Wednesday, 13 May 2009

I didn't stop 'till Orkney!

Rod was walking from Land's End to John o'Groats in stages and Charles was the stand-in Warden at the John o'Groats YH.

Both were up and about at 7.15a.m. when I was ready to set off. My decision to stop at the YH last night and not push on against the wind to Duncansby Head and JOG was a good one, it saved me 6 miles of 'doubling-back' and the wind had abated a bit overnight, but it meant that I had to hit several targets to ensure I was at JOG in time for the 09:00 ferry to the Orkneys.

Missed first target of leaving YH at 07:00. Being in a dorm of 3 snorers (excluding me) I can recommend ear-plugs, only drawback is that I slept through my 6a.m alarm! Very satifying leaving remains of food behind for a JOG-LE bod to utilise, I decided to throw away the remainder of the museli as I was never convinced that my Cape Wrath 'ghost' mouse hadn't been nibbling at it.

Second target was to reach Duncansby Head by 7:45, a 4 mile cycle (Kineton to Whatcote). Despite the head-wind I pedalled up the last hill to the lighthouse pretty much on target and possed for the obligitory 'evidence' photo. Resisted temptation to wake up 3 camper vans parked nearby.

Next target was to get my LE-JOG papers stamped and to sign the End-to-End book. The JOG hotel (historic custodian) had closed but I was reliably informed that the Seaview Hotel was the new custodian. . . They stamped my forms but did not have the 'official' book - Um. Time now 08:10 and I had plenty more jobs to do. Next was to buy Ferry ticket, £18 for a 45 minute crossing on a boat that the Viking would have felt at home in! Anyway, ferry lady made a few calls and we discovered that there are no less than 4 End-to-End books. The 'Official' one was in the Gift Shop, so off I pedalled and eventually left my mark in the 'Official' journal.

Still had to find the Finish Line, which was amid the Heras fencing around the defunct JOG Hotel. Job done. The 'Official' mileage of 874 was more than 300 less than I had clocked up.

The ferry seemed to be full of English couples of a 'certain age' partaking in the 1 day Orkney mega tour. I did find Simon who had cycled LE-JOG in 8 days with little luggage except a track-pump! Transpired he had 3 punctures within 20 miles of JOG and the track pump was a purchase in Wick.

Arriving at Burwick on South Ronaldsway (as in the Shipping Forecast) I was greeted with a following wind, a cloudless sky, and no hills only gentle inclines. These, together with turquoise sea and white beaches made the 20 miles to Kirkwall chatting to Simon exceedingly easy.

Each time I stopped to read about Churchill's Barriers connecting islands and built in the 1940's by Italian POWs to protect the Home Fleet from U-boat attack (Google Scapa Flow for more info) I met Penny who was at last night's YH. The small Italian Chapel also built by the POW was a very poinient memorial to all the turmoil these islands had seen.

Couldn't resist the Distillery Visitor Centre in Kirkwall and Holly plied me a couple of excellent wee-drams. Stopped for obligatory snap at the harbour in Kirkwall, orkney's capital.

The Orkneys are famous for their ancient monuments, so I had to venture to the Ring of Brodgar. I think it is made of the same Old Red Sandstone that I first encountered in Devon and then in Ross-on-Wye and Carlisle and Dunnet Head.

I couldn't sort out accommodation on Hoy so coasted into Stromness to buy a ferry ticket back to Scotland (Orkney's aren't Scotland- apparently). Little old Nora was waiting for her bus but willingly thrust £5 into my hand when I told her I'd cycled 1,300 miles to raise money for orphans and dispossed people in Africa - The Kindness of Strangers.

Checked into the Stromness Hotel and dozed off in the bath until my sunburned leg slipped under the water- Ouch.

So thats about it, tomorrow I get a ferry and 2 trains homeward, I'll use the time to jot down my thoughts and highlights, in the meantime off for a steak at the Ferry Inn.

Stats for the day 51 miles, 3789 ft,5:34 hours, max speed 31.6 mph, average 10.7mph.


  1. Hi Richard
    Well done on achieving and reaching the Orkneys.
    Congrats from The Grooms Cottage, NG, LK.
    Cliff & Pauline

  2. Congratulations on completing your ride Richard. Very well done.
    Francis Barton (The wind breaker on the Skelton to Sanquhar leg).

  3. Well done Richard

    Where's next?

    Martin, Elaine, Heidi & Janine

  4. Well done Richard (rather belatedly). You've come a long way since Phillps in Hayle (Cornwall). Loved your upbeat news reports and humour - despite all the headwinds and hilly bits in Scotland. What is next? JOGLE for me and my brother next year. Any tips? Pasty Shop Mike