on ground at ‘Commando Memorial’), Rock Pipit, Grasshopper Warbler (heard), Tree Pipit (singing), Cuckoo (1 seen + 2 heard), Wood Warbler (5 singing).

Animals: Red Squirrel (ran across road in front of Ashley – as had 2 Grey Squirrels further south), 3 Grey Seal (basking on rocks). Dead Otter in gutter – perfect and freshly killed; dead Roe Deer.


Day 8 - Saturday, 29/5/10, Fort Augustus to Crask Inn (nr. Altnaharra) - 95 miles, 8.30am to 6.30pm, 13mph average.

Weather: Showers, 12 degrees C, wind c10mph from E/NE.


The bloke at the B&B let Ashley and Alan use his bike oil, and their bikes immediately started developing problems ! Ashley’s gears never sounded the same again, and strangely within a couple of hours both bikes had spoke trouble. Ashley’s spokes were making a right racket, with at least one obviously loose, but we couldn’t find it. Alan tracked him for a while and sussed the point on his wheel where the problem was, and sure enough there was a loose spoke. Tightened that one, but another was loose and was threaded, so Alan taped it to the next, and that helped. I commented that Alan had at last done something useful (see later).


It was soon after we left Fort Augustus that we went up a very steep hill, on the A833 near Drumnadrochit.

I felt very fresh, and managed to get up it with some effort, and waited at the top. Ashley and Alan both had to push their bikes up the last, steepest part. It was at that point that it was obvious to me that Ashley was really hurt, as there is no way on God’s Earth that he would push his bike.


The scenery in the morning was superb again, taking in Loch Ness. We had a morning stop in a café, run by a nice old lady, when it started to rain and had a cup of tea and a chat with a very confident young lad. Before we left, Alan used the facilities, which were just a Ladies loo, as the Gents was out of action. He came out looking a little sheepish, after a long time. Later on down the road he explained that he’d laid a couple of large ones and there was no equipment to get them round the bend ! That place has been renamed ‘Two logs café’, if you are ever passing. The toasties are delightful.

Al hurriedly leaves the ‘Two Logs café’.

Alness was the decision point, to go to Crask Inn or not. But we had already decided as Alan asked a few locals about the route, and they all said the coast road is not nice.

Instead we had something else to panic about – Ashley had lost his passport ! He had it when he bought the fish and chips, and had it again when he got drinks at the café. But from there we had walked the bikes across the road to benches, and he now didn’t have it. Alan and Ashley searched the street and checked all the shops. Alan and I checked everything in the bikes, and I found it in my saddle-bag. Ashley must have put it in mine instead of his, when we crossed the road. (Although, just for the record, he maintains that I picked it up and put it there !)

Photo below - Fish and chips in Alness, as captured by a doddery old lady sitting on the next bench. She was obviously more interested in Alan’s legs than his face ! (We got £6 donation from her and her friends though !)

The Crask Inn

The Crask Inn deserves a chapter in itself – what a place !

It is in the middle of nowhere, 10 miles from the nearest place. The A836 that gets to it is across some stunning peat bogs, with heather-clad mountains as back-drop. At least, that’s what we imagined, as our view was tainted by the 5 hours of rain we had in the afternoon ! The only break we had was in a café/boot-shop (!) in Ardgay, by the Bonar Bridge. The lady who ran it was very nice to us, and let us drip all over her shop, followed by 5 more cyclists who did the same. Three of these were American women who had spent 22 days visiting the sights as they did Lejog. There are also people we heard about who spend years doing it – like the 80 year old who had spent 7 years getting from John o’Groats to Fort Augustus, doing a bit each year. 

I made up a verse for the Crask Inn, to the tune of ‘I would walk 500 miles’ (The Proclaimers), which I know was a favourite with the guys . . .


Crask Inn, Crask Inn, Crask Inn, Crask Inn, 
De-dum, diddy-dum, de-dum, de-dum,de-dum. 
But I would cycle 900 miles
And I would cycle 30 more
Just to be the man who cycled 900 miles
To fall down at your door.
Crask Inn, Crask Inn, Crask Inn, Crask Inn, 
De-dum, diddy-dum, de-dum, de-dum,de-dum . . . (ad infinitum). 



When we got to the Crask Inn we were sodden. We left the bikes outside (even Alan didn’t bother locking them up here !) and went in, to find 10 other people as wet looking as us and a hot log-burning stove in what appeared to be someone’s living room with lime green embossed wall-paper, with a small bar in one corner. The nervous looking chap and his frail looking wife immediately ushered us out the back to our room. “Should we take our wet shoes and jackets off first ?” “Oh no, don’t worry about that.” The room had three beds in it, of sorts; two lumpy, but homely singles and a strange cross between a coffin and a cupboard, with a bed attached. It was Ashley’s choice (not much of one again for him!) and he had a lumpy single; I slept in the ‘coffin’ – expected to wake the next day scratching at wood. The décor, was a trip through the decades 50’s to 70’s all in one room. I opened a cupboard, to find a chair in it, facing forward – we had visions of the owners appearing in it after dark. The one chair in the room was a rocking chair. There was a pink and yellow rug in the bathroom in the shape of a nail varnish bottle, with the words ‘nail varnish’ in big black letters. I loved the place. The showers were hot, and the view from the window was amazing.

