Be careful what you wish for. After my slight disappointment that north of Inverness is quite civilised, we found our wilderness. As the road headed north from Lairg, all human life vanished. The biting westerly wind blew in all the way from America, slowing us to a crawl. Then the rain rolled in. We doubled up on raincoats and pressed on into the rain. Even the trees had given up the ghost; broken stumps, heather and tussocks all the way to the horizon. We had planned morning coffee at the legendary Crask Inn. For so long it was nowhere to be seen, then finally a small white building appeared on the horizon. The Inn *is* Crask. It’s the only habitation for 10 miles at least. (You can buy it if you want!). Morning coffee had become lunch, so Cheese and Pickle toasties and hot drinks revived us.
Despite the dreadful weather, the landscape was extraordinary. Awful and awesome, unearthly swathes of yellows, browns and oranges. We reached Altnaharra with some relief: I knew the name as the weather station here regularly records the most extreme conditions in the UK… including the record low temperature of -27.2 C in 1995.
But after Altnaharra it was still another 16 slow and difficult miles until we returned to civilisation at Tongue. We were excited to see on Strava that we had recorded the 4th fastest ride this year from Lairg to Tongue, until noticing that was 4th of 4, and more than 2 hours slower than the 3rd!
We sit here, warm and comfortable at the Bettyhill Hotel, on Britain’s northern shore, with just a simple Easterly (hence wind-assisted) ride to Mey ahead of us, then boat to Orkney on Thursday.