Monday, 7 September 2009

My last leg(s)

Hi folks. Thank you for dropping by over the last couple of months and for the various comments and emails- it's been great to think of everyone pedaling alongside in spirit.

All up, including the Orkney's I covered 1508 miles in 45 days cycling which equates to a bit more than 1.2 million wheel revolutions!

So here's the last lot of pics and words, remember you just have to click to enlarge.

Viva la revolution!!!

World famous Loch Ness and after years of speculation and fuzzy photos I finally have unequivocial proof- the sun does shine in Scotland! No monster though- apart from the midges.

I camped near this spot and had a fresh dip in the morning.One of the greatest things about Scotland is what's know as the Land Reform Act (2003). Basically means there is no law of trespass and anyone has the right to be on any piece of land, including camping,as long as they are acting responsibly.

This has got to be one of the most progressive acts of legislation in the world.It seems it may have partly come as a delayed reaction to the Clearances of the 1800's. This was a tragic time in Scottish history when, to put it in simple terms, the land barons got together and kicked the peasants off the land so they could farm more sheep.

This injustice has never truly been forgotten and, a couple of centuries later, may be partly responsible for a wonderful law that affirms what is quite basic logic when we stop and think about it- no one can truly own and control the land.

Cold power shower anyone? Foyers Falls, just south of Inverness.

This is the smallest car ferry in Britain, it goes across the estuary between Cromarty to Nigg, NE of Inverness. Takes 2 cars max. I asked the guy if they ever had queues, "yes," he replied with wide eyes, "in summer there can be 5 or 6 cars waiting!" Hardly constitutes masses of people but with half an hour between crossings that's a fair wait if you're car number 6. Still, this is rural Scotland so what's the rush?

I was taking pics of the gorgeous purple heather that seems to cloak the mountains and moors of Scotland when this butterfly came and settled into the pic. Ironic because in the past I've spent hours chasing these things trying to get a good shot. Interesting lesson somewhere there...

30 miles north of Inverness and lofty highlands give way to lonely moorland and bog. The few trees are stumpy and bedraggled thanks to the regular Atlantic blastings and human settlement is even sparser. This was once the land of the Picts, a tough tribe who inhabited northern Scotland in the early centurys AD and then the Vikings who came from Scandanavia and called it Sutherland (the southern land).

Hard to describe it as a beautiful landscape but deeply intirguing all the same. Believe it or not, this is the main 'A' road that runs up the centre, it's single track with cattle grids and pot holes!

With all the boggy land, the midges up here are definitly in the premier league of voraciousness. Apparently they home in on the carbon dioxide as we exhale. Tried holding my breathe to avoid detection but have to report this method is fundamentally flawed. Oh well, we've all got to eat I suppose.

The penultimate day. This was the first sign for John O'groats that I'd seen. A strange thing happened at this stage as my legs surged afresh with energy and adrenaline, not wanting to stop I ended up riding to nightfall and covering 82 miles. The furthest I've done on the whole trip although I felt it the next morning.

Another posterity shot! Would it be unmanly to admit to a tear in my eye as I freewheeled the last 400metres to the ocean and the fulfillment of my long held ambition? Partly it was relief, partly satisfaction and partly deep gratitude for the places I've seen and the people I've met along the way.

End of the pilgrimage. The tourist sign is a bit tacky and afterwards I found a much better one by the harbour (see last week's post) but by that time there was no one around to hold the camera!

Although Lands End and John O'Groats are widely considered to be the 2 furthest points on the map of mainland Britain, Duncansby Head is actually a couple of miles further on from John O'G. So after the official finish I headed out there to the literal 'end of the road.' As I turned around from gazing out to sea, I was greeted by this beatiful silver light. No etheral singing from the heavens but seemed like a good sign all the same.

Orkney islands now. Most of the beaches at this time of year are full of seals giving birth- not a good idea to get too close. However, this beach on the south of the island was seal (and human) free so I had to get in for a swim. Funny to think it's the same latitude as Hudson Bay, Canada and less than a 1000 miles from the Artic circle- the gulf stream keeps it pretty warm of course. Apparently in the summer the sun only dips behind the horizon for an hour creating an eerie twilight. They call it the summer dim and play midnight tennis and bowls!

