John O’Groats to Land’s End (JOGLE) Part 1 Scotland
by John and Sue Diamond
26 July to 26 August 2021
Planning, if you can call it that:
For a variety of reasons we were less planned than we should have been. Some was due to being
over busy in the lead up; some was deliberate in wanting to see how well we went before
committing to distances.
Sue reviewed debrief points from our last big trip (a 5 week trip to France in exceptionally good
weather) and purchased some very effective clothing options. Sue also had a full service of her
Having looked at doing LEJOG the previous year we had collected some route GPX’s but in the event
we borrowed the Sustrans route book which covers LEJOG in 28 stages of varying lengths and is
designed to show off the National Cycle Network including low traffic and traffic free routes which
inevitably adds distance and is slower. John didn’t have time to create GPX routes so attempted to
follow this route in reverse.
Packing was inefficient and we included too many things for “just in case”. Having 4 panniers each
contributed to our overpacking by allowing us to bring more than the minimum requirements –
more discipline needed there.
Due to Covid we took a tent and sleeping mats and bags in case we could not find accommodation;
but we were happy to use the holiday budget and generally pay for bed and breakfasts and eat out
most of the time; in practice this worked out more expensive than we expected.
Cycle to London Monday afternoon for overnight sleeper to Inverness; then another train to Wick and then a short ride up the coast to John O’Groats for an overnight stay at a hotel.
This was further West across the North of Scotland to the Kyle of Tongue.
On the third day we started heading South at last and really felt we were on our way. The weather was pretty average being largely overcast with showers but better than it had been for the first two days, but what a fantastic route following NCN1 through the Highlands. A lot on single track A road with passing places alongside Loch Loyal; a fantastic remote pub for lunch the Crask Inn where many end to enders were going in the opposite direction, then down past Loch Shin and the Kyle of Sutherland, and then up Struie Hill for our accommodation.
The following day was very wet weather in the morning and cycling into the wind, but the rain cleared up in the afternoon and we got some good views over the Flow Country (the largest peat moorland in Europe).
On the third day we started heading South at last and really felt we were on our way. The weather was pretty average being largely overcast with showers but better than it had been for the first two days, but what a fantastic route following NCN1 through the Highlands. A lot on single track A road
with passing places alongside Loch Loyal; a fantastic remote pub for lunch the Crask Inn where many end to enders were going in the opposite direction, then down past Loch Shin and the Kyle of Sutherland, and then up Struie Hill for our accommodation.
The following day was a struggle as we didn’t leave the B&B until quite late and we felt behind
schedule all day. During this day we also went through Inverness and almost immediately lost the
route; losing the route in cities would become a familiar occurrence and I think we lost the route in
every city we went through. We stayed overnight at Tomatin next door to a distillery; a very
comfortable hotel where we felt obliged to sample the local scotch.
We had a good section of off road path for a few miles into Aviemore; an overnight in Dalwhinnie (again sampling the local scotch), and up early to get over the Drumochter pass and down to Pitlochry finishing the Highland section of the route.
Dalwhinnie to Killin was our longest day and a particular highlight was an early evening ride in good weather on a low traffic road above Loch Tay.
The next day was almost all off road from Killin to Aberfoyle on various quality tracks, and then into Glasgow via the bottom end of Loch Lomond, the river Leven and Clyde Canal where we overnighted with Sue’s Aunt, and took the opportunity of having dinner with our daughter who lives
there and have a rest day. We took the opportunity to post two bags of surplus equipment home to lighten our load.
After restarting we had a couple of hard days with poor weather through the Lowther Hills. The second of these was particularly tough as the rain and wind was against us and the route followed the low traffic A road (as the newer motorway takes the bulk of the traffic), but the edge of the road is marked for cycle use but has not generally been resurfaced so uncomfortable to use, and what traffic there was travels fast along the road. Sue was in discomfort from hip problems; the cold and the rain – would she continue or bail at Carlisle having finished Scotland?
That evening we struggled to find accommodation; apparently Gretna Green on a Saturday was fully booked up so we resorted to camping for the first time at a pop up campsite which was a really poor experience as the facilities were not working.
Luckily the rain cleared before we had to put up the tent!
to be continued …