Thank you for your interest in my cycle ride. I started on Saturday 29th May and finished in Shetland on Friday 11th June. The adventure went very well and I completed the goal of riding from the south to the north of Scotland. I particularly felt blessed by good weather with virtually no rain and a mainly following wind – so important when cycling. It was much cooler in Scotland with no heatwave which was also a blessing.
The first few days took me from Carlisle, crossing intoScotland at Gretna, and across the southern uplands and on to Oban via the Isle of Arran. Although this stretch of the route was quite hilly, progress was better than expected and after a 5 hour ferry crossing I arrived in Barra at the south of the Outer Hebrides well ahead of schedule. The ride north took me, via ferries, through Uist and Benbecula which are fairly flat but the hills of Harris and Lewis came as quite a shock. I had a bit of a rest day in Stornoway before taking the ferry to Ullapool, back on the mainland.
My son, Simon, joined me late on Saturday 5th having taken the overnight train from London and cycling 120 miles from Fort William. We camped on the edge of town but were plagued by the Scottish midges – fortunately this was the only time. Next morning we set off north and for the next 3 days scaled the hills of northwest Scotland which was hard going even with some help from the wind.
We crossed from Scrabster, near John O’Groats, to Stromness on Orkney and had a pleasant day visiting pre-historic sites and appreciating the fairly level terrain. That night we took the overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Lerwick, the capital of Shetland.
We set off northward as soon as the ferry docked at 7am to take advantage of the wind and to allow time for our uncertain way back to Lerwick for the homeward ferry. The terrain was undulating rather than hilly so with a following wind we reached the end of road on the Isle of Unst even with the delay of two ferries. With 60 miles behind us we still had to walk 6 mile with our bikes in low cloud and drizzle to get a view of Muckle Flugga – the furthest north point in UK. We had reached our goal and completed our challenge.
We still had to back track 12 miles that evening against the wind and drizzle to our campsite. Next morning we were able to cross to the island of Yell and squeeze ourselves and our bikes on to a bus to Lerwick. We had a pleasant 2 days in and around Lerwick before taking the overnight ferry to Aberdeen and the train home.
We had no cycle problems, no punctures nor any illness. I enjoyed the freedom of being on my own the first week and with Simon the second week. Camping was ideal giving more flexibility in our progress each day especially as accommodation would have been difficult to arrange during Covid and with the large number of visitors.
Although progress was good we were often restricted by the schedule of pre-booked ferries or in some cases not allowed to board as they were running at reduced capacity to maintain social distancing.
Distance covered – 603 miles
Time cycling – 58 hours
Average speed – 10.4 mph
Longest day – 81 miles, my second day
The toughest day: either Ullapool to Durness 71 miles – lots of hills or Lerwick to Muckle Flugga and back to camp – 72 miles + 6 walking
Nights camping – 10
Nights in hostel accommodation – 2 (Stornoway and Lerwick)
Nights on ferries – 2