Blog

LEJOG summary...
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:32:54 GMT
Summary:
Best day – OC says Leominster to Knutsford because it was flat. RD reckons the last day for self explanatory reasons. I enjoyed visiting Ingleton and driving round Yorkshire Dales.

Hardest day – Cyclists say Tintagel to Winsford (Exmoor) – hills, hills, hills and more hills including the ‘Hovis hill’– also the day we had ‘fun’ finding the YH and the boys were late at the end of the day and we panicked. Did have nice pate and pie in evening though.

Best view – I thought the salmon leaping was the most striking and unexpected thing I saw, although the views in Scotland were all amazing. EC thought the Forth bridges were the best view, and OC similarly liked a Scottish view of mist over the mountains on the the Friday morning drive from Tongue back to Altnaharra. RD also favoured a Scottish view, that of the 2 lochs seen from half way down the hill on Wednesday. The tongue mountains were voted the best mountains.

Best animal – The 4 sheep waddling down the middle of the road somewhere in Scotland and the salmon were EC’s favourites, I liked the furry cows in the Highlands and RD liked chasing the sheep approaching Kirkby Lonsdale (least said…).

What would they do differently? – RD thinks he would plan the route better, OC agrees that trying to share out the distances differently would have made it better.

Funniest moment – RD and OC signalling for us to drive into the car park to pick them up, a car park you had to go under a 7 foot barrier! Also all had much amusement out of ‘the blue team’ we saw at LE, matching t-shirts having a pep talk.

Significant events –
Owen’s near death experience: on Wednesday OC was cycling down hill on a single track road, zig zagging a bit. A transit and trailer came up the hill at 30mph round a blind bend, OC slowed down, needed to steer, couldn’t steer and brake! Whizzed past at high speed, had his highest recorded heart rate (170bpm).

RD fell off his bike while stationary on the approach to Kirkby Lonsdale – couldn’t get his feet out of the clips.

EC and ER following wildlife along country lanes – grouse/pheasant in the South (Exmoor), sheep in the Highlands. Having coffee in the clouds at Lecht Ski Centre on the Wednesday.

Agreed by all – the road to Tintagel YH… hmmm. My dad cleaning the car, the car’s turning circle!

This trip has been brought to you by… jelly babies, G2 crossword, Mars and Snickers, (evil)energy bars and special powder drink, 4 inner tubes, 2 tyres, one first gear hill (car), 2 falling offs …. And a partridge in a pear tree.
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LEJOG day 13 - Altnaharra to John O'Groats
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:31:52 GMT
Friday 140907
Had eggy breakfast and made packed lunches before setting off about 9.45am. EC and I set off after the boys and overtook them – no other road! I drove along the ‘B’ road, single track, narrower with grass covered passing places! Got to Bettyhill on north coast, stopped to buy stamps and postcards. Lovely dramatic beaches, cliffs and waves, had cream tea/coffee and cake at a cute tea shop run by non-Scottish people. Nearly ran the boys over as we left the carpark (midday). OC got his coat out of the car, all getting a bit wet. I drove towards Dooneraey and had fun dodging sheep, roads much nicer, bigger (2 track) with some shiny new bits great for playing car adverts on. Finally found Dooneraey, seems the visitors centre has closed and is reopening in Thurso in autumn 2007 or maybe later! Managed to turn round without getting arrested or run over by farm vehicles from the farm right next to the plant.

Went back to Sandside Bay in Raey as it seems very pretty and is something to do. Got there to find reports of finding radioactive material and ‘unidentified objects’ on the beach from Doonereay – 137Ceasium of ‘relavent’ levels on the beach, 6 this year. Not allowed to take anything off the beach, we had a little walk on it, neither of us came off glowing.

Drove on in the rain to find Westfield where we had agreed to meet for lunch, about 3 miles inland from Doonereay. Nothing there, parked up on road side outside someones house and did cross words while waiting for the boys to arrive about 2pm.

After lunch of sandwiches crisps etc, EC drove on to the Castle of Mey past Dunnett’s head (most northerly point that the boys were cycling to). Went and looked round the Castle of Mey, very cute from the outside – sort of mini-castle, gorgeous view of the Firth of (?) and the sea, farm land and cliffs – can see why the Queen Mother would want to live there. Had a wander round the castle, seems to be pretty much as QM left it, quite unnerving in places really, her old clothes, hats, trinkets dotted round the place. Various sweet guides insisted on telling us things, those you couldn’t stop talking and spoke of her as ‘the queen’, to those who hardly said a thing, even if pushed. All the rooms were tiny, cute little things not really very castle like. Gardens also nice, walled garden, veg patch the produce from which was sold in the shop.

