Journal of trip from Land's End to John O'Groats by Anne Jane

Before we set out my task had been to gather the names and addresses of B&Bs near to the destination points. Thus armed we had booked up to 25th June but decided to book as we went because we did not know how things would pan out. Very wise as it turned out!

Nicola had been busy getting tourist information on each area and based on that and any ideas we had was how we spent our time if we were not booking ahead, locating B&B or sorting evening meals.

Friday 22nd June

Ben and Jane arrived here in the evening. Excited and apprehensive!

Saturday 23rd June

Last minute sorting of bikes. Say farewell to Jane who returns to their home in Lichfield. Load bikes onto roof rack and head to Dorchester cycles for panic buying! Arranged to meet Phil and Nicola at Exeter services. Very busy but we manage to get some lunch. Meet up with Phil and Nicola and head off to Lands End in convoy, the first of many! At Lanhydrock the road grinds to a halt due to road works. Well cones but no work! Arrived at Sennen to B&B, lovely just the right quality to start the trip.  Bikes put in garage. Evening meal at Sennen cove in the pub, good grub. Spirits high.

Sunday 24th June

 Day 1 of cycling, Lands End to Wadebridge

7:30 Great breakfast. Load bikes on to cars and head for Lands End, everyone excited. Got to the car park before the pay booth was open. Took several photos of the men, then they were off. Nicola and I waited for the shops to open so that she could buy a post card for the start of her collection. We decided to go to Hayle as Nicola had vague recollections of holidays there when she was a child. Off we set and had a lovely walk on the beach. We ate our sandwiches on the top of the cliffs watching children learning how to surf. After lunch we went to Wadebridge and walked along the Camel trail towards Padstow. Looked around Wadebridge. Had a cuppa and then went to our B&B -David’s House at Chapel Amble, our first B&B. Very organic! 7:00 they arrived. After sharing a shower between the 5 of us we walked across the road to the ‘Maltsters’ for dinner, very tasty. Chap there needed medical attention as he collapsed. It was a dry day for us but not the riders.

Monday 25th June

Day 2 of cycling, Wadebridge to Great Torrington

7:30 breakfast, full English. Forecast poor for the day. Phoned ahead to Bridgewater B&B. Terry needed better waterproof jacket so we went into Wadebridge to get one, met up with them at a cafe on Davidstow moor. They were very bedraggled and out in ‘the day of the deluge’ but wanted to continue!! We agreed that we wouldn’t send a dog out on a day like this! Nothing else for it so Nicola and I went to Atlantic City (a factory outlet complex), near Bideford, and shopped. After that we went to our next B&B at Frithelstock. Odd place known by group as the haunted pub! Men arrived soaked, went out to dinner nearby. Left clothing over a portable radiator to dry. Landlady tumble dried some of our kit.

Tuesday 26th June

Day 3 cycling, Great Torrington to Bridgwater

7:30 breakfast, full English. Somewhat down but still determined the men set out. A dry day so we decided to visit Torrington then go to the Dartington glass factory on the outskirts of the town and then spend some time in the afternoon at the RHS gardens at Rosemont, 5 minutes outside Torrington. Nice look around. Headed to Bridgwater but lost Nicola so spent some time relocating around South Molton. Got to the B&B just after the men. Great B&B so helpful. Decided that needed a day to recover so asked if we could stay an extra day, yes!!! Went to the ‘Malt Shovel’ for our evening meal.

Wednesday 27th June

8:00 breakfast, full English. Went into Bridgwater and went to a brilliant bike shop to re equip. Afternoon spent sorting bikes for men and I booked ahead to Chepstow. The day was filled and we went out to a different pub in the evening for yet another good meal.

Thursday 28th June

Day 4 cycling, Bridgwater to Chepstow

7:30 breakfast, full English. Looked a fair day for the men. We wanted to look around Cheddar and the gorge so headed straight there. Met up with the men as they were passing through the gorge and did a quick photo call before they sped on. Went to the sweet shop and saw honey comb being made, had to buy some, yum. Off to Chepstow via the motorway and across the Severn Bridge. Very busy road and spent 1 hour going 5 miles on the motorway to the bridge!  A devious route to get to the B&B and Mrs a bit of a Madam! Into the swing of it now, locate the B&B, find somewhere for an evening meal (usually with local knowledge to guide us), then explore. Sorted out dinner, walked down the road to meet the men.

