Durness- Tongue – Altnahara – Crask Inn – Lairg – Invershin
After 6 days of hugging the Scottish coast, today we rode along it for the last time, before striking down the middle of Scotland, and beginning the journey back to Inverness.
We said goodbye to the slightly unpreposessing looking, but very hospitable Smoo Cave Hotel with a strange sensation – the feeling of sun warming our way.
The sunshine made the white sand beaches of the north of Scotland look their loveliest. This was why we came back.
But it was less than an hour before we were being doused with the first shower of the day. A more familiar feeling. The ride along the coast to Tongue was one of our best of the trip. More stunning beaches, the lovely Loch Eriboll (sadly, no otters or seals to be seen), and Ben Hope and Ben Loyal rising above us.
We rolled into Tongue for an early lunch, and then turned right and started heading south, enjoying lovely new smooth tarmac on another single track A road. This was the kind of wilderness that made us want to come back after our end to end ride. Before long, we were back in Altnahara, where the hotel looked no more open than last time we were there. We stopped for a flapjack on the bridge, and reminisced about Midgegate – when the lack of food and midge attack caused distress to some of us last time we were there.
Then on, riding slowly uphill alongside another peaty river, until we reached the Crask Inn – the pub at the watershed, where rivers flow both north and south.
This time, we were delighted to find the Crask Inn open, with a wood burning stove lit, and several happy dogs by the fire. We settled down for tea and scones, and enjoyed chatting with everyone else sheltering from the weather, including an enthusiastic end-to-ender lamenting the fact that his ride is nearly over. I remember that feeling.
The last 20 miles were pretty much all downhill – a lovely roll down the road to Invershin, making us realise why we were so tired two years ago when we got to Altnahara after riding up the road the other way. And the welcome at the Invershin Hotel was as warm as ever. Time to go to the bar!