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Virtual Lands End to John O'Groats .... Week 9

Saturday 23 May Loch Loyal-Golval 34 miles. Total 933 miles.

From Loch Loyal the route heads north to Tongue. The name Tongue comes from an old Norse geographical term, for land shaped like a spit or tongue. Here this land is the end of the Kyle of Tongue glacier. Historically this area was a crossroads for the Picts, Gaels and Vikings. During the time of the Scottish clearances (when crofters were removed from the land in order for absentee landlords to put sheep in their place) many crofters were removed from the Sutherland area, and were resettled in Tongue. Tongue House (below) was the seat of Clan Mackay, but had to be sold in the early 1800s due to debts to the Sutherland family.

The route today goes over 5 hills in 34 miles, going up and down 550 feet several times. Bettyhill, on the crest of one of these hills on the north coast of Scotland, hosts the Strathnaver Museum (commonly called the Mackay Museum). Further along the coast is Melvich, one of the many unspoilt open expanses of beach on the way to John O’Groats. Mel-vik comes from the Norse and means sand dune bay. This village’s main claim to fame, is that they have a very successful Gaelic choir.

This penultimate day of the virtual end-to-end tour ends at Golval, a village just inland from the coast road.

Golval-John O’Groats, 38 miles. Total 971 Miles.

This final day’s riding takes me past Scrabster, where the ferry goes to Stromness on Orkney.

I have fond memories of a holiday in Orkney, one of several holidays taken in places I would not normally choose to visit, but which were in a location where Jim was competing in Triathlon. The Orkney Triathlon was publicised as Britain’s most northerly triathlon and a free place was offered as a spot prize in a triathlon. The person who won the Orkney entry did not want it, so Jim volunteered to swap it for his spot prize of a bottle of spirit. So he won a £20 ‘free’ entry, and we spent a lot of money on a week’s holiday in Orkney instead! It was the most fantastic week – Jim competed which made him happy, and I was able to be a tourist on an island with a strong nature, craft and WW2 history tourist sector. If you have the chance to visit Orkney, I’d thoroughly recommend it. Wonderful.

The route also runs close to the Castle of Mey, the former summer residence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This is now run likely many stately homes, with access to the public for a fee. I would imagine the gardens will have quite specialised flora, to cope with the climate on the north coast of Scotland.

From Mey, it is a short distance to pedal to the most northerly point in the British mainland, where there is a rather over-photographed road sign.

I hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with me. Almost 9 weeks of pedalling and 971 miles. Nearly 1000 miles since the start of Covid19 lockdown. I’ve explored Essex quite thoroughly on my bike, ranging about 24 miles in each direction. I’ve gone to Cammas Hall, Newport, Thaxted, Great Tey, Tollesbury, and Maldon amongst others. Now the virtual end-to-end is complete.

Ed - thanks Cathy for your blogs. Lands End to John O'Groats is such an iconic ride and great to have your mile by mile account ;-)


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