The owner must have had more than a few stories to tell, but he was rather busy this night, so we didn’t have an opportunity to talk to him. There were beige pictures of him in mountaineering gear up snow-clad mountains, and he had frost-bite on the end of his nose.

We went to the bar and settled down for a few beers – bottled Black Isle (including Blonde and Porter). When I got the first round, he seemed to have trouble adding up the 3 x £2.80, so I did it for him.

The log stove gradually attracted all of our stuff to it, during the evening.


The people in the bar were: 3 middle-aged walkers, 2 locals there for food for first time in ten years, a really nice Dutch couple and 6 cyclists doing a 300km Audax route in 24 hours ! In the weather we were having, this last group got our regard. They were all about 60 years old, and not fit-looking. But they must be mighty hardy. The Crask Inn was the penultimate check-point on their route.


The menu was hand-written on a single card, which was passed round the gathering. Starter was Tomato and Vegetable soup (yuk, but I was very hungry and ordered it). Main was Steak and Ale Pie. Apple pie for dessert. At 8pm, a small bell sounded and everyone still there (the Audax lot had left) trapsed into the back room. We followed, even though we didn’t really know what was going on.

The back room was a contrast to the front. It was immaculately laid with white table cloths and silver/gold plated cutlery. And red embroidered wooden chairs, to match the red carpet. The view was a stunning back-drop out the windows – all couldn’t help but stare out at it. The soup came – it was bacon, lentil and vegetable, with the most delicious freshly baked bread. The steak pie was lovely, and had so many potatoes and vegetables with it that even we three couldn’t finish them all. (Take note, Sutherland Hotel !)

The red wine accompanied it delightfully (only £8.50). The dessert was devine. OK you get the picture – it was a bloody good meal !


We went back to the bar and chatted to the Dutch couple, who were doing a clockwise cycle tour from Holland, through Belgium, up East coast of UK, to Orkney, then Norway, Sweden and home – doing 50 miles a day. They rode touring bikes with 5 paniers on each, and strange round cow-horn shaped handle-bars . . .  great for finding many comfortable grips. (Below picture is without handlebar tape.)


Also in the bar now were some local farmers, who told us about one of the three sheep-dogs roaming about, who always carried a stone in its mouth – had done since it were a puppy. And in it trotted, stone and all.


We suddenly thought about our bikes still outside in the rain. No need to worry, as the landlord had moved everyone’s bikes, who was staying, to the shed.

The landlord went to bed, leaving us to finish our beers by the fire. One of the sheep-dogs was eyeing me intently, and I started throwing tissues for it to catch. I then had the bright idea to throw a glove for it, which luckily it gave back. We had visions of all our stuff which we left overnight by the fire being ripped apart by the dog ! Or the landlord coming to us in the morning saying, “I hope the small fire in the bar didn’t wake you at all in the night.”


Exotics Animals: Llama, Loch Ness monster (briefly breaking surface of Loch Ness).

Birds: Snipe, Teal (female with ducklings), Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Wood Warbler (6 singing).

Animals: Dead Weasel.


Day 9 - Sunday, 30/5/10, Crask Inn to John o’ Groats – 82.7 miles, 9.25am to 6.20pm, 11.5mph average Weather: Cloudy then sunny, 12 degrees C, wind c15mph from NE.


[Note - John o’ Groats is correctly spelt with a small ‘o’, and a second space after the apostrophe.]


The breakfast followed where the evening meal left-off. The venison sausages were superb.

When the landlord served breakfast to the Dutch couple, he said “The eggs are small this morning”. “Oh that’s fine, no problem”, they said politely. “I wasn’t apologising”, he informed factually.


Now for the one moment that made the whole trip worthwhile for Alan . . .

When we were saddling-up in the morning, we told the landlord about our trip. Now he sees a few cyclists at this place, but he was impressed with our 9 days unsupported effort, and he called us “semi-elite”. A phrase that Alan now repeats out-load, in a dreamy sort of way, regularly. 

Leaving the Crask Inn.

The morning was mercifully dry and we were shown the sort of scenery that we missed in the rain yesterday. The ‘Flow Country’ of Sutherland is incredible. Wild, but beautiful. I want to go back.


