Friday, 6 June 2014

Leg 5, Day 6: Durness to Stromness

It was heaven to wake up in a comfortable bed this morning, thanks to the most amazing hospitality from Duncan and Marlene Shaw, who very kindly put us up at their wonderful B and B next to the Gualin Estate. 

The alarm went off at 6.30pm, and opening the curtains confirmed our worst fears- that the forecasters had indeed been correct...

I won't dwell on the driving rain and strong winds outside but suffice to say that there is definitely a pattern emerging with the weather up here on the West and North coasts of Scotland! Not only this, but the wind had turned to the east, which would mean a 20km/h head wind all day (a similar experience to cycling with your breaks on)! 

Marlene produced the most incredible breakfast for us, with coffee, cereal, eggs on toast, fruit (which we haven't had all week,) juice- the full works.  If anything would prepare us for the day ahead it was this.

Tempted not to leave at all, we forced ourselves out into the driving rain at 7.30am and hit the road. It was
 immediately apparent how knackered our legs were following the previous day's ride- into the headwind and with no power progress was painfully slow.

The target for the day was to cycle the entire way across the north coast of Scotland (some 140km) and we needed to reach our destination of Scrabster for the 5.00pm ferry to the Orkneys. This was listed as 'CRITICAL' by Rad in his military style organisation on his Google callendar making it all the more ominous! 

Even with our bin bags on (which we are now getting pretty good at 'fitting') we were totally 
soaked within half an hour. 

The terrain across the North coast of Scotland was very hilly- barely a flat stretch- it was either up or down. Whilst driving rain and sea mist/low cloud limited visibility to around 100m for most of the day we did get the odd clearing across some of the beautiful sandy estuaries and coves along this stretch of the coast.

Despite the terrible weather, hilly terrain and our exhausted legs we plugged away and made
 good progress. By 70km in however we were soaked and starting to get chilled- in need of food to recharge we pulled in to Tongue and stopped at the Ben Loyal Hotel. The staff there very kindly put our soaking kit through the drier for an hour while we sat by their log burning stove drying out and eating a hearty lunch. Being able to put on dry clothes for the afternoons ride (even though we knew they would be soaked again in half an hour) was bliss.

After lunch we ploughed on in the rain over more hills with the headwind strengthening. It was relentless and exhausting. 
The last 25km was exceptionally hard work - our legs simply had nothing left! 

Eventually wearrived at Scrabster, to our enormous relief in good time for the 5.00pm ferry. It turned out however that there was actually no ferry at 5.00pm, and that Rad in his Military Style organisation he built in a 'safety margin' of 1.30hrs which he had forgotten about and fooled even himself!  The ferry was not actually until 6.30pm!

So glad that we had half killed ourselves to make it in time... we grabbed a shower at the Scrabster RNLI station followed by a pint on the quayside before boarding the ferry to the Orkneys.

By Sod's law the skies cleared again and we sailed across to Stromness in the sunshine with beautiful views of the Orkney cliffs and Old Man of Hoy Stack. A quick supper onboard before being welcomed by the crew of the Stromness RNLI Station.

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