Down the Great Glen

The great glen runs from Inverness down to Fort William, following a geological fault. I started my journey the only way one should be started; with a pub lunch.

Lagerbeers

There was a man walking alongside the road with a large net and I jokingly asked him if he was looking for the monster: he was actually looking for flies and we had a nice chat about Diptera as the sun came out over the loch.

Kayakers (assumedly) following the great glen canoe trail

I spent one night on the shores of loch ness, camped out in a picnic area. By this point I’d given up completely on stealth camping and simply settled on the nicest patch of grass I could find. When I tried to go for a swim to cool off an Italian woman appeared ot of nowhere with a massive camera and looked as shocked as I was when she came across me not wearing any clothes. After that mishap I returned to my tent, but was joined after 10pm by a group of kayakers who took an age to set up their camp and cook their dinner. I fell asleep before they managed, assuming I’d meet them in the morning. They were all still snoring by the time I finally wheeled off at 10am (no new friends for me).

Suidhe viewpoint

I chose to follow the smaller road on the southern side of the loch, which meant fewer people and cars but also that once I’d passed through Foyers I had to ascend over some pretty big hills to carry on south. The views were stunning though, I met some other cyclists at the top and the freewheel downhill was ridiculously fun. 

Camping by loch oich, along the great glen way

I shot through Fort Augustus and after stopping to chat to a couple who told me about the great glen way (one of Scotland’s many long-distance walking trails) I was away from the road and on a bike-friendly section. It was great except for two gates where I had to lift my entire bike over a step because I refused to unload it. There was also a wildcamping site (complete with compost toilets!!) on the southern shore of loch oich where I pitched up with a view of what I believe is Ben Nevis in the background. I’m still not sure though, as I remain unconvinced that the mountain actually exists. More on that later.

Camping yet again in a picnic area

After a horrendous cycle through a very rainy and hilly forest on the north side of Loch lochy (not all sections of the trail are as cycle friendly) I eventually got to Fort William. And it was abysmal; it rained and rained and rained and there was so much mist that I genuinely never saw Ben Nevis. I sped through the town and down the A82, back on the coast. I gave up in the aggressive traffic and rain and pitched early in a picnic area, setting an early alarm to beat the traffic the following day.

Culloden & Inverness

From the kingdom of the slugs I had a short cycle out onto stunning views of Moray Firth.

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Topical

I had a quick pit stop at the Nairn/Culloden viaduct (it seemed to be called different things depending on what you read/who you asked) to take a lot of artsy photos. It was huge!

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Such a fancy train bridge

Soon after this I met a nice Australian man who told me there was “a big hill up to Culloden and then downhill to Inverness”. I prepared myself mentally, got ready for this hill, and before I knew it I was turning off the main road for the battlefield. I’m much fitter than I look, obviously.

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Culloden

I didn’t take many photos at Culloden, just walked the battleground. It actually felt very emotional after having read so much about it over the last two months. It’s very tastefully done, with a line of flags for the front line of each army. I passed a mother explaining to her children that “The red flags are Scotland and the blue ones England”.

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The rain poured down as I walked back towards the car park and my bike. It felt right, in a way, it would have been odd to visit that place on a bright and sunny day. I got back to find my bike had attracted lots of friends, and no longer stood lonely on the racks.

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I'm a typical trendsetter

Off to Inverness, and I took on a big six-exit roundabout and felt like the queen of the road. The campsite is about five minutes from the city centre, and whilst I was booking in the campsite man gave me washing & drying tokens (and washing powder!) for free! I joked that it was because I smelled so awful and that little kindness genuinely made my day. I ended up staying two nights, and spent the next day running errands and generally having a good rest (/pub).

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Inverness is well nice

Cairngorms AKA a walking holiday

So, it turns out that the Cairngorms are pretty bloody hilly.

