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Epic Routes – Cycling the Scottish Hebrides:   Ullapool to Inverness – my worst day on the bike.

Once off the ferry we stocked up on some supplies that were to fuel us to Inverness, sixty miles to the east. It was to prove a long and tortuous sixty miles for me and I have no shame in admitting that it was easily the worst day I have had in the saddle; my legs were heavy from all the days that had gone before and the lack of training before that.

To make matters worse, not long out of Ullapool and the road started to rise majestically and never seemingly never stop. I stopped for a photo underneath the gradient sign but the smile conceals my pain and dread. There were moments where Inverness may as well of been Sydney, so far away did it seem. I am eternally grateful to Gav for the way he kept me out of the wind that entire day and didn’t once complain when I had to stop every ten miles to basically just get off my bike.

Back on the mainland and the roads were also inevitably busier and so all things considered this was just a day for getting the head down and making progress. We had bucked the trend and booked a Premier Inn in Inverness so we knew that waiting for us was at the very least a nice warm shower and those comfortable beds.

Don’t get me wrong, there were enjoyable parts of this cycle particularly after we crested the hills and were letting gravity propel us to Inverness. The roads getting wider and dangerously busy was an indication that we had almost reached our destination but the cycle path to take us off the dual carriageway took us in a never ending meandered towards the Kessock Bridge.

We reached the hotel, checked-in and then immediately celebrated with a pint. The plan from here was simple; we had two nights booked to party and basically forget about the bikes. They were somewhere locked in the car park of the hotel and by this point my mental state was so fragile that if they got stolen I would not have been all that bothered.

Some friends from Glasgow came to party with us and those three days in Inverness were some of the most memorable (and also not memorable for obvious reasons) of my life. We even nursed the hangovers watching Batman at the cinema. Back in a city we updated our wardrobe from tracksuit and flip-flops to something more urbane.

Our time in Inverness came to an end and we knew that we had to get back to Glasgow. Obviously we had spent the entire time in Inverness drinking so didn’t actually do any of the route planning that we were meant to do. It was inevitable then that when we woke on the third day and checked-out into an early morning downpour we would opt to get the train back to Glasgow rather than cycle. It was a quite train ride home as we reflected on the amazing things we had seen and the miles we had conquered but also fought the guilt about not completing the loop on two wheels.

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