Day 3 – Durness to Lochinver
Day 3 – Durness to LochinverApril
I set the alarm for 7:00am, after poor progress yesterday I was eager to get on the bike and start covering some ground. After rolling out of my lovely warm bed I peered out of the window to find the surrounding hill and mountain tops now had a healthy covering of snow. I pulled everything off the radiators to check if it had dried, my shoes were still soaked so I put them on top of the portable heater and headed down stairs for breakfast.
The full Scottish breakfast was just what I needed to get the day started, It was also my first hot food since the sausages roll I had back at Edinburgh station. After devouring the breakfast, many slices of extra toast and several cups of tea I went back up to my room to pack. I had been given the family room as it was the only room left and despite traveling fairly minimalist I had managed to cover 3 of the 4 beds and most of the floor with stuff. I had left my shoes on a portable heater before going down to breakfast. The radiator had a big sticker saying “Do not cover” but It was far hotted than the wall mounted one so I ignored the warning and left the shoes on it and I really needed them to dry. After returning from breakfast I put my hand inside to find they were still wet but now with the added bonus that they had also melted around the toes.
I eventually got everything packed away, paid for the room and loaded the bike. Morag kindly gave me a £10 discount on the room so I decided to throw that into the charity pot. I rode to the local shops to pick up some additional food and with withdrew some extra cash from the cash machine. I knew that I’d probably be staying in B&Bs a bit more frequently that I have originally planned as the weather conditions were far worse than expected. I continued onward into some light misty rain but thankfully the winds had eased since yesterday. A mile or 2 outside Durness, just after the Cape Wrath ferry it began to snow again. A lot.
Within minutes the roads were white and a considerable amount of snow was building up on both me and the bike. My hands and feet were soaking wet again and I was having to brush the snow off of my arms, legs and the bikes frame every couple of minutes. The snow quickly deteriorated into a complete white out. I could barely see the road in front of me and I was the first person to touch the snow so there was no tire tracks to follow. There were no cars around which I was quite grateful for, as all of the roads around here are single track I didn’t know how well the bike was going to be able to stop on the snow.
About half way between Lairg and Rhiconich I picked up a huge tailwind, all of a sudden I was effortlessly speeding along at over 25 MPH. I was constantly fearful that the bike was going to lose traction on the snow or that a sharp bend suddenly appears from the snowy haze in front of me but I didn’t want to slow down. I decide that going fast is defiantly the best way to escape the chilling wilderness. I was hoping to find somewhere to shelter up ahead, perhaps a building or a bus shelter. The was nothing, just open boggy wetlands much like yesterday.
By the time I reached Rhinconich I was soaked through and freezing. I spotted a public toilet building on the opposite side of the road. I pulled over and went inside to escape the falling snow. I went inside and discovered it was much bigger than I expected it to be (Much cleaner as well thankfully), big enough in fact to bring the bike inside. There was nobody around so I didn’t expect it would cause to much of a problem. I spent at least 90 minutes in there, clearing the snow from the bike and trying desperately to warm up using the hand dryer. Once I eventually regained feeling in my hands I tried to dry my hat and gloves using the hand dryer, It wasn’t very successful but it was filling the room with warm air so that was something positive.
The downside was that the snow on the bike had mostly melted now and had started to flood the building. At some point a guy from the local council appeared to use the toilet, we exchanged some awkward words as he shuffled past the bike to use the toilet (Fortunately the toilet and sink areas were separated by a door). He didn’t seem to mind that I hiding in there as it was still pretty grizzly outside.
I was still struggling to warm my feet and I knew that things were not going to get much better once I went back outside. I shuffled into the last corner of the room that hadn’t yet been flooded by the melting snow and changed into my only other pair of dry socks. I then set about fashioning some waterproof booties out of bin liners, zip lock bags and tape. They looked dreadful and were pretty uncomfortable but if they kept my feet dry then that’s all that mattered.
After making my new bin bag shoes I took a look outside and the snow had finally eased. There was still a small amount falling but the visibility had improved so I decided to take my chances and get back out there. As I headed down to Scourie and beyond the weather continued to improve eventually resulting in some clear and sunny skies, although still bitterly cold. The stretch of road heading south from Rhinconich is probably one of my favourite roads in the UK, the landscapes are absolutely stunning and on this day at least I had the road pretty much to myself.
