Lands End – John O’Groats, 3 – 17 October 2023


Whenever I’ve gone out on a club-run, which I did regularly for a few years a while back, the mid-morning tea-stop was the moment for gossip and comparing training notes. Invariably, the blokes (always blokes) on the run would tell the world how unfit they were: how child-care, work, injury had got in the way of serious cycling effort. I don’t recall even once someone telling me how shit-hot he was. I’m not going to pull this stunt now. For someone closing on their 62nd birthday, I’m doing pretty well. No serious ailments or illnesses, good weight, pretty good aerobic fitness. I’ve been doing a 50 mile round trip ride to a voluntary job I’ve been doing. I’d got myself to 2500m swims several times a week. My running is a bit neglected, but I was nearly back to 10km on alternate days. I’d just walked the Hebridean Way at about 30km / day. Earlier in the summer I’d cycled to Anglesea and back.

All that said, long-distance touring is a challenge unto itself. I’ve enough experience and wisdom to know that aerobic fitness will only get you so far: the law of specificity of training dictates that the only true preparation for long-distance touring is … long-distance touring. I’ve cycled regularly since I was 15 – the last three-quarters of my life. Sometimes daily, sometimes a bit less so. But I’ve never been one for the mega-miles, nor for the seriously painful fast club runs. I’ve done the odd century (100-miles) ride, but only ever once or twice a season.

LEJOG, for me, is one of those ‘Because it’s there’ challenges. I want to do it, but I’d not anticipate it being an enjoyable experience in the moment. Partly it would be a proof-of-concept: I can cycle-tour in a bike-packing type of way for a longer period. Thus a longer but more leisurely ride, eg down the Atlantic coast of France next Spring, is feasible. There’s also a question of bottle. Am I not doing it because I’ve better things to do, or because I’m a bit timid? And, of course, there’s that ticking clock. Tick, tick, tick, …

My preparation and research could have been better, but whether that would have really yielded much of a dividend is debatable. There are clearly a very great number of alternative routes, but I suspect most folk will not have travelled that far from the one I took. It would appear that the main variation is between Bristol and the England/Scotland boarder, and that there is greater conformity in the SW peninsular and through Scotland. I found a bit of stuff on Cycling uk and Sustrans, but the best place for routes I found was Cycle Travel . I just had a look at a few of the routes here, identified that they were largely the same, and chose one that ticked the boxes for me. These were, passing close to Cheltenham and Hawes in Yorkshire and otherwise being fairly direct.

This meant I didn’t cross the Severn Bridge, and travel north close to the Wales/England boarder. I certainly didn’t cross the Pennines, and find an east-coast route. I erred towards skirting to the west of Birmingham, and then going north through Stoke and Manchester, which then pushes you to travel to the east of the Forest of Bowland. A popular alternative appears to be to travel further west, passing between Manchester and Liverpool, heading then to Preston and Lancaster.

Most of my route planning was done in the space of about five minutes, in finding a route that appeared right and settling on it. By-and-large this served me fine. The most significant downside was passing through Manchester, which turned out to be very long, not much fun and navigationally demanding.

I didn’t take much, although I was ready for ‘three-seasons’, which turned out useful, as from balmy summer in Cornwall, I did experience (very briefly) snow in Scotland.

Here are some weights and measures:

ItemWeight (kg)
Bicycle (inc water)13.07
Handlebar bag2.34
In-frame bag4.80
Behind-saddle bag2.82
Top of crossbar bag0.72
Tent poles (strapped to x-bar)0.50
Average food1.00

By way of comparison, my carbon fibre bike weighs 8.58kg with tools and spare, so call it 9kg with a bottle of water. Thus I’m shifting an additional 17.5kg compared to an outing on a summer’s afternoon. I’m self-sufficient and self-supporting, and in the event, I camp most nights. The rig I have is a bag between the drops on the handlebar (containing soft-stuff); a bag in the frame triangle (containing the heavy stuff, including tent); a big-stuff back strapped to the back-panier rack (containing sleep system and clothes). Tent poles are tied to the crossbar. The bloody great D-lock is strapped onto the back-panier.