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Bleeearghghghhhh

I spent the majority of my time walking up the hills, but I’m no longer ashamed of this because I’ve realised pushing a fully-loaded bike up a hill is in itself pretty badass. Also, lots of them were impossibly steep and as I got higher up it was actually too windy to even cycle at times, so for the safety of me and other road users I valiantly chose to walk. People looked as bemused to see me as I was to see the ski-lifts when I reached the Lecht pass (home to the highest roadside bar in the UK).

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I never get bored of the bike photos and I assume nobody else does either

This also turns out to be the second highest road in the UK (the first highest is also in the Cairngorms – told you they’re hilly) and in hindsight it makes a lot of sense why I was absolutely exhausted the next day. At one point I even got lost (this was the first time this actually happened) – I couldn’t find the bridge marked on the map that I wanted and obviously I ended up in a whisky distillery asking for help. They were very helpful though, and pointed me in the direction of the Speyside way.

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An old railway bridge on the speyside way!

It’s one of Scotland’s long-distance walking trails, and the tiny fraction I cycled along was very very nice. I camped on a Speyside way wild-campsite (complete with toilets, life was beautiful) and everything would have been perfect had I not woken up with toothache. It was so bad I ended up calling NHS111 who were very helpful and passed me on to a dental nurse and then the dental helpline for the highlands. I got a call back within the hour offering me an appointment… in Inverness… in two hours. The woman didn’t seem to understand when I told her that would be impossible.

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Not a happy bunny

I powered through (with the help of painkillers) and the following day it seemed to have gone away. Soon I was heading out of the Cairngorms to the north; I found the trees suddenly gone and I was out on an exposed and desolate heathland. It was I thibk my least favourite area of Scotland (which is saying something because so far I have loved ALL OF IT). It was just quite sad, clearly not productive in an agricultural sense and very few trees. And raining. I was glad to make it back into forest, even though I managed to pick the woods where all the slugs in Scotland live.

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Deceptively calm for the UK's slug capital

There were slugs crawling up the inner lining of my tent, big fat ones that weighed it down until I flicked them off (they then just stuck to the outer lining and continued their explorations more). There were slugs all over my sandals and trainees when I woke up, slugs everywhere. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I’d left food out.

Up & along the river Dee

I followed the river Dee up and out of Aberdeen, but because the slope is so gradual it mostly feels like a flat. Aberdeen itself was actually really nice, even in rush hour the traffic didn’t feel as aggressive as I’d prepared myself for. I’d been expecting a Birmingham style skirmish between me and the drivers but I really should stop thinking I’ll get that anywhere but home. Before 9am a guy even stopped to ask me if I needed any directions whilst I stood checking my map. Trees, river and friendly people were what I experienced in my brief time in Aberdeen.

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BeauDEEful

The river takes you quickly away from the harbour, past parks and you’re out in the countryside before you know it. After weeks of exposed coastlines, boggy moors and beaches I’d forgotten how much I’d missed trees. The greens, the cool shade they give under the sun, their noise. I love trees.

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Agricultural

I generally stuck to the smaller roads on the south side of the river, which were much calmer and seemed to be teeming with carved signs and fountains and other oddities. The cars also drove much less aggressively and there were no big lorries – pros all round.

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Why can't all road signs be this fancy??

Before I knew it I’d entered the Cairngorms national park, and I sat by another one of the stone carved installations to eat my lunch (this one seemed to be dedicated to queen Victoria).

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I didn't drink the stagnant water don't worry!

I then had a second lunch in Ballater (goats cheese, spinach & sweet chilli – new fave combo) before pitching up for the night slightly further north. It was absolutely wonderful to be wildcamping again. I got a good night’s sleep and was prepared for the hills I’d be facing the next day…

The rest of Shetland/Camping Woes

After Muckle Flugga I spent four more nights on Shetland – all on official campsites. I avoided the rain pretty much completely, exploring Sumburgh Head, Jarlshof, Burra and Clickimin in glorious sunshine. I even met some archaeologists doing SCIENCE who tolerated my questions and explained what they were doing and what their cool kit did. They were lovely.

