Our last day ‘in the saddle’ and there are blue skies above! Not too far today so we take our time over breakfast and then I rescue The Beast from the meeting room in the hotel – the only place other than outside. We left on the A836 towards Dunnet Head, a gentle climb out of the town then a dead straight road to Castletown a few miles away. The following wind and gentle gradients made the cycling easy and a pleasure. Folks here are obviously very aware of how important their patch is to End-to-Enders. We had several toots and waves as we passed through Castletown and Dunnet on our way to Dunnet Head.
We turned off the main road and took the lane towards the headland. It became the peaty highland moor that we’d seen a lot of over the past week or so, but there was the odd car to keep us company. A couple even stopped for a brief chat. The road twisted and climbed up to the top car park but we just kept pushing up to the viewing area, leaving the Beast almost at the end of the road. We climbed on foot up to the high point and met the occupants of one of the cars that had stopped on the lane below. The views were amazing – no camera could do them justice – along the coast the way we’d come, inland to the distant peaks, East to John O Groats and across the sea the Orkney Islands and to cap it all, the sun was still there! As we passed through the car park we met a chap on a loaded bike who was riding around the mainland coast. 6 weeks ago he set off from Lytham St Anne’s. He was ahead and in view for the first few miles after leaving Dunnet Head but we stopped for some chocolate energy and he was gone. I hope it’s dryer for his adventure.
After Dunnet Head the wind picked up and we made good speed across the low rolling countryside along the straight roads. As we neared Castle Mey, Karon was telling me how it used to be the Queen Mother’s escape and, on passing, we saw it was open to the public. Better still, there was a tea room! 10 minutes later we were supping tea and stuffing cake. Afterwards we decided we had time to take our sketchbooks into the grounds (for a small fee). We wandered through the walled garden then settled on a bench to sketch the house.
As we were leaving we got chatting to a guy who had (mid life crisis) bought a second-hand Bentley and was touring Scotland after touring Europe in it (is the Bonny Land part of Europe or no?) he took our photo to email to us and took a video as we mounted up and left.
The ride from Mey to JOG was a real pleasure. No hills as such and a good strong following wind under almost clear skies. Such a shame more of our ride hadn’t been like this. I am sure we missed some awesome scenery because it was shrouded on drizzle and mist. Out to the Orkneys we could see a couple of showers but we were not in their sights, they passed to the east.
Ahead I recognised the Seaview Hotel and realised we had almost come to our journey’s end. Right outside it, we turned towards the end of the road, towards the small complex of touristy buildings that erupt around these key points. We turned into the car park, expecting to see some formal recognition of the importance to End-to-enders, pulled back out then rolled the last few yards to the harbour and there it was: a kiosk with big lettering ‘The First and Last’.
There were a bunch of guys having photos taken so we waited our turn. I recruited a couple of riders with bikes to take our photo then did the same for them. They were just setting off – for Thurso. We chatted, I took an enormous camera from a Japanese gent and snapped as they stood by the sign. We popped in to the kiosk and bought some cards them headed back up the road to The Seaview. In our room was a bottle of Moët on ice and a little card with a barcode link to a great video all courtesy of The Stream.
We drank the champagne as we sorted our stuff and showered then went to the restaurant for some food.
When we were in Cornwall, struggling up the hills, I seriously doubted whether we could do this. But we took each day as it came and we were never too ambitious in our mileage. Of course, the real hero in this is Karon. With all her health problems, she never really complained, even on the foulest of days. There were never any tears. She accepted her lot, just hunkered down and got on with it. She’s tough and she’s a fighter and I love her for it.