Day 13 (final day!): Port Gower to John O’Groats (55 miles)

Thirteen days and more than 960 miles later and we’ve done it! We reached journey’s end at John O’Groats today at 1.40pm after one last 55 mile push.

We struggled up two long humps to our first stop at Dunbeath, a very long straight road to our second stop at Watten and then the last 15 miles, the last five of which was spent wondering if what we could see in the distance was John O’Groats.

Looking back at where we have been over the last fortnight is already a bit of a blur. We’ve had our tough moments to battle through and at times it took a lot of willpower to ignore the aches and ever present tiredness and just keep going.

But it’s also been a huge amount of fun. We’ve cycled through some amazing places, laughed until we’ve cried, and actually the hardest parts are some of my favourite.

We’ve discovered a few universal truths along the way:

1. Nick to Chris, disappointed he wouldn’t drink anything stronger than water at dinner: ‘You can’t go wrong on beer.’

2. Support driver three Kev, the morning after our chippy dinner: ‘Don’t go large on chips.’

There’s a lot of people who have helped us along the way and made the journey that bit easier. A huge thank you from all of us goes to:

– Mog minders Adrian and Ellen for enabling us to take the time to do this. 

– Support drivers Jean and Jane for their constant back-up and Kev for his almost constant back-up and hundreds of extra miles. We wouldn’t have made it without you.

– Nick and Susie, Jane and David, and Barry and Catherine, for not turning us away at the door and even doing our washing. We’re sorry we weren’t better company.

– Everyone who has made a donation to our two charities, Isle of Man Samaritans and Parkinson’s UK. It includes Allen and Jackie, who made a donation as we had our picture taken at the John O’Groats sign. Raising money for these charities really kept us pedalling up those hills.

– And everyone who has enjoyed and commented on this blog. It’s not the most informative but it helped us to see the funny side of all our mishaps.

Our sponsorship is up to nearly £900 for Isle of Man Samaritans and about £1,650 for Parkinson’s. But if, like us, you’re amazed we actually made it then it’s not to late to donate!

For Jackie’s fundraising page visit

And for Liz and Chris’s:

Day 12: Inverness to Port Gower (70 miles)

It was a welcome return to the usual routine today with support driver three Kev and support car Carl meeting us at our stops. In a show of solidarity Kev was also sporting high vis today, much to High Vis Liz’s delight.

Crossing over the Moray Firth there may well have been dolphins. But all we could see was mist. 

In fact the mist stayed with us throughout the day so what we are sure is a truly spectacular landscape was completely lost on us.

Our first 14 miles to Dingwall revealed just how much the challenge has taken out of us.  First I confused a sign of a sheep for a cat. And then Liz confused a dead rabbit in the road for a sheep’s head. Chris was generally confused.

The first 10 miles turned out to be a not too steep climb, but definitely uphill, and we then enjoyed the long descent into the town. There we called in at Tina’s Tearoom at the railway station, where we were given a warm welcome.

Father-son relations did appear a little strained though with Kev threatening Chris: ‘I won’t be at the next stop, there’s a distillery on the way!’

We continued both north and uphill with the Firth of Cromarty completely passing us by.

We only managed to get over our disappointment the route didn’t take in Bonar Bridge when Liz disappeared behind a bridge for a wee.

Since taking this picture I have promised not to take any more, however tempting it is. 

Lunch was in Tian where the comedy biscuit on offer at the bakery was a gingerbread Cyclops:

It was then we discovered Kev had been visiting the area’s top tourist attraction, a 700 year old stone at Nigg.

After lunch we set off down the A9, where we soon found out the end really is in sight:

We enjoyed crossing the Dornoch Firth bridge and looking out for otters when the signs told us to. But it was a busy road with some large vehicles so we made our way carefully.

Our afternoon stop was at Golspie to admire some public toilets Liz found on an architects website. See what you think…

The last 15 miles went slowly. We were still on the A9 and the mist had lowered. But liz was happy we got to call in at Dunrobin Castle and made it to Port Gower in good time. And the sun even came out (although the forecast is for heavy rain tomorrow).

