This post recounts the first day of my Highland 500 cycle tour with Peak Tours in May and June 2022.
Why do I always feel a few butterflies at the start of a cycling adventure? It seemed unmerited ahead of today’s fairly easy first day of Peak Tours’ Highland 500 tour. Best of all, the first 13 miles from Inverness followed the same route as my 2019 Land’s End to John O’Groats ride, which I remembered as a really easy section.
As soon as we got going, the butterflies fluttered away. It was a grey morning, with showers, and the normal western cycle route over the Kessock Bridge over the firth was closed, requiring a diversion past Inverness Caledonian Thistle’s ground. We briefly joined the main carriageway to the bridge but quickly backtracked to the eastern cycle path. Once over the bridge, we had to wait for a gap in the traffic to cross the A9. Fortunately it wasn’t busy on this Sunday morning.
I was soon enjoying the familiar path along the Beauly Firth towards the intriguingly named Muir of Ord. An easy day was made rather harder by a brisk headwind, which became more noticeable as the day unfolded. As I always say, hills come to an end but headwinds don’t! We formed a modest peloton to take it in turns to ‘draft’ the other riders. I took my turn just before the morning ‘brew stop’ at Rogie Falls, where Peak Tours provided very welcome drinks and snacks to keep morale and energy high. I decided to up the pace a little, which was a mistake as the break was a mile later than expected and that extra mile was uphill! I was glad of the breather.
At one point we saw three charity runners with support vehicles coming the other way. It was a sight you expect around John O’Groats or Land’s End but not here!
Lunch came as a relief from the headwind and showers, at the splendid Ledgowan Lodge Hotel. Warm soup was just what I needed on an unseasonably chilly day.
As promised, the scenery became more dramatic as we headed further west. We bordered lochs and skirted woods as the rain came and went. We decided to skip the afternoon brew stop as guide Wendy was surrounded by midges and we only had ten miles to go.
Our destination for the night, Lochcarron, was a nice spot on Loch Carron. I enjoyed the loch view from my bungalow B&B, although I needed a snooze after a harder day than expected thanks to that pesky headwind. Later I edited the day’s GoPro footage into my now traditional highlights video, which appears at the bottom of this post.
Walking down to dinner, I noticed the three flags on a hut: British, Scottish and Ukrainian, showing solidarity with that poor country, brutally violated by Putin’s Russia.
We enjoyed an excellent dinner at Rockvilla, where I got the chance to get to know more of my fellow cycle tourists. Then, back up the footpath steps to my bungalow room with a view, taking advantage of the long hours of daylight. I particularly liked the waterfall next to the steps.
The day’s stats
62 miles, 2,073 feet climbing, 4 hrs 49 mins cycling, 13 mph average speed