No matter when we wake up and have breakfast we never manage to get on the road before 9:30am.
This has been the first day that we set out without a single proposed end point. Today, depending on how we felt, we could have headed for Laxford Bridge in readiness for a trip to Cape Wrath. By lunchtime we had decided against this - I have already been to the Cape by tandem and Drew agreed that a more sedate approach to John O'Groats over several days was desirable. Our train back to Edinburgh is on Tuesday so we now have plenty of reserve days to kill.
Another factor in the decision was the length of time to be served soup and a sandwich in a cafe in Lairg. If we had looked there was a notice on the wall apologising for the delay in serving customers during busy hours of the day.
Just after Altnahara the cold wind from the North East picked up and from here on both of us struggled. It really brought it home to me how lucky we have been with the weather. The wind was picking up "White horses" on the lochs and after checking web sites this equates to approximately 16mph wind strength (matching the actual forecast). It doesn't sound much but it didn't seem that way at the time. My legs were so cold I had to put on track suit bottoms.
I put the GPS into "go to" mode and watched the distance to Tongue click down 100 metres after 100 metres. Very glad to arrive and, thankfully, quickly find a B&B with the vacancy sign displayed.
I cycled much of today's route a few times in my teens and early twenties and it was interesting to see how much had changed and how faulty my memory has become. The route 'over the top' to Bonar Bridge, missing out Tain, was much as I remember it but not as challenging. It was good to revisit the small road to Culrain and Carbisdale Castle youth hostel, much of which I had forgotten. Carbisdale Castle was swathed in scaffolding and did not look as imposing as it usually does. We used to walk along the railway line in the evenings from the youth hostel to cross the Invershin railway viaduct to go to the pub on the other side of the river. There was nowhere on the bridge to escape a train had one come along. Now, since 2000, there is a dedicated pedestrian walkway on the bridge and connecting footpaths to get across.
Further on I had forgotten how huge the wilderness North of Lairg is. All in all it was a fairly knackering day given the strong and extremely cold headwind.
109km, moving time 6hrs 30 min, moving avg 16.7km/h, max speed 47.9km/h, ascent 713m.