Day 1. Tuesday 3 October 2023. Land’s End (SW 34258 25031) – Callestock (SW 80057 51499). 16.8km (Penzance – Lands End) + 73.8km and 871m ascent

I reach Penzance by train just after 13:00 and pause to admire the shiny green locomotives before exiting the station, which welcomes me in Cornish. I’ve settled on taking the most direct route to Lands End, which is mostly along the A30. It’s blowy and bright: a good Cornish start, although the A-roads are no fun, and I’m reminded of one piece of advice picked up, which is that whatever the attractions of direct routes, avoid the busy A30 over Bodmin Moor and the A90 high up in Scotland. Lands End struggles to be ghastly in the sunshine with the blue skies and rough sea. But the touristic crap that abounds here is pretty off-putting. If only the National Trust could buy this area and transform it into something uplifting: currently it’s a bit shit, really. I make my way to “The Signpost” (signposted “The Signpost”), snap a picture of the bike, and set off.

I cycle through nostalgia and the happiest memories, of camping and hostelling holidays with laughing children, ice-cream rewards for completed walks, first waves caught on a surf-board, the sun-beams of yesteryear. I manage not to fall off, and return to Plymouth by way of National Cycleroute (NCR) 3, which is 4km further than the A30, but with the aid of a tailwind, takes me less time. Then along the sea-front with fine views of St Michael’s mount. and across to the northern coast, where I somehow miss Hayle and stay high-up till a descent into Camborne. The plan is to get beyond the urban tentacles of Camborne, Redruth and Truro, and find somewhere discreet to stop. I’ve determined to go on till late, given my after-lunch start, and leave the tussocky South West coast for the more verdant Cornish countryside. As the light fades, I find a field where I can hide from roads and habitation, and settle for the night.

Day 2. Wednesday 4 October 2023. Callestock – Black Torrington (SS 46910 04763), Reforge Retreat Campsite. 119Km 1604m ascent

I was surprised when I read that one of the advantages of the reverse route – JOGLE – is that the hardest bit comes last, when theoretically one’s built up fitness. The conclusion is that the section through Cornwall and Devon is tougher than Scotland. And it was a bit lumpy today. The route I’m following so far has been excellent: it largely uses the National Cycle Routes, but will deviate from these where they are annoying and a more direct quiet route is available. However, today I wondered if the author was some kind of hill-nut, who was seeking out a few iconic climbs just to spice up the journey. In the end I conclude not, it’s the way it is. Mainly the really steep ones are climbs out of combes – deeply cut river valleys. Kicked up well over 20% a few times, I reckon.

I am very slow up the hills, though always able to cycle them with the lowest gears on the gravel bike. I’m not too fast down, as the roads are slicky with mud and smear, and with the weight all over the bike I err towards caution.

First puncture right at the end of the day, which was maybe the road telling me enough is enough. By good fortune it was only 10 minutes to a camp-site, where I could undertake repairs before scrubbing off the dirt of the day.

Quite by chance I stop for lunch at St Breward Church, and appreciate the sun-dial’s wisdom:

Seize the moments as they fly

Know to live, and learn to die.

Day 3. Thursday 5 October 2023. Black Torrington – Huntspill Moor (ST 36174 44177) 141km 1188m ascent

Devon is possibly more lush than Cornwall, but still feels sparsely populated and overwhelmingly rural. I pass by unknown little towns, and wonder at the lives led there. In our homogenised world, not so different from mine I suppose. But I do reflect on the billions of lives I haven’t led. All those possibilities, some of them feasible given the genetic and societal hand I was dealt.

Today is mainly NCR3. The hills abruptly stop at Tiverton, where the route picks up the Grand Western Canal, and follows this for a bit and then meanders towards Taunton. Here another canal: the Taunton and Bridgewater, which takes me into the Somerset Levels which are truly flat. Apart from the bits that are not. There’s a small ridge after Bawdrip which I climb and descend, pretty shattered. I attempt to google a campsite, but they’re all too far or too closed. In the end I’m able to fill up with water at a farm, and shortly thereafter find a field to hide and camp.

I’d fixed my sleeping mat at home before setting out. But that repair lasted less than one night and a subsequent effort was even less effective. So the last two nights I’ve been sleeping on little more than the residual air inside. Fortunately I have a thick sleeping bag, and it’s not too cold. Still: cold ground is my bed tonight. For some reason, I sleep OK.

Day 4. Friday 6 October 2023. Huntspill Moor – Cheltenham. 143Km 779m ascent.