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Old Scatness - only open Fridays but THAT WILL NOT STOP SCIENCE

Jarlshof is a Very Important Archaeological Site in the UK, and an absolute pick & mix of archaeology at that. It consists of layers upon layers of settlement: you’ve got Neolithic, bronze age, Norse, medieval and more, with some parts peeled back more than others to reveal the earlier structures. Absolutely fantastic (and included in the ‘Orkney Explorer’ pass I bought in order to see all those fab sites).

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Mmmm Archaeological pick & mix

Sumburgh Head is another RSPB reserve, and is the best place on Shetland to see puffins (I also saw razorbills which was super exciting). Shetland was declared the best place in the world to see puffins by National Geographic at some point, and 10% of our seabirds breed on this cluster of islands. I learned a lot of super good facts.

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Towards sumburgh head

That’s the rest of what I did on Shetland pretty much, so now I’m going to waffle on about camping because it felt like the absolute bane of my life so often. I mentioned before how limited the wild camping seemed to be, especially on the mainland, but that was only the start of my woes.

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Tint ponies with TINY BABIES

I turned up to one site (after quite a detour from the main road) which turned out to be fully tarmaced and only for caravans. On shetland, ‘caravan park’ generally means “mostly caravans but obvs we have some grass for tents because lol who hates tents?”. This site had tarmac and a gate to an adjoining field that had a big sign with “BEWARE OF RAM” in rough red letters. He was not a friendly ram, and roared at me the only way a really big sheep can as I pushed my bike back up the hill. I didn’t fancy my luck trying to camp with him.

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Beaut view ft. Nowhere to camp

Also, the closest campsite to Lerwick is over ten (reasonably hilly) miles away, over bridges on the western islands of Burra. Beautiful, but a bit of a detour.

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Burra tho

Not all the anecdotes are bad – I arrived to one site, in South Nesting, completely dry and enjoying a gentle evening light. I feel it’s important to mention that up to this point the only darkness I have actually seen has been when I stayed too late at the weird pub in Bettyhill and on the Solstice – in both cases it was still light enough to navigate (even in an intoxicated state) because of the moon.

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What rain?

Apparently just before I arrived to this campsite/village hall there had been three hours of torrential rain, and I believed the man; water was rushing over the hillsides and down into the sea with pretty substantial force. I remembered Maes Howe, on Orkney, chatting to the guide – he’d met a man who claimed to have slept in the cairn at Cuween and that he was followed by a Mexican rain god so he always had good weather. The memory, and my own luck with the weather, made me smile.

Oh and my replacement tent pole (the one that took an awful lot of effort to obtain) broke and I was furious. Many factors combined to make me irritable until I’d found somewhere to sleep for the night. I looked forward to the less enclosed, more wild Cairngorms that I’d be heading towards after catching the ferry to Aberdeen.

Up to Muckle Flugga!

I arrived into Lerwick to rain, and after repacking my bike I was off, headed towards the west coast of Shetland. Having just a lowly roadmap I had no warning of the hills that run like a spine all the way down the mainland. I cycled uphill, downhill, uphill, downhill, and the rain eventually stopped. By this point I had learned why people say that rain ‘lashes’, because it really can, and it’s especially noticeable when you’re perched on a bicycle.

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Skeld after the rain stopped

I spent two nights in marina campsites along the west coast – Skeld & Delting (Delting had a bar & so was immediately my fave). At Delting I had camping company in the form of Nadine from Germany, who had cycled all the way from Spain. I woke up to another drizzly day and an incredible gift of cereal bars and a juice drink from Nadine, who had already set out for her day of cycling. I forgave myself because I was still ill, and eventually I was cycling past the oil terminal and headed towards the ferry port at toft. It is very difficult to wild camp on mainland shetland because the roads are near constantly fenced in, which seems slightly pointless because of the small numbers of sheep relative to other parts of Scotland. Because I know that this extent of fencing must have cost a small fortune my conclusion is the oil.