At about 4.15 AC and I set off to JO’G, got to the ‘end’ car park. Amusingly the ‘other sign’ wasn’t there, you have to ring the photographer to come out and take the snaps (didn’t bother). Bought postcards from shop, behind American ladies in the queue who bought everything with tartan on, then OC rang to say they were at Ducansby Head. Drove through the wind and JO’G village to meet them - very, very windy but smiles all round. Saw a highland cow, although may be staged again! Headed back to the car park and meandered through JO’G-world, much smaller than LE-world. Went to the ‘first and last TTS’, posted cards. All feel suitable accomplished.

Set off for Wick, found the B&B eventually despite slight confusion over where wwe had booked in! The B&B lady was very nice, slightly disorganised and had the ugliest cats in the world, horrid squishy faced dull grey ones, suppose they must be nice really.

Lots of texting and ringing by all. M&D rang to say well done, and table booked for 8.30 at Standish Curry house. Walked into Wick, and went to the Wetherspoons for a meal and celebratory drinks, I had haggis and neaps and tatties, others had foreign food.

NB – EC managed to save a receipt flying out of my pocket at 40mph at Duncansby Head.
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LEJOG day 12 - Culloden to Altnaharra
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:30:28 GMT
Thursday 130907
Dropped the cyclists off at Culloden about 10.35 and EC and I drove to Tescos for food and petrol prior to catching the Loch Ness Monster. We had to wait to cross the Calledonian Canal while the swing bridge was swung to let a boat through, we were a bit too far away to see anything. Monster hunt took us down the A82 to the loch.

Weather beginning to change – bit nippy today, OC has arms and legs on, RD just wearing normal gear.

EC drove to loch ness, very impressive views as the loch came into sight and we drove down the one side to ‘the loch ness monster exhibition’ at Drumnadrochit (sp?). Went to the TTS for postcards and caught monsters in a net (having shrunk them and zapped them with special ray gun to turn them into soft cuddly monsters as a disguise). Tried to get down to the shore, not possible so no swimming for EC. Drove round to Urquart Castle further along the loch, cost £6.50 to go via the visitors centre to the actual castle so took snaps from the car park, castle quite fallen down – not really £6.50s worth if you ask me, anyway found a leaflet about it later at Shin Falls.

I drove on to the lunch stop at Ingles? Station just south of Lairg, the boys beat us to it by 10 minutes! Had a picnic lunch in the car, baguettes, cheese, ham, cookies, coffee. Boys off again about 3pm with the weather getting cloudier and more drizzly.

EC drove to Shin Falls, initially a bit of a let down – nice waterfall but bit of a shallow drop. Then we saw salmon leaping! Spent ages with the cameras poised, got a few snaps of the jumping fishes but saw many more (one at a time though!). We wandered back via the TTS, bit of a shock to find a life size/like model of Mohammed Al Fayed in the shop. Turns out the shop is a Harrods outlet, the Al Fayed family bought a house/land in the area in the 20s.

Set off again for Altnaharra, passed through Lairg and the road becomes single track with passing places although still an ‘A’ road. Drove through glacier-made valley and the rain to Altnaharra, followed the boys in for the last couple of hundred yards – good timing as it was getting rather wet! We all pilled in the car and set off for tongue along more single track road. All very bleak, hardly any sheep between Lairg and Altnaharra, few trees, occaisional local speeding along!

The Youth hostel (needed to stop for directions again!) is situated on the shore of the Kyle of Tongue, very nice although very very windy when we got there! Had sausage, mash, square sausage and veg for tea with a few beers – Broughton’s Border Gold, Black Isle, Organic Blonde and Cairngorn ‘blessed thistle’. Wrote postcards, played cards and planned Friday, weather forecast blustery but hopefully dry.
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LEJOG day 11 - Spittal of Glenshee to Culloden
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:29:16 GMT
Wednesday 120907
Breakfast made by the B&B man, full English breakfast – no square sausage! Arrange lunch stop at Grantown on Spey about 3pm.

EC and I set off shortly after the boys, passed them on ‘devil’s elbow’. We stopped at Braemar for a wander, seems to be just hotels for skiers and associated tourists – quaint, some castles dotted around. Passed the boys again 5 minutes down the road, we ate cinder toffee covered in chocolate.