Today’s ride ends in a soft warm bed. And I can’t help noticing, when I climb in, that a rather comely lady is already in there. I’ve made it home. I woke before dawn, and was packed, loaded and ready to go by 7:30. But I then discovered a completely flat back-tyre. I couldn’t find the cause, so in the end just swapped it out, not something I like doing, but quick. I continued the journey across the flat levels, and then through a gap in the Mendip Hills, shared with the M5. After that, at Winscombe, pick up the Strawberry Line, an old railway, that gives an easy ride to Yatton, where small roads take me onto Clevedon. From here it’s a case of tracking the M5, although remarkably the roads feel rural and remote because of the thick foliage hiding the motorway. Bristol turns out to be a long old way, but first sightings lift my spirits, since from here, it’s familiar roads to home. I pause for some serious re-fuelling at the first shop I reach: boshing a malt-loaf and a litre of chocolate milk.

Roads weave through housing to reach the big motorway bridge over the Avon. Some bugger on a day trip cycles past me and leaves me for dust as I climb to the apex. I curse him. And me. Why am I so slow? (That would be the weight.) Bristol is a hilly place and requires effortful navigation. I’m by now exhausted, so none too happy when I realise my tyre is deflated. And positively pissed-off when I reach a route along the river, which is blocked by signs saying it’s shut. There is the option to have a cry. Although tempted, I do instead pump at the tyre and it seems to hold. I resort to Google Maps for a deviation that cuts out the intricate navigation along the river, and opts for NCR4 and then another route that takes me more directly northwards to Olveston, where I shortly pick up the NCR41, which is familiar and will take me home.

Meanwhile I’ve been pumping up the back tyre every 20 minutes, and at the first decent sized puddle I stop and fix the puncture. It’s in the same place as the previous one, so I spend 10minutes trying to gouge out a shard of glass from the rubber. I’m not sure at the time I’m successful, but this is the last mechanical problem of the trip. And so, via the familiar (and lovely) NCR41, home.

Saturday 7 – Sunday 8 October 2023. Cheltenham.

I’m drained. After some equivocation I realise the right plan is to spend the weekend at home, eating and sleeping, and then resume on Monday. This fits nicely with the weather, which remains fair, and with my wife’s routine also. I’m still not certain I’ll make it all the way to Scotland. But I can assess things one-day-at-a-time.

Day 7. Monday 9 October 2023. Cheltenham – Stableford, Stoke (SI 81452 38641). 168km 1177m ascent.

I set off along familiar roads from Cheltenham, rejoining my designated route at Tewkesbury. I have many times cycled from here to Worcester or Malvern (or both) along the busy A38. I was about to do so again, but figured I was committed to the spirit of the journey, which is to stick to my route, and use smaller roads wherever possible. Hence, following the NCR45. This turns out to be revelatory. It’s lovely. And quiet, and peaceful. I’m astounded that this has been here on my doorstep all this time, and I’ve always shunned it in favour of the supposedly quicker and more direct A-road. How dumb is that?

Today’s route manages to weave through the towns and cities of the West-Midlands, in large part remaining in lovely and very English countryside: small green fields, mixed with arable and pasture. We’ve taught ourselves to love this landscape, and I do. But one can look at it through other eyes, and see a denuded country. The small pockets of woods here and there suggest that once this land would have been largely covered in trees, with only small breaks of open space. What we see now is the result of millennia of exploitation and reconstitution. With eyes half-shut, with imagination superimposed on the vista, actually what is there is an impoverished travesty of what should be.

An option here would be to veer more westwards, but instead I pass through the edges of Wolverhampton, and then into Staffordshire. I have a pleasant chat with an elderly farmer, who has brought her chair out onto the lane so as to direct the cows into the milking shed, who are being moved there by her grand-daughter driving the tractor behind the herd. It’s a pleasant break, and I’m struck that the lady talks of her cattle as creatures of character and interest, and not just a commodity.

Then on to Stafford, a city I cannot disassociate from its rather grim prison, which I visited a few times during my working career. Actually the place is not too bad, and the route out, along the NCR5, is straight-forward, and I follow country-lanes before a brief but grim interlude on the edge of the A34, takes me to the south of Stone, where the cycle route joins the lovely Trent and Mersey canal.

By now I’m into my first serious error of the journey. I passed my intended campsite well south of Stafford, and figured as it was only four o’clock I should crack on for a few hours. I was aware of another option north of Stone, but I had failed to check the details. It turns out to be a horrible hilly ride of over 10km along the A51. Also, it’s dark and in my weariness I don’t fix the lights properly, so that by the time I eventually get there, the flashing back light has fallen off. The site is really a static caravan park, but the warden is kind and doesn’t charge me to stay and use the showers. It’s been a century-ride today which, horizontal and with tea, I can celebrate. But a smarter move would have been to stay near the canal and find a hidey-hole.

