Kim's "Land's End to John O'Groats" adventure

My name is Kim Churton and I am a 26 year old Speech-Language Therapist from New Zealand, currently living in London.. I will be attempting to cycle solo from Lands End at the bottom of Britain to John O'Groats at the top. I will be hoping to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support along the way.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The last day!!!!!!

Day 20.. Pretty exciting waking up today and knowing that it was the final stretch. Unfortunately it looked like it was going to be one of the toughest with my guide book descibing some the the hills as the part of the route that caused quivering knees amongst 'end to enders'. We set out from Brora with 65 miles ahead of us. Rolling up and down along the coast for a while with heavy fog coming in, it really felt like we were heading out into the middle of nowhere. We hit the hills by late morning. One long climb which droped down into a very step valley with 13% gradients on each side. I passed a truck as I was about to climb up the other side and he gave me the thumbs up while laughing.. a good indication of what was to come. But although steep, it wasn't for long and we got through the worst bit. So carrying along into the wind, past foggy farms, and old stone houses perched out on cliffs. We stopped off in Wick for a while to try and sort out our return journey and then started the final stretch to John O Groats.. It was the case of 'so close yet so far away' with the last 30 odd km heading into the wind, gradually climbing.. it seemed to last forever. But as we climbed over the last pass and looked down at the little town on the edge of the coast with Oakney Islands stretched out in the distance, you got the feeling it was all worth it. Sailing down the other side of the hill into town.. feeling pretty good. Stopped for a photo at the sign entering town before heading to the shore. Unfortunately we got there too late (6pm) to get a photo of the sign that points back to lands end (they take it down so it doesn't get nicked). But quite grateful, as they charge £17 to let people stand by it and have their photo taken.. so we were creative and used the remaining post and the good old kiwi flag which had been with me the whole way and did our own. Last day 106km.

So... the de brief.. wow, fantastic.. pleased to have done it, even more pleased to get to the end. 19 days on the road since leaving Lands End on Tuesday 4 July at 5pm, arriving John O Groats Sunday 23 July 6pm. Covering 1824 km .. about 1140 miles... so on average 96 km or 60 miles per day. The best way to see the country and would highly recommend it to anyone!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and sponsered me. I think from last looking we raised £525.80 or $1524.00 (NZ) for MacMillan Cancer Support.. which is Great!!

Paul keeps coming up with ideas for the next adventure, but I think I'll have a wee break now, but will keep you posted.

Kim XX

Heading into the wind

Day 19.. Today I had the excitement of Paul joining me. He got to do an overnight bus trip from London after work to arrive in Inverness at 11.30 the next day.. I had a nice big day planned for him after that.. but I know how much he loves challenges! So we set off from Inverness and for only the second time in the trip hit a great head wind. Winding around some farmland and over a couple of good hills and then catching a ferry across the harbour at Nigg. Onto the A9, so a bit of bus dodging and head down into the wind along the coast. Getting pretty barron, windswept country, hugging the harbour and spotting a few seals before passing a really cool castle looking out over the ocean. Paul had brought the tent up for us to stay in.. but I think he was planning on it being london temperatures, and so only brought one sleeping bag.. so the decision was made to hit the b&b at the pub that night. Got to Brora, the target town of the day after 102km... then on to have a nice big feed after which Paul fell asleep in the dining room.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Finding Nessie

Day 18.. Setting off from Fort William, wishing I took a photo of Ben Nevis the previous night when it was clear.. as now with very low cloud and not much to see... Back on to the evil A82 buzzing with trucks and swaying capervans. I was being extra cautious after talking to a lady the previous night who had been hit that day by a passing caravan! Anyway, up the road, with a very helpful tail wind.. and alondside Loch Lochy, which I thought was a particularly amusing name for a Lake, with the equivolent in N.Z being 'Lakey Lake' .. very original.. and up to Fort William where I got my first look at the infamous Loch Ness!! I was on the look out for dear old Nessie as I hugged the Loch for the next 30 miles, but with no luck.. she seemd to be keeping a low profile today, but the frequent touristy attractions, shops and statues were entertaining enough. Now in Inverness after another big day 114km.. my bum doesn't really feel a thing now.. which I am not sure whether to be grateful or worried about, and the legs are holding up fine. Meeting Paul tomorrow who will join me for the last 2 days up the coast to the finish.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hitting the Highlands

Day 17..Its raining!! well I suppose I've been pretty lucky so far and nice to have some relief from the hot weather. Heading off from Oban (very cool town, and very friendly backpackers).. on the A828, which is a nice busy road that I will have to get used to for a while and up the road amongst stunning mountains on one side and big Lochs on the other. Winding around the Lochs for a while then enjoying a coffee and scone overlooking the Stalker Castle, which sits on a little Island out from the shore... then on to where I managed to get my first puncture of the trip thanks to a friendly wee nail. Now I am pleased that I know how to fix these thinngs and didn't think that some hunky motorist would swiftly come to my rescue.. cos they didn't!!! but not to worry, back on the road again past the sign to say I am now in the Highlands and over a few bridges to Fort William, the destination of the day.. very interesting town on the edge of Loch Linnhe.. but unfortunately still raining! Today 80km.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Hot and Hilly

Day 16.. I was watching the weather report last night and I think it was saying that this has been the hottest July in over 80 years... yippee because today I had to climb three big passes. I spent a while mentally preparing myself via procrastination techniques.. long leisurely breakfast.. some morning T.V, slow gear packing, before facing the day. A good climb to Kilmartin for a stop and look around some famous stones then another climb to Kilmelford for a stop at the shop for supplies and then a final climb into Oban.. I was a very sweaty girl by the end of the day and pleased to get over the last pass. Gorgeous views from the tops down into the Lochs. Today a sensible 63km... I have now covered 1418 km since leaving lands end and am planning to finish on Sunday, with Paul to hopefully join me on the weekend.. so I am starting to get confident that I can actually finish this thing!

