Bettyhill – Thurso – Dunnet Head – John O Groats – Mey

John O'GroatsGlorious sunny day, tailwind carrying us along, great views, boxes ticked.

Leaving the slightly posh Bettyhill hotel, there were some long hills to climb and then descend, among sheep farms in a still-rugged landscape. But from Reay (site of the Dounreay nuclear power plant) suddenly it was gently undulating, arable farms, more populated. After lunch in the giant metropolis of Thurso, C had had enough and pedaled the last 10 wind-assisted miles to our final mainland B&B in Mey.

Meanwhile I went off bagging landmarks on an increasingly brilliant sunny afternoon.

The sublime: Dunnet Head, mainland Britain’s most northerly point, a beautiful and inspiring uphill ride to 360 degree viewpoint across Hoy and Orkney to the north, and the rest of Britain to the south. The ridiculous: John O’Groats, self-appointed end of the road, with no particular geographical claim; just a giant coach park surrounded by souvenir shops.

A Welsh cyclist took my photo under the JOG sign. At first I thought he said he was cycling the Holocaust; pretty weird I thought, but there are Commonwealth war graves nearby, I guess associated with Scapa Flow. But then I realised he was cycling “the whole coast”, clockwise from Pembrokeshire.

Tomorrow, 35 miles across Orkney to Stromness and the Folk Festival. Forecast more normal: heavy rain.

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