The northern coast apperars as we leave the idyllic Strath Naver valley. As we approach the end of the ride, Scotland continues to throw its weather at us. Wind is the dominating force everywhere and may be our strongest memory of Scotland. Wind turning huge wind generators lined on hills. Wind churning the waves to froth on the shore. Wind blowing handfuls of wool from sheep as they graze undisturbed in their pastures. Wind in our faces as we push the pedals to make it down a hill. Huge gusts of side wind that turn a down hill run into a test of skill. Wind driving sleet and rain into our faces. Wind that sucks the breath from our bodies and throws it back in our faces. And sometimes even wind at our backs sending us on our way. And just when you think you have Scotland figured out, there is something new around the corner. The fishing guide that we met said that the midges, the small mosquitoes notorious in northern Scotland, should be out in a week. "And then the wind will be your friend keeping them off of you."
We spend a day inching our way for
31 miles along the coast from Bettyhill to Thurso with constant head winds and side winds. This day is a milestone - our last day carrying our gear until we go to the Hebrides, over a week from now. In the morning, we leave our gear at our B&B and head out for the remaining 19 miles to John O'Groats. Scotland gives us the gift of good weather and little wind as we speed along to the signpost at the end of the road. We have big smiles on our faces as we ride four abreast to cross the "End of Route" sign marking the cycle route that we followed through much of Great Britain, completing the end to end portion of our ride. We rode 34 days and covered just over 1300 miles with 4 days off for sightseeing and two days holed up for bad weather. Along the way we celebrated numerous milestones but this is one we have long anticipated. We probably haven't set the record for the longest amount of time to complete an end end-to-end ride, but we are happy to have followed a scenic, winding route with lots of time to enjoy Great Britain.
At the end of the day we collect our gear and head to the ferry for the Orkney Islands. The ride is a beautiful introduction to a new part of Scotland with its own sense of identity. We will have six days there to relax and explore before we take a van south to Oban and then a ferry to the Outer Hebrides.
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