Stage 1

"With weather like this all the way, it's going to be a lovely ride."

Stage Stats

Distance 153.9 km
Time 6 hours 2 mins
Elevation 1355m
Pain Factor 7/10

Stage 1: started with rather different weather conditions to the evening before. We awoke to ground level sea mist and being unable to even see out the window we went for an early breakfast. After a full English (or I guess thats a full Scottish) was devoured (to the sounds of celtic flutes and drums) we faffed around getting ready and eventually set off from the Seaview hotel and out into the fog at about 8am. It pretty disconcerting to actually head north west straight out the starting blocks, especially as the destination was South West, but there was method to the madness. The route is everything, and a direct south route is a busy road for up here and why not add a few kilometers for a traffic free experience.  

The sun soon burnt off the fog and by 10am we were in Thurso under cloudless skies. Of course we forgot to put sun screen on and the tan lines are looking pretty good. (the red matched my Woking CC top). The Caithness coast is an amazing place, but I can imagine in a bad storm you would not want to be up here on a bike. There is nothing but hardy sheep and cows and very little landscape that can hide you from the weather. We rode on and stopped at 11am for a massive sugar intake of apple pie and custard and some original Orkney ice cream at the Bettyhill cafe. (which I heartily recommend as its just before a bit of a climb) 

Here we turn south and start to head inland away from the coast. The road along Loch Naver is fantastic, and the weather could not have been better. (The route means everything). From Altnaharra the road ramps up through some fantastic scenery. Trouble is that "scenery" hurt the legs pretty bad and I was glad when eventually the solitary building of the Crask Inn came into sight. 

We overstayed our time slot to sample the beers at the most remote pub in the UK (well it was hot) then we started off on the long descent into Lairg. The only thing to ruin the descent was the number of timber trucks that hurtle down the valley. Nothing more scary than a long bed lorry laden with whopping great tree trunks flying past you on a single track road 

The road eventually flattened out onto the main road and the village of Lairg. His lordship gets a puncture 300 meters from the hotel and insists on fixing it rather than push his bike a couple of hundred meters. First Scottish cycling tip: Don't stand watching someone change an inner tube around about dusk, while all sweaty and dressed in lycra shorts and a short sleeved cycle top, unless you want to get ravaged by the famous Scottish midge. (Worst injury today, 100 miniture midge bites)


 Previous Stage : Prologue

Next Stage: Stage 2