Drove passed Balmoral castle and Crathie Church, no sign of Queen, can’t see Balmoral. Surroundings are still mountainous/hilly and fairly bleak, no trees, hill tops are in the clouds! ‘A’ roads now just single carriageway with infrequent markings, quite bumpy, although perfect for listening to VNV.

Stopped at Lecht Ski Centre on top of a massive mountain. EC and I sat inside and had coffee and cake or tea and shortbread watching clouds milling around yes. Ski slopes look rather strange green. The place is pretty much deserted, the staff were playing the quiz machines in the lobby!

Fun stuff so far, signs for trucks going over bumps, lack of ‘ice’ signs – instead 6 foot poles at the side of the road to show where the sides are, gates to close roads due to snow drifts, sheep in road. Driving along long, flat(ish) wiggly roads, saw a few more castles including a strange white building standing alone in the valley (think OC new what it was).

Went to Glenlivet distillery purely to buy pressies! Smells a bit, the distillery is sat on the hillside looking rather like the nuclear power plant in The Simpsons. Ran in, got caught in crowds of elderly Americans (?) so we didn’t do the tour. Got a 12 year old single malt for Jim and some extra bits. Drove on to Grantown on Spey, EC and I arrived ther about 2.45, parked walked around and got a few supplies for the boys lunch, newspaper and postcards. We sat in the sunshine and read the paper while waiting for the cyclists who arrived about 4pm. We ate homemade sandwiches, cake and chocolate cinder toffee, did the crossword.

The cyclists left for the next leg about 4pm, EC and I mooched a bit – despite cheap car parks it cost 20p to go to the loo (which were, however, quite posh). We pootled back towards Inverness via Nairn hopeful of seeing the interesting sand banks and protruding finger-like land bits. Turns out Nairn has a glorious beach and a cute harbour with seals and dolphins although we didn’t see them as the tide was out. The weird protrusions are a result of villagers removing the marram grass and the sand banks being washed away. The whole village of Culbin was lost to the sea! The are was replanted with forrest between 1920 and 1960 – seems to have saved the coast line.

Drove to Culloden battlefield where Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated by the English (1745-46). The visitor centre was closed, did see the cottage that had stood in the middle of the battlefield. Visitor centre surrounded by nice bright heathers although not much else!

Culloden was quite bleak, parked up outside a church to wait for the boys, kept getting funny looks from Christians but we locked the car and all was ok. Drove into Inverness and found the backpackers hostel which was rather shabby looking on the outside although brightly painted and nice on the inside and was clean, bright and full! Our room was small and squeaky with a nightclub next door.

We went to ‘The Filling Station’ for tea, I had haggis pizza, the others had burgers. We had nachos to start and beer (can’t remember which), all very nice although the service was a bit random. Night of the Scotland v (France) football match which Scotland won, which was nice.
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LEJOG day 10 - Edinburgh to Spittal of Glenshee
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:27:39 GMT
Tuesday 110907
Left apartment about 10am, EC went to the Wahol exhibition and I drove the boys to South Queensferry. Cyclists set off at 10.30, I mooched round S. Queensferry and had a cup of tea and cheese scone. V cute little place in the shadow of the 2 bridges, old buildings including ‘black cottage’ and also Binks point – area related to Queen St Margaret. I drove over the road bridge, very exciting, only cost £1 – well worth it. Parked at Deep Sea World, but due to time constraints I resisted the urge to go in and see the sharks and piranhas. Had a look round North Queensferry and another cheese scone, smaller than South QF, cuter… ‘Helen Lane’, The Wee Restaurant!

Met EC at the quaint little station about 1240, got petrol and drove to the Spital of Glenshee via lunch at Crieff, went to Somerfield to buy stuff for tea. Passed numerous cute market towns and along many wiggly roads. Amazing views – forrest, streams, hills, sheep, some furry cows at Creiff although possibly staged. Made it to S of G about 5.30, drove passed OC and RD just after going over a fun iron bridge 13 miles to the south of destination. RD arrived just after us, OC a short while later, EC rode RD’s bike around. Apparently RD got wolf whistled by school girls just before getting on the A93.

S of G has 3 hotels – that’s it – one has a petrol station out front. Our hotel/B&B is a work in progress although very hospitable and comfortable. Put room has 2 bunk beds on 2 levels! Glorious views from the breakfast/dining room. Owners (from Bristol) seem slightly confused/peturbed by our appearance!

