It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light - Aristotle Onassis.

LEJOG Text and Audio Diaries

The following is the daily diary of the Land's End to John O'Groats cycle run that took place from Tuesday 2 August to Wednesday 17 August. Enjoy!

Tuesday 2 August - Drive Glasgow to Cornwall

The gallant team of Jamie Cuthbertson, Nick Strange and Kenny Cuthbertson (support vehicle driver) gathered in Bearsden early in the morning and loaded the magnificent motor home which had been kindly loaned to the team by Len Jukes (now to be known as "Len the Van"). A surprisingly short amount of time was needed to load all the equipment and the tandem which was able to be squeezed in through the front passenger door with a clever bit of manouvering.

Shauna, Jamie's wife, in her earnest desire to set us safely on our way, ensure full bellies with a massive fry up lunch and we hit the road at around 1:30 pm. The drive south was uneventful but long and we finally arrived at a roadside cafe just past Truro at about 2:30 am. Night, night!!

Wednesday 3 August - Land's End to Truro (42 miles)

Leisurely start to the morning to shake off the jet lag of the journey south. Breakfast taken in the van wile parked behind the garage - probably illegally but who cares! A quick drive to Land's End for around12 noon (with a neat blag to avoid paying the parking fee) saw us ready for the startat about 1:30 pm. Met a group of 5 Scottish riders who had just finished the trip in 7 days which made us feel somewhat inadequate!! Abandonned Kenny to let him go for a walk as Nick and I got on with the pedalling.

Our route went via Penzance, Saint Michael's Mount, St Day, Redruth and Truro. The weather was OK but a bit overcast but warm with spells of light drizzle. Got to Truro around 5:15 pm and met up with Kenny at a friend's in-laws. Many thanks to Julie and Will for arranging for Will's parents to be away and for us to be able to make use of their facilities!

A jolly enjoyable couple of glasses of wine and nibbles and a chat with Julie and Will (one after the other) was had before getting a most delicious pasta nosh prepared by the bold Kenny. The evening was spent sorting out technology and charging flagging batteries (both human and electrical)! Hoping to cover around 60 miles tomorrow in a northerly direction (heading towards Exmoor. The rain is now piddling down so hopefully it will have stopped by tomorrow.

Listen to today's audio diary.

Thursday 4 August - Truro to Upton/Bude (61.3 miles)

Managed to wake up at 7 am and get ready fairly quickly. A small spot of breakfast (except for Nick who required 3 portions of porage) and tidy up followed by a refill of the water tank saw us ready to get on the road.

From Truro, we had a lovely fairly fast pedal towards Padstow along a nice bit of road without too many hills. Weather was OK but smirry rain threatened several times.

Dropped down into Padstow as the weather brightened. Mr Grumpy then joined us (this is Nick when he thought the ferry queue was long). Mr G soon disappeared again when he realised that the queue was for a book signing by Rick Stein and not for the ferry after all! Mr G then felt suitably guilty that he offered to buy coffee and scones with clotted cream to make amends - gratefully accepted by moi as you can imagine!

Beautifully timed waddle to the ferry saw us across to Rock. Weather still couldn't make up its mind as we headed to Boscastle. This was a cute little spot at the bottom of a steep sided gorge - going down was absolutely exhillerating - coming back up the other side was a b____r!! Fortunately we had stopped to have lunch prior to the ascent. Once over the top of the hill, most of the rest of the way to Bude/Upton was fairly good going though the rain kept popping up from time to time. Met Kenny just before Bude to decide on a suitable campsite

Currently sitting comfortably in the van at the campsite in Upton with Kenny cooking dinner and Nick snoozing after we have all devoured cups of tea and jam doughnuts. Ahh! This is the life.

Tomorrow we're heading round the south side of Exmoor and onwards.

(Addendum to today...Kenny and I managed to slip in a couple of quick pints in Bude before bedtime!)

Listen to today's audio diary.

