I woke at six, after sleeping the sleep of a touring cyclist. For a short moment, I considered agreeing to the third rack of toast I was offered, but I could see the future and it had tarmac passing under my tyres. Who am I to argue with destiny?
It rained while I loaded the bike and said goodbye to my hosts. It had stopped by Bonar Bridge, 4 miles down the road. In the Shin, scores of people stood up to the belly of their waders fishing for salmon. On the banks others were trudging catch-in-hand back to their 4x4s.
Past Ardgay (I chuckled a little chuckle to myself making up my own jokes, when the train went through here on Thursday, I’m over it now) and took the Stuie Road over the top to Ardrossan. It’s 800ft of climbing I wouldn’t have to do, if I followed the firth down and round, but the climb saved me ten miles.
The climb is a good one and I was down to my granny gears before I crossed the bridge over a dramatic Strathrory River. The view over the Durnoch Firth was stunning. Another ten miles over the top, gently descending and 21 miles into my day, I plonked into Alness for coffee and a bite.
The next 20 miles getting into Inverness were much more pedestrian. Roadside cycle paths next to urban highways, ducking under flyovers and popping out of hidden entrances to forgotten backroads.
Inverness is a great city, but there were no immediately apparent places to stop, so I headed for the station, grabbed a coffee and some water for my bottles. And sat there for a while. 45 miles done. 26 to go.
I turned the next 26 miles into 31 by following my nose, rather than the map. The climbs into the Cairngorms were horrible. The scenery stunning. That five-and-a-half of the last six miles to my bed at the Cairn Hotel in Carr-Bridge were significantly downhill will not have me writing letters of complaint.
75 miles 4,846 ft of hills.