Made pasta and veg and bacon and pesto and salad for tea followed by cake, yummy. RD fixed his wheel (puncture) then we sat in the lounge and tried to play ‘Scruples’ – fun, scary, stopped before we found out to much about each other. Next game, ‘the Price if Right’ yet another game burdened by many rules! RD won… all tired, back to cute bunk room – EC and OC got to be Heidi.
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LEJOG day 09 Edinburgh rest day
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:26:35 GMT
Monday 100907
Mmm, lie in! Generally awake about 8 though, all up by half 10ish, had breakfast and boys went to Sainsbury’s to get food for evening. Made packed lunch and set off about 12 to Falkirk to see the wheel. Went on the the boat ride at 1pm – up, turn round and down in the wheel. I enjoyed it, comedy/informative gude (very Scottis sense of humour!). RD, OC and EC went to see the remains of the Antonine Wall, not much there. Back to the apartment by 4pm. OC fixed his bike (crank shaft, puncture?!). RD and I went to walk round Edinburgh and have a look at the castle and walk along the Royal Mile, Princes St for a little way an some gardens with an impressive floral clock. OC cooked lasagne for tea, watched the little man show.
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LEJOG day 08 - Langholm to Edinburgh
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:25:31 GMT
Sunday 090907
Had breakfast in B&B, cereal and hot thing – eggs for boys, toast fro EC, full English for me. All packed up and set off at 9.15. Tight schedule to find Hadrian’s wall and get to E.burgh before 2pm (understood this to be check in time).

EC and I drove back from Langholm through Longtown and Newtown on the search for Hadrian’s Wall. Pootled along B roads, no wall… possible remains of some hill forts/roman hill top workings of some kinds. Found some wall at Gilsland! Sat on it and took snaps, wall only about 2 foot high.

Drove back on A roads through Langholm (!) where we stopped to post cards, and swap drivers. I drove along the A7 to E.burgh through Galashiels. EC navigated very well to Fountain Court. Had fun with the one-way system to get to the car park. The apartment was very nice – clean, spacious, well appointed kitchen. Went to Sainsburys and bought supplies, EC and I had coffee and cake while waiting to be summoned. Jim rang me and we had a lovely long chat.

Boys arrived at Queensferry on schedule, we had interesting journey trying to use sat nav – all ok apart from when we didn’t believe it! Boys waiting in the car park at Binks Point, signalled for us to come to them and were bemused by our reluctance to enter… under the 7 foot high barrier…

Used internet to find a curry house for the evening, Helen was unsure of where there might be one. Chose ‘9 Cellars’ on York Place. 20min walk past the Castle and along Princes Street and Queens Street. Castle was very striking. Nice evening, although a little cold out. Found the cute little restaurant and ordered wine and food, chatted, ate, chatted, drank, ate. All very nice although RD a little disappointed with the food. I had a lamb curry flavoured with rum and cheesey spinach. Staggared back to base singing camp fire songs! All very tired, few hands of cards then I went to bed and finished my book (‘If no-one speaks of remarkable things’ by Jon McGregor), others stay up and chat a little.
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LEJOG day 07 - Kirkby Lonsdale to Langholm
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:24:13 GMT
Saturday 080907
Got up and had breakfast - eggs, toast, coffee. Drove to Kirkby Lonsdale and watched the boys cycle away from another car park. Boys seem ok, but tired. EC and I went for a coffee at a cute shop, no bustling market in this bustling market town. This postcard business is going a bit mental.

EC and I went to Ingleton to White Scar Caves and had the tour (many parts of the cave had been blasted to allow access). Many stalagtites and stalacmites, ‘Battlefield Cave’ and amazing examples of ‘flow rock’ and associated limestone stuff. Bought a cuddly ferret for mum which looks more like a polar bear crossed with a snow fox.

ER drove through postman pat country to Hawes. This quaint village seems to exist purely to feed motorbike people and walkers. I had wensleydale cheese and pickle quiche and carrot cake from a local craft fair. Also bought lemon cake for boys and some books. Ate lunch by the car and a field of ponies (2x Shetland, 1 x standard pony, 1x possible fell pony). ER drove through more pretty hills (scree slopes, limestone outcrops, sheep) to Kirkby Stephen. EC drove through more, lots of dead bunnies on the road, supposed to be lots of red squirrels but didn’t see any. Didn’t see Postman Pat either.