Day 11: Pitlochry to Inverness (93 miles)

It was another 6.30am wake up call this morning as we had a lot of ground – 93 miles and a fair amount of hills (4800ft to be precise) – to cover today. Our destination was Inverness, officially north, even by Scottish standards.

Feeling sad we didn’t get to visit the salmon ladder (to help them up the river) we left feeling a little Killiecrankie.

Our way was mainly up and the going was slow as we stayed on a cycle path running near the A9. It gave us time to see the first of two of the day’s red squirrels.

Worried we wouldn’t get to Inverness before nightfall, the A9 with its smooth road surface was extremely tempting. It was vetoed by Liz who scared us with the number of cycling fatalities.

We climbed to the summit of Drumochter at 1516 feet and shortly afterwards stopped for this sign:

At 30 miles we met Kev and Carl 2 at Dalwhinnie for our first stop. We stocked up with food as Kev then drove back to Edinburgh to swap back to Carl. We also put on some more layers. My strategy was one long fingered glove for warmth and one short fingered for dexterity. I don’t know why more cyclists don’t go for it.

We actually got to cycle on some road after that which helped boost the average speed. 

At 40 miles Liz thought she had a puncture. It was just a small bump in the road. Chris and I think she had only just noticed the surface on her carbon bike.

As we made our way to our late lunch stop at Aviemore we passed Ruthven Barracks:

A much better picture is this one of Liz’s comedy wee stop:

On our way into Aviemore we passed this cute Highland calf:

Liz’s response was less than heart-warming: ‘Once we finish I’m having steak and chips.’

We ate our lunch (toasties and some of our Milka supply) quickly so we could press on. But there was plenty of time to discuss this important question: Would you rather be called Feshiebridge or Midge Face?:

It was then about 15 miles to Tomatin. We made good time and just about kept clear of the mist. Passing through Carrbridge the consensus was the historic bridge was ‘good’.

The last 18 miles were tough going. Our legs felt like the jelly babies in our snack bags and the mist had lowered. We agreed cycling stops being enjoyable after 60 miles.

We hit the outskirts of Inverness at rush hour and crawled the final few miles. 

This is how I was greeted at reception:

Receptionist: ‘Where have you come from today?’

Jackie: ‘Pitlochry’

Receptionist: ‘Oh, that’s not too far.’

Jackie: ‘Trust me, it is on a bike.’

We are now just waiting for Kev and Carl to arrive.

Day 10: Edinburgh to Pitlochry (69 miles)

We thought that today’s excitement would come first thing. Reaching day 10, double digits, was exciting in itself. And cycling over the Forth Road Bridge shortly after leaving our Premier Inn was spectacular.

But that was just the start of our adventure. In fact as I type, at 6pm, we are two team members down…

My bike Liv suffered a puncture shortly after going over the Forth Road Bridge. It says something about Scottish roads that I initially attributed the bumps to the uneven surface. This is me looking confused (why my neck has disappeared is also a mystery).

Five miles later I immediately knew I had a puncture, and this time we found the shard of glass that was to blame. We (well Liz and Chris) fixed it and we got on our way again.

It was at this time that we found out that support driver three Kev and support car Carl hadn’t made much progress either. Carl’s windscreen wipers were broken – and it was pouring with rain.

We carried on towards Kinross, cycling carefully as we had no more spare inner tubes. The route included a brilliant empty road through a forest and then a stunning descent with a loch view. We also spotted our first Highland cows.

Fending for ourselves, we stopped off at a bike shop to stock up on inner tubes and then headed to a bakery for sausage rolls and Mr Blobby biscuits.

While eating them, Liz introduced the word of the day, nomenclature, in a sentence about the inner tube boxing.

Liz to Jackie: ‘As a journalist, I’m surprised you haven’t heard of nomenclature. I use it all the time at work.’

Jackie: ‘How do you spell it?’

Liz: ‘N A M…’ (Takes a large bite of millionaire shortbread.)

Then five minutes later, Liz: ‘I don’t like long words.’

