After Day 7’s monumental efforts, Day 8 seemed relatively trifling in comparison; a mere 111 miles to Kyle of Sutherland. However, as with any day on Deloitte Ride Across Britain the weather is always there in the background threatening to put the best laid plans to waste. Luckily, the gods took pity on us and decided that tailwinds would be the order of the day: Tailwinds and glorious sunshine.
The route headed North East from our basecamp in the shadow of Ben Nevis (not that you could tell because of the low cloud), past the commando memorial in the Great Glen and then onto the banks of Loch Lochy and onto Loch Oich. The water was being whipped up into white horses which crashed against the edge of the road, but with the wind on the back the riders were eating up the miles in stark contrast to the battles of the previous day. Andy had promised another incredible day of scenery and we were not disappointed. In previous years we have been unable to take the less used route along the Southern edge of Loch Ness due to a music festival. However, this year we had the all clear and what a route it was.
Winding up a steep climb away from the Loch itself on a single track road the vistas opened up before the riders. Expanses of heather, open moorland and gnarled, windswept trees were interspersed by smaller Lochs nestled in the crags and dips. The scenery pushed them all on until they crested the climb and saw the road rolling away into the distance in front of them. Despite the hundreds of miles in the legs already, riders couldn’t suppress whoops and cheers as they tore off down the long descent, much to the despair of the multiple riders battling into the teeth of the wind coming up the other side as part of a local adventure race.
A quick stop later it was time to push on towards Inverness and round Beauly Firth. Days like Day 8 are the ones where you think you have earned the tailwind and and sunshine and can just enjoy the experience. Riders were reporting being about 4mph above their average as they sailed along with much less effort than before. That wasn’t to say it was easy though; 111 miles never is. The visually spectacular sting in the tail of the stage was the climb from Cromarty Firth up and over to Dornoch Firth. This climbed up high again at a steady gradient before finally coming over the top of the ridge and revealing a monumental view down across the estuary valley. Although the wind was howling across the top and the riders had to head West and push into it a bit more, the sight in front of them, the bright sunshine and the short distance left meant there was little complaining.
Then it was just the crossing of Bonar Bridge and just a couple of miles to the green field base camp at Kyle of Sutherland. With dry grass underfoot and the sun slowly going down over the now familiar set up, it was time to reflect a little on what everyone had achieved. Just 8 days previously we had set out from Land’s End in the mist unsure of what the elements would have in store for us all. Since then the riders have been sunburned, frozen, parched, drenched and pretty much everything in between. We always hope the final base camp is dry and with the sun setting and the wind dropping over the hills last night we were treated to a fantastic finish. Riders were sat outside in the sunshine exchanging stories and daring to let themselves think that it is nearly over. Just 104 miles remain between them and their goal. It’s never over until the fat lady sings, but we can hear her doing a few arpeggios in the distance.
Day 9 –Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats, 104 miles
The final day takes riders from Kyle of Sutherland to John O’Groats. Leaving basecamp to head North they will cycle past Loch Shin and the famous Shin falls before riding through Lairgs and onto Strath Tirry and the remote pub “Crags Inn”. Next they’ll travel alongside the most picturesque and beautiful Loch Naver to Betty Hill and the Northern Coast of Scotland. The views along the coast road here riding in an easterly direction are truly fabulous. The view of the Orkney Islands on a good day is a fitting climax to the whole ride.