Day 8. Tuesday 10 October 2023. Stableford – Ramsbottom (SD 79666 17972). 125km 747m

My OCD commits me to retracing my route from last night back to Stone. Unsurprisingly I don’t find the light. My mood, however, is much lifted by the route, which follows the canal for many kilometres into and out of Stoke. The countryside before Manchester is again lovely, but once I get to the edges of the conurbation, I do start to wonder whether I could have done better. The route through the city has little to commend it, other than mostly being separated from the heavy traffic. But it’s not easy to navigate (the App is just not quite good enough for fine, detailed navigation) and there is little of the urban landscape of interest. I wonder if I would have done better in the Pennines or to the west, although I suspect that the Liverpool-Manchester-Sheffield crossing would always be a bit of a bottleneck.

As I leave the city I pick up NCR6, which is easier to follow and the urban sprawl is interspersed with countryside and greenery. The promised rain starts falling, and I am happy to identify a campsite near Ramsbottom where I can stop. I’m the only one there, but the proprietor is friendly enough (another active granny with a doting little grand-daughter sitting with her astride the quad-bike she drives round to collect my fee). The rain batters the tent as the night falls.

Day 9. Wednesday 11 October 2023. Ramsbottom – Hawes YHA (SD 86838 89790) 99km 1295m ascent

A filthy day to start with; regular squalls of rain hit me and the wind swirls from all directions. Again the App is not easy in the detailed urban navigation, the verbal directions are not always clear or timely, and I have to zoom in to understand the fine direction changes. But eventually I’m onto an old railway line, which takes me downhill into Accrington and then over the M65. My mum came from these parts, so I have these snapshot memories of this part of Lancashire from over half-a-century ago. The foreignness of the place then – the drizzle, the stone back-to-backs, the rows and rows of streets – is remembered, but I also see that really this is the same as everywhere else. There are the same shop-chains and the same sense of a lost past and deindustrialisation. Buildings that used to make things and create wealth – mills and workshops – are now repurposed to service industries, like retail or car-repairs. I remember seeing those working mills as a child – then in their final years – and they were tough old places. You’d be deaf after working there a year. But still, it was work, it was fabrication, that loss is possibly something to mourn.

I whizz through or possibly around the Forest of Bowland, the route seeming to by-pass all of the little towns. Having committed to visit Hawes, which is a bit out of the way but where I have contacts, this is going to be a short day, although a hilly one. I scoff some sugary crap at Settle, and then embark on the long-old-haul past the Ribblehead viaduct and over Newby Head, which at 438m is the highest I’ve been so far.

Arriving at Hawes by half-past-two means I have plenty of time to eat and drink. I cook 500g of pasta, half of which I eat now, and half later in the evening.

Day 10. Thursday 12 October 2023. Hawes – Hoddom Castle, Ecclefechen (NY 15429 72984). 151km 1338m ascent.

The weather has changed, but thankfully from warm drizzle to chilly bright. There’s a touch of frost on the verges as I set off, to go up Wensleydale to the Moorcock Inn and then over the dale head to Kirkby Stephen. As I’m nearing the highest point of the pass, I’m startled out of my peddling reverie by two fighter jets slamming through the dale to my right. My heart races.

It’s a pleasant downhill into Kirkby Stephen, where I dutifully scoff three kinds of fruit and stock up on supplies. Then a pleasant ride over the rolling hills to Penrith where I don’t stop, and crack on to Carlisle. This is not the Lakes nor the Dales. This is the green lands I suppose around the Eden valley. They are lovely. I’m working well with the SatNav App, which is good through these country lanes, although I’ve learnt not to rely on verbal prompts, which are hit-and-miss.

There is a long descent into Carlisle, where again I don’t stop, so rather speed through the city and out the other side, to enjoy relatively flat riding around the Eden estuary. At Gretna I stop for the obligatory ‘I’ve reached Scotland’ photo, and soon after find a shop where I get a litre of chocolate-milk and tonight’s supper. The route now tracks the M74, which is the M5 transmogrified on crossing the England/Scotland boarder. This is not quite so nice, but the B road the route follows is not too busy. I turn off at Ecclefechen, but my hunt for a secluded camping spot is not very successful in the lush farmland hereabouts. So I opt for the Hoddom Castle campsite, where the receptionist is ready to haggle over the price.

