"There is a very fine line between 'hobby' and 'mental illness'" - Dave Barry

This was my first tour of any note since returning to cycling as middle-aged stress therapy. In two years cycling went from a minor hobby to an all-consuming passion, and John O'Groats to Lands End had been a dream since childhood.

I was keen not to do the trip alone, I had not cycled more than 50 miles in a day when I started planning the route, so I was sure 80 miles a day on my own would be pretty boring. Trouble was I could find no-one willing to make the trip with me, though there were no shortage of 'experienced' cyclists to tell me it was not possible to cycle so far every day (especially as my only bike was a heavy old mountain bike).

Eventually, much to my relief a Swiss friend said he thought it was a good idea and he would make the trip with me, from then on there was no going back!

Being my first trip, I put a mass of effort into planning the exact route and even going so far as measuring the grid references every kilometer and plotting this information onto a daily relief map, so that we could avoid (or at least know when to expect) the big hills. At the same time I also put a lot of effort into training, spending many weekends doing back-to-back 60/70 mile rides. What I don't recall is how I got any work done at the same time!

Eventually June arrived and I found myself meeting Christian at Luton airport and waving goodbye to the family.

We flew with the bikes to Inverness with Easyjet which was fairly cheap (about £40 each) and, in distance terms, is almost there.

However, unless you can get off the plane, clear baggage collection, reassemble the bikes and cycle the ten miles to the middle of Inverness in 50 minutes, the train from Inverness to Wick a non-starter.

I had pre-arranged with Inverness Taxis for a people mover type taxi to complete the last 100 miles from the Airport to the Youth Hostel. In relative terms it cost a fortune, but not a much more than getting a train from London which has limited bike space, takes two days and only gets you as far as Wick.

It was good for us both to be able to get to John O'Groats youth hostel from home (Switzerland in Christian's case) in just one day. Okay it was late by the time we got the bikes assembled cycled into town to get some food and then back to bed, but being ready to start early the next day was worth the money.

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Departure Gate