August 28, 2011, by Andrew Burden
The VC’s blog: JoGLE Day 2: Helmsdale to Inverness
We left Helmsdale around 0815, straight on to the A9 for Inverness.
As in the west of Scotland, there is one road in and out. This is the first time I have been on the A9 and it is absolutely delightful. It hugs the coast all the way down to Golspie, via Brora and other highland jewels, revealing some marvellous beaches and headlands. We also crossed several of Scotland’s great firths: Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray. All of this in bright conditions, with excellent visibility. At times the cross-winds were pretty strong, but given the forecast earlier in the week, we had excellent cycling weather.
As on Day 1, the team broke into different riding groups. Alan and Chris R cracked on and reached Inverness early afternoon. Steve diverted to say hello to some friends as did David W to try the ferry crossing from Dornoch.
Nick and Neville also headed straight for Inverness to make the Inverness Caledonian Thistle – Kilmarnock match. Nick’s team is Kilmarnock, who unfortunately lost 2-1. They evidently missed two of the goals because they were busy checking Wikipedia for words of abuse that were completely new to them.
Andy, Kate, Karen, Chris J and I went to Tain, Scotland’s oldest Royal Burgh, for lunch. First stop, with Gavin, Simon and Ed from the support team, was the Glenmorangie Distillery for an informative tour. This is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, dating from 1843 (although in our increasingly globalised world it is French-owned).
Among many interesting pieces of information we picked up is the fact that the equivalent of 120 million bottles of whisky is lost each years due to evaporation during maturation. They refer to that as ‘the angels’ share’.
Tain is a distinctive town and well worth a visit. I would recommend Grant’s bakery for a wholesome lunch and excellent hospitality. (As in John O’Groats you need 20p to spend a penny, I treated Kate today).
After Tain we diverted to get some relief from the A9, a good move that not only took us on to quieter roads, but also through some attractive forests and coastline to Invergordon.
Fortunately there were no significant mishaps today. Karen did have two punctures, which at three in two days, leaves her comfortably holding the green jersey.
Tomorrow brings two big challenges. First, the weather forecast is dire: heavy rain and strong winds, far from ideal for making our way through the Cairngorms. Second, Forest against West Ham is live on TV: will we be able to find somewhere en route to watch it?
All in all a marvellous day’s cycling. At 74 miles it was a fair stretch, but also a ride through one of the most striking routes in our country and an experience shared with other very appreciative riders.
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