Lairg to Altnaharra

A dry start today, though the grey cloud covering looked ready to off-load at any moment. Today’s ride would take us out into the wilderness, or as close to it as we have come on our journey from south to north. At only 37 miles away, it would have been nice to have ridden all the way to the north coast but with the weather the way it’s been over much of our journey, we decided to play safe with a stop over at Altnaharra – a hotel in the middle of nowhere that happens to reside at the end of a loch. Very popular with fishermen and deer stalkers judging by the amount of fishing regalia and pictures of stags around the walls.

From Lairg we ran alongside Loch Shin for a while before leaving the A838 for the A386. The label ‘A’ is a bit of a misnomer as this is a single track road with passing places – albeit a well surfaced one. The feeling of isolation developed very quickly as we headed North. There was conifer forest to our right. Old trees, draped in lichens and moss while to our left was open space, stretching away to big hills in the far distance and you had the feeling there was nothing in between. Following a small river, we climbed gradually and almost constantly for about 10 miles. By now the inevitable rain had started to fall and we were both hoping it wasn’t too much further to a little oasis – The Crask Inn. As we neared a crest, an ancient motorcycle overtook us, luggage piled high behind the ride, almost dwarfing the labouring single pistoned machine. We continued and the Inn was there on the slope after a stream crossing, about half a mile ahead. As we pulled in, there was the motorcycle – an old Motobecane 125.

The Crask Inn. An eccentric Frenchman on a 1940's motorbike, a cycling hill climber, four Lejoggers from Yorkshire, us and the Farmer/Landlord – all in the middle of nowhere.

The Crask Inn. An eccentric Frenchman on a 1940’s motorbike, a cycling hill climber, four Lejoggers from Yorkshire, us and the Farmer/Landlord – all in the middle of nowhere.

There were also four road bikes with luggage and a couple of their riders checking out the motorcycle. This was being ridden by a slightly eccentric youngish Frenchman who had driven to Scotland with the bike in the back of his car before embarking on a tour aboard the old bike. The riders were Yorkshiremen riding Lejog, en route from Bonar Bridge to Tongue. They were drinking tea or coffee but as it was now gone 12 we felt we’d earned something stronger. We chatted for a while with the other riders and the landlord (who doubles as a farmer), admiring and conversing about the old motorbike and our mount. The Frenchman was first to mount up, though I needed to remind him to take his crash helmet. He set off very unsteadily going up through the three gears, changed with a lever beside the petrol tank.

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Then the other Lejoggers left and we chatted with the farmer/landlord for a little longer before pushing off too. It wasn’t far to the watershed and another 7 miles to Altnaharra but it was primarily down hill.

We arrived just in time to dump the bags and get some soup before the kitchen closed for the afternoon. Then we checked emails etc. in the library before going up to our room (no wifi due to thick walls) to change etc.
Weather looks as if it may be better tomorrow, which will be good as we have to continue our ride across the wilderness to the North Coast. Almost there!