Friday 5 August - Upton/Bude to Waterrow, Somerset (66.8 miles)

Weather cool but dry with no imminent threat of precipitation when we got up. Beginning to get into a bit of a routine so took a bit less time to get ready today. Set off at around 9:15 am but had stopped within 5 minutes in order to pay our respects to Cornwall in the form of a visit to the pastie shop for the purchase of 2 fine (and incidentally well filled) pasties for mid morning snack. Duty done we headed off towards Hallsworthy and onwards to Stibbs Cross.

By the time we got to Stibbs Cross, we felt that it was time to consume a half pastie each as a reward for some pretty brutal hill climbs. A bench outside a pub was almost too much of a temptation but we managed to maintain our composure.

It was then on to Great Torrington, up several more very unpleasant climbs, where, after negotiating a mass of roadworks, and stopping to ask directions, we ended up being donated 10 for our fund raising efforts - thanks Mr WhoEverYouWere - just remember to look the other way when cyclists ask directions in future!!

A welcome lunch stop at South Molton almost saw the sun coming out but it hid again when we started to eat (typical)! The final section of the day's route then took us over some very lovely countryside with, more importantly, lots of wonderful level sections and quite a lot of long descents. Today had taken us right through Devon and into Somerset. We even made such good time that we arrived at our campsite in Waterrow before Kenny got there. A most welcome offer of a cup of tea from the campsite manager was certainly not refused.

Shower, s__t and tea and doughnuts (again!) polished off a good day's cycling. Tomorrow we're heading towards Bristol and maybe the Severn Bridge - if we get to Chepstow, I'll apologise to the Chinese restaurant about the golden spoon (sorry for the in joke which will only mean something to the folk on the previous LEJOG attempt last year).

The evening was polished off with a quick pint of local beer and a pint of cider - can't come to Somerset and not have a cider!

Listen to today's audio diary.

Saturday 6 August - Waterrow to Chepstow/Port Skewett (93 miles)

Coldish start to the day with a threat of rain which, in the end, did not transpire. Most of the day appeared to be heading for a fairly flat pedal and with the prospects of quite good times. The day's target was Chepstow.

Everything appeared to be going smoothly until we tried to pull into a yard entrance for a short break. It happened so quickly, but one minute we were on the bike and then suddenly we were on the ground with a number of flesh wounds and a bit surprised. The front wheel had failed to bump up the 1" kerb and had shot sideways spilling the 2 gallant knights onto the ground. Fortunately we were just a bit 'shaken but not stirred' and, after some help from a very kind lady who pulled over having seen the incident, we were back on the road again - though pedalling a wee bit slower perhaps!

Our route then took us off the main road and up into the Quantock hills. 'Up' being the important word - we went up and up and up. What a swine we thought but, apparently the view from the top was excellent, looking down towards the Bristol Channel. The other advantage was that the old rule of 'what goes up.....' applied and we had a lovely long descent the other side as we headed to Brigewater. Fortunately much of Somerset is pretty flat and we then pedalled fairly quickly onwards to Cheddar for our lunch, sitting in the sun outside a small cafe. Incidentally, Nick makes great sandwiches!

A good bit of fortune, shortly after leaving Cheddar, found us on an old railway line cycle path and flat roads which took us through to Cleveden via Yattan.

The Somerset Triangle didn't seem to be winning in its attempts to get us lost as it did the last time but we still had to navigate to the Avonbridge and on to the Severn Bridge. Fortunately there were a fair number of Saturday cyclists and walkers, with local knowledge, out and about and, despite a couple of minor errors, we managed to spy the bridge and get there without further incident. At the middle of the bridge span, we got off the bike to stand and marvel at the amount of vibration in the structure - really not something to do unless you like giving yourself the heebie geebies (or however you spell it!).

One final addendum to our planned journey took us slightly off our route as the campsite which we thought existed in Chepstow, didn't. We then had to divert slightly to Port Skewett to a lovely homely bed and breakfast/camping spot - it was just perfect.

Both Nick and I were very tired with sore rears but we had pedalled a huge 93 miles, and the 2 large cups of tea at the camping area were the absolute best! We'll definitely sleep well tonight! In actual fact, our evening ended up being quite sociaable as a Dutch couple arrived in the dark and joined us for a glass of beer before heading off to bed.

