Flagged down by the Old Bill..

Posted by on 8, Sep 2021 in 2021 - Edinburgh to JOG, Tilly the Tandem, UK

Flagged down by the Old Bill..

Leaving Ullapool we joined the dreaded NC500 – the North Coast 500 – a touring route full of motorhomes, motorbikes and cars. We’d not been looking forward to this bit at all. We’ve read nightmares about the traffic and even met a coach driver who said his company no longer do tours along it as the coach gets stuck on the single track sections as people park in the passing places.

Anyway, it wasn’t as busy as we’d expected but was pretty hilly as compensation!

Fortunately, leaving Ullapool, we turned off the road after 25km and headed inland to cross toward the north coast leaving most of the traffic behind.

The road climbed over deserted moors with no sign of civilisation as far as you could see and then arrived at the summit at the metropolis of Crask., which consisted of a pub, church (which was the pub) a solitary House and a bus stop.

The roll down was fab but just as remote as we followed Loch Naver and then the river Naver to our Camping Pod for the night surrounded by millions of midges. We didn’t take advantage of the outdoor fire pit there!

This area is beautiful and almost completely uninhabited, but there are numerous plaques along the way marking where villages once stood. Some as large as a 1000 people, all cleared by landowners for their sheep. No provision was made for the people forced to move with the rich showing little regard for the welfare of those less fortunate than themselves. Remember that next time you watch Downton Abbey.

We rejoined the NC500 at Betty Hill where we were immediately carved up by a Police Van. We both gave him the cyclist salute and then stopped for coffee at the top of Betty Hill.

We were sitting in the cafe when the Police Van pulled up outside and the driver got out, saw us, pointed at the bike then waved us out of the cafe!.. Oops..

Surprisingly we didn’t get a lecture on swearing at policemen but got a nice apology for his bad driving. The Officer said he’d been driving up and down looking for us to apologise after seeing us give him the cyclists salute in his mirror.

I thanked him but told him it was pretty dumb driving to overtake us on a blind bend when a car was coming, but it was nice that he had recognised this and come to apologise.

We were told later that the Scottish Police had been running a ‘Close pass’ campaign to make roads safer for cyclists, so either he was taking the campaign slogan too literally or that had made him more aware of this type of incident.

People seem to hold cyclists to different standards than other road users. Vehicles with “I slow down for horses” stickers often whiz past us far too closely. Perhaps an addendum to the sticker saying “but not humans” should be added.

From Betty Hill the coast is up and down and quite steep and what’s worse is the really poor road surface so you can’t hurtle down hill you have to crawl down avoiding all the holes and worn surface dressing. For us, this is also partly as Linda’s frozen shoulder is aggravated by bumps and partly due to it just being plain dangerous.

The weathers been pretty overcast and cold so we’re grateful to be staying in warmer midge free bed and breakfasts rather than a tent each night – especially  when we sat down to a fab pizza overlooking the sea one evening.

Our final stop before JOG was Thurso where we picked up some lube for the chain, had lunch in the community cafe – a great cafe which is run on a pay what you want basis – and then bumped into Pete again for the 4th time this trip.

He’d picked up a Spanish girl as a travelling companion (who was slowing him down considerably) and they were heading for a warm showers where the toilet was effectively a bucket in the lounge! Glad we had booked a lovely Airbnb with open fire!!

But before that we needed supplies for the return leg. Thurso had the last shop we will pass for about 150kms as our way home follows the Great North Trail Mountain Bike route. Get a motorhome on that pal!

Oh, and we obviously need to buy champagne (well cava at least) to drink at the signpost… Out of paper cups!

Actually getting things up here has been hit and miss with plenty of shelves bare and frequent announcements about the shortages on the supermarket tannoys. Obviously all some underhand sneaky plot by those Project Fear lot…

As we would all be arriving at JOG the next day we planned to coordinate our arrival times with Pete and Maria and so we set off first to make sure we didn’t hold them up too much. We went on tiny lanes along the coast with, rather unsurprisingly an F Type Jag and a a Bentley screaming past about 30cm from our mirrors. They were probably going too fast to see the Cyclsit salute let alone stop in time for JOG! We then looked out for them at every car park along the way to give them a more up close and personal cyclist salute whilst leaning a heavily laden Tilly against their cars in the process, but unfortunately never found them. They were probably in Trondheim by lunch time…

Anyway we carried on past Castle Mey where the Queen mum used to come and then managed to end up in someone’s garden when the lane ended!  We got told off by the very irate owner who then said we were very welcome to carry on! She wasn’t so much bothered about us cyclists but the motorhomes and cars using her garden as a road understandably wound her up.

Anyway, we plodded on along the coast and saw JOG in the distance and rolled down the gentle hill to our turnaround point and photo ops at the sign Post giving the distance to Lands End as about half of what we’ve actually done to get here.

Like Lands End, it’s a bit commercialised but we were really excited to arrive and didn’t mind the cafes and car park and queued up to have a photo taken at the official end to the route.

We’d just had our photo taken when Pete and Maria rolled up, so out came the cava and paper cups and we all had a glass, well, papercup anyway, of cava to celebrate our different achievements.

After finishing the bottle and doing even more photos we adjourned for cake and coffee and to hear more about their warm showers experience the night before whilst we had relaxed in luxury at our BnB with a spare bedroom!! We felt very guilty!!

Finally the time came to all go our seperate ways and we headed off to our BnB, Pete to start the Great North Trail as our reconnaissance team and Maria to Wick to get a train to miss out some of the Trail. It was actually quite sad to say goodbye to them but hopefully we will bump into them again somewhere one day.

One Comment

  1. Lovin the fact PC Plod came to apologise! Great story! Hope you videoed it!

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