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Improvised waterproofing 101

I cycled reasonably speedily up Yell, partly because it was cold and wet and partly because of some snide comments about how much kit I had from half of a pair of older gentleman who were cycling with two small bags each, eating out for every meal and staying in hotels. I did keep bumping into them over the next few days and the one not-snide man was actually really nice. We crossed to Unst and parted ways – me to camp outside the hostel in Uyeasound and them to whatever luxury they had pre-booked.

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Hostel looking dreamy in the evening

The next day was my day trip up to Hermaness RSPB reserve, to hunt down puffins and reach as north as I could go. Leaving all my crap in my tent at the hostel I flew north, stopping to see the most northerly sights that the UK has to offer (post office, shop, petrol station, tea room etc).

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Perfection in bus-shelter form

The weather continued to improve and by the time I reached the car park at Hermaness the sun was blazing down onto me. I abandoned my bike and started on the walk, which led over to the cliffs and up to the north. There was a walkway and plenty of signs warning that the skuas would get you if you decided to take a detour.

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As close as I dared

Their babies are actually really hilarious – tiny brown gangly fluffballs that do not resemble the adults at all. I stayed still and managed to spot a couple running down a hill as an exasperated parent flapped behind them. There were also a few sheep that seemed to have gotten too close to another baby out of my sight, as the two parents were flapping at the ewe and her twins to little effect. The boardwalk through the dangerous Skua territory ended and then the cliffs began – some of the noisiest cliffs I have ever encountered.

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Bird city

And there were puffins. Initially I almost slipped and cried out in excitement at the same time. They are tiny, much smaller than you would think, and just as adorable and charismatic as everyone says they are. I saw them flapping and looping around in their weird way. I saw them bringing the little sand eels back for their young. I’m still not convinced they ever know what they’re really doing when they leap from those cliffs. Adorable.

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Puffin circle time!

And then past the gannets, the elegant, snake-like birds that coated the tops of their outcrops like a dusting of icing sugar (but much more vocal and smelly). And then I spotted the lighthouse, Muckle Flugga, perched even more precariously than I had imagined or remembered from pictures I’d seen. It felt like the end of the world, and although there was likely to be a slightly-more-northerly view if I climbed up the hill I lay on at that moment I didn’t even care. I had come to see this structure, as far north as I could possibly go, and it felt like the end of the world. The sea stretched out further than I thought possible, nothing between me and the north pole but these rocks and this lighthouse.

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The end of the line

I lay on the hillside and ate my lunch (my lunch was cookies) and thought about perspective. People love that cliche of everything being put into perspective and it is, admittedly, one of the least horrifically corny ones. But there was, predictably, no special revelation. I just felt happy; happy and perfectly content. I couldn’t really believe I’d made it that far, but I’d done it, me and my two little legs.

Orkney

Orkney has been fantastic. I cannot describe it in any other way and that’s either from the fever limiting my vocabulary or the fact that it is just utterly fan-fucking-tastic. Go to Orkney. Seriously.

After meeting some great new friends in the hostel in Thurso it transpired that I would have approximately and hour and twenty minutes to cycle the 14 miles across from Stromness to the Tingwall ferry terminal, otherwise I’d have to wait for a ferry at 6pm that evening. It was a sprint, and I was exhausted from the last week of desperately trying to make it in time for the solstice, but I somehow managed it with time to spare.

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Solstice scenes

After three days on Egilsay of solstice, beach, wood-fired hot tub and incredible company it was time to head off. I’d ordered my tent poles to a hostel in kirkwall and was pretty keen to get hold of them (and also sleep in a bed again, and wash). On my way to the ferry I somehow managed to fall into a bog.

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One of my best looks

This was actually a lot worse than the photo suggests – I was up to my waist in the mud and luckily had new friends to pull me out before I succumbed to actual panic. It was a genuinely scary situation. Padded shorts & bog water also seem to have great affinity for one another. The life lessons continue.

