91 miles and 4,535 feet ascent.
Day 12 saw us reaching northern Scotland with a big day of over 90 miles and 4,500 feet height gain. After 20 miles cycling along Loch Ness we tackled a big hill out of Drumnadrochit to follow quieter roads past Beauly on the Black Isle. Beyond Dingwall we rode parallel to the A9 to Tain, then headed north past Bonar Bridge to our small campsite (Woodend) at Lairg.
Today’s journey in three words: weary, blustery, Firths.
What actually happened:
After commenting a few days ago that I’d not had any serious ailments on this trip, things changed for the worse last night. I was conscious of a sore right calf for the last 10 miles of Day 11 and by the time we’d reached Fort Augustus I was in quite a bit of pain and limping. That night my calf swelled up – I’d actually strained my achilles tendon – and I feared that my LEJOG might be over.
However, ibuprofen reduced the swelling the next morning and on top of a night’s rest (when I could feel my muscles throbbing), I managed to get on the bike again and start cycling. I took it easy for the first 10 miles, trying not to put too much pressure on my right leg. A visit to the chemist in Drumnadrochit sorted me out with some ibuprofen gel and stronger painkillers (I feel like some drugged-up competitive cyclist … without the added performance, obviously).
The route along Loch Ness was flat and fast but led to a steep 700 ft climb away from the loch to the north, the second biggest of our entire trip. At least we had a long downhill and a flattish route thereafter through Beauly, Muir of Ord and Dingwall.
It was a sunshine and showers kind of a day, which meant we kept our waterproofs on. We took a quiet B road parallel to the A9 which climbed high above the Cromarty Firth before a pub lunch in Evanton. In a change to our planned route we also diverted north on the B9176 rather the follow the coast via Tain, and this saved us 10 miles for only an extra 150 ft height gain. While it was blustery up this higher-level route we got good views down to the Dornoch Firth.
We stopped at a bike shop for some much-needed bike TLC at Ardgay (near Bonar Bridge) and then it was only 10 miles to our final campsite of the trip at Lairg. We opted to camp in the village itself rather than our intended campsite 5 miles north (on the ‘wrong’ road). The Lairg campsite won’t win any 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor (or even 2 star reviews) but it had all the basics and – importantly – was only a short walk from an evening meal and free wifi.
The high points:
- The relief from being able to cycle with a strained calf
- Saving 10 miles by taking a more direct route
- Welcome food stops at lunch and in the evening
And the low points:
- A strained calf muscle !
- The campsite at Lairg
- 80 miles cycled
- 33.4mph top speed
- 11.3mph average speed