We were in the gap between two hills which we had named big boob and little boob when we received the bad news about Carl – he can’t be fixed today.

We cycled on towards our lunch stop at Perth wondering what to do for the best. Kev meanwhile continued to make friends with the staff and customers at the Ford garage. One customer very kindly  handed him a £10 donation! And Kev has asked me to say a big thank you to Lisa for their help.

Two customers at our lunch stop also surprised us with their generosity. Big thanks to Elspeth and Zoe for their donation – it really lifted our mood on a very trying day.

By now, Kev had sorted a temporary new support car, Carl 2, in the shape of a hire car. Only problem was it wouldn’t be ready until 4pm.

And so, while we carried on our mainly uphill and usually very pretty journey north, catching a glimpse of our first kilt wearing Scot, Kev continued his Scottish adventure by sitting at the Ford garage.

Our afternoon stop was at the tourist trap of Dunkeld at 52 miles. We knew it was popular as it cost us 30p to use the toilets.

Low on energy and supplies we pressed on for the final 17 miles. The route was a slippery cycle path alongside the River Tay and then a single track road where pheasants far outweighed the cars.

We reached Pitlochry in the rain and faced one last steep climb up to our accommodation. Still, we beat Kev and Carl 2 by more than an hour. 

Day 9: Moffat to Edinburgh (65 miles)

It turns out that a fish and chip supper, Irn Bru and banana cake made by our hotel host Lesley is the perfect preparation for a day’s cycling.

Lesley laughed at us over breakfast when we told her our route out of Moffat. ‘It’s a mountain’, she exclaimed, indicating with her hand that it was almost vertical. And support driver three Kev apologised as he said it did look miserable outside and we had ‘a hell of a climb’.

In fact, we enjoyed the three mile climb out of the town. The gradient was gradual enough for us to chat about the serious issues of the day like what dead animal would be the worst to cycle over. And it was only a bit drizzly. The landscape was beautiful, if slightly obscured by the mist.

We marked reaching the top with a Celebrations chocolate and then whizzed back down the other side of the pass. 

It soon started to rain more seriously and swimming goggles would have been more use than our sunglasses. We did see the sign welcoming us to Lanarkshire though. Feeling the cold, we only stopped long enough at our morning stop in Abington to refuel and have a wee behind the locked public toilets.

I also tried to take a rainy selfie:

We carried on our way, along an A road where we were blown around by some big lorries. But it wasn’t too long before we saw a rainbow…and then an alpaca.

We had to be careful with a gusty side wind but reached our lunch stop at 35 miles in good time. We were at Carnwath (if you ever need cheering up ask Liz how to pronounce it).
Support driver three Kev described Carnwath as a one ‘orse town but it sounded suspiciously like one arse town to me. Either way there wasn’t much there…but there was this intriguing sign:

On our way again we turned out to be perfectly synchronised with our support driver.  Turning round to check the coast was clear for Liz and Chris’s wee stop I was surprised to see Kev disappear into the undergrowth too.

We were finally able to remove our waterproofs entering into West Lothian. We were cycling quickly to get to the bike shop in West Calder where they kindly repaired Liz’s bike for free.

The afternoon was mainly characterised by side winds, wind turbines and Chris dropping his Celebrations in the road. He said he would hand them out when we deserved them. Liz got one after navigating through Livingston to avoid both mud and steps. I never got one but suspecting this may be the case had my own secret stash.

I was in fact on my best behaviour after Liz gave me The Look while in serious map reading mode.

Not long afterwards though she failed to recognise Chris when he cycled towards her.’Stopping. Cyclist!’ she called out. 

We then lost Chris for a while when he cycled ahead over a bridge in Ladywell. He had in fact just cycled on ahead but we both thought it was more likely he had gone the wrong way. ‘Chris can’t read a map’, Liz said.

We reached this Edinburgh sign when we were still several miles out from the city.

After taking a cycle path next to an A road for a while we were then able to turn off on to a more scenic cycle path away from the road.

Tonight’s accommodation is a Premier Inn where Liz and I agreed there was only one way to decide who got the double bed – rock, paper, scissors!