Anyway, this led to taking a shower on the nearby island of Rousay (big thumbs up for public toilet/shower combos from me) and then cycling around it to see the tombs, ruins and stunning views the island had to offer. That evening I finally headed back to mainland Orkney.

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Midhowe Broch

Near to Tingwall pier is a beautiful reading room a group of friends created in memory of a lady called Betty, who from the information inside sounded like an absolutely lovely lady.

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Then I spent two nights in a youth hostel in Kirkwall waiting for tent poles. Obviously I didn’t spend every waking second sat by the letterbox, but i spent a good amount of time resting and doing laundry (everything I own now smelled a bit lot the sea & quite grim).

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Skara Brae - 5000 years old & still tidier than my room

On one of the days I decided to cycle around the west mainland, which actually ended up being a 100km loop. However, it was punctuated by THE HEART OF NEOLITHIC ORKNEY (there was an educational video at one of the sites where this was said by a very dramatic scottish bloke and now it’s stuck in my head). Maes Howe, the ring of Brodgar, Skara Brae and many other less well known sites gave me plenty of opportunities to stop and get a bit of a rest along the way. One thing I did miss was the Ness of Brodgar, an ongoing dig which was being opened up again the week after I left Orkney. The reasons to return continue to pile up.

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Broch of Gurness

On my way back towards Kirkwall the road was closed. Anywhere like Birmingham or London this would be fine – just turn around and off to the next road. This is not an option on Orkney. I dismounted my bike and was pushing it past the man and his single traffic cone that held back the growing line of cars and almost fell over when about 30 bagpipers suddenly started playing and marching towards me. Behind them were lots of young children, teens and their parents dressed up as cartoons and a menagerie of other things, and behind that the tractors began. There were at least five of them, pulling floats of various themes. Of these, two or more were about the queen’s 90th birthday.

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A reference to the recent front page news - Orkney egg thief

I was extremely confused, and once it had passed asked the traffic cone man what was happening (I seemed to be the only non-local there, you could tell by my startled look). Finstown, the town just before Kirkwall, has an annual gala/parade and I’ve since been told it’s a ‘bloody good night out’. I would have stayed to join the fun but you know, 100km and starving and needed to sort my life out.

MY TENT POLE ARRIVED AND IT WAS THE RIGHT SIZE AND EXACTLY WHAT I NEEDED. Praise the internet. I set off down around Scapa Flow (famed for war-time barriers, Italian POW camps and also the ruins of ships of various ages) headed for the Tomb of the Eagles.

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Some purposely sunk wartime boats & a churchill barrier

This tomb was discovered by a farmer on his land when he was looking for flat slab-like stones for building. He waited 16 YEARS for experts to come and excavate it, and what they found is of a similar time to Skara Brae. It is named for the large numbers of eagle talons found within it, and they taught me all about sky burials and the theories behind different  aspects of the tomb. The museum is full of samples of what they found (most have been moved to big, ‘proper’ museums) – tools, jewellery, pottery fragments, eagle talons, human skulls and more. They even let me hold things, stone tools, eagle talons and some of the pottery, decorated 5000 years ago by people poking their nails into the clay while it was still soft. The girl showed me the three skills they retain there, one showing the prevalent genetic problem of that community of fused skull plates, suggesting inbreeding. I could go on and on about this tomb, it was great (also you had to either crawl or pull yourself through the entrance on a little trolley so it felt a bit like being Indiana Jones).

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Some of the slightly irritating tour group I shared the tomb with

I had planned, after a trip back into Kirkwall to pick up some clothes I left in the hostel (lol me) and the purchase of an incredibly beautiful jumper to go out to see Hoy. However, I began to feel increasingly ill and so just pitched up at the Kirkwall campsite at 2pm. They let me stick around way past the ‘please vacate by Noon’ signs, and I lay around in the common room until 9.30pm until I could go and lie in the ferry waiting room.

