Day 16, Saturday 7 June,2014- Inverness to Helmsdale

Dist : 129.73 km
Riding time: 6:52:15
Total time (including stops) : 9:30
Stops: 4
Climb meters up/down 855 /878
Max height: 133m at 10:45
Wind: 70% headwind/30% tailwind

The last push up the coast into a 20km/hr headwind made it a long afternoon. The sunny day and North Sea scenery made arriving at the magnificent Culgower House B&B very welcome.

From Inverness, it was quite flat around the River Ness to the Kessock Bridge across the Beauty Firth (which becomes the North Sea).

Heading toward Dingwall, both GPSs sent me up a country lane, which was hillier than the other way, but much quieter.
On this route I came across the monument to Sir Hector Archibald MacDonald. He had an impressive military record, fighting in 14 different theatres of war, mentioned 11 times in despatches, awarded 10 decorations and 14 clasps. He finished up a Major General and was "thanked in both Houses of Parliament" and his friends built him a big, round stone obelisk overlooking a sheep farm. It didn't mention if he was married or had kids or the stone mason ran out of energy on the inscription. Only the empire could have been juggling that many battles at once.

After feeling humbled by Sir Hector's achievements, I peddled a bit faster and eventually joined the A9. This is the main highway to John O'Groates. The descent to the Cromarty Bridge was just the right gradient to make the 139m ascent worthwhile.

I passed thru Evanton, Alness and eventually Tain. My GPS could never find the later. Here I crossed the long Dornoch Firth bridge.

Tain was where I had to decide whether to take the high road via Bonar Bridge to the north coast or stay on the A9 along the south coast. I stuck with the later as the other route was hilly, and I was still to book accommodation.

At Alness I bought a hot chocolate as a vey late morning tea, and ate some of the Aldi fudge I bought bought in Inverness when I also bought breakfast of choco milk and 6 bread rolls. Aldi is really cheap!

I had already tried to find a bed using the usual booking.com. They were either too far along the route or two expensive. After calling a number in Helmsdale with no bites, I was lucky to get the last room at Culgower House.

Today I passed at least three JOGLE riders and had a long chat to Steve from Falmouth (the south coast of England). Like me, he was traveling light on a road bike with a Topeak seat post rack on his Specialised road bike. He had started today and was making good speed with a tailwind.

I listened on Internet radio to the last 15 mins of the Rabitohs games and they won. Just up the road the GPS took me off the busy A9 via Logie Hill. It was a quite, country road, with the only negative being chased by a sheep dog. I was ready and hit top speed to outrun it.
As usual, the scenery was very green and temp was 22 degrees with clear skies.

Dinner was a tasty pasta dish whipped up by the host, Catriona.
The house is a fantastic renovation.

Tomorrow is the last day, and I'll probably follow the A9 route.

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