Total mileage: 43
Terrain: Coldest day with lots of hill climbing with sustained periods of rain
A short day and a bit of an anti-climax after the previous day’s cycle. Breakfast was a simple affair in the hostel. The room stank of 4 large, pissed French blokes. Neither Pete nor I made any attempt to be quiet as they had been crashing around the previous night, completed steaming, when they returned to the dorm. Not sure where they went but there were a few bottles of Jack Daniels littered on teh floor of the room.
The temperature had dropped a few degrees and the wind was progressively more severe as the day pressed on. Today marked a change in direction for us. We stopped heading north and started heading east. The road ahead hugged the coastline closely as we navigated around Loch Eriboll, a 16km long sea loch. Apparently, it had been used for centuries as a deep water anchorage as it is safe from the often stormy seas of Cape Wrath and the Pentland Firth. On our round route, we passed some bronze age remains including a wheelhouse in great condition.
On our way back up towards the north coast and Hellam, the hills started to raise more sharply around the water’s edge. As we reached the apex, the relentless winds of the previous day returned to pummel our easterly journey.
This was very much the make up for the rest of the day; stunning scenery, step hills and unceasingly resistant winds. The temperatures continued to dropped as we all wrapped up. By the time we reached Tongue, our spirits were at a low ebb. Perfect timing as it turned out for some lunch. We stopped in the town’s only hotel, which happened to sport a decent restaurant. Three courses of hot food and accompanying beverages later and once again, the cockels of our hearts were warned.
We estimated that to reach John O’Groats would have been a long stretch and that to cut the last day’s cycle down to a mere 10 miles from Thurso to JOG would have been a real anti-climax. Therefore, the best alternative was for us to stop in a town called Bettyhill. The town itself was non-descript. In our ferver to find a decent spot for the evening, we managed to choose the lesser of the two camping sights. As you can tell from the image above, this was not the most solubrious of campsites. Indeed, I think on reflection, it was perhaps the most grim campsite we stayed at, a most fitting last night!
Not everything about Bettyhill was a disaster. Once we were able to navigate our way successfully to the local beach, a trial in itself, we were treated to a glorious sunset. The skies were peppered with a few clouds but we all remained optimistic that our final day would be one blessed with sunshine. I think Pete and Mary were really lucky to have one another on this trip. Sharing an adventre like this, no matter how trying or run of the mill, is something that shared will be a momeory for life. I was definitely happy that Pete and Mary were on teh trip. It really reminded me of the great times we had experienced together when we met on the Inca Trail, en route to Machu Picchu or diving in the Caribbean off the north coast of Colombia.