Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lake Windermere: Fell Foot to Wray Castle

10 miles. 9 hours. One huge mental challenge.

As we set off into the mist we had no idea how hard it would be…

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It was without doubt the hardest thing we have EVER done. 

I think both of us doubted whether we would make it and I don’t think we could have done it for any other reason.

The first few miles were chilly, but it seemed like an adventure…

After a few hours, despite the amazing scenery and the fly past from the Red Arrows, it began to seem less fun… actually it began to feel like a hellish nightmare! All I wanted was to lie down on firm ground… At the halfway point I was dizzy and shivering uncontrollably! But Alice and I both knew (and Luke kindly reminded her at regular intervals) “if you don’t swim, you won’t get there”! So we kept going. Actually it was too cold to rest so slow and steady seemed the only way. I tried to deceive my body that it was warm by imagining that I was swimming in a huge vat of chicken stew… it actually kind of helped 🙂

Miles 7, 8 and 9 were the hardest as the wind had picked up and there was a lot of boat traffic so it felt like we kept swimming, but weren’t making any progress and as the water was at it’s deepest I was terrified that i was going to freeze to death! I think I had three mars bars in the space of an hour! Helpfully my paddler thought it would be motivational to lie about the distances – so when I had done nearly 8 miles I was told I had done only 6… Possibly the most demotivating lie I have ever heard!! I was NOT happy!!

Finally the red balloons came into sight and it seemed like we would make it. But the actual finish was around the corner and it took what felt like an age to get there… Mummy was waiting and both Alice and I were sobbing as she helped us scramble out of the water and collapse onto the matting provided for exactly that purpose! I have never felt such relief.

To be honest I think the day was almost hardest for Mummy – she must have been so worried and she had to rush around the lake from side to side to watch us as we struggled along. It actually takes well over half an hour to drive from Newby Bridge to Ambleside, which is some indication of the distance we’re talking about!

It certainly felt like Daddy was watching over us and giving us the strength that we needed. I don’t think we would have made it under any other circumstances…

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There are so many people we would like to thank and so much more to say… but perhaps that is for another day.

For now it is still hard to believe that it is over and we made it… As Clint Eastwood would say

“Let’s not go and ruin it by thinking too much”

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Day 20: Tongue to John O Groats

Miles travelled: 66

Metres climbed: 1175

So, contrary to Alice’s promise, it was NOT “all down hill to John O Groats”! The day started with some of the toughest climbs we’ve had since Dartmoor!! image

But the views were stunning (pictures to follow…)

By the time we reached Melvich we were all lagging slightly, but after a great soup and toffee apple muffin (highly recommended!) at the Halladale Inn, we were revived and happily the road did begin to flatten out a little :).

We went on through Thurso and the beautiful Dunnet bay… 

 We then had a quick coffee in Castletown, which the lovely Laura at the Castletown hotel refused to let us pay for 🙂

And it was just another 16 miles into quite a strong headwind before we finally made it to John O Groats!

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We have all been so touched and grateful for all the support and kindness we’ve received from friends and strangers alike… It’s still hard to believe that we’ve actually made it! Maybe it will feel more real after our “little swim” as Alice calls it… 

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Day 19: Dornoch to Tongue

Miles travelled: 65

Metres climbed: 714

Midge attacks: only one, but it lasted all afternoon!

Today was our latest start, but we were so stuffed from last nights dinner and porridge for breakfast that we made speedy progress. (Actually Alice was especially well fueled after eating more than 20 dried apricots and a few prunes… I’m not quite sure what she was thinking, but she quite quickly regretted it!)

The morning up to Crask was the wildest place we’d been so far. Actually it felt like a bit of a wasteland,  which became a steady incline for the last fifteen or so miles which felt like hard work… 

 But we made good time and reached the legendary Crask Inn before 2pm… Where we had a yummy lentil soup (great for Alice’s tummy – it was a perfect complement to the bucket of dried fruit she had for breakfast!)