ER drove to Langholm bypassing Carlise on the M6. Missed the B&B but did end up following OC into Langholm (Scotland) so perfect timing. Drove back out of Scotland to the B&B just south of Longtown. Very nice place, quite chintz-y, loads of space though and en suite rooms. The Cliffes had 4 beds just in their room!! Ate at the B&B restaurant ‘Kannybles’, quite fancy but very friendly. I had black pudding then Chicken Alexander (flambéed in Pernod). We drank Cumberland Cream until it ran out (1 pint each!), all were sated and relaxed sat in the lounge and planned for Edinburgh and tried to play Uno, ended up playing shithead again! Had been quite a flat cycle today.
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LEJOG day 06 - Knutsford to Kirkby Lonsdale
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:22:41 GMT
Friday 070907
All slept ok, dad noticed RD had a flat tyre which turns out to be a slow punture possibly by the roofrack/fasteners. Had bacon from breakfast and set off about 9.30 for Knutsford. EC and I went to Jodrell Bank after dropping the boys off at Knutsford train station, EC very excited, OC very jealous.

Random drive via Over Peover and Peover Heath until we spotted the dish and attempted to navigate by it. Found Jodrell Bank and walked round the small but interesting visitors centre, saw the dish moving – always away from us – and also the sun model which marks the centre of the ‘Spaced Out’ display which is a scale model of the solar system with the rest of the planets located around the country (Uranus is in Bath).

Drove back to Standish and got pies for lunch, ate them with prize winning chutney. EC sorted out the remaining places to stay so we were able to leave the tent and a few bits with M&D. We packed the car and set off via Chorley, Blackburn, Clitheroe and Settle to Kirkby Lonsdale. Very scenic trip through the Yorkshire dales/moors then back into Cumbria. Parked up and sat outside ‘The Snooty Fox’ planning excursions to caves tomorrow.

Staying at Arnside B&B, took a while to find it ;) Had chicken, veg (from M&D’s garden), pasta and pesto for tea. Sat around in the games room and played aire hockey, ping pong and table football. Sat in the kitchen to eat cake, drink wine and play cards. Several other ‘end to enders’ staying at the B&B. EC and I discussed the strange ‘time’ distortion – doing so much so quickly.
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LEJOG day 05 Ludlow to Knutsford
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:20:58 GMT
Thursday 060907
Set off after breakfast, 10miles back to Ludlow. Dropped the boys of at Tesco car park and drove to Ludlow Castle. The castle was closed because of a food festival on the 8th ish. Walked around the outside, pretty impressive. EC drove up the A49 to Whitchurch where we swapped drivers and I drove up the A49 (plan to stay on the road will get to Almond Crescent) until we had to take a diversion due to a ‘police incident’. After the diversion we decided to get on the M6 to avoid Warrington. During the day EC and I went through ‘Hill Valley’ and passed the ‘Secret hills discovery centre’.

Arrived Almond Crescent about 2.30, had a cup of tea and unloaded the car before heading off to Wigan Pier. Mum and EC and I looked round the museum, which seems very much the same as ever although they have changed some of the exhibits. The actual pier as impressive as ever. EC drove to Knutsford to collect the boys – they beat us this time. Back to Almond Crescent and made spaghetti bolognase with M&D. Sat around in the eve and used the internet, Dad washed the car. We played the ‘Game of Wigan Pier’, which as ever was very amusing.
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LEJOG day 04 - Bath to Ludlow
Wed, 10 Oct 2007 18:17:13 GMT
Wednesday 050907
Delay leaving Bath as EC had to wait for the gasman to come and condemn the boiler (not original intention – unfortunate outcome). I went to Sainsburys and got petrol, also to bike shop to get new inner tubes. Left Bath just before 3 and drove to Monmouth via the Chepstow Bridge over the River Severn and through the Wye Valley. From there onwards to Leominster, drove round a few times and got the lap top out to find the YH (hidden behind a church). Found YH and churches, YH seems v posh and has 4*. Drove to Ludlow, parked up and went and had a cheeky half (‘Ludlow Best’) in the ‘Feathers’ (1690 pub) while waiting for the boys. Boys arrived about 6.45.

All went back to the YH, had pie and mash and vegetables, used the herbs from the garden. Mooched into town, lots of cute tudor style black and white buildings. The YH is an old Priory, and had previously been an infirmary, workhouse, gaol… Had a pint in the ‘Grape Vaults’, very cut little old pub where we had Banks’ beer and Stowford Press cider. All quite tired, but still good spirits.
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LE-JOG day 03
Fri, 05 Oct 2007 19:09:43 GMT
Tuesday 040907
Slight problem – the assorted GPS machines didn’t charge satisfactoraily. Slight delay to start of the day. Had breakfast of toast etc made my the man. Drove to Winsford and dropped the boys of, EC drove back to Bath via Cheddar Gorge, all ok and nice warm day.

