I awake to a sunny September morning and a massive breakfast provided by the hotel in Thurso. What’s haggis?
Thurso has a massive beach where they sometimes have surfing competitions. Yes, 59 degrees north latitude surfing. So I head down to the beach before going west to see if there are any surfers.
The ride west along the coast to Bettyhill is stunning. Very little traffic, views out to the ocean and, after about thirty kilometers, rolling barren moorland covered in purple Heather.
There are some curious contrasts along the way. A nuclear power plant is being decommissioned and nearby a new field of wind turbines whirr quietly. My headwind, Scotland’s electricity.
As I look back at the landscape, I can hardly make out the wind turbines but the nuclear power plant is a permanent pockmark along the shore that can never again be a place for human habitation given the half-life of the radioactive material that will be entombed there.
A few more images from the rolling moors.
And although bucolic whatever does this sign mean?
From Bettyhill, I turn south on a narrow road about the width of a driveway to a small cottage. My destination is the Crask Inn, a lonely place in the Scottish Highlands known for its warm welcome to traveling cyclists.
The road follows the Naver River and leads to Loch Naver. The only traffic is an occasional fly fisherman. That I know because of a special fly rod rack mounted on the hood of the Land Rovers as they pass by with their long fly rods pointed up in the air.
The other contrast of the day is that this is the area of what is described with that sanitized word, clearances. There are new memorial plaques along the route describing the brutal evictions of the Scottish Highlanders by the aristocracy to make way for sheep and an agricultural revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries. The sheep remain but the Highland settlers are long gone.
The ride from Bettyhill to the Inn is the best cycling imaginable in terms of scenery and the peacefulness of no traffic. As soon as I finish the ride I want to do it once more.
It is after sunset when I finally arrive at the Crask Inn but I called ahead and they have a massive dinner ready for me. Yes, that’s two massive meals in one day. A garden’s worth of vegetables and an Oxtail Yorkshire Pudding that could serve a large family.
Stats for Wednesday 5 September
Finish: Crask Inn
Distance: 104 km
Time on Bike: 6 hours 38 min
Average Speed: 15.6 km/hr
Distance to Date: 8,230 km