I stock-take my general well-being, which currently is good. I do get tired towards the end of the days, but I’m not so stricken that I’m confined to bed. I feel OK in the mornings and psychologically I’m gaining confidence and certainty that I’m going to make it.

Amazingly, despite the cold, as I put up my tent I’m assailed by midges. Do these buggers lie in wait for Englishmen who cross the boarder? How come only in Scotland. Fortunately the swarms are not so thick, and as the chill develops they do return to whatever haunts they use for their repose.

Day 11. Friday 13 October 2023. Hoddom Castle – Bowershall, North of Dumfermline (NT 09823 90582). 172km 1548m ascent

The first part of the day was a proper grind. The route is grim, being basically a B-road tracking the M74 motorway. It’s raining, the wind is in my face and essentially I need to crest the Pentland Hills which lie between the Scottish Boarders and the Firth of Forth. For the first time this trip I stick in the earphones and listen to two hours of music. This more-or-less gets me to Crawford, where the motorway heads off to Glasgow, but my route carries on northwards. As I cross through the hills the swirling winds at times hit me in the face, and then seem to swing round behind me. But every saddle is a real effort. Thankfully the rain abates, but then, tediously, as I near Carstairs I find the bridge over the Clyde is out, and I need to take a detour of the best part of 10km.

All day, in the wind, my mantra has been; ‘It-is-what-it-is’. And I figure that’s all I can say now. So I eat lunch and then head-down for the road. I’m able to stop at a shop and eat even more sugary-crap and then on through the hills towards Edinburgh.

When I’d been planning the route, I’d anticipated staying south of the Forth this night, but now in the bright sunshine and with a glimpse of the bridges, I’m pretty keen to get over to Dumfermline before nightfall. A good ambition, but it turns out to be an awfully long way. The sugar keeps me going and crossing the bridge feels like I’ve finished some big section – and I’m into the last haul. In Dumfermline I faff about buying food and trying to identify a campsite. But everything is shut and in the end, I get myself into the countryside and then crash at the first opportunity.

It’s another century-ride. The only proper food I have is muesli (lots) and I’ve only about a half-litre of water. I eat and crash. But I awake at about one, and I neurotically can’t ignore my dehydration. After an hour I get up and wander in the darkness down a hill with curious sheep to what I hope will be a stream in the valley. It turns out to be dry. I plod back up the hill and recall I did pass some surface water on my way into the field. I find this again. It’s yesterday’s rain caught in a tractor track. I fill my bottles from this: it’s mud-brown, but I reckon reasonably fresh. My filter struggles with the particulates, but I can get a drink. Pretty hard-core, I reckon, as I doze off again: 170km; tent-in-a-field; muesli for supper; mud-water to drink.

Day 12. Saturday 14 October 2023. Dunfermline – Dalwhinnie (NN 64274 85886) 144km 1563m ascent.

… And I shook ice off the tent in the morning!

Another bright sunny day, and a swift ride to Kinross where I have a serious second breakfast, with a litre of chocolate-milk. The route again tracks the main roads – this time the M90 – towards Perth, although somehow this is less objectionable. Perth looks like a nice place, but it’s another city I breeze through, not getting off the bike. (If they placed bakeries along the route, it would be a quite different matter.) Thereafter, some pleasant woodland cycling at times, and then tracking the Tay (and then its tributary, the Tummel) to Pitlochry. This seems to be a typical honey-pot. Why do folk come to these places in the great outdoors, only to shop for tacky crap? Here there is the faux-naff-Scottish element too: Kilts-R-Us; Whiskey-Galore; Thistle-Down etc. I don’t take long to decide to crack on. It’s too early to stop and, even though it means foregoing a bed in the hostel and an evening watching rugby, I settle on onwards and upwards.

Fairly swiftly the route unapologetically tracks the very busy A9. There is a separate carriage way for bicycles that occasionally deviates from the road, but by-and-large I’m not so far from the heavy traffic. I pass a warning sign that says there is no food nor shelter for miles, until Dalwhinnie, and to beware of the hazards of Scottish weather. On cue, this does indeed turn pretty foul, wind whipping around me, laced with chilly rain. On the occasional downhills in the undulating journey I find I’m having to work hard just to keep moving – the wind is so strong. But I figure this is a feature of the saddle: it seems the wind is always in my face at the tops of hills. I’m hopeful that once I start the descent it will ease up. It is, by some measure, the toughest section so far. The gradient is gentle, but it is a sustained upwards effort hampered by the head-wind. The sign at the crest is a cause for a break and celebration, and indeed the downhill does prove to be a considerable respite.