And there I sat, waiting for the 11pm ferry to Shetland (way past my bedtime) feeling feverish and hoping with all my might that I would wake up fine.

A Pilgrimidge to Orkney

Heb hostel was the kindof place that reset my tolerance for cycling the next day but also one I really did not want to leave. However, driven by wanting to get to Orkney in time for the solstice I managed to tear myself away.

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Ferry Lyf

I caught the ferry to Ullapool and made it not very far before finding a camping spot too good to miss. These seem to be disproportionally just along the old roads – blocked from cars with large rocks and overgrown but not too much for a bicycle.

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Campspot view over Ardmair Point

The next few days were a lot of tough cycling over mountains and along coasts. There were lots of beautiful views but it was hard going – I was pushing myself to be sure of getting to Orkney on time.

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Hung out with a seal here 4 a bit

The next night I was camped not far from Clachtoll, in a nice grassy dip sheltered from the wind and generally an ideal spot to camp, if a bit close to the road. A cyclist travelling the other way stopped for a chat after conquering the hill and it really felt as if he owned all the campsites in the area. He just kept stating that I should pack up and move to a campsite (“probably warmer”???) and my statement of being pretty happy where I was and trying to save a bit of money seemed to fall on deaf ears. He was just concerned but really mate I’ve got this wild camping thing down. I did camp at a campsite the next night, finding one of my tent poles split.

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My poor deformed little home

I tried hard to repair it with part of a coke can and a lot of gaffatape but it was not meant to be. After sitting on my last banana this triggered the first cry of the trip.

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Dramatic views with mist in the way

More and more northwards and I was in Durness, visiting Smoo cave, planning my next few days with damaged poles and sorting out ordering some new ones. None of the post offices were answering me though which did make finding a postal address difficult.

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Smooky

Out of Durness and on my way around Loch Eriboll I met two guys from China, Wan and Bruce, who were on their way to Thurso that day.

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Cycling friends!

We cycled up hills, then down hills, then up hills again before downhill again. They said that the mountains looked like those in Tibet – maybe one day I’ll make it there to see how accurate this comparison is. It was so lovely having some company!

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Loch Eriboll looking cute

They left me when we reached Bettyhill where I was camping, and to this day I am still unsure if they made it to Thurso.

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Death from hills

I sat in the hotel bar that evening, drinking pints and being almost continually hit on by a very drunk local guy who had a miniature horseshoe-shaped cut on his left cheek. The girls at the bar said he’d been chiselling whilst drunk and I don’t really understand exactly what happened but I had a fun evening.

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@Bettyhill

I spent the next day getting to Thurso, wondering the entire way what time they must have made it there (it was about 5pm by the time we got to Bettyhill). From Thurso I got the ferry up to Stromness, Orkney. I somehow cycled into the freight building before finding where I was supposed to be, but I made it with one minute to spare for the 8.30am ferry. I really appreciated the motto of the Northlink ferry company “far isn’t far” whilst chatting to new friends who were also heading to Egilsay. I had made it to Orkney.

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No more Calmac ferries😦

One month on the road

The 13th of June marked exactly a month from when i wobbled away from Jo’s front door (it was as comical as you can imagine). I woke up early, packed up all my stuff in an absolute storm of midges (at one point they started to carpet my bare calves) and was on my way to Callanish just after 8am. I wanted to give myself plenty of time to see the stones and maybe treat myself to lunch (assuming that somewhere would be open on Mondays).

I made a brief pit stop at Dun Carloway – a well-preserved broch that you can go inside and properly explore. Apparently there is great debate as to exactly what they were for and how the interior was structured, but mostly I thought it was a bit odd it had no windows. Also all the entranceways only went up to my knees. Probably good for defensive strategy but not so great if you’re excessively cycling and your knees don’t appreciate that kind of thing.

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Broch-tacular

Then I made my way back towards Callanish. I’d caught a glimpse of it the previous day but had cycled on in my vain attempt to secure a bed in a hostel on a Sunday in the Outer Hebrides. I’m still not bitter.