Something I noticed towards the end of the ride – all the ‘finger’-prints on my palms have been rubbed away by gripping my handle-bars ! My hands are completely smooth.


As the trip progressed I had to keep upping the number of times that Alan was useful (see comment above).  He is a very practical chap. On the last day, my gears started playing up a lot. When I was in first gear, and accidentally tried to change down, the chain jumped off the first cog at the back and got stuck between the cog and the wheel spokes on the hub. The first time, Ashley and I managed to free it. When it happened again about 2 miles later (yes, stupid me!) it was well and truly stuck. We had a few tools with us and Alan managed to get it out. I didn’t make the same mistake again. If I had been on my own, there is no way I would have managed to get it unstuck.


We had a great moment in the lovely white-walled, simple, chapel at Syre on the River Naver, when Ashley gave us a sermon from the Good Book. Revelation 18:2, “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit (“That’s you, that is Alan”), and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird (“That’s you, that is, Pete”).

(Note to self – Strathnaver Trail,


As we hit the coast on the north of Scotland and cycled East, we passed a girl pushing her bike up a hill. She was cycling alone, and had hurt her knee. She had done Lejog over 3 years, and was doing Edinburgh to Jo’G. We met up and passed her all day, as we stopped several times and she kept pluckily plodding on.


Lunch was at the Strathy Inn. The landlady had lived in Bath and we chatted to a bloke from London who lived locally. He informed us that we just had two more hills to go before it flattens out to the end.

After lunch, we made a final drinks stop at Reay and then made the final push. It was mighty hard work cycling into a strong headwind (no change there !) with little cover. The final roads are very long straight stretches. At last we saw the hotel at John o’ Groats – we had finished !



I felt nothing on finishing the ride; no elation, no relief, no sense of achievement. I was just pleased that the day’s cycling was over, that’s all. Oh, and I was also worried about the number of photos that would have to be suffered. (In the end, it was just the two.) It will take a while to sink in, as I've either been cycling, eating or sleeping and so haven't had much chance to think about the trip. So much happened every day that it all seems a blur.


Ashley had sussed out a Taxi back to Thurso (where we had a B&B) which could fit all our bikes in (a big Merc jeep) – best £30 ever spent. The alternative was cycling back the way we’d come; mind you, the wind would be behind us !


Exotics Animals: Zebra, Squid, Whale, Dolphin.

Birds: Whinchat, 16 Greylag Goose, Redshank, Greenshank, 3 Wheatear, 6 Mistle Thrush, 6 Cuckoo (3 seen + 3 more heard), Fulmar, Golden Plover (heard, Crask Inn).

Animals: 3 Red Deer.


Total of 961 miles

Number of punctures: Pete – 2 (2nd 30 miles from end !), Alan – 2 (1st when taking a short-cut through a Tescos shrubbery and 2nd on morning after we finished !), Ashley - 0 (a win for expensive Kevlar tyres).

Amount of money found by roadside: Pete – £90:11p (including the £90 I lost and refound).

Interesting things on roadside: Guiness Dartboard.

Best signs: ‘World of Hedges’ (, Lancashire), ‘Avant Gardens’ (, Cheshire – ‘The County of Gardens’) and ‘DANGER – WATER’ – two large red signs along a rhine. (I can confirm that there was water present, but quite why this bit of water was so dangerous remains a mystery.)

Number of bird species seen: 100 – see full list below

Total cost: c£600 each

Total sponsorship: £2100+ (Many thanks to everyone who donated !)

Number of miles cycled into headwind: c850

Number of crashes: zero – an amazing statistic for myself, and one of my goals for the trip.

Number of calories eaten per day: about 6,000 – fried breakfast, lunchtime meal + pudding, evening meal + pudding, plus 3 or 4 Lucazade Sports drinks.

Number of pounds lost: four – weight when I left, 9st 12lb, weight day after back, 9st 8lb.



Journey Back - Monday, 31/5/10, Thurso to Bristol – c800 miles, 8.45am to 5pm.


I now know the size of Britain – it only takes 9 days for me to cycle the length of it, but each of those days are very long !


We were to cycle to the train station in Thurso, but Alan had a flat tyre ! (Could be connected to us being a bit noisy when we got back to the B&B last night.) So we walked the short distance. The cycles were booked on the train. The train turned up, and amazingly had a rack for three bikes. We turfed someone out of our booked seats, and had a very pleasant journey to Inverness – so far, so good. The train goes through the Forsinard RSPB reserve in the Flow Country, which looks amazing.


Next we had to get from Inverness to the airport – about 10 miles away. Cycling was only the last resort !

There’s a coach that does the journey, so we asked at the coach station about bikes – “You’ll have to ask the driver”. Ashley asked several, but they all said they don’t do that route. When the ‘coach’ arrived, it was a double-decker bus. Ashley blagged the driver to let us put our bikes in the disabled places at the front. (One wheelchair passenger picked-up en route and we were scuppered !)