Brodgar stone circle, (C.2000 BC). My last and favourite stone circle of the whole trip. Camped my first night in the Orkneys up here. That's the moon rising.

Brodgar circle again. This was the dawn of my last day. I'd had this shot in mind the first time I was up here but the morning was too cloudy. So I came back for my last night and, even though it was still overcast on arrival, set my alarm early in the gamble that it would be clear the next morning. It was and I took my favourite shots of the whole trip.
Shortly after taking this pic a huge bank of cloud came in and by the time I was riding back to the ferry terminal less than an hour later it was pouring down!


This next batch of photos is kind of similar to the out-takes that they used to show at the end of the Cannonball Run movies. They are images from the trip that I didn't manage to squeeze in before,but for various reasons, profound or otherwise, deserve an airing......

Good advice in today's world I reckon.'Stay true to yourself and don't believe everything governments, corporations and the media try to tell us' might be another way of putting it.

Bit more wordy and probably won't stop you getting chased by a ton of angry bovine but the same meaning on a certain level!

Spotted this fantastic mountain in the Lake District- you'll have to zoom in. Who named it and why? The mind boggles.

This is Dad, demonstrating his unusual dismounting technique. Unfortunately for him my instinct for a good photo overcame family loyalty on this occasion. What I didn't realise at the time is he's sitting in a ditch full of muddy water and brambles, sorry Dad!

I love this quote- please zoom in (you may need to scroll along too).
With awareness, we have a remarkable opportunity in this life to build and improve on the work of previous generations so that those who come after us may inherit greater things.

On a societal level this means trusting that our evolutionary potential is higher than where we currently find ourselves. I don't mean that to sound lofty, I'm just saying that our history is one of constant evolution and it's wrong to assume we are at it's peak.
Something I've sensed on this trip, as I've soaked in thousands of years of history, is that, despite all of today's problems, a gradual enlightenment is gathering momentum. It's slow compared to the speed with which we have advanced our weapons of war and techniques for exploiting resources and there are undoubtedly some people that simply don't care. However, my feeling is, as a human race, there is a tentative evolution beyond the violence, greed and fear that weigh us down- it's only a few hundred years ago that we were burning 'witches' and selling slaves and just a few decades since we thought it acceptable to segregate people on the colour of their skin or to beat a child.
Of course, whether that evolution can blossom in time I don't know.

This strongly relates to the above pic.What a great place name! Imagine telling people that you live in Hope! Truly is a wonderful word.

I've touched a number of times on the tendency to feel that the environmental and social injustices in our world are overwhelming but I say we've got to keep the hope- we have to keep living truthfully and speaking out for what we know is good, without that there is very little.

See you on the road sometime :)

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


This was a happy knackered me yesterday afternoon! The sign says 876 but I did nearly double that, could have rushed along the main roads hell bent on the destination but bet it wouldn't have been nearly as fun, exciting, insightful.... Got some great pics to upload from the final leg plus scintillating stories of ghostly visitors and killer midges so will up date with all that very soon. Am now in Orkney Islands for a few days before catching a train back south.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

songs of praise- but no Thora Herd

There was a 60's Californian Surfer called George Greenough. A true sage, he coined the phrase "church of the open sky."

I love these words and they have frequently floated through my head on this trip. Whatever it is out there and whatever we want to call it (if we choose to give it a name at all), open space presents an opportunity for communion to truly flow.

We just have to stay open, breath deep and look (not see).

Yesterday we rode 52 miles from Isle of Mull to the heart of the Highlands at Glen Coe (near Fort William). A warm sun, gentle tail wind and much worshiping went down. Valleys packed with ancient oaks, cascading streams and a spectacular evening ride along the sea loch. And, of course, mountains towering over head, silently watching the passing humans and the tiny fleeting lives they lead.

