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Day 12 - Fort Augustus to Lairg         Weather icon, click for today's weather in this location Today's weather in Fort Augustus

Wednesday 10 May 2006

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Map of eleventh day of route, click to go to interactive map

Route Description

A monster sighting day! Along Loch Ness to Urqhart Castle and Drumnadrochit before turning North over the hills to Muir of Ord and Dingwall. Then another hill over to Bonar Bridge before following the valley up to Lairg past a beautiful waterfall. I'll be staying at Saddler's House B&B.


Route map.

Mileage: 77

Cycling time: 5 hours 2 mins

Average speed: 15.2 mph

Top speed: 39 mph

Start to finish time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Worst hill: Glen Convinth

High point: 872ft

Mileage to date: 939


Monsters and Windmills

After a slightly restless night and a bizare dream about my landlord serving my scrambled egg onto the table cloth, my actual breakfast was thankfully not that eventful. Porridge disappointing however.

I was on the road by 9:15am and was soon enjoying the beautiful road along the north shores of Loch Ness. It was an idylic morning - mist hanging over the water, strong sun lighting the hills all around. I couldn't help peering closely at every stray ripple on the otherwise millpond still water. Would I see the monster? Not this trip - I arrived at the picturesque Urqhart Castle without a sighting and from here turned inland and to the north. I will now be travelling in this direction until I hit the UK's north coast about 50 miles west of John O'Groats tomorrow.

The road Drumnadrochit to Beauly through Glen Convinth is stunning and rightly billed a 'scenic route'. However, like all scenic routes, it involved hills. The climb was a fiercesome three quarters of a mile at 15% - a case of gritted teeth and head down.

Once down the valley into Beauly I cycled through the attractive farmland lying between the Beauly and Cromarty Firth. I got into a real groove for the next 15 miles and by 12:30 had passed Dingwall and was ready for a cake stop at the Storehouse of Foulis (thanks for the recommendation Graham). Here I had a slice of the intriguing chocolate and beetroot cake - see review below. The views down the Firth to the oil rig repair yards of Invergordon were great.

After applying more sun cream (please note, I have used as much in Scotland as in England!), I turned onto the B road that would take me up through the Ardross and Morangie forest and over to Bonar Bridge. This is wild and remote country and it is both surprising and strangely fitting to come across at least a dozen huge wind turbines on the side of Beinn Tharsuinn. I am sure there will be those who would protest at their prescence in this beautiful place but, for me, this is exactly the right sort of location. Their sleak modernity and sci-fi appearance serve to emphasise the fragility of these wild places and is a practical reminder of our need to seek out alternatives to the dwindling fossil fuel drilled for not far off the nearby shores.

As I finally reach the high point of this road, a sign announces an approaching viewing spot. Rounding the corner, you can see why it is named The Million Dollar View. The whole of Sutherland opens up before you, from the Dornoch Firth in the foreground, up Achany Glen to Loch Shin, with the snowy Ben More Assynt and Ben Klibreck in the distance. I chat with a local who comes up here on his motorbike to enjoy the view during his lunch break as he eats his fish and chips. It turns out he moved up from Dunfermline though I joked with him about what an awful place it is! Too many hills.

Once down in Bona Bridge I lunch on an unhealthy but salt-craved bag of crisps and scotch pie (reminiscing about school dinners!) before heading up the lovely wooded Glen to find the Falls of Shin. When I arrive, the size of the visitor centre promised great things. Excited, I trotted down the path to the viewing platforms. However, the Falls of Shin are not exactly Iguassu or Niagra in scale and, for a while, I was more than disappointed. However, as I gazed at the tumbling peaty foam, I suddenly saw a dart of black and realised what the fuss is about - leaping salmon. Astonishingly, hundreds make it up these falls to spawn further up stream beyond Loch Shin. The few small jumpers I saw are apparently just the start - the big ones come later in the summer. I watched for a while, fascinated at the grim determination of these creatures as they attempted, against all odds, to leap up through the torrent. What a curious cruelty there is in nature.

From here, it was only a few miles to Lairg and, on arrival at my B&B, I was treated to a very warm welcome, a cup of tea and a slice of buttered fruit cake. I don't think I'll be dreaming about dodgy breakfasts tonight!

I can't believe I have only got one day to go. Catch tomorrow's update to see if I make the distance.

Cake Review - Chocolate and Beetroot cake. Dense and dark with an interesting flavour chocolaty with a hint of something else. Could possibly have done with more beetroot. 7/10.

Buttered fruit slice - Delicious dark fruit cake. Perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea when arriving at a B&B. 7/10.
Loch Ness

Bike by Loch Ness

Andrew by Loch Ness

Glen Convinth

Urqhart Castle

Fishing creel in front of Cromarty Firth

Million Dollar View

River Shin

Falls of Shin

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