Got home about 1.15, pootled a bit and repacked and shopped for trousers and did washing. Jim and I went to Mezzaluna for a lovely meal then up to the Assembly to act as a talking poastcard to Michael, Helen, Jon, Ruth and Martin.
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LE-JOG day 02
Fri, 05 Oct 2007 19:05:12 GMT
Monday 030907
Breakfast, sorted out bikes set off, EC (the lightest) drove very carefully along the road and the rest walked behind – lovely views. Boys set off about 10.15. Followed the road out to Boscastle, passed the boys on a hill and stopped to say hi. EC and I went to see flooded stuff, village is still recovering – widening the stream through the village and changing the bridges, still seems to be a good tourist trap. Bought pastys and drove on to Crackington Haven along the coast and ate pastys on the beach. Carried on to Westward Ho! and went for a wander along the prom – bigger place than I originally imagined, lots of new buildings springing up. Had ice cream. Drove to Exford via Withypool and Winsford (end of the day’s route). Nearly missed the hidden YH and had lots of fun turning round and round.

Turns out the whole area has no virgin mobile reception – argh, boys had guesstimated 4pm ETA, still no sign by half five. Left messages from pay phone on RD mobile, drove back to wait and Winsford. Panicking slightly, rang Jim to see if they had contacted him at all. They arrived about 6pm… there had been many hills.

YH v posh with nice spacious room. RD had slashed a tyre. Went to ‘The Exmoor White Horse Inn’ over the bridge, v quaint. Had Exmoor Ales and Dunkey Ales, lovely food – trout (EC), pate and venison pie (RD,OC), poachers pie (me). Richard says ‘Nom’..
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LE-JOG day 01
Fri, 05 Oct 2007 19:03:55 GMT
Sunday 020907
Got up and had breakfast based on eggs or peanut butter. All set off about 10.30, boys for Tintagel, girls via Tescos for food supplies and petrol. EC drove to China Clay museum near St Austell, we went round the museum – all quite interesting, still not really explain the process. Why is the water in the nearby lake and the streams turquoise? Saw working china clay quarry then wandered back and had lunch, I had a Cornish cream tea, EC had cake and coffee – german style apparently! Also saw large stick insect sitting minding its own business on the fence until EC nearly put her hand on it.

Drove to Tintagel along main roads and later a cute steep hill. Parked up and met boys on time at the Old Post Office. Walked to Tintagel Castle and mooched about on the beech and in the cave. Drove to the youth hostel along a very bumpy windiny cliff path – everyone but me got out and walked to try and save the poor car.

Had pasta based tea and tried to play board games – ‘Buccaneer’ had pieces missing and verrry long instructions, gave up on that one; ‘Booze Cruise’ had no instructions so we made some up. YH nice, but small.

Owen had a punture.
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LE-JOG day 00
Fri, 05 Oct 2007 18:59:25 GMT
Saturday 010907
All drove down in RD’s car, leaving St James’ Square about 10am (on time!!). Jim waved us off. RD and OC drove to LE, stopping for burgers on the way. Arrived at LE-world about 3ish, had a mooch round taking snaps. The boys changed into their ‘SuperCyclingMen’ outfits and had their pics taken at the sign (extortinate at £10). They set off from the ‘dangerous cliffs’ for the 20km cycle to Penzance.

ER drove to the Penzance Backpacker’s Hostel and checked in. Hostel ok, scary bunk beds! Boys arrived on schedule, showered and we all went for wander along the prom. Finally found cash point and wandered back to eat at Alexandra Inn at bottom of the road, drank Skinner’s beers and ate mediocre meals.

Back to the hostel, ‘Goldeneye’ on TV, EC and I played cards till bed.
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Photos
Thu, 20 Sep 2007 23:09:57 GMT
EmmaC's and most of Rich's photos are now online.
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Day 12, Altnaharra to John 'o Groats
Sun, 16 Sep 2007 15:40:13 GMT
We spent the last night on the road in the Youth Hostel in Tongue. By this time the weather was starting to get pretty rough (the words "Howling Gale" come to mind). The weather forecast for Friday didn't look much better with 40Mph winds across the north of Scotland and some snow forecast for the uplands.

We didn't see the snow but the wind and rain were pretty fierce, the first 45Km of the day were all done more or less into the headwind and were pretty tough. Things got a bit easier when we turned east at Bettyhill, but we'd decided to go to the most northerly point (Dunnett Head) as well as to John 'o Groats which is a stretch of about 10k due north.

