To the mysterious northern coast of Britain...
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Today was planned as another short day, for which we were grateful as the weather forecast was for heavy rain and there was a strong northerly wind.
The route was a simple one: from Lairg we would head north along the A836 In the direction of Tongue. This is one of those wonderful Scottish "A" roads shown in motoring atlases as being a "narrow road with passing places". After 21 miles, at Altnaharra, we would turn right onto the B873 for a further 22 miles to Bettyhill.
Perhaps surprisingly, the route was not particularly hilly and indeed the first ten miles was almost completely flat, across an exposed area of open moorland grazed by sheep and interspersed with areas of forestry.
However the ferocious headwind made today's ride quite a struggle, despite the absence of hills, and we were forced to cycle in low gear and rarely achieved a speed much above 10mph, making today's average speed one of the lowest of the trip.
In addition to the headwind, we faced a series of rain showers, though fortunately none lasted more than half an hour and were interpersed with patches of brightness or, more often, dullness.
We stopped for our mid-morning break after 21 miles at Altnaharra. The map showed this as having a hotel, but it turned out to be closed and in administration. So we chewed our bananas and swigged our water whilst sheltering under a tree outside.
Just beyond Altnaharra we turned right onto the B873 and the landscape quickly became more small-scale and pretty, and for a while the wind abated slightly. When we got to Syre, at the junction with the B873, we stopped for a windy roadside lunch. A telephone box provided a handy windbreak, but only for one of us at a time.
Then we continued along the Strathnaver valley for the final dozen or so miles to Bettyhill. Somewhere along here we spotted a jumble sale being set up at Strathnaver village hall so we called in and successfully persuaded them to sell us some cups of tea. Then it was on to Bettyhill and our first view of the sea before checking into the Bettyhill Hotel for the night.
Vital statistics: Mileage: 45 miles. Average speed: 10.8 mph (that headwind...). Total mileage since Land's End: 919 miles.
Tomorrow: the arrival at John O'Groats