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Callanish close up

It was raining when I arrived, and continued to rain after I’d waited outside for the visitor centre to open so I could get the breakfast the midges had deprived me of.

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Callanish from further away

I donned what is possibly my most attractive outfit to date – oversized waterproof cycling trousers (so high-waisted, too long and big in the knee department), cycling jacket and a big waterproof hat I took to the rainforest. Do not be surprised I didn’t take any selfies.

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Pic of the massive stone

I spent the majority of the day there, basically until the rain cleared up, eating (definitely enough to creep out the cute cafe guy), writing postcards and enjoying being indoors. The stones are actually such a strange place, much stranger than Stonehenge. I’m not sure if it’s because you’re allowed to walk among the stones and touch them or that they’re just so tall (the central one especially). Also the fact that they’ve been there for such a long time, and there are so many smaller stone circles nearby and we just have so little clue why people invested so much time and effort into them? I’ve had a pint and I’m trying to coherently explain why I thought they were so great and I’m not sure I can. I tried. Eventually I left the stones and cycled up and over the moors to Stornoway where a bed in a hostel awaited me. And what a hostel it was.

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Sweet Jesus have mercy

Heb hostel was heaven on Earth. Almost as soon as I arrived and had dumped all my stuff I was running myself an enormous hot bath, complete with some abandoned lynx bodywash. I bought myself lavish dinner supplies including a bottle of wine and a block of halloumi. I lounged on the sofa watching grand designs and doing sudoku. I decided that i was definitely not getting up at 5.30am for the morning ferry and would catch the 2pm one instead. I was living the life.

Harris and Lewis and the 84km day

I arrived on Harris, greeted by what felt like endless ‘vote leave’ placards (the irony of them being all along eu-funded roads amused me for at least a while). After I’d cycled away from the ferry port in Leverburgh I was once again greeted by an incredible coastline of endless beautiful beaches, stunning even with the gloomy clouds above me.

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Ermagerrrrd

I made a slightly stupid decision, away from the beautiful designated campspots with signs for how to pay the West Harris Trust Β£5 online (great community idea, v impressed) and up into the mountains where everywhere was basically a swamp. I managed to find a slightly less swampy mossy perch and set up my tent for the night.

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Why do i do this

Not long after I was crossing the border into Lewis. They’re not really separate islands at all, by a substantial area of land, so I don’t really understand how that started.

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How did this happen

Just as I was trying to decide my plan for the next few days I stumbled upon the Aline Community Woodland.

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I almost cried when i had to go

I sat and ate my lunch on a convenient picnic bench and watched the world go by. There were more moths and butterflies and other winged insects dancing around, many pollinating conifers, than I’ve ever seen anywhere in the uk. I might even go as far as comparing it to rainforest levels. I was absolutely loving it.

Somehow, and for whatever reason, I ended up cycling 84km that day to the north-west coast. I believe it is mainly due to the fact that ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happens on Sundays in the Outer Hebrides because Jesus. When people had said nothing, they really meant nothing. So I had no cafes to stop at and procrastinate, so I cycled stupidly far. I made it to the black house village in Garenin to find no staff at all, and people staying there who seemed just as confused as me.

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No post on Sundays... Or anything really...

I spent a bit of time wandering around the village. It was abandoned when the residents moved to council houses in the 1970s and restoration was later done in the 90s. It was a great place, but I didn’t want to upset anyone by sleeping where I wasn’t allowed, so in the end I just pitched up by the beach behind it.

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Atlantical.

There were three people say drawing on the beach who recognised me from the ferry from Berneray by my bike flag. We had a nice chat and they were as surprised as I was to have made it that far already. Eventually they headed off and I settled down to a very carby dinner.

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Pasta with a view

I smelled awful, the skin on the soles of my feet was beginning to peel off (be thankful I didn’t include a photo), I was exhausted from the day’s 84km but i was so, so incredibly excited to visit the standing stones the next day.