Now for the final hurdle – getting the bikes on the plane.

We had booked bikes on the flight with Easyjet, but didn’t have any bike bags or boxes. When we arrived at the check-in, we happened to come across the ‘Ice-maiden’ to ask. The bikes would have to be completely covered to be allowed on. Bugger. But ‘Team Lejog’ cannot be beaten. Ashley and Alan started asking around for any cardboard, tape or bags. We got directed to a skip out the back full of boxes. A very nice manager of the coffee shop gave us some packaging tape and boxes (we gave him £10 after for his help). The cleaners gave us 6 massive black plastic bags. It seemed, by the end, that it was us and the whole airport v Easyjet.

Luckily we got to the airport with 2 hours to spare, and the flight was delayed by 40mins, as it took us that amount of time to finally get the bikes accepted by ‘Heir Tight-knickers’.

We saw the bikes perched on top of the luggage carriers by the plane when we boarded. They came out of the baggage carousel in Bristol last, but unscathed.




Day after – Tuesday, 1/6/10, Home  – I got up late; well 9am – luxury ! Then went to Oldbury Power Station, birdwatching. As I drove the car, I realised that I was not looking at the car in front, or down the road, but my eyes were fixed on a spot in the road 15-20 yards ahead. I was also weaving around any potholes. Where on-coming traffic forced me to go over one, I clenched the wheel and clenched my buttocks, waiting for the jolt which never came. Maximum speed, 35mph – it’s unnatural to travel any faster than that.

It started to dawn on me just what we had achieved. To cycle from Land’s End to Bristol in 2 days sounds unlikely; to follow that with a 3 day cycle to Scotland sounds a remarkable feat, and to then cycle the full length of Scotland in 4 days is incomprehensible to anyone who has seen just how big Scotland is.

I know that it is possible to do these things because I’ve done it. It is within everyone’s capability, but there aren’t many who seriously contemplate it, and there are very few who have the balls to go through and actually carry it out.

I feel like I am in a very special band of brothers, in fact a band of just three brothers. My gratitude to Ashley and Alan for their can-do approach – couldn’t have done it without you. At last I am weeping with pride – it took a while.





The Big Wheel – by Runrig (found by Alan)


                          The wheels keep turning                                     
                                The road stretches north and south                                
                                      The wheels keep moving                                      
                              Like the globe they keep turning around                             
                                      The wheels keep turning                                     
                                 Through each country land and sea                                
             Through the glens and the cities towards the place that you call your own            
                           This is the big wheel that never stands still                          
                                   Turning our youth to old age                                   
 Tonight the road reaches out before us and the present time is the only time we have       
                                 Many are the days that have gone                                  
                          The wind blowing through the dust of the earth                          
                             Many are the days that the sun rose on us                            
                             Standing in the barley when we were young                            
                                          Joyful. Joyful                                           
                              Running through the fields as they grew                             
                                           Ripe. Golden                                           
                      Looking towards the open skies waiting for the journey                       
                               Glasgow Edinburgh Inverness Stirling                               
                                        Stornoway Aberdeen                                        
                                    Fort-William Dundee London                                    
                                      Germany Ireland America                                     
                                    The big wheel The big wheel



                                                    Bird Species seen on the journey


Arctic Tern

On ferry between Gouroc and Dunoon



Black-headed Gull












Blue Tit












Canada Goose




Carrion Crow












Coal Tit




Collared Dove




Common Crossbill




Common Gull




Common Sandpiper





















Flying along road, up Wye Valley !








  Inc. ducklings



Feral Pigeon









Plunge-diving seen from ferry



Garden Warbler








Golden Plover








Grasshopper Warbler




Great Black-backed Gull




Great Crested Grebe




Great Spotted Woodpecker




Great Tit




Green Woodpecker












Grey Heron




Grey Wagtail




Greylag Goose





  On ferry



Herring Gull




Hooded Crow




House Martin




House Sparrow
















Lesser Black-backed Gull




Lesser Redpoll

  At ‘Commando Memorial’



Lesser Whitethroat








Long-tailed Tit












Meadow Pipit




Mistle Thrush








Mute Swan





  Heard, Somerset















Pied Wagtail








Red-breasted Merganser




Red-throated Diver

Probable calling







Reed Warbler




Ringed Plover








Rock Dove




Rock Pipit








Sand Martin




Sedge Warbler









  Loads in Scotland








  Flow Country



Song Thrush








Spotted Flycatcher








Stock Dove












Tawny Owl

  Heard at night




female with ducklings



Tree Pipit




Tufted Duck
















Willow Warbler








Wood Warbler

  Scotland, esp. Loch Ness











Total number of species