Around the Pond: 5000 km on the North Sea Cycle Route

This is the most strenuous day so far.

The ferry is scheduled to arrive at 5 am. Last night I set my alarm to 4 am. I don't get to sleep that long, however. At 3:30 am I am woken up by an loudspeaker announcement that passengers leaving the ship in Scrabster are to vacate the cabins by 4 o'clock. I guess, to give them time to clean the cabins for passengers boarding in Scotland.

The ship arrives on time, but it is nearly 6 o'clock until we are on land. The first two kilometers I cycle together with Markus, then we go separate ways. He is taking a ferry to the Orkneys. I'd like to go there, too, but I've wasted too much time in Norway, and have to go south.

For the first two hours the scottish highland (is this already part of the highlands?) was cliché-like: foggy, low-hanging clouds nearly touching the hills. After a while the sun comes through, for the rest of the day it is sunny.

I don't have any maps of Scotland, just a few fotos of parts of the Sustrans maps on my camera. I also have nearly no food left. Shopping is one of my top priorities. The next town near Scrabster is Thurso, but I don't want to hang around for hours, waiting for the shop to open, so I continue with the North Sea Cycle Route, hoping to find something on the way.

The NSCR, following Route 1, goes along the northern coast towards Tounge, then turns south across the highlands. Tounge is my destination for the day. The Sustrans map doesn't give much information about it, but given its nice location at the coast I hope for a small, but lively tourist-town. According to the map there also is a camping site.

The route to Tounge is hilly, like Norway, but a bit less steeper inclines. After about 70 km I reach the point where the NSCR turns south. The road I came on continues downhill into Tounge. I'm a bit disappointed. Tounge is a small town, more a village, as far as I can see. Aside from one hotel there seems to be no tourism here. Normally I would appreciate a place like that, but I am tired and hungry, and a little irritated. I ride down the road until I find a small Edeka market, which also serves as Tourist Information. I buy a few things, but the selection is rather limited. They tell me that there is no camping site in or near Tounge. I should follow the NSCR south to Crask Inn. Not really a camping site, but I could pitch my tent there.

I ride up the hill I just came down into town, to the intersection where the NSCR left the road. The road towards Crask Inn, despite being an A-road, is narrow. Just one lane, with a passing place every few hundred meters. I was told this is one of the loneliest roads in the highlands.

The landscape is beautiful, but I can't really appreciate it. After getting up in the middle in the night, and riding 80 kilometers without even a real breakfast my condition breaks down. I start to shiver, and can hardly stay on my bike. Near Loch Craggie I find a dry place to take a rest. I eat nearly everything I have left (wishing I had bought more in that Edeka), and lie down in the grass for an hour.

After the break I slowly make my way along the lakes. The next village is Altnaharra, about 20 kilometers away. As I arrive there I am beat. I discover a B&B, hoping to end this day. No luck, however. They are full. Again I am told to try the Crask Inn.

Crask Inn is another 13 kilometers away, most of the way uphill. Shortly before I arrive there I have to take another break.

Finally I arrive there. The Inn has no vacancies, but I can pitch my tent next to it. They offer me to take a shower in the house of the barkeeper, the only other building. Crask Inn lies in the middle of nowhere. The next village is 13 kilometers away. A Diesel generator provides electricity.

I enjoy a really good dinner in the inn, together with two english cyclists who also spend the night here.

Day 58 - July 30th: Scrabster - Crask Inn


Scrabster - Tounge - Altnaharra - Crask Inn


Distance: 113 km
Cycle time: 7:33 h
Average speed: 14.95 kmh
Height difference: 1530 m
Total distance: 3154 km
© Thomas Stets
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