Not too much cycling today but a great day of travelling on many levels. I left you last night in the buffet car of the sleeper train to Inverness, or rather Perth. I didn’t get murdered by nine people who I have crossed swords with during my life, I survived. But I didn’t sleep, I don’t think. There were times when the rattle of the train over the tracks did seem to blur with short periods of what could have perhaps been a dream but I was never convinced. Had I not been sharing the cabin (is that the right word?) I would have no doubt got up, opened the blind covering the window and spent the night gazing at the countryside trundle by… A knock on the door informed us that we would be arriving in Perth for out rail replacement bus to Inverness in about half an hour and it was at that point that I met the person who had spent the night on the bottom bunk. His name was Adam, he was on his way to meet a man about an otter (or was it a red squirrel?) in order to write about the reintroduction of such species into the wild for his newspaper.
‘What newspaper?’ I enquired.
‘The Guardian,’ he replied.
It turns out that the person who had shared my ‘cabin’ was none other than the environment editor of The Guardian who is also in charge of their ‘Bike Blog’ after having taken over from Matt Seaton. Guess who will be receiving complimentary copies of my books as soon as I return home?
More interesting encounters were to follow; it was to be the theme of the day. I ate breakfast with a guy at Inverness station called Olly who had taken a four month career break from making the trailers for the programmes you see on BBC1. He has just finished a Lands End to John O’Groats cycle and was about to head back south to London and home and three more months of doing bugger all.
‘Have you read Mark Beaumont’s book about cycling?’ he enquired.
‘Have you read my book?’ I replied.
He hadn’t but I made sure he was aware of them. Perhaps it was time to stop banging on about my literary career…
On the train from Inverness to Thurso were a variety of interesting people and you be delighted to hear than none of them were on the receiving end of my sales pitch. The lady opposite me was on her way to see a friend in Lairg who had abandoned her life in the south of England to work as a crofter. She’s now having second thoughts apparently. There were the two Germans from Constance, and then the academic from Edinburgh and his wife. We discussed land clearances (and the evils of the Dukes of Sutherlands who castle we were passing on the train), the unification of England and Scotland, Scottish law and the referendum amongst a host of other topics. We had plenty of time. Delayed somewhat by a train coming in the other direction heading south (it had priority over our own on the single track for some reason), we were offered a free beverage after 30 minutes and then a complimentary snack after an hour. It was a pity that the train then started moving as I had high hopes of the 90 minutes being celebrated with a free glass of whisky. Next time perhaps.
Another bus replaced the train for the final few miles of the journey to Thurso itself and Reggie and I were in a mini bus of our own with a Leeds United supporting driver. Another interesting chap. He had tattoos to prove his devotion to the cause.
I did eventually get some cycling done at around 4:30pm albeit just a short journey to the campsite at the beautiful Dunnet Sands – see the picture below. Tent pitched I set off to be Britain’s most northern man (some think I already am) at Dunnet Head – stunning! – before retiring to the Northern Sands Hotel for a pint and fish and chips. It’s about to be served. A good day on the rails and on the road. Tomorrow I head west…