Friday 29th June

Day 5 cycling, Chepstow to Ludlow.

7:30 breakfast, full English. As the B&B was some distance from the starting point it was only sensible to put the bikes on the roofs and drop the men at the start point. Due to the atrocious weather Ludlow had been declared flooded out and not able to be reached so I decided to head for Leominster (10 miles south of the destination). After seeing the men off, Nicola and I got straight in the cars and headed off to find somewhere to be for the night. Jane was coming to meet up with us for the week end. Parked up in the centre and booked into the Talbot Arms, right in the centre. Once booked in and unpacked we spent the rest of the morning investigating Leominster. It had slightly suffered by the flood but not too bad. Pretty place. Lots of Tudor buildings and a market in the square. As the weather forecast was for more very bad rain we decided to stay an extra day in this area. The hotel could not put us up so I spent some time finding an alternative.  Saw men as they got to Leominster. They decided to go on to the journeys end as the weather was OK today. Nicola and I waited for Jane to arrive then we set out to collect the men from Broom.

Saturday 30th June

8:00 breakfast, full English. As forecast it was raining when we had breakfast. Showed men around town then after visit to Tourist Information office we decided to go to Presteign to see the Judges Lodgings.  A very interesting museum and dry inside. Had tea in a little shop then back to our B&B which was in the middle of nowhere!  This was a fabulous farmhouse that had been modernised and we took up the whole upstairs. Had dinner nearby. Decided that there could be no more days out so they would ride despite any weather conditions.

Sunday 1st July

Day 6 cycling, Broom to Chester.

7:30 breakfast, full English. This was the furthest B&B from the start point and it took 40 minutes to get the men to the starting place. Jane was going to see some relatives in Manchester so we all split up at Broom. As A49 north of Leominster still flooded we took men to Broom and then continued our journey from there. Got to Chester and headed for the centre near to the B&B. The place was heaving with people despite being a Sunday, it was pouring with rain too, just for a change! Nicola and I paid the £9 parking!!! We headed into the centre and the nearest shopping mall to keep dry. We had sorted dinner at the local Chinese, all you could eat for £10. Met the landlady at 4 o’clock and moved the cars into the back yard. Jane arrived safely. Met the men, got sorted and went to dinner. Looking back this was almost the least enjoyable B&B, not unclean but most cramped and quite expensive for what it was.

Monday 2nd July

Day 7 cycling, Chester to Clitheroe.

7:30 breakfast, full English. Jane stayed with us for the morning so the girls indulged me by agreeing to walk around the walls of the town in the pouring rain. To recover we headed for the Costa Coffee in the mall for a hot coffee and steam dry. Quick bite for lunch, farewell to Jane. We set off for Clitheroe. Interesting little place, smaller than I expected. Had a Norman Castle which we climbed to the top of after tea in a cafe. Long day for the men but arrived safely and after showers etc went to a local Italian place for dinner.

Tuesday 3rd July

Day 8 cycling, Clitheroe to Kendal.

7:30 breakfast, full English. Raining and the B&B had a leak into their hallway. Spent some time phoning ahead to all the places up to Ballahulish. Headed up to Kendal. Stopped at a motorway services at Forton to have a snack lunch. Phone call from Terry could we collect him from Illingstone and take him to Kendal as his bike had died in the rain. Collected him and dropped him at a brilliant bike shop (Evans) that did all the work on his bike by 17:00. Phil and Ben headed in, in their own time completing the leg. Phil took his bike into the bike shop to mend his puncture. The B&B was right on the route. This was the only place where we had to park on the roadside, in a lay-by outside a school. Had a meal nearby at the Duke of Cornwall (10% discount due to being at the B&B). Collected everyone’s laundry ready to do a service wash tomorrow.

