Thurso – Keoldale
5450 feet climbed
3098 calories burnt
We woke up to pouring rain again this morning, but as we were getting out of bed it stopped. We really can’t quite believe how lucky we have been so far with the weather, I don’t want to say too much because I know it won’t stay this way. Over breakfast the sun shone over Thurso Bay and there was a light wind so we could eat outside without being devoured by midgies. Everyone else began to rise as Dad and I were nearly ready, we spotted one camper packing up his Parrot (yeap that’s right a Parrot). We also spotted LEJOGers getting ready to set off, we weren’t quite sure what route they were on being in Thurso!
As a precautionary measure we wore our wet weather gear again, just in case – you can never be too careful. We also made the decision to push right across the north coast to Durness, over 70 miles away as the weather forecast showed good(ish) weather.
Heading out of Thurso, the road was fairly clear of traffic, it seems we had missed the ‘rush hour’ from the Scrabster ferry, bringing people over from Orkney. The road was the A836 to Tongue, the only main road and the closest to the coast. After Tongue, the road turned into the A838 all the way to Durness.
Out of Thurso, we past Dounraey, which was an experimental nuclear reactor – now de-commissioned (Dad’s history lessons coming out here). We spotted them building wind turbines and even managed to see three huge lorries transporting the blades.
The weather continued to improve, the skies cleared but there was a definite nip in the air so we were glad of our jackets. The scenery was getting better with fewer towns and villages and more open land. Not much coverage if it started to rain, just miles and miles of scrub type land with heather and heath plants on. We could still see the coast and being on the North shores it meant that we were leaving the North Sea behind and beginning to look out over the Atlantic Ocean!
We had lunch at Bettyhill, a tiny little town with not much going on apart from a village shop. Harry and Mum had made another wonderful lunch of tuna sandwiches and lots of other goodies, so we were well prepared for the afternoon stint of biking.
As we had done a fair bit of climbing it was tough to set off in the afternoon, especially as we had a little more distance to cycle than we had in the morning. The weather was still holding out so we committed to reaching Durness. We had a swoop down out of Bettyhill over River Borgie and then we came to Tongue. The views out over the Kyle of Tongue were amazing, the sun shining on the water, we could see the causeway and bridge from the road where we had stopped to meet to the Motorhome. As cyclist we were lucky that we could dip down on a sneaky road to the bridge, but the Motorhome had to go on for another 4 miles to snake round and head down, saying that I nearly collided with a quad bike on the way down (my transitional lenses on my glasses hadn’t got light enough under the trees over the road and what I thought was a parked quad was in fact one motoring towards me, couldn’t hear anything with the wind whistling in my ears!)
The only problem with whizzing down to the bridge meant that at the other side we had to climb out of the valley – a good way to take your mind off this is to either look back at the view or just get your head down and pedal away!
We knew that there was another big climb ahead so Dad and I just plugged away, you get used to thinking that where there is a big hill, there is also a big down hill and we definitely weren’t let down after the next big climb to the side of Druim Nan Cliar. We swopped down to the northern tip of Loch Hope where we caught a fisherman and his dog off guard and decided to have a pit stop and banana. Whilst eating his banana dad spotted a stag at the top of one of the peaks and as we looked closer we saw three, they looked amazing in the sun, peering down on us.
Back on our bikes, because we stopped at the bottom, we had another big climb out, but again the views were just getting better and better so we couldn’t complain. Round the next corner was Loch Eriboll – now if you take a look at a map, you can see we had to cycle all the way down it and then back up it to get to the other side, no-one had been kind enough to build us a bridge. It was quite demoralizing looking at it and realizing that the other side, where we needed to be was only about a mile away, but we were going to have to cycle 10 miles round the loch! Heading south to the bottom of the loch, the wind was definitely in our faces and although the A838 is the main arterial route along the north coast, it was single track with passing points and cattle grids, this made for interesting cycling. Motorists seem to think we don’t need any space when they pass us at 60mph, they ignore the passing points and the fact that they should be a cars width away from us, worse still – a coach came hammering down, looked us in the eye and began to plough towards us, so close if it’s wing mirror had been any lower it would have taken me off my bike. Although I complain, we’ve not been close to a crash yet, Dad and I make sure we look motorists in the eye when they pass us and that we have an escape route should anything happen.
As we hit the Loch we could see rain at the end, but by the time we had got there it had moved away, we have been so lucky it has been unbelievable. As we turned to head back north, the wind was behind us so we ploughed along the west coast of the Loch and hit the coast in no time. There were a couple of steep climbs along the coast, but as we neared Smoo, we cycled past sandy beaches with green sea – absolutely breathtaking! At this point we called Mum to find out where the Motorhome was parked for the evening, they had found a beautiful spot by the side of the Kyle of Durness at Keoldale, the turning for Cape Wrath.
On arrival we were greeted by Harry cooking chicken curry, and an open can of lager each – you really couldn’t get better service if you tried. Mum took our bikes off us and locked them up and we were ushered inside for dinner. Once we’d eaten the curry, Mum rang the ferryman and asked when we should be with him in the morning and he gave us around 8:30am.
Falling asleep by the side of the Kyle of Durness, with the sun setting over Cape Wrath, now that is something that definitely can’t be bought.