Day 8: Great Strickland to Moffat (72 miles)

Liz and I enjoyed our sleep in a yurt while Chris and support driver three Kev had the more traditional bedroom option. Cav, Bradley Wiggins and some of the Sky team stayed there in 2012 and we’ve all been wondering whether we’ve had their beds.

We actually managed to set off a bit before our scheduled 8.30am departure and not long afterwards were waved through Clifton by our Shap shepherd and shepherdess Ed and Vicky.

Cycling through Penrith Liz was disappointed to find that the toffee shop, along with all the other shops, were closed. On the plus side, not long afterwards there was both a field of alpacas and a donkey.

We made speedy progress and happily zoomed past a road sign informing us of a 17% downhill followed by a 17% climb. This was despite Liz’s assurance on day one there would be no uphill steeper than 10% (Liz is now trying to claim she said 11.5%).

The next sign advised HGV drivers to engage their crawler gear, which Liz and I did too while Chris cycled on ahead so we couldn’t hear him shouting encouragement to himself. ‘Come on chum!’

We descended another hill past signs to Cumdivock to arrive at Dalston, our morning stop, some 40 minutes early. 

We were in a positive mood. Liz declared the 25 mile section her best yet. And Chris announced he liked long distance bike rides without a trace of sarcasm.

By now, talk had turned to haggis and Irn Bru which could mean only one thing, we were approaching Scotland. Our route to Gretna was 20 miles along a nice quiet road alongside the M6. 

We received a warm welcome to Scotland. And we’ve taken the car beep as we had our pictures taken to be friendly. 

The signpost on the other aid of the road was a nice touch too:

Just five minutes later and Liz had already ordered a giant bowl of haggis, neeps and tatties:

We continued on our quiet road next to the motorway. We even cycled past a red squirrel. But we were soon to discover that not everything in Scotland is bonnie. The road surface was incredibly bumpy (i.e. uncomfortable).

Liz probably said something resembling Ecclefchan while we cycled up out of this Scottish village. She was soon to be found peering at her upside down bike on the pavement muttering something about the front derailleur.

She was able to continue but we will have to make a detour to a bike shop tomorrow. 

Our afternoon stop was in Lockerbie and we refuelled on some Milka (thanks Jan!). It was there that support driver three, the intrepid Kev, shared his first impressions  of Scotland (he’s never visited before): ‘It’s just like a continuation of England really.’

From there it was 16 miles to Moffat. We were feeling tired and the miles seemed to pass by slowly. At the 71 mile mark Liz said it was a good thing we only had one mile to go as she definitely wouldn’t make two.

But she didn’t fool us. We arrived to find the toffee shop near our b&b was open. Chris and I had barely unclipped from our bikes as Liz rushed in to the shop.

Day 7: Bolton to Great Strickland (93 miles)

We faced a 6.30am wake up call this morning so that we could be on the road for 8am. With 93 miles and a good 4,800ft of ascent including a 10 mile foray up the dreaded Shap ahead of us we couldn’t hang about. That, and we wanted time to buy some Kendal mint cake.

Our route originally  included 5200 ft of hills but thankfully Barry looked at it last night and realised we were headed for the steepest way out of Bolton. I was actually all in favour of it as it would have taken us past the first donkeys of the trip. 

Despite setting off with bellies full of delicious porridge we were all feeling a little tired and grumpy and the first hour saw us snapping at each other. Chris nearly went flying when he hit a rock on the cycle path-that was deemed Liz’s fault. And Liz finally snapped when we moaned at her offbeat route one time too many.

I didn’t cheer up properly until about 20 miles in when Chris was nearly decapitated by an unexpected low tunnel on the cycle path. We were bent double to ride through it.

Chris didn’t get much sympathy from us so instead sought solace from this friendly cow:

Support driver three (Kev) took over from Jane at Preston. Kevin was keen to prove his support driver mettle and immediately offered to buy us any supplies we needed. It turns out that offer doesn’t extend to ladies’ pants. 

