Day 13

Overview:

84 miles and 4,174 feet ascent.

This is our last full day of cycling and we’re (almost) on the homeward stretch.  It was another big day of 84 miles but more than compensated by some of the most spectacular and remotest scenery on our whole route.  The quiet road north from Lairg took us past the Crask Inn into lonely Strathnaver, past Ben Klibreck and Altnaharra.  I climbed Ben Klibreck in scorching heat a few years ago but to give some contrast, Altnaharra holds the record as the coldest place in the UK where it reached -27.2 degrees celsius in 1995.  On reaching the A836 running along the north coast we turned east and followed the road to Thurso.  This wasn’t our stop for the night though; we carried on to the Northern Sands Hotel just near Dunnet Head, the first ‘proper’ bed for four nights.

Today’s journey in three words: moorland, salmon fishing, big skies

What actually happened:

We were glad to leave our campsite in Lairg and look forward to a hotel tonight at Dunnet. The campsite is basic (to say the least !). Suffice to say that after a wet night and morning we de-camped to the laundry room to have our breakfast and pack our bags in the dry. 

It was a cold and wet 12 mile ride from Lairg to the Crask Inn. We were cycling into the wind and frequent showers soaked us. My hands were so cold I could hardly get my winter gloves on (remember this is late May) and there were still snow patches on Ben Klibreck and other hills. (Last time I was here climbing the munros and wild camping the temperature was hot and sunny). 

Rather than stop at the Crask Inn we pushed on to the Altnaharra Hotel, enjoying a cafetiere of coffee and toast served on a silver platter in their drawing room. The hotel has the air of a sporting lodge; stuffed fish adorning the walls, tartan carpets and an imposing location at the head of Loch Naver. 

Strathnaver was certainly one of the highlights of our trip. It’s a remote glen dominated by the Munro, Ben Klibreck, with only a few signs of human habitation. For the most part, the single track road follows the loch or River Naver, beside peat and heather moorlands and fields of sheep. There are many salmon beats along this stretch which obviously attracts wealthy clientele. Vehicles in these parts are either farmers’ 4x4s or expensive cars with salmon rods attached in the bonnets. The farmers are in boiler suits; the fishermen in green tweeds. 

After 46 miles we reached Bettyhill on the north coast. By this point the showers subsided and it was a fabulously bright afternoon with deep blue skies, fluffy clouds and warm sunshine. On the north coast the skies are big and on a day like today the views to Orkney and Dunnet Head were great. It also made for a photogenic backdrop to the sights in this remote spot. 

After lunch at the Bettyhill Cafe we made good progress eastwards with the wind in our backs, despite the hills along the coast. We obviously passed the Dounreay nuclear power station just as the 4pm shift had ended, as 200 cars (I’m not kidding) all sped past us towards Thurso. Several service buses also carried passengers but most seemed to drive (and by the looks of things, lots of boy racers work at Dounreay). 

An ice cream in Thurso gave sufficient nourishment to take us the final 9 miles to the Northern Sands Hotel in Dunnet, passing the 1,000 mile threshold on the way.  So in spite I’d a cold and wet start this turned out to be a really enjoyably penultimate day of our journey. 

   

                 

The high points:

  • Lonely, remote Strathnaver
  • Big skies and views out over the sea to Orkney
  • Sunshine and blue skies

And the low points:

  • A cold wind and blustery showers in the morning 
  • Rush hour at Dounreay power station (!)

Today’s stats:

  • 84 miles cycled
  • 1004 miles cumulative
  • 11.9 mph average speed
  • 39.9 mph top speed

  

9 Comments on “LEJOG Day 13 – Lairg to Thurso

  1. 1000 miles!! That’s just incredible! Bravo to you both, looks like a beautiful day and not far to go! Well done and thoroughly chapeau of chapeaux!!

    • My legs feel every mile right now ! Thanks, it’s been a great journey as well as the toughest thing I’ve ever done. I’ll post some more considered reflections once I’m home and have someone time.

  2. Well done on the cycling and also on the blog. Once you have gathered you thoughts can you post your feelings on the overall experience. Sometimes it appeals but other times it feels as if it might be too much too fast to take in properly. Will be Interested in your own views.

    • Thanks, yes I will post my more considered thoughts and tips if I were doing it again. As you’ve probably gathered I haven’t had much spare time to blog or tweet en route – but still have lots of thoughts to share.

  3. Have enjoyed your blog….and photos have inspired us to travel more in the UK, though that will be by van, not bike! Enjoy tomorrow, all the best.

    • Thanks ! I’ve also enjoyed seeing parts of the country I didn’t know very well, and there are many places I’d return to. It’s been great seeing how the landscape and people change markedly across a relatively small country.

  4. you guys are such as inspiration. Love reading your blogs and looking at wonderful photos. Once you have recovered from this awesome experience (no rush) would love to hear more.

    • There’ll be a couple more posts once the dust has settled (and I’ve reacquainted myself with my family). Thanks for the positive feedback and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. Now to put my feet up for a while …

  5. Pingback: 12 memorable photos from 2015 | Wild about Scotland

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