At Dalwhinnie I confirm what I already know: that there’s no room at the hostel, but the manager helpfully directs me to a nearby camping spot, which serves perfectly. I get the tent up between squalls, and then listen to the rattling rain, but with tea and warmth.

Day 13. Sunday 15 October 2023. Dalwhinnie – Inverness Youth Hostel (NH 67536 45432). 101km 712m ascent.

Awake to chilly rain, and I have to pack up the tent and load the bike wearing water-proofs and gloves, which is fiddly and annoying. Having crossed some watershed yesterday, I’m soon following the Spey down-river, and the landscape is astonishingly beautiful. The valley is shared with the A9 and the railway, but it’s wide enough that for the most part I’m not affected by the noise from the busy road. There are lovely mixed woods, and of course, there is a net descent, so a relief after yesterday’s heroics. Seems like a bloody long way to Aviemore, which I reach non-stop. Another town of Och-the-noo tat that passes for Scottishness. Also a Tesco, where I again polish off three pieces of fruit plus cut-price buns.

A day of 100km is beginning to seem like a day off. I’m at the Youth Hostel before three, so I can shop and cook well before the 4pm kick-off of the rugby. Again I manage to polish off 500g of pasta in the course of the evening. I’m pleased to have a bed and the opportunity to wander about in the evening. I do have to prod and shout at someone to STOP SNORING in the middle of the night, however.

Day 14. Monday 16 October 2023. Inverness – Melvich (north coast Scotland, NC 90177 64029). 169km 1386m ascent.

I had supposed I would be getting into uninhabited Highlands north of Inverness, but was wrong on that. Again the route tracks the main road, sometimes close-by, sometimes distant, through a succession of coastal towns. Lots of fine sea views and fun crossings over a series of firths. After the event, I can see that a better option might be to turn away from the coast at Alness or Tain, and head northwards to Tongue. Too late I note that my route settles on using the A9 for long stretches after Tain. In fact, at one or two moments when the route does deviate away I chose to stick with the A9, given the alternatives are usually much longer and anyway return me to the main road eventually. I’m annoyed with myself for having been lulled into not checking beforehand, and I wonder why anyone would prefer this busy road.

But then I get to Lothbeg, where my route takes me up a crumbling old road into the hills. There’s a sign saying to avoid in winter, and I can’t imagine too many cars are going to come along here at anytime: the road is clearly not being maintained – although remains easily passable on a bike. It is really lovely and a steep up and down which eventually meets the only slightly busier A897, which is a windy single-track road. I’m treated to wonderful changing colours as the sun descends, and the cycling is not too challenging as the inclines are easy enough and, truth-be-told, there is a tail-wind pushing me along. The road follows the railway over the moor, which seems to stop at places made up of a single homestead. Despite it darkening, I’m fired up to make it to the north coast road, and keep extending my deadline for stopping.

I need to put the lights on when I reach the Thurso Road, but I find a good enough camp spot within a kilometre.

Day 15. Tuesday 15 October 2023. Melvich – John O’Groats 57km 386m ascent.

That tail-wind I had yesterday was still blessing me when I started soon after 8:30am today. I sped along the coastal road, not stopping except momentarily to get water. After an hour and 58 minutes, I notice I’ve travelled 47.5km, which meant, in old-money, that I was near to averaging 15mph over that period. I was on a hill at the time, and was slowed, labouring to the top, but on cresting, I accelerated and at 1:59:30 I had 200m to go. I smashed it, with at least four seconds to spare. This was undoubtedly the fastest two hours of the whole trip. Possibly aided by seasoned legs, definitely helped by the flattish road, a drop of white-line adrenaline no doubt, but I think God’s Own Tail Wind was the main contributor. Normally 15mph average is, well, pretty average. But having struggled at times to maintain 15kph during parts of the journey, I was chuffed. The whole journey only took me 2:17 – I was at John O’Groats before 11am. Again beautiful skies and fine views of the Orkneys. I have a second breakfast sitting close by The Sign. The place is far nicer than the eyesore at Lands End, but still not much to detain me. After 20 minutes or so, I’m off, to wend my way down to Wick to get the train back to Inverness.

That’s it. I’m pleased with myself: it’s an achievement shared with hundreds of others, but undiminished for that. The big take-away is the loveliness and variety of the British countryside, and how accessible this is. The journey could be made easier with a much lighter rig and overnights in hotels and hostels. The presence or absence of a tail-wind will make a huge difference.