Thursday, 5 June 2014

Leg 5, Day 5: Stornoway - Durness


A comparatively relaxed start to today with a 07:00 ferry from Stornoway back to Ullapool, where we finished our ride yesterday afternoon. Knowing we didn't have to put our bruised bottoms on saddles until 09:30 was a great relief. 

Talking of bottoms, thanks to all who pointed out that we had "pooed into a bakery" a rather amusing typo from Day 1's post which has now been corrected.  

The weather is (hopefully) taking a turn for the better which will make our lives significantly easier. I'm starting this post on the ferry and as I look out the window I can see a calm sea and the sun glistening off the water. What a wonderful part of the world to be in when the weather is like this! Our cycling gear is still a little damp form yesterday so we're making a chinese laundry out of one of the dining tables.... 

To be continued...

We have now finished for the day and we are in the possibly the most remote place in the British Isles! A beautiful B&B run by Duncan and Marleen Shaw, who are kindly putting us up for the night, without charge, so this is an enormous thank you to both of them. 

It's struck us both as slightly odd that in one of the most fierce areas of the UK coast (especially in winter) there are no RNLI stations within 70km! I'm sure there is a good reason for this and we'll ask at Thurso RNLI station tomorrow. 

Anyway, the day started with some undulating terrain but this was more than made up for by the fine weather and simply breathtaking views. We headed north out of Ullapool towards our first and only station of the day in Lochinver. It was 50 km or so to get there and we were on a windy single track road that hugged the coastline, providing ample distraction from our sore parts, the number of which were growing steadily throughout the day. 

Despite being in mainland Scotland this area had a distinct 'Island feel' with better kept properties, friendlier drivers and surprisingly lush flora, a particular favourite seemed to be the rhododendron which was abundant in all shades of 1980s pinks and purples. 

Having taken our photo outside Lochinver RNLI station, we grabbed a bite to eat at the nearby cafe. Being able to sit down and eat a hot meal was an real luxury, yesterday, with the thought of missing the ferry, we had limited our breaks to short roadside stops where we stretched and wolfed down as much food as we could before getting too cold. Today was very different, we even had a 5 minute bask in the sun which was made eve better with the bakewell slices nick pulled out of his pannier bag. 

After Lochinver, the road turned sharply inland and we entered the terrain more comply associated with the Highlands- vast glens, dramatic mountainous terrain, which would not be out of place in The Lord of the Rings, although nearer Mordor than The Shire. Not that it isn't beautiful, but there is a reason that Bear Grylls filmed his 'survival in the wilderness' here! We we're fortunate enough to be enjoying the views in the sun but I can't imagine how bleak this area becomes in mid-winter. 

We skirted around various lochs and as our legs lost any power the gradient increased and we spent a great deal of our time in our easiest gear with the 30mph northerly wind which had picked up in the afternoon greeting us head-on. The final 40km which might normally take us an hour and a quarter or so took 3 gruelling hours and by the time we got to the B&B we were (once again) in pieces. 

A delicious venison chile con carne and a dram of Scotland's finest made us both feel considerably better and as the rain began to fall and the easterly wind grew in strength, we tried our best to put off any thought of tomorrow's exploits.


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