Day 11: Bonar Bridge to John O’Groats. Barring bad weather or just simply a strong wind from the north-east, my final day of riding was bound to be another wonderful journey in itself. Sadly, it would be my last in the United Kingdom, for the time being anyway!
|Our accommodation at Bonar Bridge|
The only noticeable uphills of the day came at the very beginning, when I left Bonar Bridge along the A949, and 50 kilometres later with a series of steep, short ascents and descents near Berriedale. Nothing more than an interesting change of gradient, they did little to prevent me from enjoying the views of Dornoch Firth at first, and later, the North Sea.
There was a smattering of towns and small villages almost all the way along the A9’s scenic route. One of these was Golspie, a lovely looking seaside resort with a long sandy beach. Known for its historic buildings and scenic walks, its sweeping views along both sides of the road, especially towards the ocean, felt like they were made just for the casual cyclist.
As I progressed further north, the high peaks and rutted ridges that characterise the Scottish Highlands, gradually disappeared. In their place were the more open expanses, crafted by the relentless winds that pound the north-eastern headland.
The arrival at Wick marks the final short chapter of the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Nevertheless, apart from the satisfaction of finishing what is a wonderful ride, the final 27 kilometres is likely to be a struggle into a strong headwind or at best, a lingering crosswind. Fortunate enough to only have to endure the latter, my final 90 minutes of riding (along the A99), was through a rather austere landscape. Unsurprisingly, there wasn’t another soul in sight, not even a car.
Rolling into the village of John O’Groats was not quite the euphoric experience of reaching the summit of a fabled climb-such as the likes of France’s Mont Ventoux or Spain’s Alto del Angliru-but it was memorable just the same.
If I have any regrets, it’s that I haven’t yet done it for a second time.
Books by Mark Krieger: High Spain Drifter, on Amazon
“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments”.