Day 13 – The Last Leg, from Golspie to John o Groats
Friday 31st August 2018 – our final day of LEJOG and our thirteenth consecutive day of riding our bikes – was probably our favourite day of cycling ever. Despite a chilly start and knowing that we had the second and third biggest climbs of Roy’s route to come during the day (the first being Shap Fell, which we missed, so probably just the two biggest climbs of our LEJOG), there were only 70 miles between us and the finish line and a fair amount of excitement at the prospect of crossing it.
What we hadn’t bargained for was the most perfectly-timed incredible scenery and weather Scotland could offer. Yes, the climbs were enormous and a serious challenge for our tired legs (our support crew even said their cars struggled), but the coastal views stretching into the distance, blue skies, glorious sunshine and mildest of winds made the whole experience so much more enjoyable. Not even another group of rowdy end-to-end-ers playing Sweet Caroline at full blast and whizzing past us up hill number one could put us off. If anything, it added even more of a sense of occasion to the day, and was a solid reminder for us that LEJOG is still a challenge for even far more experienced cyclists than us.
And once the climbs were over, it was pretty much downhill(ish) to John O Groats. We had time for one last tea and cake break at Laidhay Tearoom, where everyone we met was as friendly as could be, and a fairly extended photo shoot on a road which took us inland just before Wick through the most stunning rural scenery, surrounded by wind turbines and plenty of sheep. We even had more time to perform an Abbie and Sally favourite perfected in Sydney years ago, taking a panorama photo but swapping the photographer half-way through so that we both appear in the one picture. We can only apologise that there aren’t similar versions of the same in Bodmin, Clevedon, Gloucester, Wigan and Kendal etc., etc.
We spiced up our last ten to fifteen miles further with Abbie’s inspirational LEJOG playlist (which, perhaps a tad self-indulgently, managed to find itself playing David Bowie’s Heroes upon our arrival at JOG) and had a brilliantly fun time riding the final stretch of our journey side-by-side with the occasional on-bike dance move, feeling more like we were in a mid-week spin class that polishing off a c.1000 mile cycle up the country.
Despite an alarmingly almighty headwind threatening to delay our arrival, soon enough the end was up ahead. We rode together towards friends, family and Callum the bagpiper (to date still unsure whether he was a busker or a poor unsuspecting piper our family bribed to serenade our last metres) all giving us the warmest welcome we could have dreamt of.
There was champagne, flowers, cakes and no shortage of photographs taken in the joyful chaos of the finish line. We’d done it. We’d gone from complete novices to cycling from the bottom of England to the tip of Scotland in 18 months, and it felt amazing. More importantly, we had done it in memory and celebration of our dear friend Fiona, raising money and awareness along the way. We hope it would have made her proud.
Joined by more friends and family in Inverness the 48 hours post-LEJOG were a whirlwind of food, drink, whisky tasting (thank you Tomatin Distilleries – see us all below inside a ‘mash tun’) and attempted dolphin spotting, which was enough to make us all fall in love with Scotland.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated, supported and helped us make our LEJOG possible, especially those who rode with us (Mike, Ben and Lizzy, David and Jane, Matt and Zara, James, Alex & Clive, and Iain Morrison), those who carted our stuff around (James, Lorraine, Lee and Jo, David and Jane, Lisa and Kev, Jim, Hazel and Philippa, Phil and Fran), those who wished us well at the start, came to say hi en route and to the afterparty in Inverness (as well as all of those already named – Rick, Cree, Beth and Anna Gerrans, Alice and Tom, Susan, Iain and Al, Ness, Jonny, Larry, Tara, Manders, Miles and Hayley) – having so many friendly faces along the way (as well as all of the messages and words of encouragement, let alone the generous donations, we received from many more of you daily (some we’ve never met!)) was simply amazing.
We are hoping to get everyone together again in December for another carol service to remember Fi and raise even more money for the Fiona Strong Memorial Fund – more on that soon.