Wednesday 4th July

Day 9 cycling, Kendal to Carlisle.

7:30 breakfast, full English. Things did fall into place several times, when we needed a quality bike shop there was one to hand, when we needed a launderette that did service washes’ there was one across the road from the pub, 100 yards down the road from the B&B. Took the washing to the launderette and agreed to collect at 12:00. So close to the Lake District and Nicola had never been there before so we went into the lakes stopped by a lake to take photos to prove it then on to Beatrix Potter gallery at Hawkshead. Full of Japanese. Charming gallery, decided against going to Beatrix Potter’s house because we had been told that there was a massive queue. Went back to Kendal to collect laundry then off to Carlisle.

Straight to the B&B that Terry and I used when we went to see Ben at University. Double the size now and the highest quality. Walked to the river and Bitts Park in the sunshine. Made no decision about our meal, let Ben lead the way to an Italian restaurant that had a live jazz night.

Thursday 5th July

Day 10 cycling, Carlisle to Douglas.

7:30 breakfast, full English. Into Scotland, a significant day! Headed for the factory outlet at Gretna Green. Subway for lunch, then visited the famous blacksmiths shop. Arrived at the B&B and couldn’t believe how lovely it was. I was expecting something quite shoddy as Douglas is so small but a fabulous 5 bedroom house. Brilliant even prearranged an evening meal that was top quality: homemade soup, roast Angus beef, wine, gateau, coffee and mints. Phoned ahead for all the remaining B&Bs to John O Groats. Played Marks game of Greed Quest in our room after dinner, I lost! Good fun.

Friday 6th July

Day 11 cycling Douglas to Alexandria (Balloch)

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish. We wanted to see Glasgow but didn’t want to drive into the centre so decided to catch the train from Lanark. Took an hour to train in but it gave us time to have cheesy chips for lunch in a Wetherspoons. Horrible trip through Glasgow via the motorways but eventually got to Balloch. This was one of the 2 times that we could not all be together, Ben was in a place nearby. Met the men in the centre of Alexandria, put the bikes on the roof and drove to our B&B. Got settled then went to an Italian restaurant for dinner.

Saturday 7th July

Day 12 cycling Alexandria to Ballahulish

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish. Collected Ben. We had been pointed to Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond. This is a conservation village, people still live here but it is a very popular tourist spot because of its pretty buildings and it is right on the banks of the loch. We had a look around, saw rabbits on the beach and Nicola got really close to one. Had a cup of tea for 2 and it cost us £4! Left soon after that! On the way to Ballahulish overtook the men. This hadn’t happened until now as we had always taken the major roads but now we only had the one road to travel on. We went ahead and found a pub to meet at for lunch in Crianlarich. In the afternoon drove through Glen Coe, very dramatic. Saw a piper at a lay-by and ‘monarch of the glen’ deer down below on the moor. Arriving at West Larach (Ballahulish) unpacked then we had a look around the village. This was a brilliant B&B and it was literally on the road for the men. Dinner at the B&B. Lots of different nationalities there.

Sunday 8th July

Day 13 cycling Ballahulish to Invermoriston

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish. Along Loch Lochy and on to Loch Ness. Stopped at Fort William to look around, not much there, especially as it was a Sunday. Bought a bottle of Champagne for the final night to celebrate. They did have a great Whisky shop so Nicola and I got a commemorative bottle of 10 year old Glenkinchie malt for each of the men. Kept it hidden under the front passenger seat – no chance anyone would find it there as every part of my car was full to the hilt. Tried in vain to get a photo of Ben Nevis but no luck! At Fort Augustus we met up with the men again and stopped to watch the boats on the Caledonian Canal and have a cup of tea. We left them and headed on to our B&B, beautiful place. Again right on the route! Had dinner down the road at the Glenmoriston hotel. For once the weather was kind so for the first time we went for a walk in the evening down to the Telford bridge and then to the tip of Loch Ness.

