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18 Millburn Rd, Inverness IV2 3QX, UK

Day O


Tomorrow we start cycling the NC500. A 500 mile loop around the north of Scotland. It should be very scenic - and very isolated.

My biggest concern is not the mileage or the hills but the availability of food. I require A LOT of food when I’m cycling and there are very few shops in the highlands. It’ll take us 4 days to cycle from Inverness to Ullapool and there won’t be any towns between them. (Only villages and hamlets)

We spent 2 days driving up here - passing all the places I cycled through last year. It’s such a long way - how on earth did I ever cycle it last year?

The first night we stayed in Penrith which is a delightful town. Where else would you find Family Grocers that are also Manure Merchants?

Or Irish Fancy Linen

Then yesterday we stopped at Blair Castle. Which has the only private army in Europe.

Today we had a whole day in Inverness. Started off with breakfast at Wild Pancake - which claims to be the best pancake house in Scotland. But I think they’re being modest - it is probably the best pancake shop in the world 😊

We did a walking tour - which was absolutely freezing. Very glad we packed our full winter kit for cycling. Will definitely be wearing all of it tomorrow.

Inverness Town Hall

Inverness Castle

Ledgowan Lodge Hotel, Achnasheen IV22 2EJ, UK

Day 1. Inverness to Acnnasheen

Today: 41 miles

Total: 41 miles

Was very cold this morning so we wore our full winter kit - apart from our winter gloves because I thought it couldn’t be that cold 2 weeks before midsummers. But it was and we had to stop to put on our winter gloves 😄

Left Inverness over the very scenic but very busy Kessock bridge. However it has a good cycle lane so the traffic wasn’t a problem.

Then we cycled along the very pretty Moray Firth

After 30km we reached a shop. It claims to be the last shop before Ullapool - and we’re 3 1/2 days away from Ullapool, so we stopped here for lunch.

(We’re not going directly to Ullapool. So I’m fairly sure we will pass another shop…)

Then we stopped at Rogie falls and walked to the falls. In summer you can see the salmon swimming up steam - but not today.

Then we had another break by another pretty loch. And the sun finally came out enough for us to take our coats off.

Made it to our hotel, which is a very posh hunting lodge, by 2:30.

41 happy miles. We both had a fabulous day.

Albatross cafe

Lunch at Lochcarron

Lochcarron is a really lovely village. Definitely recommend it for lunch or to stay overnight.

G8CX+57 Shieldaig, Strathcarron, UK

Sheildag is another lovely village. We stopped here for afternoon tea - and I think the cafe was busier than any cafe in London 😂

Youth Hostel, Torridon, Achnasheen IV22 2EW, UK

Day 2. Achnasheen to Torridon

Today: 43 miles

Total: 84 miles.

Started with a lovely easy downhill ride to Lochcarron, passing numerous lochs

Isle of Skye

We had a fabulous cafe stop in Lochcarron where I got pancakes - so I was happy 😀

There was a wee hill out of Lochcarron, but it was followed by a lovely slow downhill which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Then there was another hill, a pass through a very dramatic mountain range. Very steep jagged hills, very dramatic, and very isolated. Looked like we were in Switzerland. I spent the whole time singing Climb Every Mountain.

But we had a head wind, and it was a long hill, so really was quite tough.

Then we came down to Sheildig for another cafe stop. Finally we’re on the coast.

Then there was another climb out of Sheildag. So 3 hills today. But now the sun decides to come out which makes the final climb hard work.

But today was epic. Exactly what we hoped the NC500 would be. Stunning scenery. Quiet roads. Magic

Torridon Montains

Torridon Youth Hostel

Tonight we’re staying at a youth hostel, because we couldn’t find any other accommodation. Sue’s NEVER! Stayed in a youth hostel before. She’s not impressed with the bunk beds, but we have a private bathroom / shower en-suite \240for the 8 bed room, and she is very impressed with the communal kitchen. Cooking me bolognaise has cheered her up 😂

Youth hostel is badly named - I think we’re the youngest one here 😄 Do 20 year olds not travel anymore?

