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Dingwall to Dingwall to Inverness (50/19,708ks, 380m)

(written by Dave)

Just when it seemed like we would never make it to Leod Castle, today we finally did. Today was supposed to be the nice day weather-wise but only 3 minutes after I woke up at 6:30, at 6:33 precisely, it started to rain.  It was all Nancy needed to roll over and go back to sleep but I grimaced, put on my bike clothes and headed for the toilet block.  The rain only lasted a few minutes but there were lots of dark looking clouds milling about as we ate breakfast.  Nancy wiped the tent down in hopes that it would dry before we put it in the bag.

We decided to ride out to the castle in the town of Strathpeffer without all of our touring bags.  It was basically an out and back so there was no point in carting all that extra weight up the road when we could leave it at camp until 12:00.  We were just about ready to go when I checked Nancy’s tires and found the front flat.  Surely a little flat tire couldn’t stop us now, we had momentum. Tire fixed we sped up to Strathpeffer – yes, the bikes are really a lot faster without all that extra weight.

Strathpeffer is a destination itself, known since Victorian times as a spa town.  There are lots of fancy stone houses and plenty of quaint little cottages.  There was supposed to be a visitor’s centre but we couldn’t find it.  We may have been too early, though not too early for the tour buses as we saw several of them.

On the way out we rode past Leod Castle but we continued to Strathpeffer looking for that visitor’s centre.  We eventually gave up the search and used google maps to help us find the castle entrance.  Since some of the restoration work was government-funded, I expected that there would be a tourist sign or two, but there really was no obvious sign.  After a few dead-ends we eventually located the main entrance and the gatehouse.  We then rode quietly past two “private road” signs up to where the castle parking lot is located.  The castle has 25 open days per year and today was one of the days, but it didn’t actually open until 2PM so we were just looking for the outside visit.  There were no people and the parking lot was more of a field.

Leod Castle is about 800 years old (rumored to be much older if you count the original foundation).  The castle was granted to John of Killin, 10th Chief of Clan MacKenzie (1485-1561) after he fought at the Battle of Flodden.  For the past 500 years or so, the castle has not only been occupied by the MacKenzie Chieftan but it has been the same family for all that time.  Can you imagine a house that is 500 years old being lived in by the same family?  It is not much in the way of castle, more of a big old building.  In fact, I’m not sure how it could ever be defended as it has no natural defenses and is only on a slight hill.

I’m glad we went out there but I can’t say that I felt any great ancestral pull.  I should probably have paid a little better attention to the notes my mother had.  For sure I’ll give them a look over next time I get to her house.

We made it back to camp in no time after a quick stop for scones in Dingwall.  The tent was dry but dark clouds threatened again.  We had most of it packed just as it started to rain.  There were only a few drops of rain so I think have complied with the LWOP tenticate rules.

We only had another 25k to ride to reach Inverness so it was an easy day and we didn’t really make much forward progress on our JOGLE goal.  We left camp to sunny skies and made good time through the rolling hills of the Black Isle with the help of a 25 MPH tailwind.  We had a few navigational issues following the NCN 1 (National Cycle Route 1), which did its best to keep us off the highway.  There were a couple corners where the signs had gone missing but we kept an eye out for signs going the other way.

As we reached Kessock we turned right into a cross wind at Kessock Bridge.  Kessock Bridge is a cable- bridge across the Beauly Firth, an inlet of the Moray Firth, between the village of North Kessock and Inverness.  As the Beauly Firth is a navigable waterway the bridge is built quite high over the water.  We had a hair-raising ride across on a narrow sidewalk with a very strong crosswind, with guardrail to cars on one side and guardrail to the water on the other.  We stopped for a couple oncoming touring cyclists with bags, as the path was barely wide enough for us to pass.  We took the road side both times – you get that choice if you stop first.

We made it to Inverness a little after noon and found a café for lunch.  We then picked up some dinner supplies and worked our way to a hostel that we’ve booked.  It is one of the few sunny days we’ve had and we are not camping, not the best timing but a bed is always nice when you enter a city.  Inverness is Scotland’s third largest cities and one of Europe’s fastest growing – due to English “down shifters” and the North Sea oil boom.

The hostel is quite a ways from the city centre and a little hard to find.  It’s an odd building, more like someone’s home than a hostel but our room is nice and they let us check in an hour early so we have no complaints.  We are now using their great kitchen to make dinner.  It is nice to cook on a stove, have a toaster and best of all, chairs with backs to sit in.  We’ve been in the tent 6 nights in a row so we are not hard to please at this point.

Tomorrow we are headed south along Loch Ness, aiming to reach a small village called Invergarry.  Our route will take us along the east side of the Loch, avoiding the busy highway on the west side.  The price we pay for that is some hills, but the scenery is supposed to be great.  The weather looks a bit iffy so we may have some rain but the wind is not supposed to be anywhere near as strong as it is right now so we will be thankful for the small things.

Oh, just to show you how serious they are about the midges in Scotland, here is a link to the “Midge Forecast”, where you can track the severity of midges around the country.  We bought some of the super-duper “Smidge the Midge” insect repellent so hopefully we’ll be prepared for our next couple of nights camping.

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5 responses to “Dingwall to Dingwall to Inverness (50/19,708ks, 380m)

  1. Very cool castle. Wish you could have seen the inside. How about some pics of your recent lodgings?

    • Recent lodgings? We only have one tent and it looks the same every night! We’ve camped the last 6 nights so there not mus to show 🙂

      Our room at the hostel is nice, I’ll see if I can’t get a photo tomorrow.

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  2. Say hi to Nessie for us!!

  3. You haven’t mention tasting Haggis. Surely you must do that. Yummy!

    • It was haggis or lamb pies for lunch today – a hard choice but we took the pies. They were great as well. Maybe tomorrow we’ll try the haggis!

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