Pics don't do it justice but there's a few below anyways. At Invergarry tonight in the heart of the Great Glens. Loch Ness tommorow!

Praise be!

This was one of the roads we rode down about 30 miles south of Fort William, went on for miles like this, 4 cars in 2 hours of riding!

Maybe cyclists are a rare sight in these parts but I love the curious look on this sheep
Another open road
Half of Ben Nevis, highest Mountain in Britain, approx 1300 metres, taken this morning. According to the visitors centre, it's shrouded in cloud 70 percent of the time!

Monday, 24 August 2009


Welcome to Scotland. If the hills don't make your legs explode, the midges devour you alive or the rain wash your sorry little ass back over the border ('one's sorry little ass' as the Queen would say), maybe you'll find a a land of dark sea lochs, misty mountains, thick pine forest, lonely moors, stoic standing stones (try saying that fast) and forgotten back roads where you can ride for miles without seeing another soul.
Crossed the border from Carlisle 10 days ago, from Gretna Green headed west to Dumfries, once home to Robert Burns ( Scottish legend and composer of Auld Lang Syne), then a gradual north west course to Ardrossan on the Scottish coast.
Hopped on ferry across to Isle of Arran where I met my Dad who has joined me for a weeks cycling (he took numerous cycle trips around Scotland in his student days and is keen to relive the memories although with a slight upgrade to the 5 gear bone shaker of his youthful era).
From Arran we hopped across to Kintyre then on to the Isle of Mull where I've finally found a computer and internet connection that works!
Pics are below, in case anyone not aware, you can enlarge them by clicking...
Slight chroniclogical mix up with first two but running out of internet time to fix!
Passed the 1000 mile mark a couple of days ago, just a few hundred to go!!!
5000 year old standing stones on Macharie Moor, Arran. Brewing storm on the horizon. They've seen it all before.

Sunset over Arran. Finally back by the open ocean. Although I've passed near-by at Bristol/ Liverpool/ S. Lake District this was the first time I got back to the 'proper' sea. Good to sleep to the sound of the waves again

Still in England, this was the view as I approached Carlilse early morning

Just over the border in Gretna Green. Scotland used to allow people to get married at a younger age than in England, this was the nearest registery office across the border and scene of many shotgun weddings

This war memorial is just outside Dumfries. I was fascinated by the look on the man's face and the way he seems to be emploring the heavens in bewilderment. Seems to be making a strong statement about the futility and waste of war. What is he thinking or saying..."have we humans still not learnt?"..."have we still not evolved beyond this?"

Temple Wood Stone circle, good energy

This was one of the high roads we rode along, my Dad is in the distance. Felt more like North American back country than part of UK. Shortly before taking this pic, we sat by the road for over an hour and cooked up some lunch- only one car passed us!

Taken this morning from just outside the tent in Mull, the mountain range in the background contains Ben Nevis, highest mountain in Britain

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

sunshine and poetry

Day 34- Liverpool-N. of Preston: 52 m.

Day 35- N. Preston- N of Lancaster: 35 m.

Day 36: N Lancaster- Lake Windermere: 35 m

Day 37: Lake Windermere- Thurlemere water: 21 m

Day 38: Thurlemere- Borrowdale: 18 m

Captain's log book, the 11th day of August in the year of our Univeral life force 2009.

A strange ball of fire has appeared in the sky this past week. Warm and wonderful is its touch to the skin and most golden in the light it casts on the land.

Yes folks it seems summer is finally here and it lifteth the spirits greatly. Now in the mindblowingly gorgeous Lake District. Lyrically immortalised by Wordsworth, Southey and Coleridge (often referred to as 'the lake school of poetry').

I can't help thinking these romantic poets were the forerunners to conservationism today. Helping initiate a turn in public perception of the great outdoors from a place where one would try and avoid lest one should muddy ones garments to a place of adventure, contemplative retreat, existential perspective where the soul could soar free.

"Oh there is blessing in this gentle breeze
That blows from the green fields and from the clouds
And from the sky it beats against my cheek
And seems half concious of the joy it gives"

Wordsworth 1805

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