(Well it began the night before with a drive from Banchory to Mey, stopping for fish and chips from Macleod’s chipper (top find on the Across Scotland trip a few weeks previous)
We arrived at the Castle Arms Hotel in Mey the night before, with strong winds getting stronger as the night progressed. We were woken several times by the howling gales outside, thoughts already on alternative plans if we couldn’t actually cycle into the wind. There is a reason why most people do this ride the other way round – the wind direction is predominantly from south to north – and when its this strong it makes a massive difference as we were about to find out.
The day began at 5 am after a disturbed night (from the wind – mostly outside!) with a short drive to the start of the ride, 5 miles or so from the hotel. Bikes put together, bags clipped on and Garmin’s at the ready, we took a few photos at the sign before saying goodbye to Kate and the Lads.
From the outset we had strong headwinds, and it didn’t take long for the rain (and a bit of sleet) to hit us too. The plan was to get in a few miles before breakfast, and the route we planned kept us off the main roads and coincidentally followed mostly the main cycle route (not planned). The stretch heading past the windmills before hitting the A9 was fantastic – long and with a gentle gradient – the tri bars came into their own!
After 30 miles or so we stopped for breakfast at the Laidhay Croft Museum Teahouse. About 10 mins before getting there we had passed a few guys walking along the road – clearly doing some long distance route – lightweight but they had ‘the look’. Jut after we had ordered food they walked in – turns out they were doing the JOGLE route plus 3 peaks in 1 month – hardcore! The temptation with stops like this is to settle and relax – but this makes it hard to get going again, so we stuck to our plans of breakfast and go, and headed back out into the wind and rain. At this point I realised my Garmin had not recorded the ride so far – gutted! Garmin sorted we set off again. Oh, we had both lost feeling in out ‘bits’ at this point – an odd feeling!
The next 50 miles or so along the pretty quiet A9 was a slog into the wind, with us alternating at the front to take the brunt of the wind. Kate and the Lads passed us a few times on the way as they headed back down to Aberdeenshire. Passing the Glenmorangie distillery it was tempting to have a wee dram, but probably for the best we missed it out. At Tain we stopped for food at the Saint Duthus – unbeknown to us Kate and the lads were eating just around the corner.
After lunch we headed along the A9 before turning off towards Dingwall and Muir of Ord to avoid the busy A9. After Ardendrain the road kicked up for the first long climb of the trip and to the highest point of the day at just over 800ft above sea level. The climb was quite alpine in nature, and the weather had backed off a little, so a very enjoyable climb – and a cracking descent into Drumnadromicht.
The ride along Loch Ness was a great section, and passing through Fort Augustus the day was almost done. We had a table booked in the Invergarry Hotel for the last sitting they could, and the pressure was on to get there in time. We found the hostel with 10 minutes before the hotel stopped serving food, so a quick hello the owners, quick change and we cycled to the hotel, getting there with less that a minute to spare – phew! The food was good, as was the one beer we were allowed – for medicinal reasons as it relaxes the muscles and allows healing to take place faster – honest!
Back to the Saddle Mountain Hostel we could relax and sort out kit. The hostel is amazing and perfect for anyone thinking of doing the ride. The owners are extremely friendly and helpful – the place is spotless, modern, comfortable and has everything you need – a bike lock up, drying room, kitchen, chill room etc. The room was big and beds very comfortable too. 5 stars for this place for sure and I’ll definitely be back.
159 miles, 8851ft of climbing and 12:05:26 hrs in the saddle. Day 1 done!
Huge thanks to Kate and the lads for taking us to John O Groats and spotting us a few times on the way.
Thanks for all those who have sponsored us so far…. several more today as people waiting to make sure we actually started 😀
Have done a little Facebook update so check that out. Will update when we can but signal is sporadic.