Picture of Ken and Linda with their tandem

Title: End to End by Tandem. Ken & Linda Hardy

 Day 15: September 24 th , Lairg to Strathy

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The morning dawned bright and sunny, but the wind had become quite strong and we were a bit concerned about having to ride in it. Before we left Lairg we went to stock up on supplies since it's a long way before the next shop. We'd forgotten that it was Sunday - all the shops were shut! Fortunately someone pointed us in the direction of the only shop which was open. Phew!

Our route was described as having a climb of several hundred feet so we prepared ourselves for a tough start. However, the climb was so long and gentle that we hardly noticed it. We flew along, with the wind blowing us briskly from behind. The road was virtually deserted, single track with passing places, travelling through wide open views with a few mountains not far away.

The day before, Linda had asked what happens when a spoke breaks. As we reached the highest ground on this road, amongst some forestry, we heard the characteristic twang from the back wheel, followed by the brakes catching the rim. So, it was off with the panniers, invert the bike and tweak the spokes near the broken one to re-true the wheel as near as possible. Fortunately, tandem wheels having more spokes than a normal bike wheel, we were able to finish the holiday without having to get the spoke replaced since there are enough spokes left to spread the load.

We whizzed past Crask Inn, just a small inn and a house, miles from anywhere. After a short, last climb it was into descent mode to Altnaharra, a tiny settlement half way to Bettyhill. As we approached Altnaharra, the wind was becoming very strong indeed, and a few times we were almost blown off the road when we were broadside on to it as it blew over Ben Klibreck. It felt like it was lifting our helmets right off our heads.

It was just beyond Altnaharra that we were to turn right to follow the shores of Loch Naver to the head of Strath Naver which would take us to Bettyhill. Unfortunately, turning right also meant we turned right into the teeth of the wind. It was like running into a brick wall! Even riding on the level needed the lowest gears and any slight uphill was like climbing a mountainside. The road twisted and turned along the side of the loch for miles and it was very scenic and felt very isolated but beautiful in its own way. The loch was whipped up into a frenzy by the wind. As we struggled there was plenty to keep us interested and it was actually fun to battle with the elements. About half way along the loch there is perhaps the most isolated Caravan Club site which we thought must be wonderful to stay at in such a glorious situation.

At the end of the loch, the road turns to the left and we had our backs to the wind once again. The rest of the run down into Bettyhill was a wonderful, long, gentle downhill for mile after mile through more isolated country. We stopped by the road part way down for our lunch and then continued, to arrive in Bettyhill in the early afternoon. There's a stiff uphill into the village and when we reached the top the wind really hit us. It was obvious that we were going to have to ride into this all along the north coast.

After a short break we set off into it. The road is a bit of a roller coaster here and we found ourselves doing a lot of pushing and not very much riding. Also, the scenery is nothing to write home about on this part of the north coast, just barren lumpy stuff, virtually uninhabited and quite featureless. The overall effect was soul destroying. We struggled on for about 10 miles (which took over 2 hours) but decided to call it a day once we reached Strathy, the first place where we could find a B&B after Bettyhill. We sheltered in a bus shelter for a few minutes before we went to enquire about accommodation and the wind felt as if it was about to lift the shelter off its foundations.

We arranged to have our evening meal at the B&B and while we waited we walked toward Strathy Point where there is a lighthouse (as if we hadn't had enough exercise!). By this time the wind had dropped a little and it was good to not be struggling with it any more. A very nice evening meal was followed by a welcome night's rest.

Day 15 - Mileage: Day 56; Cumulative 937