1997 John O’Groats to Lands End – Day 1 John O’Groats to Wick

I slept remarkably well and awoke about 6:00 and decided to get up and view the journey from outside my cabin.   We were just arriving at Dalwhinnie, a station to the east of Rannoch Moor where Robert and I had talked about walking to at some stage in the future.   It was a small little village with only a hotel and one or two houses and little did I realise at this stage, that this small place would crop up again on my journey south.   The remainder of the journey to Inverness was quite uneventful and weather not to bad, albeit a little overcast.   However as we pulled into Inverness, the rain began to fall.   Several bikes were unloaded and on Inverness station I met a guy from Cornwall nicknamed ‘T’ who was also planning to undertake a similar journey to me.   He was planning to transverse more to the west coast after passing through Inverness and heading for Fort William.   We chatted together and soon passed the two hour wait at Inverness, which was a very busy little station, and we were soon boarding the train for the final journey north to Thurso.   I was beginning to feel confident after talking to ‘T’ and realising just how little training he had done for his ride.   Although he was planning to do the trip in 11/12 days he had done little preparation and was riding an old mountain bike which had seen better days.   The advantage he had over me however was that he was twenty years my junior.

The journey to Thurso took three and a half hours and passed through some really pretty countryside.   I made a mental note of the road conditions as I would be following this route back to Inverness.   The road appeared relatively flat but only time would tell.   The east coast of Scotland is really nice and the sun had now broken through and the sea was perfectly calm.   I prayed that the conditions would continue like this and that the predicted south westerly wind would hold off.

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We arrived at Thurso at 14:45 and by 15:00 I was loaded and on the road to the real start of my journey, John O’Groats.   The ride across the top of Scotland was good with very little traffic, the rain was holding off and I was feeling good and keen to make the real start.   After 20 miles we reached John O’Groats which was somewhat of an anti-climax as there is really nothing there other than the famous hotel.   I decided to have an official photograph taken as proof of reaching the starting point of my adventure.   A number of cyclist were finishing the end to end ride and all looked remarkably fresh.   Most of them had taken two weeks to complete and I only hoped that my target of 9 days was not being too ambitious.

Both ‘T’ and I were given a send off by the finishers and with their good wishes set forth on the first official stage of the ride.   The ride to Wick, my first overnight stop, was relatively easy and I completed the 17 miles in just 1h 20m.   I had planned to meet ‘T’ on the outskirts of Wick after he had decided to stop for a rest soon after we left John O’Groats, but after waiting for several minutes decided to go and find by Bed and Breakfast accommodation.   I found it quite easily, it was overlooking Wick harbour and was welcomed by Bob and Sheila, both of whom were originally from the Hampshire area.   The accommodation very comfortable and I had a pleasant meal in ‘Carters Bar’ (homemade steak pie) just a couple of hundred yards down the road from my B & B before retiring to bed for an early night.

Daily mileage: 17.43 miles

Average Speed: 13.00 mph

Cycling Time: 1h 20m

Cumulative mileage: 17.43 miles

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