Sunday 7 August - Chepstow/Port Skewett to Shobdon (76 miles)

Despite getting ready fairly early today, our departure was somewhat held up by our Dutch friends taking a long time in the loo. Finally got away at around 10 am and headed north into a darkening weather front. It was fairly chilly but the threatening rain didn't really transpire until we got near to Monmouth.

Our route was mildly paralleling the route of Offa's Dyke which seemed to attract a fair number of walkers. Lovely long downhill into Monmouth before stopping for a well earned coffee and, more importantly a chance to warm up a bit. Nick managed to escape with his lycra intact desppite the interested attentions of the guy serving. Jamie also got a love heart drawn on the coffee froth!! As we left, the rain went off and the sky brightened a bit.

Some picturesque pedalling then took us northwards, roughtly following the Wye Valley, stopping for lunch at a sunny and very peaceful Peter's Church where we snoozed in the churchyard - not very eclesiastical perhaps, but a great break from saddle soreness for a while!.

Some more good and fairly quick miles took us onwards to our final stop for the day at The Beeches campsite in Shobdon where we were the only folk booked in - lovely and peaceful. Tomorrow we plan to head for Ellsmere (East of Oswestry).

Listen to today's audio diary.

Monday 8 August - Shobdon to Ellsmere (73.6 miles)

Reasonable morning but with a fair number of darker clouds floating about and quite a strong westerly wind blowing in gusts. Both our legs were feeling quite heavy so getting started took some time.

Route went via Bishop's Castle, Westbury and Ellsmere with yet another lunch stop in a church grounds! Who knows, we might return home changed chappies - as far as I'm concerned, as long as someone keeps us safe for the rest of the trip, I'll have my lunch anywhere! Weather kept threatening all day but never came to anything more than a few spits.

Stopped for a very pleasant coffee and afternoon snack in Ellsmere whilst we waited for Kenny to do the shopping in town. Finally met up at the Trotting Mare campsite where we got cleaned up and ate a delicious evening meal of fresh rainbow trout which Kenny had acquired from the owner of the campsite in Shobdon.

I think Mr Grumpy has a brother though as the site manager who let us in certainly seemed to lack any customer service training - miserable git! Glad we won't need to see him in the morning. Tomorrow we hope to be heading for the Preston area via Runcorn.

Tuesday 9 August - Ellsmere to Much Hoole (82 miles)

With a grey sky but reasonably warm, we left The Trotting Mare and its grumpy site manager behind, heading off into the relatively flat land leading towards Runcorn and the Mersey Bridge. Most of this area seemed to be pretty afluent and picturesque.

We passed through Beeston and Tarporley (stopping briefly for food in a pub car park) and then on to Frodsham where we had a proper lunch stop. Inspiration was obviously in the air as the tandem has now been christened 'Carol' - the reasoning for this name will have to remain secret to this page but at least we are no longer riding a nameless beast!

Today's 'traditional' fare was a custard pie - tasty certainly but not, I suspect particularly famous outwith the little cafe we got it in!

In the town square in Frodsham we met a father and son pair heading for Leeds but planning to take things a bit more slowly than ourselves. Weren't looking forward to the next section of the route through Runcorn and and onto St Helen's. In the end we decided to take the fastest route on the busier roads - good going but certainly 'interesting' at times (especially crossing the Mersey Bridge!).

A very relieved tandem crew headed out of St Helen's where the traffic became somewhat quieter. Once onto the more pleasant roads, progress slowed but so did heart rates! Our route meandered through places like Apply Bridge and Orrel with only shortish spells on the faster moving roads. Mr Whippy (in the ice cream form)stepped in at the top of a fairly long climb to relieve our legs for a while.

Finally a few more miles on the A59 saw us to our final destination at Much Hoole where we were going to stay with Mike and Lisa Redshaw (one of Jamie's mates from his Army days). Initially stopped in the church car park for a cup of tea until Lisa got home.