You can see the three hills we climbed.

Kinlochewe Service Station, Kinlochewe, Achnasheen IV22 2PA, UK

Coffee at Kinlochewe

Coast Coffee Company

Lunch at Gairloch harbour


Day 3. Torridon to Aultbea

Today: 42 miles

Total: 126 miles

I’m enjoying the NC500 even more than LEJOG. LEJOG was about getting from Lands End to John O’Groats, but this trip is all about the scenery and enjoying the present moment. I’m finding cycling 40 miles a day far more relaxing than the 50 miles I did last year. Last year I was often slightly worried the day would be too hard or too long, but 40 miles doesn’t worry me.

The day started off like yesterday, cycling past very dramatic, bleak, mountains. The photos don’t do the trip justice. There were more lochs that we didn’t take photos of, and the dramatic mountains weren’t very photogenic.

We had lunch at Gairloch harbour - not realising there was this stunning beach just around the corner.



The Isle of Skye in the distance looked amazing.

Isle of Skye

2 days ago, at a parking place, we asked a motorcyclist to take a photo of us. Today at this parking bay, the same motorcyclist was also there and he took another photo of us!

From Gairloch to Aultbea there were 3 hills - and once again we had a headwind all the way up them.

We’re staying at the most amazing B&B in Aultbea tonight - Cartmel. There are no shops or places to eat in Aultbea, so she has cooked us dinner - with big enough portion sizes to feed hungry cyclists and cake 😀

Corrieshalloch Gorge

Never been so glad to see a cafe

Caledonian Hotel

Day 4. Altbeau to Ullapool

Today: 44 miles

Total: 170 miles

I spent all night worrying that we wouldn’t be able to buy food today, and we didn’t \240have enough food on us, however I’d forgotten there was a small shop 2.5 miles out of Aultbea (a typical highland shop, post office and petrol station all rolled in to one) where we were able to stock up.

We started the day with a tough climb to an amazing view point.

Followed by an even longer and tougher climb. At 1,130 feet it is the tallest hill I’ve ever cycled up.

Sue is better at cycling up hills than me. But I’m definitely better at walking up them than she is 😀

After the hill we found Corrieshalloch Gorge. Which had a brand new cafe. \240So we were able to have a second lunch.

The waterfalls are unusual as the rocks are all slabs and the gorge - at 60m deep - is spectacular.

Then it was an easy ride into Ullapool. I was surprised how small Ullapool is. I thought it was a town but it’s only a village.

Lots of people had told us how pretty it was, which is why we’ve got a rest day here tomorrow, but actually we think lots of the other villages we’ve cycled through are prettier.

You can see from our route elevation how insane today was. We’re both officially superwomen.

Caledonian Hotel

Rest day in Ullapool.

I seriously overestimated how big Ullapool was. It’s a small village not a town. So our rest day has been even more restful than anticipated 😀

But we did see a pipe band at the school fair.

Drumbeg Hotel

Day 5. Ullapool to Drumbeg

Today: 45 miles

Total: 215 miles

The weather forecast was for rain and severe thunderstorms - but we had perfect weather all day.

Lots more lochs today. Didn’t stop to take a photo of all of them. This is the coast at Lochinver.

We took our main break at Clachtoll Beach which was gorgeous. The sun came out and we had an hour sitting in the blonde sand. Clachtoll means magic stone, and today was quite magic

Another blonde beach.


Durness Smoo Youth Hostel

Day 6. Drumbeg to Durness

Today: 47 miles

Total: 262 miles

Today was really hard. Our toughest day yet. The first 10 miles took us 2 hours! It was on single track road, which was only wide enough for one car, but cars go both ways, so we had to pull into the next passing place every time a car comes, from either direction. And there was loads of cars. And motorhomes.