Monday 9th July

Day 14 cycling Invermoriston to Bonar Bridge

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish. Our aim that day was to go and try to see the Loch Ness monster on our way we over took the men and then met up with them again at Urquhart castle car park. We headed for the Loch Ness centre: a very good attraction with interesting and informative displays. We had a snack lunch there. Went to Inverness to look around, such a pretty place with low-rise buildings and a lovely walkway either side of the river. On to Bonar bridge. At this point we travelled the same roads as them, mainly because there was no alternative! Very different landscape now as it is far more desolate and seldom did we see other vehicles. Once we found our B&B, dead easy as there were so few options, settled in and then walked down the road to book dinner in the local hotel.  I need not have bothered to book, although I suppose it did ensure that they stayed open! The B&B was clean, tidy but out of date. After dinner we managed to have another gentle stroll as the weather was kind. 

Tuesday 10th July

Day 15 cycling Bonar Bridge to Tongue

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish. Nicola had discovered some information about the Falls of Shin so visited. Magnificent castle on the way with an access bridge over the road, later found out it was a Youth Hostel. Falls of Shin were pretty but not that spectacular. The whole complex was aimed at tourists and they had walks in the woods, far too wet under foot for us, crazy golf and a very big gift shop. It was all owned by Harrods boss Al Fayad so the gift shop was full of Harrods produce. Not really what we wanted as a memento of Scotland. We played crazy golf and Nicola won with a hole in one. The journey to Tongue took us along the only road, it was an A road and was real wilderness travel, mile upon mile of empty land, seldom did we see a car on this single track road although there were passing places every 100 yards or so.  Very little wild life but we did see deer being farmed at Altnaharra. As we neared Tongue there was a large standing stone declaring ‘You are now entering McKay territory’.  This was the second time that Ben was in different accommodation to us. When we got the Tongue we found our accommodation just outside Tongue, then drove back to Tongue to book dinner at the Tongue hotel and find Ben’s B&B. In the village we asked a chap for directions to Michele’s (McKay ofcourse!) and he gave us the directions with no sweat saying ’oh, that’s my cousin’. Ben did really well a fabulous cottage, double bed, en suite, loads of biscuits etc all for £25! Men arrived and we put all the bikes in the chapel next to our B&B, drove Ben to his place and watched his face! Later collected him and went to dinner.

Wednesday 11th July

Day 16 cycling Tongue to John O Groats

7:30 breakfast, full  Scottish.  Collected Ben, far too well fed and even a box of highland fudge to take away! Men set off in the dry for their last day. We were going to see the Castle of Mey before recording the arrival at John O Groats for posterity. A very charming palace, although remote, guided by household staff which gave a real feel of the place. Nice lunch and then to John O Groats to make sure we are there in time. Took a photo of Nicola on the beach at Dunnet, that way I had a photo of her on both the south and north coast. Looked around John O Groats, bought some souvenirs. The place is not well maintained and as bleak as Land’s End, not a must see venue. The men arrived and we did the photos and video, really great to see them. Phoned parents to let them know we had arrived. Put the bikes on the roof and drove to the B&B, a strange little place that was all wood clad inside. Dad Jane phoned to say he would pay for our meal at the Seaview hotel at John O Groats. After the meal we went back to the B&B had some champagne and gave the men their whisky.

Thursday 12th July

Freswick to Lichfield

7:30 breakfast.  Left at 8:30 to drive homeward. Stopped only to go to the loo and have coffee, have a lunch at a complex on the way, even so we left Scotland at 5:45! A big country! Eventually got to Jane at Lichfield at 9:30pm. Great place that they have, first time we saw it. Met Moses. Chatted for a while and then to bed. Ben safely home.

Friday 13th July

Lichfield to Home

Phil, Nicola, Terry and I left Lichfield after breakfast and set off on our final leg to home. Part way down we split to go our separate ways. Another fairly long day but home by teatime.

 A memorable trip that I would not have missed, met some lovely people who put back your faith in humanity. Amazing views, not amazing weather but not totally defeating either. Ate brilliantly. An epic experience.

The washing machine went on and kept going for 2 days! Gave my car a well deserved clean inside and out.

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