Mummy decided (having heard that Tongue was beautiful) that we should push on so that we could spend the night there instead… It was only about a 30 mile detour, but as midges had descended in Crask we were all happy to get going! We sped away into Strathnaver and through some of the most stunning scenery, (with a couple of big climbs…) but sadly there were too many midges for us to fully appreciate it…

We eventually reached Tongue at dusk and luckily found somewhere to stay. We felt like we’d almost made it as we are now on the northern coast of Scotland! It actually seems a little hard to believe!! Especially as Alice seems to think “it’s all down hill to John O’Groats”!!

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Day 18: a magical unexpected Rest Day in Dornoch

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Today was almost like a dream. I think we all feel like someone should pinch us so that we wake up!

If ever we were looking for a sign that Daddy was with us on this adventure it would have been easy to find one today…

Having taken the South side of Loch Ness we had inadvertently bought ourselves a rest day by getting slightly ahead of our itinerary. As a result out accommodation bookings were redundant. We arrived in Dornoch last night and came across a “B&B” close to the beach, which was rather unassuming from the outside or we would never even have knocked on the door. Inside, however, we felt like we had stepped into the Sheikh’s house from the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’, this was luxury as is only seen in movies, Daddy would have loved it! It was totally beyond our budget generally, but certainly not the kind of place we would stay on this sort of trip!

Amazingly, despite (or perhaps, because of) our bedraggled appearance we were welcomed in and the charming hostess insisted that we stay, rest and eat basically for free (the house was experiencing a two day lull between groups of wealthy American Hunters.)

This morning began with a run along the beach and a swim where Daddy must have swum all those years ago.

We then had a delicious breakfast and relaxed on their terrace… When we were brought some tea, the waiter also provided a brand new pack of water-colour pencils and paper… In case we felt inspired to be creative. It was totally unreal and utterly magical!

In the evening, totally unfazed by our lack of appropriate attire the chef cooked us a fantastic vegetarian dinner, which concluded with Mummy’s favourite deserts combined… Carrot cake with Milk chocolate custard!!

Of course it sounds crazy, but the whole day we just felt like someone was looking after us exactly as Daddy would have wanted…
We are all just hugely grateful!

Onwards for the final 120 miles 🙂

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Day 17: Inverness to Dornoch

Miles travelled: 46 miles

Metres climbed: 480

Sea crossings: 3 (as mummy neither enjoys heights, boats or bridges you can imagine that today’s route was right up there with her favourites ;))

In the spirit of never going anywhere directly we decided to head for the West coast of Scotland via the East coast! We can’t totally blame Alice this time as we’d always planned to stop at Dornoch… A place Daddy had visited a couple of times to play golf many years ago and had wanted to show mummy (when we were route planning several months ago this had been on his “must see” list…) coming this way also means we are able to avoid most of the horrid A9 🙂

Alice navigated excellently out of Inverness over the Moray Firth and on to the Black Isle, for our first crossing of the day…

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Once on the Black Isle we headed directly uphill on b-roads for what felt like eternity, but the views weren’t bad…

and after 400m climbing and 10 or so miles it was mostly down hill to Cromarty 🙂 a very quaint town which feels almost at the end of the earth. After a quick and delicious snack at  Coupers Creek we got the tiny Cromarty ferry to Nigg…

After admiring the retired oil refineries we had a lovely flat(ish) stretch for 20 or so miles before we passed the Glen Morangie distillery, and succumbed to the temptation to have a look…

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None of us had realised that Whisky could cost £30,000 a bottle!!

Then it was just a few miles along the A9 and over the bridge accross the Dornoch Firth and into the smallest City in the UK…

It is easy to understand why Daddy loved this sleepy city nestled along miles of the most tranquil coastline… After a quick dip in the North Sea Alice and I are both hoping that Windermere will be at least a couple of degrees warmer!!

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