We met the Girls for lunch not far from Dounreay another opportunity to improve our sun tans in the absence of any real sun. Unfortunately the visitor center has closed down, almost certainly nothing to do with all of the radioactive waste that keeps cropping up all over the place, or the critical mass of material that was dumped down a big hole, I'm sure.

The 20-30mph Northerly wind made heading up to Dunnett head a bit of a struggle, and staying on the bikes was a fairly close run thing at times. The journey back however, was done at great speed and was much more fun.

The last 20km were done at a fair pace (I had to get my top ring a bit dirty after all...) and we arrived at Duncansby Head lighthouse just before 5 in another howling gale. After a brief pause to take the obligatory photographs and a quick visit to the John 'O Groats Visitor centre (cheap tat shops a gogo) we were in the car and on our way to Wick and then back home.

We stopped over in a B&B in Wick before driving the 9 or so hours down to Wigan for another stop over at Ian & Mary's (with curry this time) and the drive home.

--Owen
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Day 11, Inverness to Altnaharra
Sun, 16 Sep 2007 15:09:34 GMT
On the way up to Inverness we cycled around Balmoral, one of the things we noticed in Glenshee was the "Stalking Hotline" which a clever system of phone numbers which gives hikers and climbers a fighting chance of avoiding rampaging royals with guns.

The weather when we set off from Inverness was starting to get a bit cooler, the Darren, the Hostel owner in Glenshee had warned us that the weather was looking like it might turn nasty by the weekend and by Thursday the skies were looking decidedly grey.

The penultimate days ride was up to Altnaharra which consisted of a hotel, a B&B and a petrol station spread between two buildings. We were fortunate enough to arrive just after the rain started, and at exactly the same time as the girls with the car.
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Day 10 Glenshee to Inverness
Sun, 16 Sep 2007 14:23:35 GMT
Big hills on day 10 , Glenshee sits right on the edge of the Cairngorms and we started with the biggest ascent of the whole trip (a climb of about 500M up to the Glenshee Ski area (642M above sea level)). At the top you get a fantastic view down to the bottom; when you get there you then get a pretty good view up to the top of the next hill which is summitted by the Lecht Ski Area and is only about 10M lower than the previous one.

For lunch we met up with the girls at Grantown on Spey, they fed us cake, cake is good.

After the tough climbing things seemed to flatten out a bit, only for them to get worse with a couple of shorter 20% and 30% hills around the Bridge of Brown. Near the top of the last big hill we passed a Range Rover which had broken down while trying to pull a Transit which had evidently broken down on the previous hill.

Finally everything did flatten out a bit and we made it to Cullodden where we were stopping before heading into Inverness to stay.

This was the night of the England Russia match and (probably more importantly given our location) the Scotland France match so we opted to play it safe and eat in the American restaurant (staffed amost entirely by nice Polish girls) by the station, rather than trying to find a pub. Emmar had haggis pizza, I ate some Bison.
--Owen
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Day 9, Edinburgh to Spittal Of Glenshee
Sun, 16 Sep 2007 14:07:34 GMT
After our rest day, we set off across the Forth road bridge on a long day (155km ) toward Perth on mostly flat and mostly quiet roads.

We passed a couple of other lone cyclists probably also on their way up to John 'o Groats, I think there is a sort of subconcious decision when it comes to other cyclists. Somewhere in your mind you are divinding them up into "we could take em's" and "probably best not to act too brave in case we end up in a race". Most people we passed fell into the former category, and their passing was associated with a notable increase in pace...

We arrived in "Spittal of Glenshee" which which is actually the name of the pub/inn/boarding house which has sat at the foot of Glenshee for the last 1050 years or so (it's burned down about 15 times since then, and appears to have been the subject of a small war between highlanders about 700 years ago..).

We opted to stay in Gulabin Lodge just up the road, which had a very cosy bunkhouse, (and nice breakfast).

--Owen
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Day 7/8: Kirby Lonsdale - Edinburgh
Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:48:48 GMT
The scenery around Kirby Lonsdale starts to get a bit dramatic, there were a couple of places where you are surrounded by big looking hills and you realise that the road doesn't go around any of them.

Actually the hills seem to be getting a bit easier, despite them being taller, the climbs have almost all been quite shallow.

Going North, things all get a bit sparse and we had to start planning where we were going to try and find lunch so as not to accidentally cycle through the last shred of civilization before our destination.

Things flatten out in north Cumbria and I suspect the romans may have been involved in some of the roads which were about as straight and flat as we've been on so far.

