19 miles and 883 feet ascent.
We made it ! We started today by visiting Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in the British mainland, before the final stretch to John O’Groats for some celebratory photos and drinks. After an early start, we then had enough time to cycle south to Wick to pick up the train home.
Today’s journey in three words: elation, relief, achievement.
What actually happened:
Our trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats was actually 13 days long. We’d left a short day – just 11 miles – for our final day, largely organised around the time of a train home. So, tucking into a good meal in the hotel in Dunnet (the only hotel stop), followed by a celebratory whisky, it felt as though we had almost completed the ride.
We’d already decided that we wouldn’t cycle to Dunnet Head – an optional diversion which involved about 500ft of climbing – and so this left more time for a relaxing morning.
It was a quiet ride to John O’Groats the next morning with little traffic, smooth tarmac and only the noises of birdsong, lambs and the crashing of waves to accompany us. Views of more of the Orkneys opened up as we cycled east.
Before we knew it we were freewheeling down the hill towards the hotel, shop and visitor centre at John O’Groats. I remember thinking: “This is it, we’re finally off on our adventure” as we pedalled away from Land’s End. This time, my feelings were more of relief, elation and satisfaction that we’d made it. This has undoubtedly been the toughest thing I’ve ever done, and when we were battling headwinds and struggling to climb impossibly steep hills I’d be lying if I said I was enjoying it. But looking back, it’s a huge achievement to have cycled the entire length of the country in one continuous journey.
A couple took our photos at ‘the’ signpost before we retired to the cafe for a well-earned coffee and scone. We spent 10 minutes browsing for souvenirs in the shop but it’s difficult parting with your money when the choice and quality on offer is so shockingly bad (I guess some people must buy this tacky junk but it’s an insult to the good quality Scottish crafts they could have showcased and sold).
A 16 mile cycle took us south to Wick train station and the 8 hour trip home. On the way we met Frank, who has terminal bone marrow cancer and is cycling LEJOG too (read his story below). While we’ve managed to raise almost £2,700 for the Maggie’s Centres, who provide respite care for cancer sufferers and their families, Duncan and I are both fit and healthy. Yet, here was a cheery, inspirational man battling the disease doing what we have done and raising money for Cancer Research. This chance meeting did bring home to me that while our little adventure was mainly a personal challenge for us both, it will hopefully have done some good for people who are not quite so fortunate.
So that’s the end of our adventure.
I’ll complete this series of LEJOG posts with some final reflections and tips for anyone else interested in taking it on when the dust has settled back home. In the meantime, if you’d like to donate to a very worthy cause you can do so here:
The high points:
- Getting to John O’Groats !
- Getting a cushioned seat on the train
- Meeting a cheery Frank (with a very heavy bike)
And the low points:
- Tacky souvenirs at John O’Groats – a wasted opportunity if ever there was one
- 11 miles cycled
- 1015 miles cumulative
- 13.2 mph average speed
- 25.6 mph top speed