Day 9: 165km, to Beauly Firth.
Mixed day really, didn’t start well as I overslept, which is most unlike me… For the first 20k I couldn’t get myself in gear, just wasn’t happening. Luckily I found a conveniently located wildlife centre cafe with a ‘breakfast stack’ on offer. Sorted me right out!
Long cycle round Loch Ness, but no monsters to be seen. Lots of tourists though, which marked a definite change in driving style. The Scottish have been great drivers and really patient when waiting to overtake me as I trundle slowly to hills. Tourists, not so, with a lot of brave (i.e. reckless) overtaking, and several large Austrian coaches that did their level best to squash me into cliff sides. Needless to say, coupled with hours of torrential rain, it got less and less amusing. At one of these moments my front pannier rack tried to make a bid for freedom, so the spanners were out again to firmly reattach it to the bike.
Late in the afternoon I had to make a choice between following the larger flat road, with the Austrian coaches, or taking a quieter back road, albeit with a nearly 1000ft v sharp climb. I chose the climb, and as it would be my last big one of the trip. My preparation for big climbs is simple – strip down to one layer as you’ll be overheating in minutes anyway, take a large swig of quality Jamaican rum (courtesy of my Charlotte Hammond connection, thank you Hammond!), and under no circumstances stop once you’ve begun.
Emerged at the top a sweat soaked mess, but was greeted with the most incredible view of the rugged and wild Highlands, completely untouched by civilisation. On the descent down I had a large bird of prey fly about 20ft off my Port handlebars (cheeky sailing reference for those in the know, left for those that aren’t), matching me for speed the whole way down. Totally fucking brilliant.
Pitched up at a campsite, and as the next day was to be my final big one decided to treat myself to my favourite dinner of all time – pasta, pesto, bacon bits, and beer.