A quite superb evening was then had, starting with a swim in their swimming pool followed by a demonstration of Charles' home made mortar potato launcher and a real slap up 3 course meal. Best of all though was a real bed for us all - that was meant to be bed each for all in case you thought it was just one bed! What a change from previous nights!

Listen to today's audio diary.

Wednesday 10 August - Much Hoole to Kendal (55 miles)

A grand start to the day was had in the form of large bowls of porage followed by egg rolls mustered up by Lisa. Trying hard to get going,despite the threat of a very wet day proved to be harder than we thought and we only got away around 9:40 am.

Today was planned as a relatively short day because of the likely miserable weather and, unlike on previous occasions, it didn't disappoint!

A quick scoot to Preston (from here on to be known as the "Land of the Red Traffic Light") was dry but, after messing around for a few minutes to get on the right road, and being sorted out by a couple of taxi drivers, the man upstairs decided it was time to open the tap a bit. Fortunately we had anticipated it and had asked Kenny to meet us for mid morning coffee near Garstang. We took a pretty extended coffee break but, when the weather looked a bit drier, set off again to head for just north of Lancaster for a good long lunch break - again meeting Kenny at the allotted spot.

Took an hour and a half to eat and summon the willpower to set off into the increasing rain. The heavens really opened up as we headed towards Kendal and a pair of very drowned rats arrived at the campsite, extremely relieved to find out that Kenny had made it just beforehand and booking in was almost complete.

Never before, in the field of human conflict, has so much rain been piddled on so few in such a short time! Man, were the showers welcome! We finished the day off with a fantastic curry prepared by the fair hands of "Mr Patak" (Kenny) swallowed down with a couple of glasses of red/beer. The rain continued to piddle and the wind continued to blow but at least we managed to dry our clothes and get a break until tomorrow!

We'll probably be heading towards Lockerbie or thereabouts but much is now weather dependent so we may need to keep flexible.

Listen to today's audio diary.

Thursday 11 August - Kendal to Lochmaben (75 miles)

All night had been torrential rain and a very strong wind and the forecast was for much the same, so it did not bode well for our departure in the morning. However, in the end, it ended up being fairly cold and overcast and misty but not a great deal of rain.

The first big obstacle to overcome was the climb to Shap Summit which ended up being long but quite steady. As we climbed higher and higher, the mist got pretty dense and a rear light became sensible. It was with some relief that we discovered that Shap village was something like 6 miles beyond the highest point in the climb and a wonderfully long descent paid us back for our climbing efforts. Better still the rain stayed off and we even got a splash of sunshine (albeit briefly). We then battered on to Penrith and then Carlisle.

Carlisle turned out to be fantastic as far as getting through the traffic because of an excellent cycle lane which let us get quickly past a lot of traffic. Unfortunately, Kenny got caught up in it and after a brief stop at Asda, where the rain started with some persistence, we continued on towards Gretna. Kenny caught us a few miles north of Carlisle where we stopped for a very welcome lunch of sausage and egg butties and lashings of hot tea. The rain had now come on with a vengeance but we had to bite the bullet and get back out and cycle!

We had been contacted by Richard (Aharrrrrrr me Harties) Swarbrick who wanted to join us for some of the last section from Carlisle to Lochmaben. In the end, and with the rain still piddling down, we met him just south of Echlefechan and had a rather damp pedal onwards to Lochmaben. Richard had to go quite soon but had time for a quick cup of tea. Whilst Kenny drove him back to his car in Echlefechan, Nick (the Heed Case) Strange, decided that the precipitating fluid wasn't enouch for him and off he toddled for a quick swim in one of Lochmaben's lochs!

Finally the rain decided to pack it in for the day and, despite the campsite being somewhat basic, an evening celebration of a fish and chipper meal was had in the local pub - celebration for returning to the homeland (even if it is still pissing damp!). To add to the fun, Sarah and Graham joined us for a couple of drinks before heading back to Rockcliffe. A great feeling to be over half way and back in Scotland - hoooooorah!