Jane’s parting words to me as we cycled off in the sunshine were ‘Have a pair of pants on me.’ Thanks Jane!

Ten minutes later and having avoided being stopped by the police for cycling the wrong way up a one way street trying to get out of Preston (the Garmin told us to – I’m sure that defence would hold up in court) we stopped at Evans bike shop. Chris has been mocking my rear light all week and I’d had enough. £40 lighter my new one is dazzling. In fact my eyes still haven’t quite recovered after testing it out a little close to my face. Chris was jealous and got one too.

We reached our half way point of our LEJOG ride as we were trying to make up for lost time getting to Lancaster. There a nice garage let us use their staff toilet.

Liz immediately sent us up a steep hill. She didn’t think to tell us it was a wrong turn until we reached the top.

We went wrong a lot in Lancaster and then left on this aqueduct

We spent a lot of time on the A6 today. It included a half mile walk on a closed section which is undergoing major works.

We passed through some villages that sound like insults – Slackhead was the best – and made it to lunch in Cumbria.

It was then a hilly 10 miles to Kendal where we met our cycling saviours, Ed and Vicky. They led the way up Shap. Despite lots of warning signs about ice and high altitude we were lucky to tackle the climb in sunshine and the scenery was fantastic.

Here we are climbing:

And here we are at the top, which actually came as a surprise to me as I misheard Chris about how much further we had to go:

Here’s support driver three, Kev, who waited patiently for us at the top:

The downhill was good fun (although we did find a few small ups too). And best of all, we even flew past a donkey!

Day six: Whixall to Bolton (69 miles)

We set off with a car boot full of bananas and an assurance that the bridge over the canal would be passable by bike despite the road being closed to traffic. In fairness, the road sign informed us of the same thing. But this is what we were confronted with:

We were soon on our way again, heading off along picturesque country lanes with a few kamikaze motorists.

Looking forward to our next county, Cheshire, farmer’s daughter Liz impressed us with her regional cattle knowledge.

Liz: ‘I think Cheshire cows are special.’

Jackie: ‘I don’t think I’ve heard of Cheshire cows.’

Liz: ‘Oh, I don’t mean cows. Cats!’

Here’s the proof we made it to Cheshire:

Shortly afterwards Chris’s cycling failed to impress a Wrenbury drunk staggering along the cycle path at 9am.

‘You’re slow’ he shouted after him!

At 15.5 miles I cautiously expressed my delight at our progress. It led to chamois cream chat, with Chris admitting he’s just about to make a start on his second tub. He claims the tub has been open for a while but we aren’t so sure. It would certainly explain the squelch every time he sits down!

After nearly being taken out by a car at a big roundabout we were actually pleased to get to a gravel canal path. The fact the surface was ok came as no surprise to Liz because it was light in colour. Apparently it’s this that is the significant factor for cycling comfort rather than the size of the stones.

We were due to meet support driver two, Jane, at a pub in Nantwich for lunch. We arrived in our usual spectacular fashion, cycling straight to the back of the pub where a lorry was making a delivery. After doing a full 360 degree tour of the lorry we finally made our way to the front.

It was only 12 miles to our afternoon stop. The route included a toll bridge, charging a whole 12p for cars.

The final 22 miles, up past Manchester and through Bolton town centre at rush hour was memorable. We carried our bikes down and then up a flight of steps for no good reason to join up with a cycle path. And there was a less than scenic canal path, which did, at least have a lighthouse:

We also managed a selfie on the A57:

Liz said I wasn’t allowed to say anything negative about Manchester because she’s had a lot of fun there. I’ve come to the conclusion we must have very different ideas on what constitutes fun. Cycling through built up areas in busy traffic doesn’t do it for me.

We have been looking out for signs welcoming us to counties and major towns/cities. We didn’t find a sign but here’s Liz doing her Bolton bin impression:

We stuck close together to cycle through Bolton and were really pleased to get to our destination, Liz’s friend Hannah’s parents’ (Barry and Catherine) house at 4.30pm, just before the rain arrived.

