John O'Groats to Dornoch

We got to the signpost for the obligatory photo nice and early, but with no-one around (and having omitted to bring a tripod) we had to wait quite a while to find a volunteer to photograph us before we could be on our way.

Everything was going well for about 20 miles until we got to Whiterow, the first hill of any note, when I had my first encounter with an experience that would dog me for the rest of the trip.

There are only two levels of fitness in Switzerland (the distinction being whether you walk up a mountain or complete a triathlon before breakfast) and I should really have given this more consideration during the planning stages! It is quite demoralising watching your cycling companion disappear over the brow of every large hill with apparent ease (while you curse yourself for electing to carry the luggage for the entire trip) because you felt your cycling experience somehow compensated you for the fact that your much fitter companion is half your age and about 20KG lighter!

On the plus side I could often free-wheel downhill faster than Christian could pedal, which is every bit as pointless a consolation as it sounds!

Our route to Dornoch was pretty simple, follow the A99 and A9 all the way which, at weekends, is a reasonably quiet costal route. The weather improved through the day and by the half way point it was actually turning out to be very warm.


By the time we got to the infamous village of Berridale I was sure we must have been in a heat wave, as my memory is of feeling very hot and out of breath for quite a while.

I a fair bit of stuff on the web about how bad climbing out of Berridale was, some saying it was tough some easy. The profile seems to indicate that the JOGLE climb is tougher than the LEJOG. All I can say is on the first day of a North to South ride I found it very tough.

Some vehicles find it tougher though; and there is something quite satisfying about being held up by lorries that are less able to climb a hill than you are.

From Berridale onward the sun shone, the cycling was fairly easy, the scenery was very pleasant and we reached Dornoch in good time. The only fly in the ointment being the route was 87 miles and not the 80 I had calculated, which left me wondering if all my calculations would be 10% out!

We stayed at a guest house run by Rose Matheson called 'Tordarroch' and very good it was too! The rooms were very comfortable and Rose is an excellent hostess (even offering to wash and dry our clothes!) I won't be mentioning every guest house we stayed at, in fact I can only honestly recommend two of them, but I cannot let this one go without comment.

Collapse Details
Day:1 of 13
Date:29 June 2003
From:John O'Groats
Distance:141 KM
Collapse Gallery
Collapse Profile
Route Profile
Collapse Map