Friday 12 August - Lochmaben to Linlithgow (76 miles)

The dawn arrived with yet more damp and unpromising weather in the form of a very heavy smirry rain which soaked everything. By the planned departure time, it was still very wet but, by a judicious delay (more like laziness), by the actual departure time, the rain had stopped - no sun but at least no real rain either. Today's route was to head north towards Moffat and then on towards Broughton and Biggar via the Devil's Beef Tub - a long steady climb up and over the hill and up to the source of the River Tweed. Apparently the Devil's Beef Tub is a valley which was used for hiding cattle back in the days of border raids etc.

We had hoped to meet up with Jamie's aunt Jane en route and she caught up with us just before the summit of the climb, tooted and went on to let us complete the climb without stopping. After a brief chat at the misty summit, we agreed to meet up further on towards Broughton. The freewheel down the other side was fantastic, as was the donation of cakes and toffees! Parted company at this point and we pressed on to Biggar where we met up with Kenny who again served up most welcome refreshments and, for a change, bacon sandwiches!!

The rain still stayed away as we then continued over some very pretty roads through to the somewhat less attractive and built up area around Blackburn, Bathgate and Linlithgow. We found our campsite (right beside the M9) and had a very pleasant wind down evening with a visit from Vicky - Nick even got all domesticated and took over from Jamie in the dinner manufacture - was he worried about the possible quality of the outcome when La Femme was visiting?!! The evening ended up with some laundry and electronic admin along with the somewhat essential route planning and a bit of repair to 'Carol' who earlier had thrown a bit of a wobbly and had thrown her front chain twice - and I thought bikes were supposed to be machines!.

Tomorrow we are probably aiming to get to Pitlochry.

Saturday 13 August - Linlithgow to Pitlochry (75 miles)

The weather had stayed relatively calm over night but with still the threat of rain and mist, we set off towards the Clackmannan Bridge over the Forth. A while later we were officially 'North of the Forth'.

Splashes of sunshine threatened all morning to break through the cloud but it wasn't until we had pedalled through Yetts of Muckhart and up through Glen Dunning that it finally made it through properly.

A welcoming committee of Nick's parents, June and Laurie, greeted our arrival in Dunning, armed with hot coffee and shed loads of cake and flap jacks - fandabidosie! Shortly after our arrival, several other friends of Nick's congregated in Dunning to wish us 'good luck'.

We then set out again towards Dunkeld over the moor and also passing Eric's house. We picked up Cycle Route 77 and, after a pleasant picnic at the side of the road, we began to encounter lots more cyclists - nice to see.

Jamie began tiring quite a lot towards the end of the day but the wonders of Brufen and several short breaks between Dunkeld and Pitlochry saw us through. We finally arrived at Nick's friend's parent's house around 5 pm, but with a couple of very steep little climbs in the last few miles (including the driveway up to the house!).

Nick's friends, Lawrence and Marie and Lawrence's sister Catriona looked after us well, supplying cups of tea, dinner and a few glasses of wine and beer - a very pleasant end to the evening, thank you all! Tomorrow we are heading for Aviemore - we think!

Listen to today's audio diary.

Sunday 14 August - Pitlochry to Daviot (85 miles)

After a great night's sleep in Len's van, we awoke to bright sunshine and the promise of a cracking day's cycling. After exchanging pleasantries with our hosts, we set off on the first leg to aim for Blair Atholl, Killiecrankie, the Drumochter Pass and Dalwhinnie.

Weather was chilly in the air but a good tail wind helped us move on at a good pace. Kenny met us several times on the Drumochter Pass to take photos, just after we had been dampened in a fairly heavy shower - who said Scotland's weather was predictable! A reasonable number of other cyclists were seen going both north and south.

After summiting and dropping down towards Dalwhinnie, we stopped for break No1 just before the village in a lovely sunny spot beside a small river. Kenny excelled himself, providing bacon, sausages and egg butties to see us on our way - nice when a plan comes together! We then cracked on with a great following wind to Aviemore, via Newtonmore, Kingussie, Inch and Kincraig. The sun was again shining and a pit stop saw us eating again at a local cafe before meeting Kenny again at Carrbridge.

We decided to bash on up the Slochd to Tomatin and decide there on where we would stop for the night. In the end, we headed on to Daviot, just short of Inverness.

