Less than 200km to go: Day 15, Inverness to Brora

Posted: February 24, 2013 by Ben Weber in Cycling, English, Training
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Enjoying the view along the coast at duskTotal distance covered (start of day): 1,356km

Distance travelled over the day: 93.38km

Total distance remaining at end of day: 104.55km

Map - Inverness - Brora

It was good being back in Inverness. The reason for this was that the town was always a place where my family and I would stop off when going from the Orkney Islands to southern Scotland and England on holiday. We always had to get a train from Thurso to Inverness and change to get a sleeper, which invariably meant a few hours to wait in the town, and same again on going back up. The train from Thurso was always something we hated as at least one of us would end up not feeling well. Though there is a new train now and adjustments made to the route that have shortened the journey, back then it was a long and slow process. So time in Inverness helped us to recover/prepare ourselves for the torment. I didn’t remember much of the city, just walking over a suspension bridge for pedestrians that seemed to bounce whenever we worked. I wondered if this was just our imagination as children or if it did actually happen. We didn’t find out this time, however, as while we had daylight hours to spend, relaxing and going to get something to eat was more important… plus we knew that we would have time in the town when we would come down from the Orkneys at the end of this journey…

In Inverness, this was the one time that we received an offer from a host (couchsurfing) but chose to decline. There were two main reasons for this, the first is being an important point about the reviews system with both couchsurfing and warmshowers. After looking at a few of the reviews and also finding it difficult to gain responses from the host, Natalia and I felt slightly uncomfortable. Maybe we were completely wrong, as the host did get a fair few positive reviews as well, and we might have missed a very interesting and nice person (which, in all likelihood, would have been the case); but it was our choice to make and it is great that people are able and do provide feedback about guests/hosts – so thank you to all who have! The second point was that it wasn’t clear from our brief communication with the host about whether or not there would be space for our bikes and equipment and am not sure whether the host had understood. We didn’t really want to overwhelm the poor guy! … I guess that is one thing that Warmshowers definitely has over Couchsurfing for cyclists in that warmshowers is largely for cyclists, so people generally know what to expect, while Couchsurfing… is not.

Enjoying a large meal at Zizzi

Enjoying a large meal at Zizzi

No regrets in the end; we managed to get a good offer at a hotel in town, and it was nice just to be able to leave our bikes and stuff there; have a warm shower and wonder around to find a place to eat. We stumbled across Zizzi on the other side of the river which, while expensive in the evening, had some really great food that left us both ready for sleep and the ride to Brora…

A ride which was lovely. Cold (as you would expect!), with a bit of an icy wind, but lovely. Going over the main A9 bridge northwards over the Beauly Firth was slightly scary – there were engineering works meaning that there was a single lane with no way cars could pass us easily, and no obvious cycle path we could use. So I guess we caused tail-backs for some distance..! Fortunately the cars behind us were generally patient and didn’t get too mad with us, though it was a relief to get over it. After that, we road on more side roads close to the A9 for a little while until we got to a junction where it was only really possible to go on the A9 towards Wick. It was great that now we were starting to see road signs saying “John O’Groats” on them, letting us see the miles ticking down as we got closer and closer. Maybe another way of torturing us… 110 miles…. twenty minutes later… 109 miles… you get the idea… but it was nice all the same…

We were also riding close to the sea for a lot of the time; the first time we had done this since we had left Land’s End, really (after the brief time leaving Edinburgh), and it was good seeing a pretty lovely coastline as we rode along. Not too many hills, though there were a couple of unexpected ones (one near Golspie sticks out in mind) that were tough, but it was generally alright. There were other quite long bridges (about three or four) to cross as well, giving some side winds, but nothing too bad. Fortunately it was pretty calm and the water on many occasions simply appeared like glass. Quite fantastic, especially considering the time of year! Indeed, the conditions for the day allowed us to make good progress and again we were able to meet our target of completing the 93.4km to Brora before it got dark.

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