An Island in the sun!

Day 15.. By the way did I mention that it has been really really hot.. I think the last couple of days have been over 30 degrees.. Anyway, great to wake up on the Island and have a shorter day planned as still feeling a little tired after yesterday. Cruising around the shore line heading north, before climbing a pretty good pass at 654 feet to the north side of the island.. very pretty and great landscapes with high hills down to cute little beaches. Taking the ferry at the north end back to the mainland gave a nice mid day break before heading north up beside Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead.. The plan was to arrive, find somewhere to jump in the water and have a swim.. Unfortunately the info centre advised against this as the sewage goes straight out into the loch.. bugger, the cold shower was a good substitute, before another picnic dinner on the shore. Today a much needed 67km.

Heading out to the Island

Day 14.. luckily the wines at the BBQ the previous night didn't leave me too queasey the next morning and I set off further up the Nith valley. An early stop over at Drumlanrig Castle (apparently haunted by a Lady Anne Douglas who walks with her head in her hands).. see photo, and then on through kirkconnel.. into rolly farmland around Cumnock and Stair, towards the coast. The question for the day was, whether I would make it to Ardrossan in time to catch the ferry that night to the Island of Arran. Thanks to some pretty good winds I made it in time for the 6.00pm crossing. After boarding the ferry, I planned to sit down for a moment, then go up in top to look around and take photos coming in to the Island. Unfornuately I must have fallen asleep as I was woken by the speaker telling us to disembark.. oh well, a good nap. Great Island and nice picnic on the beach before bed. A long day 115km

Monday, July 17, 2006

Into Scotland

Day 13.. A lovely night spent at the Cliffhouse B & B, thanks Margaret, and a great meal out with the boys the night before for a big feed of Indian. After a few adjustments to the bike, Paul and Brad set off towards Haydrians Wall, for a bit of a run (I think this ended up being a 38 km one by the sounds) and I headed up to the Scotish Boarder. Not incredibly exciting but some nice views out over the Solway Firth. A nice detour via the Caerlaverlock Castel and on to Dumfries. Sorted out my next sleep, which was up inThornhill and had a cruisey ride through some foothills and along the valley of Nith. Great hospitality at the Buccleuch & Queensberry Hotel where the friendy owners invited me to their BBQ.. a great night and great company. Today 90km.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Up through the Lakes

Day 12... Very exciting day with Paul and our friend Brad up for the weekend.. After sharing a big yummy breakfast at the YHA, we went our separate ways.. me heading up to Carlisle and them heading up the highest Mountain they could find (typical).. with the plan to meet for the night in Carlisle.. Another gorgeous day,, cruising around blue glimmery lakes on little country roads.. encountered a whole heap of little ponies and their foals, very cute. I was tempted to put one in my panier and take it with me!! Another day in paradise 90km.. heading in to Scotland tomorrow!!

Into the Lakes!!

Yipeee.. Day 11, out of the big ugly smelly towns and into the Lakes District, what a relief and absolutely stunning!! Heading along the canal for a while on the way up to Lancaster.. had a good chat with Derek, the friendly canal boat guy and jumped back onto the main road for a zoomy ride up to Lake Windermere.. across the ferry and to Hawkeshead YHA for the night.. This is the closest you'd get to scenery like N.Z.. gorgeous weather, wind behind me, what more could I ask for!! Todays trip 85km.

Friday, July 14, 2006

For the Churtons..

Day 9.. Today I left Ellesmere heading towards Liverpool.. and along the way, noticed a sign pointing to 'Churton'.. so a little detour took me through a very cute town, with one pub, and old town hall, school and postoffice. I even rode up the drive of 'Churton Manor' trying to find long lost relatives.. but with not much luck...but very neat to visit. Onwards through Chester and alongside the Mersey river before getting a Ferry across to Liverpool. Along the way I thought it would be nice to follow the 'cycle route'.. todays one took me through windy paths, along old rail lines for about an hour and then dropped me back about 1 km from where I started!!..which was a little frustrating. Liverpool is a big smelly yucky city with busy roads and too many cars. Today 81 km. (sorry no photos yet).

Day 10.. Trying to get out of Liverpool as quickly as possible meant staying on busy roads.. not fun! before finding another cycle track towards Southport, (this was where I was headng so I thought I'd give it another chance).. slightly better than yesterday, but I think when you are loaded up with paniers, a sealed road beats single track for comfort and speed. Southport was a nice little stop over, with cheesy fairground on the waterfront before finding an outdoor cafe for lunch where the wonderful Allan Curtis was singing. Thanks to Alan and a little promotional announcement, we managed to raise just over 30 pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support duiring lunch.. Thanks Southport!! Onwards to Prston, where the entire town was booked out for graduations.. so after a few worrisome moments a B & B was found a few miles North.. Finally back in the country again. Today 86km.. so hopefully over half way now.