Thursday, 17 June 2010

Day 13 - Crask to Castletown

We left after breakfast at about 8.45 a.m. having just about cleaned out our cash reserves paying the bill. If it wasn't that they didn't charge Sandy for staying in the summer house we would have been toiling.  We bought a couple of book tokens with paintings on them that show remote a place Crask is!
The other end to enders from London who were planning on completing the journey today had only just shown up for breakfast as we were leaving. They were aiming to do over 100 miles. We gave them the tip as to which was the best road to take to Bettyhill.

We made good time to Altnaharra - downhill most of the 7 miles where we caught up with the Dutch pair heading for Orkney.  They had stopped for coffee and had just gotten back on the road.  We chatted for a few minutes before leaving them behind as we pedalled up beside the loch.  It was a great ride up to Bettyhill.  Hardly any traffic. Almost flat with little ups and downs.  We saw the RAF practising their low flying although not as low as the other day.  We also stopped at MacLeod's Gloomy Monument which had information about the highland clearances.

We stopped for coffee at Bettyhill at the tourist information place.  It hadn't struck us that they wouldn't take plastic and we thought we were going to have to pedal back up a steep hill to get some cash.  Fortunately some other customers came to our rescue - we will add what they subbed us to the donations.  They were a couple of ladies - who Sandy christened the Bettyhill babes :-).  They have retired here from Manchester - about as far away as you can get from the rat-race they said and they are never going back.  They then proceeded to tell us where they lived and that nobody up here locks their doors.

Re-fuelled we continued on towards Thurso. It was a bit hilly in places - fairly long climbs followed by some decent fast descents.  Some of the scenery was simply stunning.

We made it into Thurso and headed for the train station to confirm our bookings for Saturday. Ha ha!  As I had suspected, despite ticking the boxes on the website we didn't have a bike space reservation.

We considered the options and decided to get a later train - but that doesn't quite work because in the time we were considering one of the bike spaces from Inverness to Edinburgh disappeared.  We decided we will take the bikes to bits and get them on that way.  It's only a 2 carriage train and I don't imagine it will be too busy at 6.40 in the morning.  Rules and regulations will be the problem.  I asked the girl at the counter why they didn't put more bike spaces on and got a story about the number of passengers not justifying more than two carriages. Like go figure! Maybe you need a different kind of carriage.

After that aggravation we went to look for a b&b for Friday night - we found a place near the station that said no vacancies but we rang the doorbell on the chance there would be space tomorrow night.
The woman said she hadn't been doing b&b for a while but she would put us up if we were quiet.

We then went back down to the tourist information place to see about accommodation in Castletown. I phoned the only listed place - the Castletown Hotel. Result, so we pedalled the 5 miles and arrived in good time.

We have done about 70 miles today, leaving just over 20 for tomorrow including Dunnet Head.  We had a very high average speed today - around 15 mph.

After checking in we went for a wander down to the harbour and the flagstone trail.  Flagstones used to be quarried here and shipped all over the world.  I haven't confirmed it, but I suspect that one of my ancestors who was listed in the census as a stonemason probably worked there.

Now, following tea in the bar, it's time to watch the football, although I willgo see if I can find some network coverage first.

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