Land's End to John O'Groats 2012
Berwick upon Tweed to Dunfermline - Friday, 3rd August 2012
The team assembled in McDonalds for breakfast as it was too early for Morrisons (the alternative). We all had basically the same thing, porridge, breakfast in a box plus hashbrowns arriving later in a bag. All in all it was very pleasant with plenty of banter in a convivial atmosphere.
The Travelodge's receptionist kindly gave me some money for the collection and she had her picture taken with the torches. There was plenty of faffing in the car park but spirits were high and the sun was shining. In fact I had the very definite feeling that things were becoming more relaxed the further north we travelled, maybe it was because we were about to reach the Scottish border and JOG country.
We cycled out of the car park turning left up North Road towards the A1 roundabout, then left again on the A1 southbound for a mile or two. The A6105 Duns Road arrived on the right, then our north westerly route to Edinburgh over the Lammermuir Hills finally started. After an initial climb, the road meandered through lovely countryside and pretty soon we were at the Scottish Border sign where we stopped for photographs. This was great, a palpable sigh of relief that we'd actually cycled the length of England!
photograph by Alex Randall - Scottish border
The road climbed some more, gently at first up to Preston, then slightly sharper to Ellemford. The scenery improved as we gained height with long distance views south over border country. Rob had planned to stop by the reservoir shown on the map and after twenty miles or so it came into view. Just before Whiteadder Reservoir there was a particularly sharp climb followed by a descent down to the little car park by the water's edge. This was a lovely spot watching sailing boats and listening to some local history from a woman that Jenny met on a wander.
The road crossed the northern end of the reservoir and took a steep climb representing a real challenge for me. As the Garmin's gradient reading topped 20% my poor heart couldn't take the strain and even in my lowest gear I had to stop. This seemed to take Alex by surprise and I heard the van stall behind me. With some difficulty I managed to jump on the pedals to start again but from behind came the desperate sounds of the van trying to gain traction on the steep, slightly damp road surface. I looked back and could see the wheels turning forwards but the van sliding backwards. I had to take two more breathers before rounding the summit but the van had to go back down for a 'run up'.
Then came a long straight ascent past a strip of woodland by Mayshiel up towards a distant summit, climbing over 500 feet in three miles. At the top was a road junction and panoramic views down to Edinburgh, a glorious reward for significant effort.
The descent didn't dissappoint with a steep drop down Newlands Hill to Darent House and on to Danskine. Danskine Loch caused a steep down and up before another descent into Gifford. We passed through East Saltoun and down further to Pencaitland where we joined the A6093. We were skirting Edinburgh's south side and climbed to join the A68 briefly before continuing west on the A6106 to Dalkeith. Our route then ran vaguely parallel to the A720 inside the Edinburgh Bypass round to Sighthill. This was obviously a popular route at a busy time and we fought with the traffic at some of the junctions. We ran up Calder Road and all the way round the A720/A71 roundabout to reach the other side and Rob's work's offices, our next stop.
Gav's family provided a vocal reception as we pulled into the car park. Rob's colleagues came out to meet us and made us feel very welcome indeed. After some photographs, we went inside for the best hospitality yet. There was a mountain of food and endless drink, Irn Bru was becoming a firm favourite drink of choice. They had held a raffle in the office raising over £600 for the ride, Rob went to draw the numbers out of the hat. All in all it was just brilliant, everyone was so friendly and generous. James kindly agreed to be our guide over the Forth Road Bridge and went to get changed into his cycle gear. Jen did the same.
The entire workforce of David Wilson Homes was on the office steps to wave us off as the now enlarged cycling team left the car park. Following James, we left Sighthill Industrial Estate down Meadow Place Road to join the A90 Queensferry Road. After arranging to meet Alex on the other side of the Forth Bridge, we crossed the road shortly before the start of the dual carriageway and followed a cycle path alongside the A90, eventually turning off on the B924.
We dropped down into South Queensferry to probably one of the most magnificent iconic vistas in the world. We cycled underneath the Forth Rail Bridge and I stopped in awe, to take photographs of this breathtaking structure. Further on we stopped by some benches in a square between the buildings to take some more photographs. With the road bridge on our left, the river ahead and the rail bridge on the right, I was absolutely enchanted.
Eventually we regrouped and made our way along the cobbled High Street, shaking every bone to the sound of chattering teeth. Back on smooth tarmac we cycled up Hopetoun Road to the base of the road bridge. We pushed the bikes up the ramp round to the right and climbed up to bridge level. The rush of traffic was a shock and very loud. We had to cross the motorway so carried the bikes down some steps to a subway and back up the other side. There were some other touring cyclists and James helped them with directions.
The ride up the camber of the bridge was exhilarating. The traffic, the bridge structure, the rail bridge alongside, the wind, the drop down to the river - brilliant. James was leaving us at the half way point so we stopped to take photographs, shake hands and say good-bye. The bridge deck was bouncing up and down alarmingly in time to HGVs passing by, something I hadn't noticed whilst cycling. It was really nice of James to bring us this far, I'm not sure that we'd have found our way so easily without him. Naturally, we invited him to cycle with us the following day.
Gav's family met us as we freewheeled down the other side. Once again we used a subway to cross to the other side and arrive at a lay-by where Alex and the van were waiting. We dropped down a path to the B981 which ran up to a roundabout underneath the motorway. After some confusion about the route, we regrouped, found Alex and made our way along the B980 towards Dunfermline.
There was a brief 'two sides of a triangle' sat nav inspired diversion before we joined Queensferry Road, then on to a roundabout at the end of Bothwell Street. The hill up St Margaret's Drive was a severe test before turning right at a roundabout along Appin Crescent. We soon found the Garvock House Hotel up St. John's Drive. We faffed for a bit whilst rooms were assigned, Jen sat on the steps to rehydrate and recover. Jen was going home to be replaced by Stewart who helped us unload the van.
Carol met us at the hotel having driven up with the bus, minus the trailer. She'd had a close encounter with a McDonald's drive thru causing some damage to the trailer, resulting in a decision to leave it behind in Leeds. I'd left some stuff in the bus and it was nice to be reunited with my jelly babies and grape juice.
The hotel was magnificent and I shared a room with Gav and Haydn again. Later after a hot shower, we rejoined Carol who was waiting for us in the foyer, prior to having a meal. There was a wedding party in. We sat around a huge circular table in an ornate dining room for the meal, there was a spare place setting which we reserved for Ian.