Our adventure from Land's End to John O' Groats on a tandem

Author: J & M (Page 1 of 4)

Thank you!

Firstly a BIG thank you to everyone who has supported and encouraged us along the way and donated to our chosen charities.

We have stayed at 31 varied accommodations from attic room B&B’s in private houses to large chain hotels (anywhere we could get a good deal!). Every single one of them has been extremely friendly and helpful and provided safe storage for Daisy.

We can’t believe how lucky we have been with the weather, only 1 completely wet day and 3 days which were a bit iffy and wet weather gear was on for a short while.

Our bodies have held up really well, a few little niggles in the first week, sorted with cream and tubigrips and then we were physically fine.

Daisy has performed excellently, just a few technical hitches….

Broken rear pannier fixing bolt -Repaired with 2 jubilee clips.

Crank worked loose – Tightened at bike shop.

Replaced worn out brake pads with spares on board.

One stretched chain replaced.

One chain breakage – Repaired with spare links on board.

2 punctures- Repaired on the roadside.

All in all this has been an amazing experience for us in an amazing country and we have enjoyed every second of it! We have enjoyed writing the blogs and hope they have given you an insight into our adventure.

We are now expecting the withdrawal symptoms!

Would we do it again?????????

Today we walked 2 miles further on than the John o’Groats signpost to Duncansby Head which is actually the furthest point from Land’s End.

Tourist boat under Duncansby Head
Who knew John o’Groats had such a lovely beach? Not us!

We did it!

Up until now we have always felt nervous before every ride, not really knowing how the day’s ride may go. As soon as we got pedalling the nerves would vanish and the sense of freedom would take over. Knowing this was our final ride of this adventure gave us different feelings We were relaxed and had a sense of achievement building within us.

Leaving Thurso we were faced as usual by a bit of a climb!

With encouragement from each other we rode straight up it!

A couple of miles further on the soft, flat landscape gave it the feel of an isolated farming island.

Dunnet Head, Great Britain ‘s most northerly point in the background

Passing more of the upright field boundary flagstones, we were soon to ride through the village of Castletown and information boards there, told us that these Caithness flagstones were produced in Castletown in the 1800’s and exported all over the world. At one time employing more than 500 people.

With only 3 miles left to go we decided to stop………

….. and let this tractor pass as we didn’t want to get squashed so near the end!

Before we knew it we could see the colourful buildings of John o’Groats!

“Are we nearly there yet?” Yes we are!

We rode down the busy road, into the car park and made our way through lots of tourists to the John o’Groats signpost, 39 days (30 riding days) after leaving it’s sister signpost at Land’s End 1,233 miles away via the National Cycle Network.

We really have made it here……..
……..and all 3 of us are still smiling!

We are staying at John o’Groats until Friday and will be doing a summing up blog in the next few days.

Total distance today 22 miles

Total Hill Climbs today 862 ft

North coast to Thurso

We woke this morning to have this view from our bedroom window, when we arrived yesterday the sea mist had obliterated it.

The ruins of Castle Varrich

In complete contrast to yesterday’s inland ride, today’s was mostly coastal and very tough because of the steep climbs. To give you some idea here is the elevation data from our guide book.

Lots of ups and downs!

It was a real pleasure to be looking down on the Atlantic Ocean seawater in the Kyle of Tongue and to watch the tiny looking vehicles crossing the causeway.

The Kyle of Tongue causeway

The Bay of Tongue has several islands within it.

Houses with lovely views…..
….of The Bay and The Islands

It wasn’t long before we couldn’t resist stopping again to look at the fantastic seascape.

View from Coldbackie
Beyond the Islands there is nothing until The Arctic !

Nearing the top of a climb at around 8 miles at Glen Borgie we checked our maps after seeing this sign. …..

……… because we definitely didn’t want to ride into the unknown !

It was aother climb up to Bettyhill and we wondered about the history of this building on the way up.

We often like to look at the hill we have just climbed and it never ceases to amaze us!

Looking back!

Today the sky was blue but the ocean was even bluer!

Sea Blue!

A little further on we had a reminder of how near we are to finishing this adventure.

Not long now!

Dropping down to a more level ride towards Thurso, the land became flatter with fields full of sheep.

Sheep everywhere!

Something we have never seen before was the thousands of stone slabs which are used to enclose fields and gardens in this area which look eerily like headstones!

Unusual walling

We completed today’s ride at Thurso our B & B for the night.

Last ride tomorrow!