It was very steep up and downhill, sometimes as much as 25%. Sometimes I had to walk downhill as well as uphill. At one point Sue’s front tyre started to lift off the road, so she had to walk. (Besides that she barely walked. Sue is a machine 😀)

The road surface was bad. Not smooth. So you had to really concentrate, and you go a lot slower. \240

And I just lost the mental game. A trip like this is all about the mental game. Knowing you can do it and you’ll be ok. But I lost it and walked an awful lot of those 10 miles.

Then we finished the pass, got back on the A road, got to the only coffee shop on route, rested, had some sugar, and I was fine again.

You can see what the road surface is like

Afeter a few more mountain passes we made it to Scourrie for lunch. Scourrie had a Spar supermarket that is also a pub. Brilliant idea 😂.

However, a dozen motorbikers were also there having lunch so the shelves were looking bare. The bakery was totally empty (Sue wouldn’t let me take a photo) so we had to have a packet of biscuits instead.

It was almost 6pm by the time we reached Durness - our longest day so far. A beautiful beach, but we didn’t have time or energy to go on it.

We’re staying in the youth hostel, which is much less crowded than the Torridon hostel. There are only 2 other ladies in our bunk room.

And got dinner at a hotel, so didn’t have to cook.

Bettyhill Hotel

Day 7. Durness to Bettyhill

Today: 41 miles

Total: 303 miles

Went to the Smoo caves in Durness before we left. You can’t go in very far without a guide, but they look very cool. Will have to come back to see them properly 😀

Then we started cycling and today was our best day so far! The views were stunning and the weather was perfect.

The road was still single track in parts, but you don’t mind pulling over with views like this. But, unlike yesterday, the road was smooth, and not very hilly.

There was a herd of motorhomes going on our direction and they had to pass a flock of motorhomes coming the other way. That took a while 😂

(Apparently if you’re driving single track you should never sit behind another car. Otherwise the passing places won’t be long enough for everyone to pass…)

There was lots of mist, so I sang Mull of Kintyre all the way 😀

Lunch was at a cafe in Tongue, with more gorgeous views. Once again the motorbikers got there first and cleaned them out, but they made us fresh sandwiches.


Bettyhill is gorgeous and we’re staying in a very nice hotel. They have a gun called the NC500, which made Sue very happy. Now I just need to find a bottle for her birthday 😀

John o'Groats

Day 8. Bettyhill to John O’Groats

Today: 50 miles

Total: 353 miles

We made it to John O’Groats! Massive milestone. I celebrated with a chocolate sundae- and Sue celebrated with a beer 😀

We’re now going to the Orkneys, for 5 days, without our bikes.

Castle Mey

We passed Castle Mey where the Queen Morher lived (she buys it in an episode of The Crown) but it’s only open to 3pm. Will have to visit it next time 😀

Ring of Brodgar

Today Sue and I got married, in the most beautiful hand fasting ceremony, at the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney.

John o' Groats

After 5 magical days in Orkney, we’ve come back to John O’Groats to complete cycling the NC500


Bettyhill Hotel

Day 9. John O’Groats to Bettyhill

Today: 51 miles

Total: 404 miles

Now that we’re married we just need to cycle back to Inverness. Today we retraced our route to Bettyhill

Had our first rain of the trip. It rained on and off for the last hour, but we didn’t get too wet.

2JH2+3R Lairg, UK

Day 10. \240Bettyhill to Lairg

Today: 45 miles

Total: 449

Today was very scenic, and pretty, and flat. But really really tough because we were cycling into a head wind for 20 miles. My advice to you is don’t cycle past a wind farm 😀

But after the Crask Inn (which is owned by the attached church) the last 13 miles were all downhill and very easy.

Church for Shepherds

18 Millburn Rd, Inverness IV2 3QX, UK

Day 11. Lairg to Inverness

Today: 53 miles.

Total: 502 miles

We made it! We completed the NC500!

The day felt easy even though it was our longest day yet, and we went over Struie pass.

Struie Pass was quite high 😂