The end of Day 7 was scheduled for Langholm, which as it turns out, is in Scotland. Neither of us had bothered to check which actual country we were ending up in, so crossing the border about 45 minutes before the end was a bit of a surprise.

Scotland greets you with hills, quite a few of them! almost immediately we were upping and downing along the Esk valley and continued to do so throughough the first half of Day 8.

Riding up through Eskdalemuir was very pleasant. We were surprised to stumble across a massive Tibetan Monastery which appears from nowhere, stupas, pagodas and archways included.

The rest of the day into Edinburgh was fairly good going despite the roads not being particularly good. The weather started to turn a bit toward the end (would you believe that we haven't had any rain at all yet). This was the first day we didn't need to bother with sun tan lotion and had to wear macs all day. We finished beteween the Forth bridges.

We are now 2/3 of the way there, and having a rest day in Edinburgh. Woohoo.

--Owen
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Day 6, Knutsford - Kirby Lonsdale
Mon, 10 Sep 2007 08:28:00 GMT
Day 6: Knutsford - Kirby Lonsdale

We left Knutsford (just south of Manchester) Station at about 10:30 and started off through the seemingly never-ending sprawl, mostly on nasty bumpy and busy roads. The largest actual settlement that we passed through was Leigh which had a couple of places where I was tempted not to stop at red lights and to run (cycle) away when approached by random Utes.

After a couple of hours of cul-de-sacs and having randomly crossed the M6/M56 about 10 times we were back in the countryside and on our way through Lancashire and the edge of the Pennines.

This was also Half Way Day, Yay.
--Owen
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Day 5, Wigan
Thu, 06 Sep 2007 20:34:59 GMT
 We set off from Bath a little late on Wednesday, nothing to do with the "yay, we're back in bath drink", honestly!

Headed north and then west across the M48 bridge, fleetingly into Wales where there was a nasty hill and Richard had to stop for a bit! Went up the Wye Valley, which was basically flat, for about 3 hours then a little bit of up and down at the end. 

Got to Ludlow and spent the night in the Leominster Youth Hostel which was pleasent except for the sqeeky beds. 

The next day we set off for Knutsford for what was essentially a flat day except for one small hill climbing up out of Iron bridge valley.  Shropshire and Cheshire seem to be largely flat which is great!

Having arrived in Knutsford the girls picked us up and then there was some driving up the M6 to Emmar's parent's house. Ian and Mary have not only agreed to put up and put up with two smelly cyclists but Ian also washed our car which turned out to be green!
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Back in Bath
Tue, 04 Sep 2007 22:38:33 GMT
Thanks to everybody who has sponsored us already!

Richard has already done the dirty on most of what has been happening so far, my only contribution is, that according to my magical GPS thing, I burned 17518 calories in the last 3 days. This is the equivalent of 76 mars bars. I don't think that I have eaten the equivalent of 76 mars bars, despite my best efforts.

--Owen
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Update.
Tue, 04 Sep 2007 22:06:41 GMT
Hello.

Tis the end of day three and we are back in Bath. No we haven't quit. Far from it, Bath is just a cheap place to stay if you already live there. Also the first place that has internet access, and indeed mobile phone coverage.

What have we been upto so far? Well...

Day 00:

After actually managed to pack everything into the boot, we loaded the bikes onto the car and had an uneventful journey to the start point at Lands End. After photos and coffee, we headed off for the first overnight stay in Penzance. Very easy, just 22KM and it seemed to be mostly downhill.

Day 01:

The first real day of cycling. 111km to Tintagel. Wasn't the most eventful journey, but we did pick up our first puncture, one of many i am sure. We also found a Tin mine, but it is Cornwall after all.

Day 02:

A downright evil day of cycling. I don't think there was more than about 3KM that was conducted on flat ground. It also seemed to be more uphill than down. GPS seems to agree with me 2867m ascent, 2778m descent over 117km. Including a 30% hill that makes Brassknocker hill look easy. I also managed to pick up a rather evil looking cut in my tyre.

Day 03:

Even though it was 7km longer we finished 1/2 quicker (cycling time) than the day before. The latter half was conducted on the roads that we trained for this event on. There was long nice stretches of flat to ride on too.

The only change in the countryside that i have seen so far is that there is far more traffic calming/speed changes etc in Somerset than in Kernow or Devon. This seemed unfair until i saw a driver with a can of "'Special' Brew" in his hand.

There are some photos here.

There is probably more, but i can't think of it right now.
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