Total distance today: 44 miles

Total hill climbs: 3060ft

The Flow Country (Lairg-Tongue)

We rode off this morning along Loch Shin, where the leaping salmon we saw on Saturday go to spawn.

Loch Shin

We knew that nearly all of today’s ride was going to be remote. This area of the Highlands is known as the Flow Country which is the largest area of blanket bog in the world, around 4,000 sq km.

Information board soon after entering the Flow Country

This meant for us that on our 3rd to last ride of the adventure we were to be treated to an experience that we simply did not expect! 36 miles of wowness!

We are struggling to put it into words so see for yourself………


Looking east
Mountain stream at 17 miles
Our road ahead zigzagging up the hillside
Cloud capped mountains
All to ourselves !
Not a care in the World
Loch Loyal glistening

Arriving in sea misty Tongue for our B&B

Only 2 more rides and 65 miles to John o’Groats!

Total distance today 38.5 miles

Total Hill Climbs today 1,535 ft

Dingwall to Lairg

About 90 percent of today’s hill climbs were in the first 20 miles of the ride. Leaving Dingwall we rode up where the route gave us a spectacular elevated view over Cromarty Firth which is frequented on their migration routes by minke whales, humpback whales and basking sharks although we weren’t lucky enough to see any today .

Looking down to Cromarty Firth

A local lady who we spoke to said after leaving Dingwall today, our ride would be barren and remote, but in a good way. She was right! It was so remote we didn’t even see any sheep! The only interruptions from the quiet, were the occasional cars.

Quite unexpectedly we came across this…..

A blast from the past!

We took a detour at the end of the Dornoch Firth to avoid flights of steps up and down to access a viaduct. Didn’t fancy taking heavily ladened Daisy over this obstacle!

One of the joys of this adventure is not always knowing what is round the next corner. Today, nearing the end of our ride we saw signs for “The Falls of Shin” We hadn’t realised that this is a waterfall where salmon can be seen leaping upstream to spawn. (Apparently one of the best places in Scotland to see this)

Spot the salmon?

Our B&B for the next 2 nights in Lairg, has a lovely view of the River Shin, only 50 mts away.

As we write this just after 10pm the sun has not yet set and we realise we have a full 1 hour extra light before sunset than our home in Petersfield.

Total distance today 38 miles

Total Hill Climbs 2,028 ft

Over Kessock Bridge

With our tummies full of porridge from the World Porridge Making Championships village of Carrbridge we departed our B&B and headed up through the forest to begin today’s ride. As we progressed our first climb of the day up the Slochd Summit Mountain Pass we entered misty cloud which turned to rain, so on with wet weather gear.

We have noticed that many of the houses have wood carvings in their front gardens and even public benches are likely to be carved.

A bench near Loch Moy

At Craggie while passing farming fields we couldn’t resist stopping to look at some unusual sheep. We looked at them, and they looked at us probably thinking “what unusual looking humans!”

Cute, aren’t they?

Just after Castletown almost in the middle of nowhere on a very quiet country lane a Bronze Age cemetery, Clava Cairns, which dates back 4,000 years remains very well preserved and had visitors walking quietly and with respect between the standing stones and the stone burial cairns.

Clava Cairns

On the edge of Inverness city centre a baby tandem in the window of Velocity Café caught our eye.

A tandem for little people!

The route took us through the middle of the city centre with hoards of people and onto the path along the River Ness.

Footbridge over the River Ness

We had the much bigger Kessock Bridge to cycle over with The Moray Firth on the east, looking out to sea, and The Beauly Firth on the inland side.

High and windy!

The crossing was very exhilarating and quite surreal to be so high above such an expanse of water.

Kessock Bridge after our crossing of it.

We were now in The Ross and Cromarty region of Scotland with the cycle path following the route of the A9 north. All we can say about this is that it is a very busy noisy road, but cycle paths although near it were very safe.

Approaching Dingwall the route leaves the A9 and a pleasant fast downhill ride took us into Dingwall where our B&B overlooks Cromarty Firth.

Total distance today 47 miles

Total Hill Climbs today 1,958 ft

Overlooking Beauly Firth

Newtonmore to Carrbridge

Leaving our B&B in Newtonmore we rode by The Highland Folk Museum which looked well worth a visit if we had more time. The next village was Kingussie where we stopped in the excellent bike shop “Wee Bike Hub” to get a loose crank tightened, then continued out of the village where we saw The Ruthven Barracks which were destroyed by The Jacobites in 1746.