A great day's pedalling and feeling very upbeat tonight as we only have 2 more days to the finish! Having said that, everyone might be ill tomorrow as Jamie made dinner (well most of it at least!).

Heading for somewhere near to Brora tomorrow.

Monday 15 August - Daviot to Dunbeath (96 miles)

Today was dry to start with but really quite chilly. We didn't yet have a set plan of where we were aiming for apart from the knowledge that the further we went today, the less we would need to pedal tomorrow to get to John O'Groats.

We dropped down towards Inverness on the cycle path, passing Culloden on the way. Didn't need to go into the heart of the city but couldn't avoid the busy traffic on the A9 entirely and the Kessock Bridge was long and noisy - passed by Inverness Cally stadium on the way.

Once onto the Black Isle, we made good headway through Avoch, Fortrose, Rosemarkie and then up and over to Cromarty. Had a rather quick cup of tea (and missed a heavy downpour of rain in doing so) near to the ferry. Met another tandem pair with an almost identical bike - 's a small world! A rather pricy ferry took us over to the other side of the oil rig strewn firth, from where we continued on to meet Kenny at Tain for a well deserved lunch stop.

As the weather was still holding out and the wind was still generally from behind, we decided to bash on to at least Helmsdale and decide what to do when we got there. Unfortunately our hopes of a dry day were quickly put to bed as we got well soaked between Galspie and Brora. It had chilled down considerably as well - we love the unpredictable nature of the Scottish weather!

Kenny met us again at Helmsdale as the sun had come out as if to welcome us. Loaded ourselves with cake, bridie, tea etc and then decided to batter on a further 15 miles to Dunbeath. In the end this proved to be a good decision because, despite the rather hefty climbs up out of both Helmsdale and Berriedale we achieved 2 trip records so far: fastest descent reaching a speed of 47 mph and the longest distance pedalled in a day of 96 miles. Even better, the campsite at Dunbeath is one of the best we've been to with warm and very comfortable showering and washing facilities.

Kenny fixed up a great dinner of haggis, neaps and tatties to finish a pretty excellent day's effort. Only around 37 miles to do tomorrow - yippee!!

Listen to today's audio diary.

Tuesday 16 August - Dunbeath to John O'Groats (37 miles)

Last day and the final sprint to the finish line! We got started good and early and had only one idea in mind, to press on to finish the last 37 miles, of course.

Not many stops today except for Nick the Piddle to do his stuff! The weather stayed kind to us and the wind was not very significant. A brief stop at Wick before we then clattered on to John O'Groats.

Kenny caught up with us with about 2 miles to go, just at the top of a sneaky (and somewhat unexpected) wee hill climb. He was able to get ahead to take some photos as we first got to the John O'Groats sign and then free-wheeled down to the car park and jetty area, whilst playing the penny whistle to the bemusement of a number of onlookers!.

Several other End to End cyclists were finishing around the same time, including James from Greenock who had done the distance in 6 days and a young 15 year old lad who had cycled all the way with his family following in close pursuit.

What a great feeling to get to the end but even better to get yet another of Kenny's great bacon and egg butties! Kenny had also 'taken the plunge' on the team's behalf when he dived into the harbour for his constitutional dip - too cold for a wimp like me!!

After a bit of a tidy up and clean of the bike, we loaded up and started the long journey south. At the time of writing, we don't know where we are aiming for but probably somewhere around Boat of Garten area - as long as there is a shower, pub and place to eat I don't much care!! Back to Glasgow tomorrow

Addendum: In the end we found a campsite at the south end of Aviemore, right beside a very nice Italian restaurant where they had an 'eat all you want' buffet - just perfect, especially for Nick!! Jamie's friend Gordon Seaton also came down from Forres for a few drinks and to join the mini celebration.

Listen to today's audio diary.

Wednesday 17 August - Aviemore to Glasgow on the road

A very straightforward run back to Glasgow, followed by a de-gunge of the camper van brought the trip to an end.

It is only a few days later, but already the journey seems a long time ago!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us physically, emotionally or in spirit, it has been much appreciated.