Ferry John o'Groats - Orkney

Cycling Scotland #6. Inverness to John o’Groats

The milestone of this part is Altnaharra. Either you go with other cyclists straight to  Bettyhill, or with almost nobody to Tongue, how National Cycling Route 1 prescribes. All cyclists I’ve met told me that Altnaharra – Bettyhill was one of the best part on their way across UK. So I checked another route.


Black Isle

Scotland Highland

Scotland Highland

Of course I took Black Isle. I was told the ferry was working further down, and I could join the main cycling route in Tore. After a few miles, in Allangrange Arms pub, I learned that in fact, the ferry wasn’t working because the pиеr was smashed by either wind or waves. I wasn’t upset as the road back was actually a triangle, not just totally back, and there was Black Isle Berries farm on my way.

Black Isle

Black Isle

I was given a small basket and sent to the greenhouse for picking strawberries. It’s cheaper if you pick it yourself. I’m sorry if I made it a bit more cheaper… Looking how others did, I decided that the owner counted on it when drew the price, almost the same.

Altnaharra

Altnaharra, Scotland

Altnaharra, Scotland

Lairg is the last place when you can buy food till Tongue. Altnaharra Hotel is a cosy and classy hotel, when I spent plenty of time, waiting out the rain. Looks like it’s a place where all charity cyclists stop. And there are a lot of them, cycling around and raising money for local hospices.

Altnaharra, Scotland

Altnaharra, Scotland

The night I spent in The Bed & Breakfast around the corner in the caravan, which the owners kindly cleaned from old carpets. They gave me sandwiches for the road when next day I asked where was a grocery  store…

 Abandoned Shepherd Huts

Shepherd hut

Shepherd hut

I was told you can come and stay inside, but I never tried as for me it’s scary. Did I regret cycling this way? Nope, look at the pictures below. On my way I cycled in somebody’s porch and in somebody’s barn, and managed to stay dry … before the last two miles to Tongue, where I’ve got the all nine yards of a shower, with no time even to put on my rain coat.

Lairg-Tonque

Lairg-Tonque

I cycled into Ben Loyal Hotel totally wet, but had got dry, sitting with a pot of tea. For a long-long time sitting. Then pitched my tent on the backyard with a sea-view, around the corner. At the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Bettyhill

Bettyhill

Bettyhill

One of the best view on the National Cycling Route 1  is here (photos below). I like the first part of Bettyhill’s  name, but hate the second one. It’s a huge uphill from both side of the road. You will be reworded by the same huge downhill, later, whichever way you are going from Bettyhill. The owner of the hotel couldn’t look at me, was going to tent under the rain, and introduce me to their chief, who had a spare room in the caravan.

Burning viking boat

Viking village

Viking village

There was a lot of events on weekend I came in. The most interesting for me was Viking Festival. It was the last day of it, and at the end of everything, at 6PM, every year, they burned a boat. A photo? Well, I missed it. But I remember two hours later…

Castletown, Flagstone Village

Flagstone village

Flagstone village

Local flagstone was used for paving New York, London, Sydney, and Edinburg. There is an exhibition in Castlehill Heritage Centre about these times and people.

The end of the land. Scotland side.

John o'Groats

Thurso-John o’Groats

Don’t count much on John o”Groats as it a small place with a small pier for small ferries. But it decorated regarding its status of the United Kingdom’s “big land” ending spot, so it’s a place to celebrate your journey, whatever it was. I celebrated with a pint of ice cream, belgium chocolate in particular, even I should hurry up to my ferry to Orkney. I just asked a crew to carry my bike into the ferry as my hands were busy with ice cream pint, belgium chocolate. Which probably looked a bit strange in my freezing from wind hands, under the rain. Felt privilege with personal crew.

What also amazing at the end of the land is to here your name. Somebody recognised you. Yes, at John o”Groats you can meet somebody you saw before. The guy crossing this photo, taken before I crossed the  Scottish border!

Scottish Borders

Scottish Borders

Lena Faber used to work as a journalist at a mainstream Russian newspaper, she wrote books for a major publishing house, and directed her original concept on Drive TV in Russia. In 2009, she moved to South Africa and taught at the University of SA, where she took up running competitively and won a silver medal at the World Masters Athletic Championship. She has also won an international photo contest and had a photo exhibition of her work. In 2014 she decided to try fast long-distance hiking and started with the Appalachian Trail where she earned a trail name "Brave" from other hikers. She has also cycled US Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, as well as other parts of the world. Still hiking and cycling somewhere.