Wonder how it looked before it’s destruction?

Before long we met up with some friends of the family who have recently moved to the area, their friendliness and encouragement was very much appreciated.

Murray and Diane, thanks for cheering us on and for your donation.

The route carved it’s way through the forest.

After the peace and quiet of the forest we encountered Aviemore and the busyness of the summer outdoor activities taking place there, mountain biking, Segways, tree top adventure courses etc.,

A delightful path out of Aviemore, through the golf course wooded track, led us onto The Speyside Way, a dreamy soft, tranquil and calming area of low lying heather moorland.

We rode back onto a forest track which led us to a tarmac road with affluent, continental looking houses in the village of Boat of Garten with it’s steam train attraction.

On leaving Boat of Garten we had distant views of snow fields nestled high up in the mountains.

Our B&B for tonight is in Carr-bridge famous for at least 2 things, it’s stone packhorse bridge, the oldest in The Highlands, built in 1717

Pack Horse Bridge

……..and The World Porridge Making Championships.

Total distance today 30.5 miles

Total Hill Climbs today 1,073 ft

Drumochter Pass

With everything now dried out from yesterday’s soaking we set off out of Pitlochry in the sunshine. This stage of the journey was to take us up and over Drumochter Pass.

About 7 miles into the ride at Blair Atholl we were impressed by the colourful roadside floral displays through the village.

Before we began the long climb uphill we read the warning signs which made us a little nervous but we felt we were well prepared.

457 metres!!

The main of the ride up to the top of The Pass ran alongside the River Garry which cascades down it’s rocky path

River Garry

The cycle route followed a now closed road and also narrower cycle paths up to the summit. At times we were only a few metres away from the railway line on one side and the busy A9 on the other .

As we continued to rise towards The Cairngorm National Park we once more felt minuscule amongst the mountain scene. We took advantage of a cyclists rest area and had our lunch there.

Not looking forward to the loose surface!
Fortunately the loose surface had been resurfaced!

Now fed and watered we rode on under darkening skies which threatened a downpour at any moment. The railway slightly drifted away from us at this point.

Cycle path, railway and dark skies.

After 25 miles of continual climbing we were approaching the summit.

With spectacular views all around!

The rain held off and we reached the summit!

Proof! We made it to the summit.

We had a little celebration planned at 29 miles into today’s ride.

A feel good moment!

We very much enjoyed the 16 mile downhill to Newtonmore, our B&B for the next 2 nights.

Rainfall today NIL

Total distance today 42 miles

Total Hill Climbs today 1,896 ft

On the way down.

Day 23. Wonderfully Wet!

Leaving Killin in the rain and dressed for it we crossed the bridge and looked at The Falls of Dochart on one side and the ancient MacNab Clan island burial site on the other.

The Falls of Dochart
Ancient MacNab clan burial site.

The route took us along quiet elevated lanes which looked down across Loch Tay. In the rain it was sometimes visible and sometimes obscured by low misty clouds.

Misty Loch Tay

The route today had lots of short sharp climbs which made the going tough especially as the rain was settling in for the day.

Half way along Loch Tay we entered Perth and Kinross.

Soon after this we did actually have a red squirrel welcome us before it ran off over a bank. The first one we have seen on the adventure .

In the heavy rain on a steep section we suddenly lost power and saw that the back chain had broken!

Chain repair in the rain!

Towards the end of Loch Tay we passed The Crannog Centre. Crannogs were man made islands built 2,500 years ago, over water on timber piles. The smell of “prehistoric “ cooking filled the air as we rode by!

We arrived in touristy Kenmore after following Loch Tay for it’s entire length of 15 miles.

Boats on Loch Tay at Kenmore.

The rain eased slightly as we rode passed “Rustic Lodge” a former gatehouse to Taymouth Castle.

The rain got heavier just when we needed to stop for lunch, with no shelter in sight we put our capes on and lunched by the river!

But we stayed dry!

On quite fast roads we laughed as we rode through a village called “Dull”. The rain was not going to stop us having fun!

Set back from the road in Weem stands Castle Menzies, a restored 16th century Scottish castle.

Castle Menzies.

Leaving the busy road we had some more steep climbs through farmland and forest lanes before arriving in Pitlochry at our B&B for the night.

The wet weather of today’s ride actually enhanced and added atmosphere to the views and we stayed dry (apart from our faces!) under our wet weather gear.

Total distance today 39 miles

Total Hill Climbs 2,041 ft

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