Friday, 13 June 2008

Day 12: Beauly to Lairg (47 miles)

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We're now about 150 miles from John O'Groats, and have three days in which to get there. This means we can afford to enjoy a couple of shorter and more relaxed days. So we gave ourselves a 10am departure time from Beauly this morning, giving time for a lie in, a lazy hotel breakfast, and for Geoff to book our accommodation for the remainder of the trip.

The A862 north from Beauly was very quiet and almost completely flat as we rode along the neck of the Black Isle (which is not really an island) through Muir of Ord and Conor Bridge.

A couple of miles further we reached Dingwall. Just after leaving Dingwall we had our third mechanical emergency of the trip. Averil's left pedal had come apart. After close examination of the resulting metal puzzle it was clear that a roadside repair would be difficult and so, after a passing local resident remarked that there was a bike shop in Dingwall, a decision was made to go back about half a mile to the bike shop and buy a new set of pedals. This transaction was completed quickly and we were soon back on the road.

The route out of Dingwall involved turning off the A862 and climbing up to a lovely quiet minor road which ran parallel to it but higher, with lovely views over the Cromarty Firth. We noticed that we were following NCR (National Cycle Route) 1 along this section. This might be the reason why we saw at least half a dozen cycle-tourists along this short section, one riding a recumbent with wind fairing.

We stopped in Evanton for coffee at the Cornerstone Cafe, where the friendly staff at this Christian establishment served us complimentary pancakes and jam.

Suitably fortified, we continued to Alness where we turned off north onto the B9176 over the moors of Easter Ross to Bonar Bridge. This required quite a lot of climbing but the main challenge was a quite fierce northerly wind, which forced us down into low gear for most of the crossing of what was probably the most exposed high moorland we had encountered since Shap.

Whilst making our ascent it started to rain gently. At first we thought this was another twenty-minute shower but before long we realised that the rain was not going to go away. So we were crossing high, exposed moorland in steady rain and a fierce headwind, making this 18 miles from Alness to Bonar Bridge one of the toughest of the trip. By the time we reached Bonar Bridge we were cold and damp and so stopped for a very late lunch (it was nearly 3pm) at the first cafe we could find. Hot soup and toasties allowed us to warm up and prepare for the final leg of the day's cycling.

It was only about 11 miles from Bonar Bridge to Lairg. The headwind remained but the rain stopped after a while. We arrived at the Lairg Highland Hotel at about 4.45pm. Given the weather we were glad that this had only been a short day.

Whilst we sat in the restaurant of our hotel the sun came out and we enjoyed a pleasant sunny, evening. It would have been nice to think that this was a good augury for tomorrow. Unfortunately, however, the forecast is for more rain...

Vital statistics: Mileage: 47 miles. Average speed: 12 mph. Total distance from Land's End: 874 miles.

Tomorrow: Day 13 Lairg to Bettyhill

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