I wish I’d had a better camera and that it was a bit warmer so that I could have captured the epicness of the road a little better but I had a lot of ground to cover and it was still really cold so I tried to stop as little as possible for photos. As I made my was out and down past Scourie I kept seeing road signs for “Ullapool – 80 miles” yet when I looked at the map it seemed as if I was nearly there. I thought that I was blitzing along and that I was making great time. A while later the crushing reality hit that I had actually been misreading the map and it was actually Unapool that I was approaching, checking the next page of the map revealed that Ullapool was in fact a very long way away.
Shortly after Unapool I turned right to follow the scenic coastal route towards Drumeg. I quickly came to regret this decision as within a mile or 2 the hills began. I don’t mind the hills usually, I’m in the highlands so they are to be expected but once they start passing the 15% mark they start to become unconformable. The first hill started at 25% and the story was a similar one for the next couple of hours. It didn’t take long before the knee pain set in, this was particularly concerning as in the months leading up this journey I’d had many spells on knee problems, often forcing me off of the bike for weeks at a time. The idea of turning back and taking the main road started to seem like a good idea but mentally the though of having to backtrack all that way was far from appealing. The road had up and down all the way so it was by no means going to be easy to go back. I chose to continue, I wanted to stick to the coastal route as much as possible and I just had to take a chance with the knee pain.
As the evening drew in the rain returned, it was at least rain this time and not snow but It didn’t do much for my morale. As it was now getting late I started looking for somewhere suitable to camp but much like yesterday there was nothing suitable to be gound. Everywhere is boggy and saturated, thick bush or boulders, I checked the map again and decided I’ll have to push on to Lochinver and hope to find somewhere to stay there. As i approach Lochinver the rain once again turns to snow and I find myself chilled and soaked once more. I pulled over to check the map one last time and manage to lose my grip on the map. The map page was instantly picked up and thrown down the road by the wind and straight under an oncoming car. I had to chase after the page down a soggy narrow road while wearing bicycle cleats expecting to fall face first at any moment. A few frustrating minutes later and I had the page back in my possession.
I arrived in Lochinvar to discover that’s it’s much smaller than I had hoped for, I only have a basic road atlas so its impossible to judge how big a place might be and the GPS is still stuff deep down in one of the panniers. I headed straight to the public toilet building again to escape the wind and snow and pull my phone out to search for a place to stay. It was very wet and very cold so I was really hoping that I wouldn’t have to camp. I loaded up booking.com and see that there’s only 1 room left in Lochinver and much to my surprise its only £30 for bed and breakfast. I hurriedly proceed to booking the room before someone else snatches it but I haven’t created and account yet! I end up digging through the panniers trying to find my debit card so that I can enter all my information. I finally get everything filled out only be shown the dreaded “This room is no longer available” message. I quickly flick back the property listings, no where else has any rooms but this same place is still showing as 1 room available. I check the map and it shows its just up the road from where I am. I got back on the bike and head over to the B&B, hoping that maybe the room would still be available.
I found the B&B and went inside, as I walked through the door I head the wind knock the bike over outside, I really hoped that nothing had just broken on it. I enquired about the room and fortunately they still had 1 room available. I immediately accepted the room, I didn’t care how much it was I just want to get inside and warm up. I was surprised once more to discover that the price was still only £30, I have expected it to be more given that many of these online booking sites claim to have the best prices, turns out they just have the regular price or at least they do in this case. I took my bike around to the back garden of the B&B and hauled my wet and dirty panniers up to the room.
It was a similar story to the previous night of smothering the radiator with as much wet clothing as possible. While unpacking I discover that my new bin liner and zip lock booties had actually done a reasonable job, they smelt appalling due to their zero breath-ability but my feet are reasonably dry. I take a quick shower, ate a couple of jam sandwiches and jumped into bed. As I lay in bed I could hear the wind howling and the occasional blast of snow or hail hitting the window. I was once again very grateful to not be sleeping in the tent.