Day 5: Bredenbury to Whixall (63 miles)

Having learned our lesson after getting a soaking on day two we set off from the farm actually wearing our waterproofs. Five minutes later the sun came out and we were treated to fantastic views of the Herefordshire countryside:

Our 16 mile ride to our first stop at Ludlow proved the old adage, what goes up must come down, does hold and we actually got to cycle down some hills rather than just struggle up them like yesterday.

It also highlighted one of the other problems we face, finding suitable wee stops. Unsurprisingly we don’t come across many public toilets on our quiet back roads. And on the odd occasion we do, we have usually disappeared into an open gateway a few miles back. On this occasion, Liz and I were both squatting together on the corner of a low hedged field when a high truck came past, definitely getting an eyeful.

Liz to Jackie, still with shorts down: ‘I hope the driver doesn’t know my dad.’

Jackie: ‘Why? Do you really think he would recognise your bum?’

We reached the 33% mark of the LEJOG route while we battled up Tinker’s Hill, which lived up to its name.

Ludlow has a lovely castle, apparently. What I confirm is that the Citizens’ Advice Bureau is very popular and you have to be at least 65 to live there. Support driver two (Jane) can confirm it’s a good place to buy a charity shop fleece.

By now we were in Shropshire, where we faced some short steep climbs but also some long swooshy descents. 

At midday we celebrated not having gone wrong once. We’ll come back to that later.

Our lunch stop was at Attingham Park, a National Trust property with a very long drive! Our welcome party was Chris’s parents, Kev and Jan, Auntie Jenn and godmother Faye. They are all pictured here, along with Jane sporting her new fleece:

We then set off destined for the Brunts farm in Whixall. We passed through the village of Clive and even saw him drive past. Well, we assume it was him.

At about 53 miles we cycled straight past our turning. Our distraction was none other than a field of cows moving to another field. In our defence, there were hundreds of cows. And they were all going through a tunnel under the road.

We also went through Wem. We all recognised the name but haven’t been able to figure out why…

We arrived at the farm at 3.30pm, our earliest arrival by at least two hours. We have even had time to meet the dogs and horses.

Day 4: Clevedon to Bredenbury (89 miles)

Today was our longest ride yet – it was meant to be 87 miles but ended up being 89 after what appeared to be a road on the map was actually this mud pit:

As usual we came across some real surprises. One house had an impressive collection of Gromit statues in various guises- the Queen, Statue of Liberty etc – in the front garden. And the village of Rockhampton had an Olympics themed scarecrow trail. Unfortunately by the time we decided to stop for a picture we were on the outskirts where this Paralympic scene was deemed appropriate:

Strangely the village of Hill was, in Chris’s words, as ‘flat as a pancake’ and should have been called S bend. Straight after that was Ham, which Chris said smelled of ‘Rotten bottom’.

We said goodbye to Somerset, ticked off Gloucestershire and struggled up through Herefordshire. If you believe this sign, we may also have been to Wales:

We were excited to tick off the 25% mark about 16 miles in to the day. Was it somewhere memorable? Yes…an industrial wasteland on the outskirts of Bristol where we cycled past burnt out cars and sofas and went on an obstacle filled path, namely tree roots and a copious quantity of mud.

We met our arch-nemesis, the inappropriate canal path at Slimbridge. It was meant to be an easy and flat six mile ride to our lunch spot at Gloucester. But after struggling for three miles on gravel and grass channels we persuaded Liz to let us go on a road instead, bliss!

This is what Chris thought of the canal path:

Support driver two (Jane) was waiting for us at the pub. It was 2.30pm by the time we got there, and as you can see, she was quite peckish:

We have little memory of the route from Gloucester to Ledbury, other than it was a bit hilly and we were keen to make some progress.

After a pit stop in a supermarket car park, the last push was 15 miles (turned into 17) of hills to Liz’s parents (Jane and David) farm in Bredenbury. It was hard work but the thought of a warm welcome…and Bake Off kept us going.

It was great to finally arrive into the farmyard at about 6.30pm. It’s the longest day’s cycling I’ve ever done and the biggest shock is that I managed it having forgotten to have my morning banana!